Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bite my... bagel!

Ah, New York! Home of the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge...
Home of millions of people, smells and flavors. Fusion of the old, new and ultra modern.
And you know what? I never been there *sad face*

I have seen one too many movies and documentaries back in the day to know the landmarks and I even went as far as asking native New Yorker how the city smells.

One of my favorite TV programs was taking place in New York, Ugly Betty. Now, Betty was far from ugly and she was very smart girl, so whenever her boss would feel angry or hungry, she would bring him a bagel. Cream cheese and onion one. 

I always wondered how bagels taste. You see, living in a world couple of worlds away from NY has some disadvantages. I just can't pop out and get me a bagel. In fact, I could, if I wanted a dreadful little thing called bagel, full of additives and heaven knows what. There's a place that brings frozen bagels and bakes them, but I'm not after that experience. In fact, I had tasted one of those and it was rather disappointing, so I rolled up my (proverbial) sleeves and set to make me a NY style bagels. And the adventure began....

I'm sitting nicely yesterday, mumbling about the heat and hating summer before it even (officially) started, and in a fit of sheer insanity, I decided to bake! 
It's not that I am a bad baker, mind you, but the thing is, the thermometer was about 37C or 98.6F if you will, and I'm not blasting the air conditioner just yet. Insanity, I know, there's no other word for it.

I made the dough and let it prove, it said you need to let it hang in the bowl for an hour. Yeah, no problem, I'll just play some mind numbing game on a social network and the time will pass soon enough, I said to myself.

It did pass fast enough and I was doing whatever I had scribbled in my little notebook, oven heated at 220C/425F, large pot of boiling water hissing at the stove, adding a couple of degrees to the overall heat and I'm profusely losing great percentage of my body water, but that didn't stop me. Despite the fact that I suffered moderately mild dehydration just few days ago.

So I did all things in order and put the first batch in the oven, happily baking. After some 10 minutes I went to peek through the oven glass and pouff! The oven light went off. Oh well, I shall call someone to change it, I made mental note. But then... it was too quiet... I couldn't hear the monster fan in the living room. That means two things then:

1. I made some booboo and cut the electricity supply
2. The electricity company made some booboo and we have national blackout

I went downstairs where the electricity meter is, opened the box and everything seemed fine. Then I heard Jane shouting out of the window, asking Mary if she has electricity, it was in the lines of: "Aww, Mariiii, ghandek dawl?" and Mary shouting back "Leeeee, m'ghandix!"
So, I put two and two together, or Jane and Mary in the case, and figured out that it is the number 2 on my possible scenarios. It might not have been national blackout, but good half of the island didn't have electricity. 

Well, that wasn't problem for my bagels, my oven is not running on electricity (one of the things I'm very grateful about), but it was not going to be very convenient to live in the house for the next couple of hours. Yeah... I'm "strange" allright... I DON'T have doors between the rooms. Of course, there's the front door, the door to the bathroom and the stairway door, but that's pretty much it. Doors make me feel restrained and I'm not the type that likes restraints. 

Long story short, I finished my bagels which came out divine, by the way, but the electricity was out for whole 4 1/2 hours... at the worst (read HOTTEST) part of the day. And now, I vented, said what I wanted to say, the only thing that is left to do is give you the recipe for

New York style bagels (with my twist, of course!)

Ingredients for 8 medium sized bagels:

2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1 ½ tablespoons of sugar
½ cups of warm water 
3 ½ cups (500g) of bread flour or high gluten flour
1 ½ teaspoons of salt

Little olive oil for greasing the baking sheet

Large pot of boiling water
2 tbsp honey

If you would like to use topping:
1 egg white
1 tbsp cold water

For (optional) topping you can use sesame seeds, caraway seeds, poppy seeds... whatever tickles your fancy. I used poppy, sesame and nigella seeds.


In ½ cup of the warm water, pour in the sugar and yeast. Do not stir. Let it sit for 5-6 minutes and then stir until it all dissolves in the water.
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and make well in the middle. Pour in the yeast and sugar mixture.

Pour half of the remaining warm water into the well. Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed. 
It needs to result in a moist and firm dough after you have mixed it.
On a floured surface, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Try working in as much flour as possible to form a firm and stiff dough.
Lightly brush a large bowl with some olive oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. Let prove in a warm place for 1 hour, until it has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 8 equal sized pieces and form a ball. Work it against smooth surface, so the ball would be seamless. Repeat the procedure with the rest of the dough and place them on lightly oiled baking sheet.
After shaping the dough, dip the handle of a wooden spoon into little flour and make a hole in the centre of each piece. Stretch the hole about 3cm (1 1/4 inch), and let them rest for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius and bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 2 tbsp of honey in the boiling water and reduce the heat to simmer.
Use slotted spoon to drop the bagels in the water. Do not overcrowd them, they need their space. Let them boil for 1 minute on each side, or if you want the NY experience, make that 2 minutes on each side. Drain the water and place them on oiled sheet. If you want to use topping, make eggwash from 1 egg white and 1 tbsp of cold water. With a pastry brush apply the eggwash and then your chosen topping.
Bake for 20 minutes, until golden. The sound should be hollow when tapped at the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack to cool down and enjoy! 
You can freeze them for up to 3 months.

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