I don't understand how bagels work!
Having recently been making bagels for PR's recipe testing, I've baked two batches of eight. The first batch was topped with a cinnamon sugar for a supper; the second batch is topped with sesame seeds to be used for my lunches at work.
With the first batch, I can't really quantify how chewy they were, but they were *really* tough; one of the other people trying them wondered aloud how many days prior that they'd been baked (they were barely a day old). To bite through the crust was a feat in itself, but they tasted great! This second batch is the opposite - firm to be sure, but dead easy to bite into, and not overwhelmingly chewy inside at all. This second batch is divine!
So I've been doing some reading on TFL, and discovered that no two bagel recipes are exactly the same. The poaching times, the cooking times and temperatures all vary greatly. I don't recall doing anything different on the second baking, and I'm not helped by my limited knowledge of how all the flours, water, yeast etc interact to produce softer/heavier or chewy/light characteristics.
I've had the pleasure of trying bagels in the US, and I think that with this second batch I've stumbled onto a product that I absolutely want to reproduce. That said, and all specific recipes aside, I'm wondering if somebody here can help me better understand bagels? I don't properly understand what poaching does, or how to avoid the crazy-chewyness that I produced in the first batch.
Then there's more naiive questions that I could google, but I'd prefer feedback from people more experienced in this kind of baking. What does bicarbonate soda actually do during poaching? Letting the bagels boil (poach) for shorter or longer - what does that achieve?
Any insight would be wonderful; I can't believe the number of questions that all this baking is making me ponder - I love this!