Sunday, November 9, 2014

New York-Style Sea Salt & Poppy Seed Bagels

Bagels are awesome. Who's with me?

I'm a slather-it-with-cream-cheese kinda girl most of the time.
Sometimes I fancy the loads-of-peanut-butter-and-honey at breakfast.

But when you make them from scratch and they come from the oven all warm and steamy, a knob of butter will do just fine.

There's quite a difference between Montreal-style and New York-style bagels. I like them all though - I don't discriminate.

The dough for bagels is similar to bread at its core: water, yeast, flour and sometimes salt.

The big difference between bagels and bread is that they are poached in boiling water after they are rolled and shaped, but before they hit the oven. This causes the starch at the surface to gelantinize, which is the technical term for causing the starch to absorb water and set. This keeps the surface moist so that the bagels can expand during baking, but most importantly it creates a thick, chewy and shiny crust.

Pretzels are made by a similar method except that the water is alkalized to promote a dark brown colour. This is done through the simple addition of baking soda to the poaching water.

Montreal-style bagels are smaller, sweeter and more dense with a prominently crisp crust. The recipe includes malt or honey and egg, and most importantly no salt. Then, honey is added to the water that the dough is boiled in just before baking. Finally, the best Montreal-style bagels are baked in a flaming hot wood-fired oven.

I prefer them with nothing more than some coarse salt.

The lack of salt in the dough prevents ultimate gluten development so the resulting dough is shorter and has a flakier texture. Egg helps to create a more tender texture thanks to natural emulsifiers in egg yolk, and the added protein helps to provide a bit of structure.

New York-style bagels are (not surprisingly) bigger, puffier, spongier, chewier and made with salt. They come across more moist and doughy than their Canadian counterpart.

New York-style bagels are hardy enough for a big shmear of cream cheese and are a great size to slice into a sandwich with smoked salmon, capers, tomato and arugula or rocket. One of my favourite combos is cream cheese + proscuitto + black pepper. You gotta try it!

Or, if you're like my other half, a couple of pads of cold butter on a warm halfie straight from the toaster is spot on.

How about pizza bagels!? My sister and I were masters of the pizza bagel. I'm pretty sure we made the best ones in town. I always made mine with extra cheese and timed them to be ready for the start of "The Price Is Right". It was perfect.

For the best flavour, you should form your rings straight after you've kneaded and developed the dough, then place them on a tray, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The cold temperature will slow down the yeast so that the dough doesn't grow too big, but they're alive enough to ferment the carbohydrates and produce delicious flavours.

I bring you a recipe that is much faster for the time-poor. Instead I prove the dough for a couple of hours, then shape and boil them straight away. This sacrifices a bit of yeasty flavour, but they are still wildly delicious.

Bagels are not a big thing here in Australia, so I have to make my own.

I'm not complaining.

Bag 'em up and freeze 'em, and happy days for Christina. .... and now for you too!

New York-Style Sea Salt & Poppy Seed Bagels

Makes 10 bagels

4 ½ cups (675g) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp (25g) sugar
2 tsp (10g) salt
3 tbsp (45ml) honey or malt syrup
1 cups (415ml) warm water
1 tsp (7g) dried active yeast
¼ cup poppy seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp coarse sea salt

Place the flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and stir briefly to combine.

In a small jug combine 1 tbsp of the honey with warm water and yeast. Stir well to combine and set aside for about 5 minutes or until foamy.

Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and mix on low speed for about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, supple and elastic. You can also do this by hand with a bit of elbow grease and time.

Cover the dough in the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, turn the oven on to preheat at 475 degrees F (250 degrees C) and line a baking tray with baking paper. Bring about 6 inches of water and the remaining 2 tbsp of honey to the boil in a wide pot.

Combine poppy seeds, sesame seeds and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, gently punch down the dough and divide it into ten pieces. Roll each piece out into a fat log and then wrap each piece around your hand to form the traditional bagel shape. Roll the two ends of the dough together against your work surface with your palm to seal it and then place the shaped bagels onto the baking tray.

One by one, place each bagel into the boiling water for 30 seconds a side. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them back on the baking tray. Immediately sprinkle them liberally with the poppy sees/salt mixture, patting it down gently to ensure it adheres. 

Bake for 10 minutes, before turning the oven down to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for a further 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and eat.

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