Sunday, March 13, 2011

Partial Dark Days (#14.5): Home Made Bagels!

One of many fun "traditions" that has formed in the year that we've lived in this house has been the Sunday morning, post-church visit from my parents. Most weeks they come bearing freshly purchased bagels from Collegetown Bagels in Ithaca. Since the chickens started laying in the fall, we also often fry up a couple eggs and eat and visit over a fresh pot of coffee. It's not typically a long visit with their departure often dictated by the necessity of a nap for The Bug, but we always look forward to the time to chat, and to enjoy fresh bagels.

As I'm sure you'd agree, bagels are by far  best when they're just hours from the oven! Somehow we frequently end up having just one or two too many, and with a twing of remorse I have to toss them into the compost each week (or give them to the birds, depending on mold levels)!

I've often thought that cooking up just a small batch fresh when you wanted them would be the way to go, but despite the opportunity for "Bagel Making Lessons" at Palmer Station years ago, I never have learned how to make them. The Dark Days Challenge pushed me to cross another culinary line this morning, and I made my first-ever batch of home made bagels!

I know that I've written this about nearly all my challenge meals these past few months, but it really was remarkably easy! I found three different recipes that I liked, and rather than my usual "mix-and-match" recipe-following technique, this time, I decided to stick with one and see how it turned out.

I'm calling this a "partial" Dark Days Challenge meal because though my intention was to stay local, I couldn't resist frying up some bacon to accomany things, and it pretty much threw "local" out the window.

But it was sure good. :)

In an case, here's the photo sequence of what I did, following the recipe I found on Michael Ruhlman's website.

Last night before bed I started a sponge of flour, yeast and water:

This morning, it looked like this:

To it, I added, salt, honey, malt syrup and more flour, and kneaded it for a good ten minutes, until it looked like this:

I let it rest for about 20 minutes, then cut it into twelve pieces. Each of those I rolled into a ball and let those rest another couple minutes. Then I flattened each ball to a little three inch wide patty, poked my thumb through the middle and shaped a ring out of it:

These rested again until they started to puff up. Then I flipped them over, and let them puff up again. From there, they went into a pot of simmering water to which I'd added baking soda, and they boiled for a minute on each side:

I lifted them from the pot with a wire-mesh spoon, and put them on parchment-lined baking sheets. I topped some with sesame seeds, some with salt and some I left plain:

They baked at 450° for 12 minutes, until golden brown:

In my mind, they could have used just a little more crispy/cheweyness to the crust, and a little less breadiness to the inside, but they passed the all important toddler test, so I consider it a successful first try at bagels!

How local was I? / What did I learn?
  • The bagels were made with about 2/3 parts white bread flour from New Hope Mills here in Auburn (they're the place that replied "we try to get our grains locally" when I inquired about the source of their wheat), and 1/3 all purpose flour from our definately local CPO/FGF source.
  • The bagels also had yeast (source unknown), malt syrup (source unknown), and honey (from my Dad's bees).
  • We topped them with fresh home made local butter and/or cream cheese (not local), aside our own eggs and the already-mentioned bacon.
  • The coffee was not in any way local.
  • I was expecting them to rise more (like bread) when resting on the counter, so I might have let them sit too long there, which may have contributed to my "breadiness" problem? 
  • I learned that the largest "rise" actually happens in the boil. There, they nearly doubled in size in just those two minutes.
  • Because of this, next time I'd make the center holes smaller which I think would make the more "solid" shaed bagel that I like.
Stay tuned - I'm going to attempt those other two bagel recipes soon, and I'll let you know how they turn out!

In other exciting local news, I've seen a few signs that spring might just might be on its way, including:
    1. Daffodils (thank you GrandMaMa for the bulbs!!) just starting to nose up through the grass.
    2. Serious snow-melt flood ponds in our yard.
    3. The maple sap has been flowing (see "Maple 2011" page for more details).
Of course, this does not in any way preclude our getting serious snowfall in the next month or so. You have to love Central NY weather!

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