Saturday, 14 January 2012

Dan Lepard's Bagels

Finished bagels
For as long as I can remember, all my daydreams have revolved around food and cooking.  Whatever the topic, there's always a lavish picnic or dinner involved somewhere.  And whilst other people might stress over the minutiae of how they're dressed or the weather, I always worry about whether the meal I'm presenting goes together.  Can I really have chocolate mousse after a rich creamy main?  Despite it being a daydream, I can obsess for hours on such a trivial point.

One day, I'd like some of these foodie fantasies to become reality and spend some time travelling with someone who loves food more than I do.  Recent trips have been with my live-to-eat husband or my grandfather who grew up on rationing and still considers buying pink lady apples the height of culinary excess.  So when I went to New York with my grandad back in 2008, he was quite happy to frequent chain restaurants (Applebees, Starbucks and the like) so aside from me treating him to dinner at the Waldorf (where he ate steak and chips), we might as well have just gone to Brizzle for the week and frequented McDonalds and TGIs.

Knobbly balls
I was hoping that we might at least get to have a real bagel slathered with cream cheese and lox from a Nu Yoik street vendor but no such chance.  Bagels are a regular staple in my non-diet diet and I will only buy ones that are 'baked in store' (yeah, right) rather than the horrible New York Bagels that are loaded with preservatives but until today I've never tried a real fresh bagel straight from the oven.  And after a very long wait for brunch, I can happily say that this is something else I'll never buy from a shop again.

All week, I've been trying to memorise Dan Lepard's recipe.  It's pretty simple.  Just flour, salt, sugar, yeast, some water and then some brown sugar or malt extract for the boiling stage.  It does, however, involve a lot of faffy kneading.  Lepard is a great advocate of not kneading bread endlessly for ten minutes, but instead, doing three or four lots of ten second kneads with a resting gap (for the dough!) in between.  Mine took a bit longer because rather than sitting down with the coffee and papers during the gaps, I had to deal with various toddler crises that arose.
Lumpy looking bagels

The dough itself is very stiff and dry at the start but loosened nicely with the oil that it picked up during kneading.  I was a little disappointed that I couldn't get my dough balls to be perfectly smooth when I portioned them out.  Nor does the recipe tell you how big to make the holes in the middle of the bagels or how big the bagels should be stretched to.  I didn't want to stretch them too thinly in case they fell apart in the water, but figured that a whole the size of a 50p piece would do so that it wouldn't all meld back into one solid 'roll' shape during the baking process.

Something else that struck me is that the technique in Short and Sweet is markedly different in timing to another Lepard bagel recipe that was published on the Guadian website.  In short and sweet, the bagel dough is divided into ten and you are instructed to leave them in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds before turning them over for another 30-60 seconds.  Quite a big time bracket. Yet in the Guardian recipe it states no more than five seconds each side.  Here the dough has been divided into just six pieces.  So I left mine for 20 seconds each.  Thankfully they didn't dissolve into a soggy mess at the bottom of the pan.

Into the pot of boiling water with malt extract
Into the oven for just twenty minutes.  They were already beautifully golden after 15.  I was surprised as I've had real trouble getting cakes to brown since I've had my new oven and was expecting insipid looking bagels so was really pleased with the results.  I assume the malt extract dip gave them a helping hand.

The resulting bagels were crispy on the outside and hot and chewy in the middle.  Agian I was chuffed because having read the Guardian recipe several times, I failed to notice the recipe in Short and Sweet uses white wine vinegar until it was too late.  I'll try this next time to see what difference it makes.

Having skipped breakfast in order to savour these, by midday I was ravenous.  I made scrambled eggs with chives and smoked salmon as a treat.  The child decided that she didn't want her own lunch and so came and perched on my lap and stole my bagel.  Hoping (or more praying) she wouldn't like it, she's now found her new favourite food and proceeded to wolf down the whole thing.  Luckily, I'd given into temptation whilst making the eggs and stolen one from the plate to wolf down myself.  Seriously, there's nothing like it.  They're so easy - if a bit time consuming - that you'll never want to eat shop-bought again.

Another great recipe from the great Mr Lepard.  The link to the one on the Guardian website is here. The one in Short and Sweet is very similar, the quantities are a quarter more and Lepard adds 1 tbsp of white wine vinegar.

1 comment:

  1. they look great!!! can't wait to try this recipe...i am really picky about bagels!


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