This week we’ve been making bagels. The goal is a nice tall bagel, crispy exterior, no burned or scorched spots.
The dough starts with a poolish (pre-ferment). This is a deceptively difficult thing to do. It’s easy in the sense that you mix equal parts (by weight) bread flour and water with a small amount of yeast. You let this rest for a few hours and it helps develop great flavor in the bread. The difficult part is not letting it ferment too much. If you overferment the poolish, you will lose some structure in your final product and that will mean flatter breads.
I think this has been my problem the last two tries. The bagels still turn out pretty good but I want a nice tall round bagel in the end and mine have universally been a bit flat. Still tasty! And that’s the great thing about baking bread at home: most of the time, the bread you make won’t be factory perfect but it will taste good.
After the pre-ferment the dough is straight forward. You just add more flour, more water, salt, and more yeast. There’s one additive in bagel making – diastatic malt – which is malt powder with enzymes. I’ve seen a lot of recipes which don’t call for diastatic malt but instead just use honey or barley malt syrup. The diastatic malt is supposed to help with fermentation, give better rise. This can also be a bit tricky to work with because if you put too much, your bagels can come out “gummy”. I’ve used it before and couldn’t tell any difference in my rise but my bagels have been flat so… I have some diastatic malt so on my next batch, I’ll use it instead of the barley malt syrup.
The other problem I’ve run into with bagel making is shaping. There are two methods for shaping: poke and roll. I think I prefer the roll method but I’ve been struggling to get the dough to stick. This could be because my particular flour is super fresh (I buy from local miller Cairnspring Mills) and can take a little more water than I’ve been giving it. So, my next batch I’m also going to increase my hydration. I’m at 57% hydration right now. 60% would mean an extra 20g of water, which is funny because when I was following another guy’s recipe he just adds salt in to his dough after he lets it autolyse (to activate the diastatic malt enzymes) and I was thinking that you need to get that salt into water to help it get into the dough, and in my notes I have “20g water?”
Baking bagels is also its own process. You have to boil the bagels (in water that has more malt syrup in it, I’ve also seen people add baking soda) for about 30 seconds on each side, then dunk them in toppings and then place them on bagel boards. My bagel boards are actually a bit thin and I’m slightly worried that that’s causing a problem. But I also overbaked my first two batches. Notes on this are all over the place. I’ve seen people bake their bagels at 425 and not use a bagel board and 475 with a bagel board. I’ve also seen 475 for 25-30 minutes total baking time and 475 for 16 minutes total baking time. And of course, the question is how accurate is my oven? I’ve never temped it. You’d think I would have and that I’d have like a laser temp gauge or something but I never have! Mine are turning out slightly burnt on the bottom and I don’t want that.
That’s my bagel adventure so far. I’m going to start a batch this morning, starting with the poolish, and fingers crossed I don’t over ferment it.
Arsenal picked up another injury in midfield yesterday as it was announced that Mo Elneny is out for a few weeks. Arsenal knew that we needed another CDM and didn’t buy one for whatever reason. Now I guess we will need to see if Lokanga can pick up the pieces. I like him a lot but he doesn’t seem to have the midfield awareness needed to play DM and whenever he’s been tried as the lone MFer he’s pretty easily pressed off the ball. Other options there are using Xhaka as DM and Lokonga as the box to box MFer, playing Zinchenko as the lone DM, and trying Ben White. Ben White’s being heavily championed by certain folks and I find it funny. Not that he would be laughable there, rather that we have entered the entirely predictable part of the Arsenal season where fans argue about which players we should be playing out of position to cover for injuries. It would be nice if one year we could just have enough guys to cover. But that’s the beauty of following the Arsenal: the right way, the wrong way, the Arsenal way!