The BBA Challenge is moving along nicely! What this is all about is to bake every single recipe in Peter Reinhart's book Bread Baker's Apprentice. More than 200 bread lovers around the world are engaged in this, sharing findings, successes and failures on blogs, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and a Google mailing list. (Wow, that really sounds serious, how did I end up in this anyway?) The founder if this adventure is Nicole of Pinch My Salt, who had never dreamt of such interest, but nevertheless has taken on all the administration and management that a group this size requires.
Time for recipe #3, bagels. Our whole family loves bagels. I have actually baked bagels once a long time ago, and as I remembered it, the result was good, but it was quite complicated so I didn't think I'd bother to bake them again. But that was a looong time ago, and of course I'll bake them again, now with Peter Reinhart and the BBA group there to hold my hand.
What makes bagels so special is that you boil them before baking. That makes them chewy in a very special way. According to Peter Reinhart, a true bagel shall also retard in the fridge at least one night before it's baked. The long and slow fermentation lets the flavours develop to the fullest.
I cheated on one thing, and that was substituting honey for malt, which you can't find easily in Sweden. However, I know some online stores where it can be bought, so next time I will do it all correct.
The night before, the bagels are ready to be tucked away in the fridge over night.
In the morning, have just taken out the bagels from the fridge (and removed the plastic film that covered them).
Preparing the toppings: blue poppy seeds, sesame seeds and a herbs & salt mixture.
The first real question mark appeared here: when boiling the bagels, you are supposed to add 1 tbsp of baking soda. And I only had 1/2 tbsp. Would that mean disaster? I threw out a quick question on Twitter, but foolishly didn't hang around to wait for answers, I just let the bagels take a swim with half the amount of baking soda.
When I checked again, a twitter from Wendy of Pink Stripes pointed me to the introduction of the bagel chapter in the BBA, where PR explains which additions to the boiling water that can be used, and why he recommends baking soda. Well, I could have thought of actually reading the book, don't you think?
According to Peter Reinhart, there are many views on what you should add to the water, but the most important factor is actually the time that the bagels spend in the water. However, the baking soda alkalizes the water, which affects the starch on the surface so that a little more shine is added.
Apparently, no big deal about the missing half tbsp of baking soda!
Boiling the bagels, three at a time, one minute on each side.
They look like me when I have been in the bathtub too long!
Add the topping as soon as they come up from the bath.
Three bagels without topping as per my husband's request.
Six bagels on each sheet, means baking two sheets at once, that'll be interesting. PR suggests baking them 5 minutes, then let the sheets shift places AND rotate them, and bake another 5 minutes. Swedish electrical ovens are quite small, bit our oven happens to have a hot air function which I used here. I lowered the temp a bit to compensate for that.
And I have to say I'm pretty pleased by the result! They are by no means perfect, but that's not really my ambition.
Which one shall I taste first?
Mmm, I think I'll start with a poppy seed bagel ...
... with philadelphia cheese, serrano ham, rocket and tomatoes.
And one with blueberry jam, and one with cherry preserve.
Unfortunately I chose a bagel with herbs & salt for the sweet ones: blueberry + herbs + salt made an interesting combination! The cherries went on the underside of the bagel, which meant no interference there.