Food & Fitness After 50: Learning New Baking Skills

Bagel 9
Finished product

During my teenage years I loved to bake. I made cake doughnuts (chocolate-frosted were my sibling’s favorite), pies, cakes, and cookies. I rarely bake today, much to my husband’s dismay. One thing I never baked was bread, except for low-protein bread for my dad to help manage his kidney disease. So, during this pandemic when I saw all the amazing breads my friends were baking and posting beautiful photos on Instagram, I wanted to try my hand. For five days I meticulously measured flour and water feeding my homemade sour dough starter. On the fifth day I declared it was ready for the long journey of kneading, resting, shaping, resting, and baking. Smelled good, tasted like a brick.

So, when my niece Samantha came from Madison, Wisconsin to visit her family who were quarantining in  Georgia, she brought her skills as a bagel maker with her….including a whole jar of yeast (a big deal since there is no yeast to be found in our local stores.)

Bagel 1
Mise en place

The only thing missing from her brilliant bagel-making class was the overhead demonstration mirror! She had all the ingredients ready (or mise en place…a French culinary term for “everything in its place”) and had us work in two teams. I asked her why she tried her hand at bagel making and she said she couldn’t find a good bagel in Madison! She has been refining her recipe for the past 3 ½ years and she is sure she will continue to tweak it, but here is her pretty perfect version, with her permission:

Sam’s Bagels

Total Time: About 2 ½ hours

Makes 8 bagels

Dough

1 Tablespoon dry active yeast

4 cups bread flour (bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour)

¾ Tablespoons Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 ½ cups warm water (about 100⁰F)

Water Bath

2 quarts water

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

Instructions

Bagel 3
Blooming yeast

In a small bowl add yeast and brown sugar and warm water. Don’t mix; just set the bowl aside for about 10 minutes until the yeast blooms. It will get bubbly as the yeast blooms.

In a large bowl, mix remaining dry dough ingredients (salt and flour). Once yeast has bloomed, mix with dry ingredients and knead until smooth.

Place in clean bowl lined with olive oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Set in draft-free area (we used the unheated oven) for 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Bagel 5
The kneading process

Without punching down the dough, divide into 8 equal pieces and roll into balls. Place on an oiled baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let set for 30 minutes.

As bagels set, prepare water bath. Mix all ingredients for water bath in a large pot and bring to a boil. Preheat oven to 425⁰F.

When the water boils, punch a hole in each bagel using your thumb and shape until smooth. Boil in two batches for 1-2 minutes per side. After removal from water bath, add toppings, if desired.

To add toppings, brush with egg wash (1 whole egg well mixed) and dip bagel tops into a dish of toppings (we used black sesame seeds and cornmeal).

Place on a baking tray and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Cool and eat…..or, freeze. Without any preservatives, these bagels should be eaten within a day or two. If not eaten right away, freeze in a gallon freezer bag.

The verdict? Easier to make than sour dough bread. And, the taste was chewy like a real bagel should be. We’ll be making these again (once I can find yeast) and trying different toppings, too. Thanks, Sam!

Bagel 4And, it is also nice to have a helper, although he was more interested in guarding his toy than paying attention to us.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.