AL DENTE: Bagel Loaf

Who’s hungry?

Oh it has been a WHILE since we did one of these! So, it gives me tremendous pleasure to welcome you back to Al Dente, our (very) occasional cooking spot. This yeasty lad is a bagel loaf, based on Joshua Weissman‘s recipe in An Unapologetic Cookbook. I’ve made this a few times but this time I did science! But first, ingredients.

  • 500g bread flour
  • 15g dried yeast
  • 5g salt
  • 275ml (And yes an ml is a g, I check every time too) water heated to 90F
  • 15g sugar

The Everything Bagel spice is a whole other blog post. I can recommend buying it but if you want to focus in on the taste, then pick up the individual seasonings and mix some. It’s more work, but it’s not that much more work and it’ll bulk the spice cupboard out nicely too.

So! Here’s how it works. Boil the water and pour it into a measuring cup. Immediately pour half out and add cold water because you’re still figuring out your curiously featureless microwave and this is easier (It IS. Sort of.). Then take the water’s temperature and once it’s 90-91F (32.2C) add the yeast and the sugar and walk away. Seriously, make a cup of tea, watch a thing. Leave it at least 15 minutes and ideally an hour.

When you come back, if your yeast is alliiiiiive then it will have bloomed and you’ll have a big fluffy head of foam. This is GOOD. Add it and the salt to the flour and mix it. I freely admit I cheat here; we have a stand mixer so it all goes in there for about 5 minutes. If you don’t, then a hand mixer will at least take the edge off. Alternately, clear a space on your counter, roll your sleeves up, put some metal on and knead it for 5 to 15 minutes or until it’s smooth.

Then? Put it in an oiled bowl, cover it and leave it for another hour or so. When you come back, the dough should have doubled in size. Once it has, oil the loaf tin of your choice and do the REALLY fun bit. Clear your counter, oil or flour it and roll the dough out until it’s about 5mm thick. Compare it to your loaf tin and fold and roll until it’s about the length of the tin.

Next, season the flattened dough with your bagel spice. I went a little OTT here so the coating of the spice basically gave the loaf a bit of a sun roof in spots so go thin and the dough will still stick together. Then, take one end and roll the dough as tightly as you can into a cylinder. This is, as some of you may have noticed, the exact same technique as Cinnamon rolls just…bagelier.

Now, drop the bread cylinder into your tin and go away! For another hour! But not before pre-heating your oven to 428F or 220C.

When you come back, I hope after a nice cup of tea or in my case, an episode of the excellent Lockwood & Co, boil the kettle and get your widest pan. Once the kettle is boiled, add the water to the pan and bring it back to the boil.

Now? The REALLY REALLY fun part.

Bagels are boiled for a short amount of time. The recipe says drop the loaf in for a minute, then flip it and boil it another minute, then retrieve it. This is a little bit like like that meme about drawing a horse. I’ve had this thing turn into a damp dough flag on me. I’ve had it expand to Paddington-esque proportions. It is not, in the slightest, an easy thing to do.

Unless you have one or more of these guys.

Long spatulas! Hamburger turners! The Pancake’s Friend! What I do is balance my dough on one of these, and use another shorter one on the opposite side and, well…you know that thing where you seal the edges of a piece of meat by turning it so each side is against the heat? That, just with bread and water. Still not easy, but it worked much better than the last time.

Once that’s done, pop your yeasty lad back into it’s oiled tray and shove it in the oven. All ovens are slightly different but at 220C ours was good to go in 20 minutes. All done, right? Well…there were two more bits of science. First, we left it in the cooling oven with the door open to make sure it was fully baked. Secondly, I was worried that leaving it in the tray in there had caused steam to condense and make the bottom of the loaf wet.

NOT SO! Because leaving it out on the cooling rack overnight, as you see in the top shot, dried it out! Last thing then, what’s the crumb like?

NICE. I am really happy with this. Like I say, the spice layer was a little thick so next time I’ll spread that much more lightly. But I love how it looks! And how it makes the structure of the bread part of the experience of eating it. So cool, massive thanks to Margaret Dunlap for the tip.

Go make something, folks. Things are hard everywhere right now and I promise making something will help. See you next time.

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