Growing up outside of Milwaukee we had almost no access to decent bagels. In fact the only time we had a steady supply was during the two years I attended Sunday school at Congregation Emanuel b’nai Jeshrun. Back in the day they were located on Milwaukee’s east side, next to my Alma mater, UW-Milwaukee. Since we lived way out in the sticks it was nearly a 45 min drive each way and my dad would take me. We always picked up the Sunday New York Times (there was no home delivery in those days) and then stopped in Shorewood for bagels and lox. Lox came from Benjy’s deli. Bagels came from the Bagel Nosh (sadly long gone), around the back of the same little shopping center off Oakland Ave. My most memorable moment there was one Sunday that we pulled up to see the door propped open and smoke pouring out of it. Undeterred, my father suggested that I see what the story was so I hopped out and made my way into the darkened store. There I found other customers still lined up at the counter and staff members filling bags with fresh bagels. After placing my own order I asked about the smoke and was told it was an electrical fire in the kitchen. That event has become my benchmark for deciding whether or not a food product has a loyal fan base. If people are willing to brave a smoky building for it- it’s probably pretty good.
So, gentle reader we come, at long last, to the end of the road to bagel nirvana. What did it take? In the end it required a willingness to change flour, embrace an additive and use less water that I would have thought advisable. Recipe after the break.
(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
1 lb all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tbs molasses or Caro syrup (molasses will result in a slightly darker bagel with a slight caramel note)
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup warm water
cornmeal for dusting
Combine flour, gluten flour, yeast, salt and molasses (or Caro syrup) in mixing bowl. Using a stand mixer mix on low for about a minute to combine. Add water slowly until the dough just comes together. Switch to the dough hook and then knead for 10 min until dough is satiny and elastic.
Take a baking dish and dust the bottom with corn meal. Remove dough and cut into eighths. Take each portion and roll into a 8-10 inch rope with tapered ends. The circle it overlapping the ends by about an inch. Place the ring over your hand like a braclet and fuse the ends together creating a ring with even thickness all the way around. Place on baking dish, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8-12 hours (if you skip this step your bagels will lack that slight sour taste that is the mark of a true New York bagel).
Remove bagels from refrigerator, pre-heat oven to 450 and boil 2-3 inches of water in a pot big enough to hold 2-3 bagels at once. Once oven is hot and water boiling place bagels in water for 30 seconds at a time and remove gently and place on a wire rack. Once the last bagels are boiled (or kettled as they say in the bagel biz) wait 1 min before placing bagels on a cookie sheet and then baking for 15 min or until golden brown.
Serve naked warm or allow to cool and serve with cream cheese, lox and veggies. Under no circumstances (even with ham) should you serve with mayo. It just would be wrong.