* 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?