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My love for the wonderful, incredible bagel has few boundaries. Split, toasted, crispy and delicious, The smell of a dark golden brown bagel fresh from the oven fills the kitchen and mouths start to water. I can’t think of a bad way to consume a good bagel. A little butter and a sprinkle of salt and before you know it, you’ve eaten three and you’re left wondering what happened to all the bagels you made.
What really defines a bagel from other breads? Not much, really. A bagel is flour, water, salt, yeast and typically a sweetener like honey, brown sugar or barley malt syrup. Another difference is that bagels are boiled in water with baking soda to help promote the caramelization of sugars for a darker crust. Adding something sweet to the bagel water also helps create that dark crust. I typically use Barley Malt Syrup in my bagels. It has a deep rich flavor and can be used as a substitute for sugar and molasses. It’s not easy to find and it’s not cheap but one jar goes a long way. I make bagels all the time and I’ve been using the same jar for a year. You can usually find it at a Lassen’s grocery store or you can get Eden Foods Organic Barley Malt Syrup here at Amazon.
RECIPES AND SHAPING
There are lots of bagel recipes out there but my favorite is found in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread at Amazon. At first glance the recipe looks complicated, but most of it deals with the two methods for shaping the bagels. A professional baker might roll the dough into a rope, join the two ends, and roll them together. Another option is to push a hole through the middle with two fingers and pull the dough apart. Here is an example of what I think is the most simple method.
There are a lot of different toppings and ingredients to attach to your bagel, but I think simple is better. I prefer a hearty sprinkling of garlic salt right as they come out of the water. Other options are,
Pumpkin seeds (the small green ones work best)
I’ve seen some bakeries use whole spices like cumin and fennel seed but I can’t really get on board with that. Get creative and make up your own mix. Just have a small plate ready with your favorite bagel toppings so you can dip them as soon as they come out of the boiling water.
TOAST IT, SMEAR IT, STACK IT, EAT
Burn my bread please. Although there is no bad way to eat a bagel, dark toasted is the way to go for me, or right from the oven all crispy and glorious. Your bagels will develop a little more flavor if you let them cool a little at room temp so patience does have its rewards. Split a bagel, drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil and grill it on a smoking hot grill pan, so delicious.
Cream cheese is the standard smear. Whip your cream cheese with a little heavy cream to lighten it to a spreadable consistency. Create some new flavors by adding these ingredients to the cream cheese:
Green olives and cilantro
Sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives
Lemon zest and dill
Basil or arugula pesto
A mixture of parsley, chives, dill and chervil
Stack it high. There are an endless variety of toppings to be explored on this delicious platform. The best way to decide what should go on your bagel depends on what’s fresh and good at the market. Let the season guide you. Here is my list of personal favorites:
Cold smoked salmon
Hot smoked trout
Lemons poached in rosemary syrup
A fried egg
Ultimately, my hope is that you will try to make your own bagel creations at home. I promise it will be worth the effort. Please reach out to me at email@example.com if you have any questions.