We are now in the final week before traveling back to England and since we have to take a Covid test before we can travel, we decided not to take any chances of getting sick. We have therefore decided to do a self imposed self isolation for the last week. This might sound fun to most people but to David and I, who are type A personalities, and always need a project, this is difficult. Sure we have things to wrap up around the house but not a whole weeks worth of things. What to do when I am bored? Bake!
Years ago I was given the cookbook, "Baking with Julia". The Julia being Julia Child who in my mind is one of the Mozarts of cooking and baking. This cookbook is a bit different than other cookbooks by Julia Child. It is full of recipes from guest chefs that visited her show and was printed in 1996. One of these recipes is bagels by guest chef, Lauren Groveman. I tried this recipe years and years ago, like 20 years ago and had some success. I remembered it being a recipe that had several steps but was worth the effort. So in my boredom decided to try bagels again.
Step one, reread the recipe and research who is Lauren Groveman. This lead me to a Google search and also to the original episode with Julia Child. I watched in fascination at the amazing hairstyles from the 90's but also at Julia and how even in her later years she commanded the screen. I also decided that I could do bagels, which by now I was craving. It was also mentioned that Lauren was from New York which clinched the deal.
Original Episode on YouTube
The recipe is pretty direct. The only ingredient that gave me pause was, 3 Tablespoons of solid vegetable shortening. This ingredient clearly dates it to the 90's but secret fact about me. I have shortening and occasionally use it but it did seem like a unusual ingredient to use.
The technique was to make the dough the day before. Allow it to proof once for an hour, punch it down and let it do the final proofing in the fridge overnight. The next morning was the shaping, boiling and baking. This allows us to enjoy the bagel in the morning with breakfast. At least that is the idea but it did take me about 2 1/2 hours to heat the oven, shape, boil, bake and then cool. So unless you are going to start at 6 a.m. then it is a second breakfast food.
After watching the original episode, I decide to put the Kitchenaid aside so I could mix and knead by hand. There is one technique in the recipe that I don't think I will repeat. In the early stages, after softening the yeast in warm water, you add the yeast, salt, 2 more cups of water and shortening in a bowl. I immediately heard Paul Hollywood in my head reminding me that salt kills yeast but I decided to give Lauren the benefit of the doubt and followed the step as printed in the recipe. I am not sure if this is the cause, but I felt the bagels did not rise as they should. The first proof took longer than printed and the final result was a bit flatter than I hoped. I think next time I will follow my gut, and Paul, and not add the salt right in with the yeast.
Shaping the Bagels
Shaping the bagels was fun. No, you do not use a donut cutout on bagels. After dividing the dough into balls, it is then flattened and poked with a finger until it comes out the other side. Then there is this magical twirling motion to get the bagel to open up to a huge hole. I would have thought the hole was too big but after letting it sit and the boiling process it looked like the correct size.
Boiling the Bagels
The baking process also had several steps. First set the oven to 500 degrees, with a pizza stone. When the bagels are placed in the oven the temperature is lowered to 450. After baking for 25 minutes the oven is then turned off and the bagels bake for 5 more minutes. The oven door is then open for 5 minutes, with the bagels still in the oven. Then the bagels are taken out for the cooling. All the while I am smelling bagels baking wondering how they will taste.
Final result? It was delicious. I will try the salt/yeast technique different next time but it really was not too difficult. The hardest part of making bagels.....the wait.