Monday, September 20, 2010

Going Flat Out

My first ever blog crush was David Lebovitz. I love his writing and his passion for food. What a bonus that his recipes are easy to follow and give amazing results.

When I got to attend his ice cream class promoting The Perfect Scoop, I was just about incoherent, stuttering and blushing like a jr. high girl meeting Zac Efron. Actually, I'd probably do that meeting Zac, too. I think he's pretty cute.

But crushing aside, I think David's blog is the bomb. It's a goldmine of information, entertainment, and recipes. And he usually makes me laugh. Not just quietly chuckle, but snort milk through the nose laugh.

Recently I'd taken on a personal challenge to bake Peter Reinhart's bagels. I was not fastidious in following directions, taking a somewhat careless approach to things like rising times and shaping directions. Having made bagels before, I was pretty sure that this batch wasn't going well. The dough never felt as stiff as what I was used to. After the shaped bagels rose, they felt slack and sticky, and when I attempted to remove them from the pan to boil them, they…. well, they went flat. I hoped they'd revive in the oven and puff up. No such luck. They came out looking like sports equipment - a discus minus a center. But they tasted good. I consoled myself with that as I toasted them, smeared them with cream cheese, and made sandwiches from them. They did taste good.

But then I read a post of David L's wondering why store-bought bagels had gotten so puffy, like a celebutant's collagen-filled lips. He said that some of the best bagels he'd ever tasted were flat.

"Ha ha!" I yelled, leaping up from the computer and fist-pumping the air. "According to David, my bagels weren't failures!" There was no one else around to appreciate my moment of triumph, but I definitely exulted.

See why I crush on him? Who else can take a kitchen fail and turn it into a high five?

Speaking of which, I'm awarding myself a High Five for finally getting around to trying this recipe. I've had this cookbook for over a year, and this is the first recipe I've been brave enough to try.

Note: Read through the recipe all the way before starting, noting the rising times and making sure you have all the ingredients and equipment. The bagels are mixed and shaped the day before baking and rest overnight in the refrigerator, so make sure you have space in the refrigerator for two baking sheets.

Deliciously Flat Bagels
- adapted from Bread Baker's Apprentice
by Peter Reinhart

1 tsp instant yeast
4 cups (18 oz) unbleached bread flour
2-1/2 cups (20 oz) water, at room temperature

1/2 tsp instant yeast
3-3/4 cups (17 oz) unbleached bread flour
2-3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp malt powder OR
1 Tbsp dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar

To Finish:
1 Tbsp baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions

1- Sponge: In a 4-quart mixing bowl, stir the yeast into the flour. Add the water, stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (think pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.

2- In the same mixing bowl, add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour, the salt and the malt. Stir (or use low speed on an electric mixer with a dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.

3- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no spots of raw flour and the dough should be 77 to 81 deg. F (use an instant read thermometer). If the dough is too dry, add a few drops of water and knead it in. If the dough seems sticky, add more flour a bit at a time till it feels sufficiently firm. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable, but not tacky.

4- Immediately divide the dough into 12 pieces of 4-1/2 oz each. Shape each piece into a ball.

5- Cover the balls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for 20 minutes.

6- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly mist with cooking spray.

7- Take the dough balls one at a time and shape them by gently pushing your thumb through the center of the ball and working your way around the ring to evenly stretch it till the center hole is about 2-1/2 inches across.

8- Place the dough rings on the pans 2 inches apart. Spray the rings lightly with the cooking spray. Cover each tray loosely with plastic wrap, or slip it inside a large food-grade plastic bag. Let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

9- Check to see if the bagels are ready for their rest in the refrigerator. Fill a small bowl with cool water. Take one bagel and drop it into the water. If it floats with 10 seconds, the bagels are ready. Return the bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan with plastic, and place in the refrigerator overnight (or as long as 2 days).

If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the room temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

10- The next day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500 deg. F with two racks in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot, the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted soon handy. Sprinkle the parchment-lined baking sheets with cornmeal or semolina flour

11- Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute flip them over and boil for another minute. For very chewy bagels, you and make it 2 minutes per side. Using the slotted spoon, scoop out the bagels, one at a time, let drip briefly and then transfer to the baking sheet.

12- If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water. You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination.

13- When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans in the oven. Bake for about 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and turning back to front. After the rotation, lower the oven temperature to 450 deg. F and bake for about 5 minutes more, until the bagels turn light golden brown. If you prefer darker bagels, leave them in a few minutes longer.

14 - Remove the pans from the oven and remove the bagels to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving.


RecipeGirl said...

Your post cracked me up. I've never thought about flat bagels before... not sure I've spotted them until now :)

I spent a week w/ David while at a food blog event in Mexico last year. He's such a fun guy and so personable too. He's not scary.

Karen Baking Soda said...

Wow you attended a class with David? (I prefer not to read Recipe Girl's comment .. a week!)

I had to follow yr link for Zac, does that make me old or just an all boys mom? Anyway now I have a mind pic of sons new hairdo... Not Justin Bieber Mom!!
I think I need bagels.

Elizabeth said...

Excellent!! I love it when someone confirms that a supposed failure is a complete success.

And an extra high 5 for making the Reinhart recipe. I tried using one of Reinharts' bagel recipes ('classic water bagels') the first time I made bagels, but found it to be way way way to complicated. So I used Reinhart's ingredients list but Bernard Clayton's bagel making instructions from "Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads".

Have you tried Rose Levy Beranbaum's 'Levy's Bagels' from her book "The Bread Bible"? They are not at all puffy. I think David Lebovitz would approve.

Anh said...

bagels! Love them, flat or whatever! :)

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I'd give you a high five too Lynn.

We Are Not Martha said...

I love this and I love David Lebovitz, too! And I think the bagels look fabulous :)


Susan said...

Given the choice of an overly-puffed doughnut-masquerading-as bagel or a flat, chewy, flavorful one, I'll take flat any day. High five!

scrambledhenfruit said...

I think I'd like a flat bagel, but I've been too chicken to attempt them. You're inspiring me here!

Elle said...

Is this in line with the world being not round but flat? Actually I agree that you get a high five! Peter's recipes are mini-Matterhorns in a way...quite a climb Lynn!

CaSaundraLeigh said...

I've had bad luck in the past with bagel making, but maybe I could master these flat ones!! :-)

Unknown said...

LOL! Great post. David Lebovitz is awesome, even though I don't have a crush on him, I LOVE his books, recipes, and blog!

eatme_delicious said...

Great job with the bagels! They don't look too flat, I think mine looked like that too.