The Fresh Loaf

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Chewy bagels - help!

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varda's picture
varda

Chewy bagels - help!

Hi,   I just made bagels for the first time in a while, and the first after experiencing the quintessential New York bagel at Ess-A-Bagel.    I don't know if my consciousness is raised or what, but I realized the the exterior of my bagels are too chewy.    I used Hamelman's formula with two changes to make my life easier.   1.  No bagel boards.   I didn't turn the bagel in mid-bake.  2.  After boiling, I rinsed in very cold water and then put into a cold bowl of water for a few minutes.    Calling it ice water would be a bit generous.    Other than that, I tried to follow exactly.    I used KA Sir Lancelot.    Did my simplifications cause the chewy crust?    Of the many beauties of the Ess-A-Bagel bagel is the contrast of the crisp crust and the chewy interior.    Is there a secret way to get this?   Thank you.  -Varda

wally's picture
wally

Hi Varda,

I've never had Ess-A-Bagel, so I don't know what their secret is.  However, I also don't bother with a bagel board.  You only really need them to prevent the wet bottom of the bagel from sticking directly to the hearth it's baked on, so if you bake them on parchment, as I do, there's no need for the board.  But, I also don't bother with a cold water dip after plunging them into boiling water.  They go from the water directly onto the parchment (lightly dusted with cornmeal), or into seeds and then onto the parchment.

I bake them for 15-18 minutes at 500F and get a nicely browned bagel that is crisp in the crust but deliciously chewy in its crumb. 

You might try omitting the cold water bath.  I also bake with steam, fyi - they get a slightly better rise I find.

Good luck in pursuit of the perfect bagel!

Larry

varda's picture
varda

I'll try it your way, Larry,  and see how it goes.    Thanks so much for helping.   -Varda

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi Varda.  I do everything Larry does except that I do move the boiled bagels into water containing lots of ice cubes and keep them there till the next batch is finished boiling.  Gas oven at 500F (preheated for about 45 minutes), no steam since the bagels are moved from the ice water to the parchment and are wet going in.  

Wonderfully crisp crust that crackles when you bite into it, chewy crumb.  

BTW, I have the water boiling and everything ready before I take the retarded bagels out of the refrigerator.   Always mix the full recipe, so that gives me a baker's dozen.  The second tray stays in the cooler until the first batch has been baked.

varda's picture
varda

I think I did it exactly as you say except for no ice cubes.    But the water coming out of my tap is extremely cold.    Perhaps I overkneaded, or didn't cover carefully enough in refrigerator.    Thanks Lindy.   -Varda

jaywillie's picture
jaywillie

Crust formation generally comes from added humidity in the oven at the beginning of the bake, whether from steaming or water on the surface of the bagels as they are put into the oven. And baking temperature would have an impact.

If you search TFL for "crisp crust" or "steaming and crust," there are lots of dicussions that might give you some insight. Of course, bagels are not supposed to have a *really* crisp crust like an artisan loaf, unless that's what your target bakery happens to sell. But I wouldn't think of that as a "quintesssential" New York bagel, for sure.

Did your bagels by any chance dry off completely after your cold water bath but before you put them into the oven?

What temp did you use for baking?

I wouldn't worry about the temp of your cold water bath. That's just to cool down the bagel after the boil -- and I've found that not necessary, just like wally. Only a few recipes call for that, including Hamelman's. Many others do not even mention it. 

varda's picture
varda

isn't very good.   So when I say bagel crisp crust, I don't mean artisan bread crisp crust.   I'm sure someone else could find the right words to make the distinction.   But trust me when I say my crust was too chewy.   Given what you are saying and Larry as well, steam at the beginning of the bake might help.   My bagels didn't dry out.    Straight from cold bath to seeds - brief pause for second batch - and then to oven at 500F.    I think maybe the oven wasn't sufficiently preheated and so it took longer than 20  minutes to bake.    So possibly that was part of the problem.   Thanks for your help and I'll skip the cold bath next time.   -Varda

grind's picture
grind

Maybe a little more dough hydration?  You might get a better differentiation between crust and crumb.  Just a thought.

varda's picture
varda

But I did just put the last bagel of the batch (baked two days ago) into the toaster oven at high heat for around 5 minutes, and the crust came out just right.   So my final diagnosis is that I need to heat the oven for longer before baking.     And I'll try steam as well.     Also, crunchy may be a better word than crisp.    Thanks all.  -Varda

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Heck, you only need to dip them in the hot water.  The longer they stay in, the tougher they get.

Eric did some experiments, maybe a solution can be found there

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/25499/making-bagels-my-journey

Good Luck   :)

varda's picture
varda

I thought they had to rise to the top.    I boil them until they pop up.   Wrong?   Usually they pop up right away, but IIRC they took a few minutes this time.   Interesting diagnosis.   I'll look at Eric's experiments.     Thanks Mini.  -Varda

LindyD's picture
LindyD

 Hamelman's formula calls for 45 seconds in the boiling water.     Given the one hour bulk fermentation and the overnight retardation, I know the bagels are going to float so I watch the timer.  

Are you mixing at 58% hydration?   I use first speed on my Bosch compact for three minutes, then speed two for six minutes, then bulk for an hour.  

varda's picture
varda

Yes, I did whatever Hamelman said about water plus a little bit more since I couldn't get all the flour absorbed.   I was doing 1.5 x his scaling (this came to 9 4oz bagels, and 12 3oz)   so I mixed the ingredients by hand, then cut in half and mixed in Bosch compact for 6 minutes a piece, which seemed just right.   Then 1 hour BF and refrigerator overnight.    

So I guess I know what happened this time.   Did you mean above - you know the bagels ARE NOT going to float?  I would say that it took each batch around 3 minutes for the bagels to pop to the top which I thought was "the sign" that boiling was done.   This is the easiest possible thing to fix.    Phew!  

I can't wait to make bagels again to test this, but I'd better wait.   

Thanks again.   -Varda

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I meant they  have never failed to float, so I watch the 45 second timer.   Are  you using the updated formula, where the amount of yeast was increased slightly?   It's in the  errata.  Am in Chicago right now and don't recall the amount.  

Why not try mixing the full amount?   They freeze well, although you will lose that initial crispy crunchy crust.  

varda's picture
varda

Thanks for pointing it out.    And I have to pace myself bagel-wise.    I'm trying to move the family in the whole grain direction with things like bagels as an occasional treat.   -Varda

wally's picture
wally

Varda,

I just saw your post about boiling your bagels for 3 minutes.  That is way too long.  Typically bagels get boiled anywhere from just under a minute to two minutes.  The longer, the chewier.  But after 3 minutes you're going to end up with something that Mini was warning you about.  For my money, the 'chew' is a distinctive part of what makes a bagel a bagel.  Otherwise it's just 'bread' shaped like a bagel (and you'll find a lot of bagels being sold that are never boiled and IMHO are NOT bagels).  But you can go too far to the other extreme and create something more resembling a rubber tire than a bagel.

One last thing: sometimes the bagels will sink and not float - they'll stick to the bottom of your kettle. Don't let that happen.  Take whatever implement you are using to manipulate them and gently loosen them and they'll float.  (I find this happens most often when they aren't sufficiently proofed/retarded).

Keep at it!  I'm baking bagels for my Brogue pub buddies  tomorrow morning: 45 sec to a side in a boiling water/honey mixture.

Larry

PS- If you don't overboil bagels, steaming WILL give you extra rise in the oven. 

varda's picture
varda

Bagels underproofed (why, I'm not sure.)   Bagels sink.   I wait for them to pop back up which takes awhile.    Then bake them in an underheated oven.    Chewy, chewy, chewy.    Thanks again for your help.   You have lucky Brogue pub buddies indeed.   -Varda

jaywillie's picture
jaywillie

I believe it's Reinhart who suggests testing your proofing by putting one of your proofed bagels in a bowl of (room-temp) water to see if it floats. His instruction is if it doesn't float right away, it's not ready for boiling. In that case, he says, put it back on the pan where it is proofing, dry it as best you can, and let it proof some more. Check again. When one is ready, they all are ready. Don't boil them until they are ready.

varda's picture
varda

Hey,   You are raising an interesting point here.   I have never even thought about the possibility of under-proofing bagels, since they go into the refrigerator overnight (in my case for around 10 hours) before going into the kettle.    The technique you are describing seems problematic to me, as it involves removing from the cold, whereas everything I've read says not to warm the bagels before they go into boiling water.    I wonder if a simple finger poke test would do it, although that still leaves the question of how to correct if they are underproofed.   Remove from refrigerator to proof more?   Then re-refrigerate until cold before boiling?    [I wonder if during Thanksgiving preparations, I made the refrigerator colder and that is why I had trouble this time.]   -Varda

giertson's picture
giertson

I have made the bagels from Bread many times myself, and I have definitely gotten that crispy crust you are talking about. Good NYC bagels are always able to distinguish themselves from the herd by that very first bite, because, as you said, the crust has a crunch but not a chew. It is like a brief shattering of the exterior, making way to the chewy interior, and it does not resemble the crust a steam baked artisan bread produces.

Now, as for his method, I follow it carefully but also do not have bagel boards (not needed) and I do NOT use an ice bath. I simply poach my bagels, rest them, top them, bake them.

My theory has long been that I am getting this crispy crunch on the outside from the sugar in the poaching liquid. I use barley malt syrup in my boiling water, and like the book says, I aim for it to be the color of "strong tea". The resulting bagels have a nice shine to them, brown well, and have a distinct crunch. From what I can tell, you may be undoing some of the purpose of poaching your bagels by rinsing them off in cold water. You want to poach them partially for how it wil impact the final bake and crumb, but also because you need to infuse the exterior of the bagel with a heat reactive solution (the malty water) which gives you the color and shine you want. Some people use baking soda to create an alkalized solution, but I think the bagels get too pretzel-like with soda, and I prefer the results with malt. 

Next time you bake, make sure you have a nice, deeply colored poaching liquid and dont use an ice bath. My bet is that you will get the result you want. 

 

varda's picture
varda

for your comments and also for your articulate description of crisp/crunchy crust.    Of course Hamelman is the one who says go from boil to ice water, but I'm perfectly happy to skip that step and see how it goes.    Do you have an opinion re steam?    -Varda

winstonsmith's picture
winstonsmith

The purpose of steam is to delay the formation of the crust by introducing moisture, which allows spring. In the case of bagels you've just put them in boiling water. No amount of steam could equal that effect.

My thoughts are that there is a problem in production. Perhaps too little proofing. Maybe your oven temp is off. Improved crust may simply be a matter of baking a few minutes more.

varda's picture
varda

Improved crust may simply be a matter of baking a few minutes more.

Yes.   I heated one of the chewy bagels for a few minutes in a toaster oven a couple days after the bake, and the crust was fine.    I think the oven temp might have started low and I should have preheated for longer.    Not sure about the proofing.   Thanks for the input.  -Varda

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

l learned from David Snyder when doing Stan Ginsberg's favorite bagels.   We let them sit on the counter for an hour after shaping before putting them into the fridge overnight - in the summer.  These always float immediately when they hit the water.  No sinking allowed :-)  You want them to be in the not quite boiling water for no more 30 seconds - 15 seconds a side,  then right into the seeds and then flipped onto semolina parchment for baking.  Stan says you just to just wake up the beasts from the cold fridge.  Oddly, my take on Stan's bagels are 58% hydration too but I have some whole grains in there too.

I still steam mine for the first 8 minutes like Stan recommends which is half way through the bake, to make sure they blister up and get crispy when they come out.   We preheat to 500 F but bake at 450 F and switch to convection after the steam.  I quit flipping them half way through - too much like work :-)  Seems to work and as close as I have managed for NY Bagels.

I too have to read up on Eric's experiment.

varda's picture
varda

suggestions here.   And I've seen your bagels so I know it's best to listen to your advice.   Thanks so much.  -Varda