So, there’s the Friday thing I’m doing, and now there’s also this Tuesday thing I’m doing. Just for the record, the Friday thing is every week, the Tuesday thing is every other week.
A little about Tuesdays with Dorie. It’s the same premise, really – a specific book with a recipe assignment each fortnight. This book is Baking with Julia, which is also written by Dorie Greenspan, but it serves as the “textbook” of the Baking with Julia PBS series from the mid-1990’s, which features Julia Child, naturally enough. It’s a pretty comprehensive book, covering sweets, savories, and everything in between, from the most basic to the most advanced. While Fridays may be all about French cooking, Tuesdays are going to be all about baking, which is really an area I want to improve upon.
And I joined up just in time to do something I’ve always wanted to do but never knew how to go about doing: making bagels.
I like bagels. I don’t love and adore bagels, but I like them. It wasn’t until I lived in Japan that I really came to enjoy bagels. Even in some small towns, you can find cute little bagel shops with handmade breads that are completely irresistible. And, of course, there are larger chain stores with locations in malls and train stations that bake bagels that will knock your socks off. There’s Doughnut Plant, which I’ve read as touted as one of the more “authentic” bagel bakeries in Tokyo. But I never actually went to one of those stores, so I can’t speak for their product. One of my favorites shops was Junoesque in Tokyo, which always had awesome monthly bagel flavors that titillated the taste buds (this month, they have a caramel-chestnut bagel. I just had breakfast, and my mouth is watering, it looks so good.) Bagel & Bagel, another chain shop we frequented at a mall in Nagareyama, is touting a caramel pumpkin bagel for October. They may not be the most traditional of bagels, but they were a typical example of how the Japanese adopt and adapt foods to fit their own desires. They were often steamed before baking instead of boiled, which made for a different texture. But I liked them. Honestly, since coming back to the States, bagels haven’t interested me all that much. What you can buy packaged in the store as nothing on the deliciousness available in Japan.
Homemade bagels come close. Steamed Japanese bagels are soft on the outside; mine were crunchy, but they had a nice, soft texture in the middle. Were they delicious? They were good. Heaps better than big-name brand fridge bagels. Maybe not as good as small bakery bagels. But decent. Maybe I just need practice.
Would I make them again? Well, here’s the thing. They’re pretty easy to make, in that the ingredient list is small and the steps are pretty clear. If you got in a lot of practice, the process could get stream-lined and easy. But for a first-timer, or a dabbler, it’s a bit of a production. After an overnight rise (or 4 hours, if you’ve got the time or if you don’t have the patience), the bagels are shaped, then boiled, then baked in a very stipulated manner. There seem to be a lot of “regulations” to get perfect bagels: baking stones in the oven, a pizza peel, a layer of cornmeal on the peel, ice to create steam in the oven, an egg wash before baking, etc. It feels to me like a very fastidious recipe. I don’t have baking stones or a peel, and I wasn’t about to run out and buy them just to make bagels. Personally, I hate it when bagels have that grainy cornmeal layer on the bottom. And I was out of eggs by Sunday, so no egg wash. Maybe I didn’t plan accordingly, but honestly, I felt like I didn’t need any of those things. Maybe my bagels aren’t authentic as a result, but that’s okay. I’m not a New Yorker. I’m not gonna be picky about my bagels.
They were a bit of a pain to make. They are definitely not something I could pull off on a weekday morning. Sunday brunch was the best I could manage. With a little cream cheese and blackberry jam, they were pretty tasty. Were they eye-poppingly spectacular? No. Could I get them that way with a little practice and a little tweaking? Sure, anything’s possible.
Will I make them again? Probably. I would like to improve upon them, and I think I can. I’d like to give ‘em an egg wash before baking. I’d like to play with flavors. I’d like to get some barley malt syrup and see how that changes the taste.
Would I make them regularly? Probably not. Maybe once a month. I made my bagels smaller than the recipe stated, so I ended up with 16 bagels. Most of those are in the freezer now, which is fine. But it’s a lot of bagels for just two people, and I don’t really have anyone to give them to right now. But they do make a good breakfast, and Geordie’s been having them as sandwiches for lunch, so it’s not like we won’t eat them. But making one baked batch of them (that’s 8 bagels) took me about 90 minutes. Granted, that was my first time, and I’ve got the process down a little bit better now. But that’s not something I want to be doing every weekend.
Did I enjoy making them? Yes! It was actually a lot of fun once I got the hang of it all. That’s why I would consider making them again. There’s a bit of a process to making them, but I kinda liked that. I didn’t have to think about anything else, just what I was doing with the bagels. So, yeah, I’d definitely want to make them again, if just for the enjoyment factor.
Plus, they really were quite tasty. That certainly helps!
Each TWD recipe is presented by a host, and this week, it’s being done by Heather’s Bytes, where the bagels look way better than mine do!