I love bagels. I do. But I never ever aspired to make them from scratch. It's just so simple and convenient to pop down to the local bagel mart, where await a staggering variety of delicious little specimens. Why make them? And how on earth would you even go about making a bagel? Well, thanks to the BBA Challenge, I now know exactly how on earth and exactly why. The how involves a yeast starter with high gluten flour (for the dense chewiness, of course), a good half an hour of kneading, some proofing, an overnight rest in the refrigerator, a quick little bath in boiling water, and trip into a very, very hot oven.
And that half hour of kneading? That was done by hand. Bagels have been known to take out perfectly healthy KitchenAid mixers with their unrelenting stiffness. I wasn't taking any chances. As I have mentioned previously, I pretty much doom any dough that I touch. Luckily my Mom was here to rescue the hard, lumpy mass, and it eventually became supple and windowpane-able. However, this was a lot of kneading. A lot. And the dough was heavy. And stiff. And stubborn. This is a take-no-prisoners dough. You really have to roll up your sleeves and beat it into submission. Bagels are tough little guys.
And why? Why go through all this manual labor, this back-breaking dough battle? Well it turns out homemade bagels are delicious! I made plain, sesame, everything, and cinnamon-sugar - all are tasty-tasty. And their texture is perfect. I never before considered the perfect texture of a bagel, but these are, I dare say, perfection. Not too chewy, not too tough, not too soft. The outer skin is slightly crisp, the outer layers comfortably chewy, the centers soft and dense. These are good bagels. Worth the trouble? Absolutely, if you have the time and the kneading proficiency and the patience. However, if you happen to have a cranky infant that is waiting for you to put her to bed while you are elbow deep in flour, perhaps you should find yourself at the local bagel shoppe the next morning instead.