Monday, June 28, 2010


I love a good bagel and have been baking them for several years using recipes from Peter Reinhart. So I was very interested to see what twists Hamelman might come up with. Is there something else I could be doing to bake an even better bagel? There are several key differences in the recipes, including the use of a bagel board. It all seemed very interesting.

Using Hamelman's recipe, I've now made bagels three times. The first try, I follow the recipe very closely using King Arthur's high gluten flour. I faked the bagel boards using a fresh cedar plank I had bought for the grill along with a linen dish towel. (The approach worked well except the kitchen smelled of pencil shavings.) The bagels were very nice but a bit gnarly looking. When boiled, they were slow to float and didn't rise or round out very nicely. Flavor, however, was not a problem. They tasted great.

The first batch exhausted my supply of high gluten flour. For the second and third batches, I had to adjust. For the second batch, I created my own high gluten flour by adding vital wheat gluten to bread flour. (See my previous post, Tech. Note: High-gluten Flour & Vital Wheat Gluten, for the detail on using vital wheat gluten.) For my third batch, which I cooked at the same time as the second batch, I used straight bread flour without adding any vital wheat gluten. I wanted to see if it really made a difference. Also, after shaping, I let the later batches sit out on the counter for another 20 to 30 minutes, that is, until that passed Reinhart's bagel floating test, before I put them into the refrigerator overnight. I was hoping the bagels would be a little less gnarly. Finally, I baked these directly on a baking stone rather than bothering with the bagel board, something I found to be a real nuisance.

The picture above shows my later efforts. I didn't taste bagels made with high gluten flour side-by-side with those made with bread flour with added vital wheat gluten, but as memory serves me, I don't think there was much difference. There was, however, a striking difference between those made with just bread flour and those that had the added gluten. It is definitely worth the very minor effort need to add the vital wheat gluten. The bagel without the addition were more bread-like lacking the chewiness I've come to expect of bagels. This was not a problem with the bagels with the added vital wheat gluten. I won't be in any hurry to order more high gluten flour.

Also, waiting until the bagel passed the float test proved to be a good idea. I got fuller looking bagels that quickly floated when boiled. And as to the bagel board, once was enough. Cooking directly on a baking stone worked just fine. Overall, these were fine bagels and not that different from Reinhart's. Still, in the future, I probably go back to Reinhart's recipe, if only because it is what I'm used to.

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