The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


jaltsc's picture



 I have made a number of batches of bagels using Hamelman's recipe, with some changes after trial and error. I live in Thailand and the bread flour here does not seem to be the same as in the states. So, to 2 pounds of bread flour, I add 2T of wheat gluten (surprisingly available here), and 2 t diastatic malt powder (which somehow found its way into my baggage after me last visit to the states). I bake the bagels on wooden planks, like I remember them doing in the bagel bakery in the Bronx, where I was raised. This seems to keep the bagel rounder and bake more evenly after flipping them over.

So, everything about the bagle is great...flavor, density, chewiness, shape, except the surface is not the smooth surface I remember bagels to possess. I even used different boiling times, with no difference.

As you can see in the photo, I also make bialys which look and taste exactly the way I remember.



Any insight or suggestions?

LindyD's picture

Are you hand rolling the dough into logs, per the recipe?  Or rolling balls and poking your finger through?  From what I've seen, the ball and poke method produce a rougher crust.  Are they smooth when you finish shaping?

Or, it may be that the bagels you recall were processed by a bagel extrusion machine, rather than hand rolled. 

On the other hand, if you are retarding them overnight per the recipe, that will produce small blisters on the crust.  Certainly not a flaw.

Finally, it may very well be the difference in flour.  I've tried bread flour with VWG added and it just doesn't handle the same as good quality high gluten flour.  Or taste the same.

Since you enjoy the taste and the chew, that's what really matters.  Unless  you're plannng to open a bagel shop in Thailand.

jaltsc's picture

This might be longer than you want to read, but I am also a food anthropologist buff, so I like lots of information about the history of whatever I create. I am also being a little picky since the final product tastes exactly what I desire, but I am hung up on the perfect appearance.

First...The bagel bakery in my neighborhood was on Nelson Avenue in the Bronx. It was manned by Local Union 338. Everything was done by hand, and each one of those guys could roll out 125 dozen bagels in an hour. Hard to believe, but that's what the union required. When the extrusion machine came out in the 1960s, it was able to produce 300 dozen bagels an hour and did not need a trained journeyman to operate it. Thus the demise of Local 338.

I shape my bagels by a unique method I devised. I first roll a 100 gram piece of dough (believe it or not, the original bagel was much smaller than today's version)into a tight round mass. Let it rest for a short, time and then punch a small hole in the center. Then I roll it down a 3 inch diameter, one foot long wooden cylinder, exerting pressure on the entire bagel while I roll it down. The surface is smooth when it goes into the refrigerator for 12-16 hours. The bagels are smooth coming out of the refrigerator, but start to get wrinkled when I boil them.

I strongly advise baking the bagels on boards and turning them over as soon as they get the desired hue of brown. Only the top surface bakes, so the top of the bagel does not get any darker during the second half of baking.

I'm not planning on opening a bagel shop in Thailand. I make the bagels for my expat friends from the states. There are so-called "bagel shops" here, but the product they produce amount to wonder bread with a hole in the center that is boiled for a total of 20 seconds and baked until it comes out the color of vomit. With an accompanying taste to match.

Now, here's a nice twist. There is a man in Manhattan from Thailand, SAM THONGKRIENG of Absolute Bagels. He moved to NYC from Thailand, by way of London. His bagels have been rated among the best, if not the best bagel in the city. However, it was pointed out that if you want the taste of an old fashioned bagel, buy his mini bagel which is a little less than 4 ounces.  Sort of a twist in fates. He comes to the city from Thailand to bake bagels and I come to Thailand from the city to do the same.

I have heard of a lady who moved back to Bejing, China from NYC. She opened a bagel shop and imports her flour from NYC. From the reviews, she produces the best bagel outside of the states.

BUT...I'm probably the only one who makes bialys outside of the states.



Yumarama's picture

I've noted that the poke method tends to give a lumpy surface texture. The rope method woks a lot better to give a smooth surface.

I'll try to attach a video from Ciril Hirtz showing the process.

If it doesn't work (embedding the video) here's the link to YouTube:

LindyD's picture

Ed Levine of the New York Times wrote a great article on bagels.  Linked here.

I used Levine's article and Hamelman's formula for a section of my Hamelman Bread challenge blog.

After spending a couple weeks in NYC this summer and tasting lots of bagels, I prefer my own - albeit we did not get to Absolute Bagels.  Maybe next time.

I do think your shaping method plays a part in the lack of smoothness of the crust. Have you tried the alternate technique?

jaltsc's picture

I will use the rope method next time and see if there is a difference. Thanks for all the help. I appreciate it.