Monday, April 18, 2011

Boiled, not fried

You know how all those cracker and snack labels now make a point of saying the product is "baked, not fried"? If not, just ignore my post title.

I remember once getting into an argument with someone about bagels. I had heard they were boiled before being baked and so I said so. The other person--whom I'm not naming because I truly can't remember who it was--insisted I was crazy for thinking bagels were boiled instead of baked.

Anyhow. They are boiled. And then baked. And I made two batches in the last couple of days!

My dear friend, Kai, is moving to Turkey in a couple of months. For her going-away brunch, I wanted to make something that I'm assuming she won't find in Urgup or whatever little place she and her family of 6 endeavor to go. Also, Kai, is one of those special people for whom it's not unusual to drop in on and find a homemade crusty loaf of French bread sitting plateless on her kitchen table next to a vase of fresh flowers or a blooming dogwood branch. That's Kai.

So, I was inspired to take a turn kneading the dough to honor her... and so I could enjoy some hot chewy-chocolatey goodness myself.

 To make these bagels, I followed a recipe in my beloved Mennonite cookbook that isn't sold anywhere I could find online, and therefore, cannot be linked :(. The recipe calls for:

3 cups flour
1 T yeast
2 T sugar
1 cup warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
Any toppings or mix-ins desired

Proof the yeast in the water with the sugar. Once it's frothy, add the dry ingredients and mix well. Then knead on floured surface for 10 minutes. Let the dough rise for 40 minutes. Then, divide into 8 balls, poke holes with your finger and twirl them on the counter to enlarge the hole. Let the bagels rise for another 20 minutes while getting a big pot of boiling water going and your oven heated to 400 degrees. Boil in batches of 2 or 3 for a "couple of minutes," flipping once. Transfer boiled bagels to a greased cookie sheet and back for 15 minutes until golden.
 The first time I tried this, I pretty much followed the recipe. I added cranberries to four bagels and mini chocolate chips to the other four. They turned out a little lighter and fluffier than most bagels, probably because I made them on a nice warm, dry, draftless day. Yeast; you know how moody those little critters can be. It's like they have Seasonal Affective Disorder. I liked the results, but I found that much of my mix-ins popped off in the water while boiling. So the second time I made the bagels, I made some changes:

First, I skipped the cranberries, and just went for the chocolate, which I mixed in before letting the dough rise the first time. Next, I made 16 bagels instead of 8. Also, the weather wasn't as nice. In fact, the weather was everything it shouldn't be when you do yeast baking: Windy, wet and overcast. I tried to warm up my kitchen by turning on the oven early, but the bagels just didn't rise as much as the previous batch. Another change I made was that I dipped the boiled bagels in cornmeal before putting them on my cookie sheet, because even though the first sheet was generously greased, the bagels were cemented on there! The mini bagels were chewier and had a more marbled chocolate effect because some of the chips melted as I kneaded the dough. They were also quite a bit uglier because they lacked the smooth surface of their predecessors. I think when I make them again for Saturday's brunch, I'll still stick with mini bagels, but I will let them rise longer after the bagels are formed. Also, I think I'll sprinkle the cookie sheet with the corn meal, as it really helped with the sticking.

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