I will admit to having my doubts.
In fact, I was seriously considering not making the bagels from Hamelman's book 'Bread', for a number of reasons.
First, I did not want to watch my blood sugars skyrocket after eating a bagel. For some reason the bagels I buy in town really have that effect, and as a Type 2 diabetic I really do not like this kind of surprise.
Who needs guilt?
Second, I did not have malt powder or syrup. Not since my homebrewing days, and lordy that has been a while...
Third, I was reading some of the comments from the other bloggers on The Mellow Bakers blog, and sounded like a few people had irritating problems. Things like the center was doughy, dealing with bagel boards, skimmers, and the notion that the dough was too cold when taken out of the fridge.
Frankly, some of the bakers over there are both experienced and competent; most are simply fantastic bakers. If they had troubles, well, I was more than a little intimidated.
Now I had made bagels a few years ago in a fit of creativity, but they were like a lot of breads in the sense that when they are warm and fresh out of the oven, just about any bread tastes good. Twenty minutes after I made them, they turned into rocks so hard that the squirrels refused them. I did have a track record to overcome.
But, I had visited Sister Demeter over the weekend, and she had taken the plunge. She had bought a can of malt syrup and powder as well. In typical fashion, she offered me some, and in furtherance of that typical fashion, I took both with a smile and a thank you. It is good to have someone leading the way, and I thought that I would follow, yet again, in her footsteps.
So that took care of the second objection. I read the recipe and the blog comments again, and decided that I might as well give it a 'Mellow' try. Why not? After reading the comments about bagels boards and doughy centers, I knew I was going to take a few liberties with the recipe. As I ladled that whopping two teaspoons of malt powder into the mixer there were a number of cheats running through my mind.
The dough came together nicely, and was promptly popped into the refrigerator for a bulk ferment overnight. That way the bagels would be confirmed as warm by my hands when doing the forming.
The hardest part of the whole recipe was dividing the dough into thirteen parts!
The dough stayed pretty sticky, and my hands needed to be floured a couple times as things warmed up. Eventually, there were twelve round rings on a chunk of parchment paper. Yeah, twelve.
In the back of the picture below are the starters for my second or third attempts at Corn Bread, Rustic Bread, and a couple of other projects as well. I have taken to writing down the recommended fold and bake times with a dry erase marker on the plastic wrap.You know, when you get the chance to bake all day you have to make the best of it!
I did go through the effort of setting out ice water, salt, sesame, and got the malt syrup and water simmering nicely.Once the sugar water came to a boil, I re-shaped the bagels as best I could, and dropped them into the pot, where they proceeded to go right to the bottom.
And stayed there.
What about floating up? Using a spatula they were released from the bottom, where they had nicely glued themselves in a serious attempt at ritual drowning. Once freed from the bottom, they popped right up and floated on the surface like they were supposed to do.
Using a strainer spoon that I had bent at a ninety degree angle, they were easy enough to lift from the proofing to the ice water. Touching them in the ice water you could feel the gelatinous surface. When I tried to roll them in a nicely prepared bowl of sesame I made a terrible mess of things, so after the first attempt, the bagels went directly to the parchment paper, where my Darling Bride sprinkled a little Kosher salt and then sesame on them, turned them over, and did the other side. It is good to have help sometimes!
I was not too sure, but Darling Bride quickly scooped up four of them to deliver to the taste testing neighbors. They approved, and asked for more. She then brought a few more to her girlfriend's house, where they were promptly covered in cream cheese and devoured. She came back, I sliced one for her, and she rolled her eyes in disbelief.
If the Darling Bride says she likes something, you have done well.
She loved them. Well, that was just too much for my self-control.
I gave in and 'sampled' one for myself. Blood sugars? Eh, check it later. Right now, for this moment, I lavished the fragrant bread liberally with my Sister's strawberry jam.
They were wonderful...
...and then, they were simply gone!
Just that quickly, there was nothing left; no evidence other than the dirty dishes and a few stray sesame seeds here and there. These really were wonderful bagels. The outside was chewy, but not so tough that you felt like it was a workout. The inside was really flavorful, and although they were a fair amount of work, I figure that with enough practice it will go much faster.
Besides, there is a lot of malt powder left!
And who knows when we will have a need for bagels?