Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bagel is a doughnut with rigor mortis?*

* p. 90 in Claudia Roden's book The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand and Vilna to the Present Day (Penguin Books, 1996). Sounds cool, doesn't it?

My first challenge as a new member of the Daring Bakers was to make bagels. Not just any bagels, but Real Honest Jewish Purist's Bagels according to a recipe chosen by Jenny of All Things Edible and Freya of Writing At The Kitchen Table.

Bagels, in addition to being a doughnut with rigor mortis (alias chewy and dense and just a bit hard), were the staple bread of the Jews in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland (though they originate in Southern Germany). Since then bagels - especially lox and bagels - have become the most famous Jewish food in America, and a popular breakfast dish for non-Jews as well. I've never had the New York bagels, which are supposedly the best in the world (something in the water, apparently), but I did have some in Scotland over the years. I began with the six-packs available at one of the large supermarkets (not too bad to my novice bagel-tastebuds), and during my last year in Scotland I often picked one up from the Bagel Factory kiosk at the Waverley train station (so much better that the supermarket ones; I always opted for the salt beef & gherkin topping). Until I've tasted the NY bagels, I rely on Clarissa Hyman's description of a perfect bagel in her The Jewish Kitchen: Recipes and Stories from Around the World (Conran Octopus, 2003): "I am a purist when it comes to bagels: they should be crisp and glossy on the outside, soft but still satisfyingly chewy inside".

How did mine compare? They're far from perfect, I must admit, but then we have both eaten quite a few of them, so they're far from disaster as well. They're glossy alright, and definitely chewy. But shapewise, I found them a bit flatter than I remembered, and they weren't as smooth as I wanted.

May I present my first ever bagels - vesikringlid alias 'water kringles' in Estonian - with four types of toppings:


Starting from the top left corner, moving clockwise: caraway seeds, Maldon sea salt, Kalonji black onion seeds (also known as nigella seeds, read more here), sesame seeds.

The shape of the bagels - a small circle with no beginning and no end, and with a hole in the middle - represents the eternal circle of life. There are two ways to get the all-important hole: a dough-centric (you roll the dough into a long 'snake', then press the ends together) and a hole-centric way (roll the dough into a small ball, press your finger through to make a hole). I used the hole-centric way of making holes:



Then you boil the bagels first in some water which has been seasoned with syrup or sugar (malt syrup would be the first choice, but I used dandelion syrup instead; mine were all 'floaters', I must admit), then brush with egg wash and sprinkle with your chosen topping (see first photo above), and then bake until golden in the oven. (And then cool, halve and schmear with your choice of topping).

I got 22 reasonably-sized bagels instead of the 15 prescribed ones:



Although the Daring Bakers were allowed to get all creative with the fillings, we opted for the popular lox & bagel topping (bagel, smoked salmon, cream cheese and a sprig of dill). Note that this is not the 'traditional' bagel filling. Quoting Clarissa Hyman again, "The bagel met its life partners, smoked salmon and cream cheese, in the New World. ... [this is] a marriage made in heaven. Which is why the egg and bacon bagel will always end in divorce". I wanted to be on the safe side, so smoked salmon and cream cheese it was:



Clarissa suggests few other schmears in her book, which I'll keep in mind for the future bagel-baking extravaganzas: avocado & egg schmear, cheese & dill schmear and Liptauer schmear.

Now, I wonder what the next Daring Baker challenge - hosted by Peabody - will be like?

44 comments:

Mary said...

Congratulations on your first DB challenge! Rigor mortis is quite an appropriate and amusing description of bagels. Lox or smoked salmon is my favorite accompaniment.

Anne said...

Rigor mortis is quite a word to associate bagels :) I agree though!

Twas good you liked the bagels :) well done!

Chloe said...

i saw them on flickr, they look great. i'd love to try them all. there is not a bagel culture in greece unfortunately. We eat koulouria instead (the round crispy bread with sesame seeds).

Ülle said...

Bagelid näevad tükk maad paremad välja kui tegelikult maitsevad. Ameerikas olles sai neid vahel näljaga söödud, sellised kerkimata tainast ja nätsked saiad. No thanks! Saia peab ikka pärmiga tegema.

Peabody said...

Excellent job your first time around!
You only have a few days till you find out what I have in store for you!

sher said...

I wish I had put as many toppings on mine as you did. And the "sandwich" looks yummy! :)

kellypea said...

You are so right that our bagels look similar. They're so cute. Cousins...or something. Excellent post, and congrats on your first challenge!

Shaun said...

Pille - I love that you chose caraway seeds as a topping. I have not tried bagels from New York, but I have tried bagels made by Jewish guys from New York, and they met Hyman's perception of a good bagel texture. What a fabulous first attempt.

Lydia said...

For a first attempt at bagels, yours look great! I was born and raised in New York City, where the bagels really are the best in the world, so I don't think I'd ever have the courage to try and make them myself. They'd never taste as good as the NYC bagels of my childhood!

Laura said...

I love the Claudia Roden quote! These look fantastic, well done on your first challenge!

KJ said...

They look terrific. I wish I had been more adventurous with toppings.

Inne said...

Your bagels look great Pille. One of my must-do things on my yearly trip to NY is get a bagel with cream cheese and lox - they are indeed great there, but I can assure you they taste equally good eaten in the comfort of your own home. Besides, having made them yourself must make them taste even better.

dagmar said...

They look great Pille! The first time I baked bagels it was a disaster. I put fire on a kitchen towel (!) and only 2 of the bagels turned OK :-)

I was also intrigued by the daring bakers for a long time and last month I finally emailed and asked if I could join and was accepted for July so I'm really looking forward to it!!!

K & S said...

Your bagels look great. I've tried a couple of times and failed. You've inspired me to give it another go.

veron said...

Great bagels, Pille. I love the color you had on them. Yes, I love my bagels with lox and cream cheese too!

Glenna said...

Excellent bagels--they look fantastic!

Congrats on your blog birthday a couple of weeks ago too!

Ilva said...

Wonderful! And Thanks Pille for giving us such interesting pieces of information about the bagels!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Very informative post! Your bagels look great. My first challenge too - I don't think we did too badly...

Anonymous said...

Nii suur isu tuli peale, Ameerikas sai neid söödud küll, ka magusaid. Sinu omad näevad välja küll fantastiliselt kenad, kreemjuustuga ja röstitult maitsevad nad mulle väga:)

Cheryl said...

You did an incredible job on your first challenge. Love all the creative toppings you chose.

Helen said...

They look great Pille! Congrats on your first challenge!

breadchick said...

Pille, great job on your first challenge with us DBers AND great quotes and history lesson. I loved it!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Pille, they look really good - so beautifully browned!

lobstersquad said...

talk about daring! I don´t think I have what it takes to tackle bagel making. well done you!

Margaret said...

You've made a fine Daring Baker! The bagels look fabulous.

Meeta said...

Pille, these are great looking. Congrats on your very first challenge. Great job. BTW: I already have the jitters for the next challenge. LOL!

gilly said...

Wow, - congrats on your first DB challenge, Pille, your bagels look fantastic! They look perfect! I really like the sounds of your future-consideration 'schmears'.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Looks good, tastes good - that a winner Pelli! Great photos!

Elle said...

Super looking bagels and just right with cream cheese and lox. I've never heard of dandelion syrup, but it seems to do the job just fine. Great job on your first challenge!

Jerry said...

Your variations look lovely and delicious!

Sara said...

dandelion syrup? cool!

Kelly-Jane said...

Well done on your first challenge, great post, and great bagels too :)

Lauren said...

They do look great - well done!

Bagels are something I make fairly regularly. You can get some great bagels in Sydney, and I'm rather fussy about the quality, so Tesco ones just can't cut it ;) However, I agree about the Bagel Factory at Waverly Station, as well as the Elephant and Bagel for a quick lunch.

My rather guilty confesison, however: although I'm Jewish, and know the history of the bagel well, I've always found milk/butter based recipes heaps easier to bake than the more religiously appropriate oil. So congratulations for successfully making an authentic version!

Baking Soda said...

Your header had me lol, loved reading your info, congrats on your first and showing us these seriously good looking bagels!

Susan said...

You get a gold star for the best description of a bagel. Ever.

Amy said...

Great job! Your bagels look delicious and I would eat that smoked salmon one in a heartbeat! Doughnut with rigor mortis made me laugh. :D

Ivonne said...

Congratulations on your first challenge, Pille! Your bagels look gorgeous!

Quellia said...

Your bagels don't look flat at all, they look great!

Lis said...

Pille! I love your bagels - they look SO GOOD! I'm so happy you enjoyed them - they were mighty tasty, weren't they? =)

Excellent first challenge!

xoxo

Triin said...

I haven't had a decent bagel since I returned from America over three years ago and my mouth is still watering from reading all this. I really need to start watching Pille more carefully and pay her a surprise visit next time she is up to something I love. :-) Any plans for baking a NY cheesecake?

Thredahlia said...

Rigor mortis on koolnukangestus? :P:D Hea võrdlus ja nii informatiivne postitus, ärgitasid mindki proovima.
Minu arust näevad nad väga isuäratavad välja. (Ühtlasema välimuse peaks tagama "õige vormimine" - st. see pall, millesse auk tuleb peaks olema ühtlase tihedusega. Aga seda liigutust ei ole mina kunagi käppa saanud.)
Vesikringlid :D

Chris said...

Great first challenge and bagels, Pille!

Pille said...

Thank you, everybody, for your kind and encouraging comments! Making bagels was all worth it just for the amount of feedback you've given me! :)

Chloe - I remember koulouria breads - these were nice, too. And there's no bagel culture here in Estonia whatsoever - you cannot even buy mass-produced ones at supermarkets (which may just be a good thing:)

Ülle - aga bagelid ehk vesikringlid on ju ka pärmiga tehtud! Lihtsalt see algne keetmine ja rohke jahu lisamine teeb nad sitkemaks. Ega need, jah, minu lemmikud ka pole, kuigi aeg-ajalt söön meelsasti.

Peabody - cannot wait to make your challenge - quite a fancy one as well!

Dagmar - quite an adventure, eh!? And glad to hear you've joined, too. With our rather similar food backgrounds and geographical proximity, it'll be fun db-ing with you!

Liis - loodetavasti olid need paar vesikringlit, mis ma Sulle kaasa panin, röstitult veel täitsa söödavad:)

Elle & Sara - I made dandelion syrup few weeks ago (and still haven't posted about it), and used it instead of malt syrup, as I couldn't find any here. It did the job thou..

Lauren - so you're an Australian Jew doing a PhD in German literature in Scotland??? It gets even more confusing now:)

Triin - who knows, who knows. I've made a NY cheesecake before, and it's always been a hit with my friends..

Thredahlia - koolnukangestus neh :) Nüüd meenub tõesti, et nt vastlakuklite tegemisel oli mul üks 'nipp', mis andis tulemuseks ilusad ja siledad kuklid. Peaks järgmisel korral vesikringlite tegemisel ka seda proovima..

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