The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bagels - tried BBA recipe and have questions

MommaT's picture

Bagels - tried BBA recipe and have questions


Having had a very successful experience with boiled pretzels, I was convinced bagels were a walk in the park.  The recipe in BBA seemed approachable enough -- doesn't take too long, doesn't require lye (I know...point of contention) and is ready to bake for breakfast.  I had a mediocre experience, however, and am looking for pointers from those of you who have had great success making "true" bagels.

The good part:    The dough was easy to mix up, the shaping instructions using classic wrap method were a piece of cake and everything looked just right.  I even found malt syrup in my local Whole Foods.  My only difficulty was the baking time.  In the foreward to the recipe, Reinhardt says total baking time is 15-20 minutes, but in the recipe itself it only describes 5 minutes plus 5 more.  I think this is a typo and the second, cooler baking time should be 15 minutes.

BUT...the real reason I am writing is to ask about the crumb and general texture/mouth feel.   I found the outside to be pleasantly and acceptably chewy, but the inside was a bit to "bread-like" for me.  The bagels were almost fluffy with a fair number of air holes inside.  I am used to a denser, chewier crumb and a bit more flavor.

Is success with the chewy crumb better achieved using a starter instead of yeast?  I suspect this would go a long way toward generating the right crumb.  Is there anything else that I'm missing?

All pointers are appreciated and I'm looking forward to Bagels:  Round 2



flournwater's picture

PR does say, in the sidebar on page 115, "...15 to 20 minutes baking".  I assumed he meant baking and cooling rack resting time so I neve questioned it.

From your description I suspect the boiling time is where your chewiness got lost.  Or, perhaps, the boil was not rolling enough to maintain its temperatur throughout that segment of the process. 

I used the "poke a hole and stretch" method for shaping and I only used PR's suggested baking time as a guide.  I found that the 5-rotate-5 timing didn't brown them as much as I wanted to I baked them a little longer.  How much longer?  I really couldn't say.  Just "longer" enough to get the brown I was trying to achieve.

I also used malt powder, not malt syrup.  I can see how that would have made much difference except that I believe malt syrup contains sugar (a liquid ingredient in any cooking recipe) which would add a bit to the total hydration (but that shouldn't have been much given the amount that's in the recipe) or it's tendancy to bind with the proteins in the flour might have contributed to the texture you experienced.

I guess, to sum it up, I might try:

Malt powder in place of malt syrup

Boiling a minute or two longer

Baking a few minutes longer

brakeforbread's picture

I had the same results with PR's BBA Bagels, even with a prolonged boil and bake. The ended up too much like round bread and not a real nice dense chewy bagel. I have had much better luck with Hammelman's recipe. Cold retard overnight and then boil and bake in the morning, ready for breakfast.

Yumarama's picture

Did you use bread flour or High Gluten flour? That would make a world of difference to the crumb.

LindyD's picture

From your description of the crumb, MommaT, am guessing you used bread flour.

I've baked about ten (baker's) dozen of Jeffrey Hamelman's bagels, precisely following his formula which is made up of high-gluten flour, diastatic malt powder, yeast, salt, and water.  The bagels are shaped an hour after bulk fermentation, retarded overnight, then boiled in water containing barley malt syrup.  Baked for 15-18 minutes at 500F.  

As a former resident of Manhattan and regular customer of H&H Bagles of NYC, Hamelman's formula produces an authentic chewy bagel with great taste and texture - confirmed by family and friends I've shared them with.  

Since the gang pleads for bagels, I started experimenting with adding vital wheat gluten to bread flour because of the high cost of high-gluten flour.  I started out with about 20 grams of VWG to 907 grams of bread flour.  The dough acted like bread and the bagels tasted like bread doughnuts.

I've upped the VWG to 65 grams and while the crumb is chewy, the texture is still not the same as high-gluten flour (not as dense), nor is the crust.  In blind taste tests, friends and family knew there was a difference and commented they were okay, but not as good as the bagels I had been sharing (made with high-gluten flour).  

Now,  both King Arthur bread and KA high-gluten flours are milled from hard red spring wheat.   I've read that sometimes high-gluten flour has some starch removed, so I contacted KAF and asked.  I was told no. I've no idea if the milling process is different.

It could be that I haven't used enough VWG and I may try another batch adding even a higher amount.  On the other hand, I don't want to wind up with a bouncing hockey puck instead of a bagel.

For now, if I want a terrific, authentic bagel, I use only high-gluten flour and Jeff Hamelman's recipe.  

[Edited to add that Maggie Glezer ("Artisan Baking,") notes in her discussion of flour that there's no substitution for high-gluten flour.  I agree.] 

flournwater's picture

I think PR would agree with you.  His recipe for these bagels includes high gluten flour as a first choice, bread flour as an alternative.  It's not written precisely in those words but the way the recipe is printed suggests that he'd prefer to use the high gluten over the bread flour.

goldrhim's picture

I agree with the above posters that the flour can make all the difference in the world.  I purchased a large bag of high gluten flour from a local GFS store (restaurant supplier sort of place).  If you have any in your area, it was a 25 pound bag for $10.  Couldn't pass it up.  It was bleached and bromated, but I sacrificed that for the price.  The bagels turned out great!  In fact, I made another batch just this last Saturday with great results.  I'm having a problem with the toppings but that's another story...  Here's the link to my original post.

Bagels on the first try.

MommaT's picture

Thanks, everyone. 

I usually have my best success with Hamelman recipes.  Don't know why I turned to BBA this time (perhaps because I didn't have HG flour..ha) but will go back to Hamelman and try that recipe with the HG flour next.  

Just as a note, I felt good about everything else (boiling/baking time).  The crust was close to "authentic"...just the insides were still, as one poster described, round bread.  

I look forward to gaining from your experiences and hope to report back with some photos of awesome bagels soon!