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Bagels from The Bread Baker's Apprentice—Updated

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Tuirgin's picture
Tuirgin

Bagels from The Bread Baker's Apprentice—Updated

I just posted a blog entry discussing the bagels I've been making and wanted to follow it up over here in the forums with a couple questions.


Chewiness


I've used longer boil times and have compared KA Sir Lancelot HG flour to bagels made with KA's Bread flour and find there's only a slight difference in chewiness. These bagels are good, but the inner bagel is still surprisingly soft. What aspects of bagel making can affect the chewiness outside of boil time and gluten content of the flour?


Surface Texture


After increasing the amount of baking soda, and adding malt syrup to my water, the exterior is getting much closer to what I expect from a bagel, but it's still quite soft/chewy. Shouldn't a bagel have a bit of a crackle or crispness to the outside? Is this something that only moving to a lye bath is going to achieve?


Crumb


Since these are the best bagels I've ever had, I'm guessing that I've never really had a good, traditionally made bagel. What should the crumb look like? Should it have a tight crumb, or should there be some noticeable holes to it?


That's it for now, I think. Although I can't recall all the various posts I've found that have helped me this far into my bagel making, I want to thank the members of The Fresh Loaf forums as a whole for all the great info. I've been lurking until now, but have found the site incredibly helpful. It's helped me improve my bagels, fix my sourdough starter, and given me some ideas on how to deal with kneading and pain in my hands and forearms. Much thanks to all of you!


Christopher

UPDATE—2010-06-12 10:26 AM

I made a batch of dough up Thursday afternoon using King Arthur Sir Lancelot (High Gluten). I retarded it while the bagels were still extremely sluggish to float. Rather than spraying the bagels with oil to keep them from sticking to the plastic bag they were stored in, I sprayed the plastic bag, itself, and arranged it so that it wouldn't make contact with the bagels; i.e. the spray was just insurance in the event that the bag was moved so that it touched. This morning I boiled them for 90 seconds per side. And rather than sticking the whole tray of bagels in the oven, I removed the bagels from the tray and cooked them directly on my quarry tile. I cooked them for approximately 15 minutes.  The bagels were a rich brown with a slight reddish tinge. They had crust—there was a discernable crackle as I passed the knife through them. Biting into them, there was resistance—at first a slight crunch and then chewiness. The upper half which was covered with my everything mixture—Maldon sea salt, black and white sesame seeds, dehydrated garlic granules, and poppy-seed—was less crusty, both because of the seed coverage and because my range just isn't able to achieve an ambient temperature beyond 450ºF. The bottom, which was in contact with the baking stones, was perfectly crusty. There was a slight pretzel-like flavor to the bottom crust. I assume that's because pretzels and bagels both have a gelatinized crust from an alkaline bath. At any rate, the bagels were as close to perfection as I think I can come with this particular formula and my existing range. In fact, they were so good that my wife and 3 daughters wouldn't shut up about them and some of the sounds being made were rather alarming.

Next I'll try some different formulas. I should have Jeffery Hamelman's Bread any day now, and I picked up Mike Avery's small book, Back to Bagels. I want to thank everyone here for your comments and suggestions. It was a huge help. Thank you!

 

wally's picture
wally

Christopher -


I'm not sure why you're not getting the degree of 'chew' you're looking for - generally lengthening the boiling time will do the trick.


As for crispness, my question to you is, what temperature are your baking these at?  I bake mine between 480 - 500 for around 15 minutes, and get a nicely browned bagel with a somewhat crisp crust.


The interior shouldn't have a too-tight crumb; if it does, I'd question whether they are sufficiently proofed.


That said, I'm impressed with the bagels you're producing - you've got some nice shaping going on.


 


Larry

Tuirgin's picture
Tuirgin

Thanks—these are probably the best looking bagels I've made, and it's my first time shaping by rolling. In the past I've just poked holes and stretched them. The rolling method does seem to produce nicer looking bagels, but I had a few that weren't sealed well and almost came apart in boiling.


I think my crumb is okay—I was just curious what a good crumb would be. My biggest problem to date has been with over-proofing. I was getting deflation and after rummaging through the forums realized that my bagels were over-proofed and collapsing. Maybe if I get them retarded earlier I can play around some more with the boil times.


I pre-heat my oven to 550º an hour before baking, and I keep quarry stone in my oven to help regulate the temperature. Sounds good, but my cruddy oven doesn't really get hotter than about 450-475º and is poorly insulated, to boot. It loses temperature quickly if the door is opened. That said, I've been able to get some decent crusts on baguettes.


In BBA, Reinhart instructs to mist the bagels with spray oil to prevent sticking -- any chance the oil is interfering with a good crust?


Thanks again for your comments.


Christopher

wally's picture
wally

I've never misted a bagel with oil so I'm not sure what it might do to the crust, but in any event, it's unnecessary.  If you're putting the bagels directly on your oven stone (vs. on parchment paper), after you boil them, put a little coarse semolina/corn meal on the counter and put the bagels on them (one side only - the down side).  I do steam my bagels, however and this might improve the crust.


As far as proofing goes, I usually don't ferment my dough for more than an hour before shaping, and then an additional hour after shaping.  By then they should be ready for the boil.


One last thing that occurs to me: after boiling the bagels and adding my toppings I allow them to dry for about 5 minutes before baking.  (I do not place them in an ice bath). This does improve the crust in my opinion.


Hope this helps,


Larry

viyer's picture
viyer

I've been working on bagels as well for the past few weeks - yours are looking mighty good!


Bagels typically have quite a tight crumb, so I think you're on the right track.


I've been using a very low hydration (50.5%) with reasonable success so far. I think that low hydration and avoiding overproofing should result in the chew you're after. I've been using a short (20-30 second) boil per Nancy Silverton's advice. When I get the proofing right, the bagels seem to come to the top of the water about 10-15 seconds into the boiling process.


 

Tuirgin's picture
Tuirgin

I've seen other comments to the same effect -- that the bagels should not float immediately. Mine always do, so that's what to work on. Do you use the poke test to determine proofing?

viyer's picture
viyer

Unfortunately, I don't have a good test to determine proofing. The dough is definitely still stiff enough that the poke test shouldn't work - if it does, it's overproofed. It really doesn't feel all that different from the unrisen dough.


What I am doing is making the dough with cold tap water at roughly 7pm, shaping it, and placing it in the refrigerator to retard. In the morning, I pull the sheet of shaped bagels out about half way through the oven preheat, giving it about 20 minutes at room temperature. If I drop the first bagel in the boiling bath and it doesn't rise in 20 seconds or so, I let it sit out for a few minutes longer.


 


For what it's worth, my recipe to make 8 bagels is


500g flour


181g water


300g 100% hydration starter


17g salt


34g malt syrup


bagel attempt


 

Tuirgin's picture
Tuirgin

In BBA, the directions have you proofing the bagels after shaping. After the time indicated--20 minutes--the proofing test is to see if a bagel floats within 10 seconds. When they do, they're ready to go in the fridge. The next morning I pull a tray out only when everything else is ready.


While I have tried HG flour before and didn't see much difference in the end result between those and bagels made with King Arthur bread flour, perhaps they were so over-proofed that it didn't make any difference. Now that I'm aware of my proofing troubles I made up a new batch with HG flour -- perhaps I'll see a difference now.


A quick comparison of the baker's formula of your recipe and the one from BBA shows a couple things -- the BBA formula has 57% hydration to your 50.9%, and the diastatic malt is at .94% to your 5.23%. Does the malt powder do anything beyond enhancing the flavor? Isn't it used in some bread recipes to boost the rise?

viyer's picture
viyer

I didn't mention it, but I am using HG flour. I think 57% hydration is a bit high, but there is a variation in bagel density even in New York. I tend to like mine on the denser side with a very tight crumb.


I haven't had my reference bagel (Main Street Bagels in Kew Gardens, NY) in almost 2 years, so I'm going to try to get over there in a few weeks. I have little to compare with in the California, where any toroidal bread form is called a bagel. Their bagels are definitely dense, chewy, and crusty. Hopefully after the trip I can fine tune the recipe.


I'm still experimenting with levels of malt syrup. I tried up to 5.7% syrup, and found them too malty. I'm using regular non-diastatic syrup, so I don't think it helps all that much with the rise.

Tuirgin's picture
Tuirgin

When using KA bread flour I always end up adding a lot more flour. When I've used HG I don't need to -- while I haven't yet noticed a difference in the results probably due to my proofing problems, it is certainly easier and faster to get HG dough into good shape for bagels.


Unfortunately, I don't have a reference bagel. I mostly grew up in small town Ohio and west coast Florida where bagel shops sell something not altogether unlike frozen bagels.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi Turgin,


I'm somewhat confused about your comment that your bagels should not float immediately.  If you read page 121 of the BBA, you'll see Reinhart's instruction that they should float within ten seconds.  Ten seconds is about what it takes for the bagel to submerge in the boiling water, then slowly pop back up.


Nor do I see any necessity to spray the bagels with oil.  If you shape them, then place on a lightly oiled sheet of parchment and cover the pan with a plastic bag, they are not going to stick. I think the oil spray is interfering with the crispness of the crust - acting as a softener.


I made the Reinhart bagels from the BBA once.  I think it calls for a lot of unnecessary steps and as a former NYC resident, they didn't remind me of the real thing.


I personally prefer the simplicity of the Hamelman formula - as well as the end result.


I must say that I find it amazing that you are mixing this low hydration dough by hand.  That's got to be a workout!

Tuirgin's picture
Tuirgin

My bagels don't take 10 seconds to float. I've actually only had one batch that submerged for longer than 1 second. Often enough they really just kinda bounce on the surface, which I take to mean that they're over-proofed.


I'm using XXL zip lock bags to store the half-sheet pans in the fridge. Without a light misting of oil the plastic can stick slightly and deform the surface of the bagels a little. The solution may be to rig some kind of framework to keep the bag from collapsing onto the bagels. The mist of oil is minimal, but I'd like to find a way to eliminate it to see what effect that has.


Mixing the dough by hand has gotten easier. When I first started with it, I was fighting the dough -- it was tough, so I thought I had to put some muscle into it. That was exhausting and quite a good workout. I'm finding, however, that there's no need to fight the dough. Simple, easy folds with little pressure bearing down on the dough gets the job done faster than using a lot of force. That said, I do find a double batch of cinnamon raisin bagels to be a big pain, still. The biggest problem is speed. I'm constantly trying to work faster to minimize the time from mixing to retarding. I think hand working this dough is is a big part of what is leading to my bagels always being over-proofed.


I ordered Hamelman's book last weekend and should be getting it any day. I definitely plan on making a batch of his bagels and comparing -- I'm hoping that in the differences between them I'll learn something useful.

jeremiahwasabullfrog's picture
jeremiahwasabullfrog

Hi CHris, nice work.


Going from the pictures in your previous post, you may want to bake a bit longer. A more complete gelatinisation of the crumb will probably give you the texture you are looking for. It will be shiny and almost translucent - like a ciabatta only denser. If you have a probe thermometer (and every baker should), make sure internal temp is 205 F before pulling them out of the oven. It may look like the crust is being overdone, at the time, but often once you pull it out and cool it down you realsise it is perfect. From your pictures you could certainly get away with a bit more


Secondly, you might want to give a sourdough levain a go. It doesn't mean your bagels have to turn out sour, but it is great for getting that moist chewy texture.


Hope it helps!


J

Tuirgin's picture
Tuirgin

I have had batches that I've let bake longer, which was fine when I was only using 1tbsp of baking soda in the water and no malt syrup -- the bagels weren't really gelatinizing and I could bake them until they were pretty dark. I got scared off of a longer bake with a recent batch, however -- it was the first batch that really gelatinized, and I noticed that on the bagels that baked longest there were some lighter, almost golden looking patches which gave a bitter taste. Not knowing exactly what caused it I related it to baking too long. Thanks for giving me a target temp -- that will definitely be a help.


I do look forward to having a go with sourdough. I just made my first starter last week and it's seeming to be good and hungry. From everything I've been reading about sourdough I'm planning to give it a full two weeks of feeding 2x/day before I start using it. I wasn't aware, though, that using sourdough would help with the texture. I look forward to trying it.


Much thanks!

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

Mike Avery has a great recipe on his http://SourdoughHome.com web site although it's for a total of 4 bagels so you'll want to increase the quantities accordingly. Best bagels I've produced, and IMHO beat even Hamelman's which easily beat Reinhart's.


Happy bageling!



Paul,
http://MellowBakers.com
A Hamelman BREAD baking group


Tuirgin's picture
Tuirgin

Thanks for the tip, I'll give it a try.


Also, I should be receiving BREAD in the next couple days -- I may wander over to MellowBakers after I've had a chance to familiarized myself with the book.

jeremiahwasabullfrog's picture
jeremiahwasabullfrog

Just reading over old posts, I see that you get them to pass the float test before retarding. When they pass the float test, they are ready to go then and there, they will proof further in the fridge (slowly), so by morning they are overdone. I would suggest retarding almost straight after shaping, and then letting them finish proving in the morning (although it might take a while for them to warm up enough). If you let them prove a little before they go in the fridge, they just might be perfect when you get them out.


In terms of the float test, I wouldn't worry too much about how long they take to come up. Basically if they aren't ready, they sink and stay sunk, as soon as you get one that floats, they are ready. If it never sinks at all, it is probably overdone, but they can still work out very well.


Re: oil, I find it is needed whenever plastic is in contact with the dough. I don't think it hurts the crust, esp as most of it comes off during boiling.


I notice in one post you use diastatic malt. I think this should be non-diastatic malt. Diastatic malt has active enzymes that break down starch into sugars. It is one way to get a softer crumb (and feed the yeast more). For bagels, you are just after malt for the flavour, so you want no-diastatic malt. This might be one reason your crumb is not how you want, seeing as bagels aren't meant to be soft.


 

Tuirgin's picture
Tuirgin

Is there any trade off in proofing after as opposed to before proofing--other than possibly having to be awake earlier? ;) I made a small batch last night and sent them to the fridge just as soon as they stopped sitting on the bottom like a brick -- they didn't quite float to the top, yet, so I figured this means that they're close but not quite ready.


Peter Reinhart talks about diastatic vs non-diastatic malt and malt syrup and prefers the diastatic for the enzyme activity. What he didn't mention (that I've seen, maybe I overlooked it) is what the other effects of diastatic malt are. What you say makes sense. I started out with syrup then bought some diastatic powder. Is there any real difference between syrup and non-diastatic powder other than the powder being easier to mix into the dough?


Thanks for the help.

jeremiahwasabullfrog's picture
jeremiahwasabullfrog

I'm not aware of any differences in the final product with when the proofing is done in relation to the retardation. There probably are some - ie. that proofing before retardation means most of the fermentation happens at a higher temperature, which will favour some kinds of metabolism (or affect the bacteria/yeast balance for wild/sourdough cultures) wheras for proofing after, most of the fermentation will happen with a relatively cold dough. But if you ask 10 people you will get 11 answers about what the effect actually is, so I would suggest just do whatever suits your schedule best, but just allow for the fact that some proving will happen during retardation. It sounds in your last post like you have it pretty right now.


The syrup and the non-diastatic malt are basically the same except the water. I think Reinhart gives weights for both in TBBA? I use the syrup and dissolve it in the water so I don't have to mix it in.


I think you'll have a lot of fun when your sourdough culture is ready! Mine needed 2 weeks to be ready to bake. Just remember if you feed it often it will be more yeasty, and if you feed it less frequently it will be more sluggish and sour - depends what you like. When you are happy with it, give it a feed and spread some out on baking paper to dry, then when you inevitably kill it sometime because you have better things to do than feed starter, you can start again easily from the dried culture.


I think you've got a great methodical approach to this and it will pay off more and more as you go. Not everyone has a good understanding of the why's.


 

Tuirgin's picture
Tuirgin

I tend to drive my family nuts because I'm constantly analyzing our food (well, and movies, books, music, etc.) and determining what can be done to improve things next time. And the empirical "it works" isn't enough -- I want to understand why right up until the point where I start feeling overwhelmed by scientific minutiae. Where a loose critical analysis meets artistry and craft, I'm happy.


How do you store the dried starter? I've seen a few mentions of drying a starter as a backup, but haven't yet read any detailed discussion of the practice. I assume I can do some searching here to find out more.

jeremiahwasabullfrog's picture
jeremiahwasabullfrog

i just break it into rough chunks to make sure it can dry properly, then put it in a jar and freeze it. If it's properly dried though and sealed it will last ages without freezing.


Some people crumble it in a food processor. It's probably fine, but I don't like to because it will kill some of the bacteria with the shear force and its not necessary.


I like to know how my food works too. I recently discovered that instead of buying recipe books that don't get used, one can buy books which teach techniques or explain. I like to read Harold McGee's "on food and cooking" and I have "Cookwise" on the way.


I know what you mean about reaching a point where it gets overwhelming. Sometimes I need to remind myself that some of the world's best breads have been made by villagers or nomads who didn't get a choice what kind of flour they used!


Do you work in a technical or scientific job by any chance?


 

Tuirgin's picture
Tuirgin

Thanks for the explanation of drying and storing starter.


I'm currently unemployed, which explains why I have so much time to spend on bagels and bread. Prior to being laid off I was a junior systems/network admin for a small engineering business. 9 months now with a brief 2 month stint at a job I won't even put on my resume. Pursuing other options at this point. "Other options" was the punch-line. :P

lief's picture
lief

Hi Tuirgin,


I too started with the BBA bagel recipe and thought my first try was too soft. Since your blog post does not mention changing the sponge step I'm assuming you are still using it. Cut that step out and it will help a lot. Just mix all of the sponge ingredients and final dough ingredients, knead it, and go from there.


I have a suggestion for avoiding oil also. I like to put my bagels on parchment paper inside of baking pans, then cover the baking pans with cling wrap. This creates a good seal to keep the bagels from drying out and the height of the baking pan lip keeps the cling wrap off of the surface of the bagels.


lief


 

Tuirgin's picture
Tuirgin

Hrm. Interesting. How does keeping the same ratios while eliminating the sponge affect it? Does the gluten in the sponge lose strength, perhaps? 

lief's picture
lief

It seems to tighten up the crumb and keep it from getting too airy (less fermentation time).  As long as you still knead the dough sufficiently and do the overnight retardation, the gluten should develop just fine.


My thinking was that doing the sponge was getting the yeast nice and worked up, so when it went into the final dough, it rose more rapidly.  Just like a dough will rise more rapidly after a punch down than it did with the initial fermentation time.

hanseata's picture
hanseata

I spray all my shaped loaves with oil to prevent them from sticking to their cover while proofing. (Spraying the plastic wrap or bag is even messier than spraying the breads). I do not find that misting with spray oil affects the crust negatively. My breads - and I bake a lot - have pefectly fine crusts.


The only other way to avoid dough to stick to the cover (especially if it's more hydrated dough) is to dust it with flour. And that's only appropriate for some breads, not for all.