Like I mentioned in a previous post, I am a yeast virgin. So when hosts Quellia and Freya announced that bagels would be this month's Daring Bakers' challenge, I was pretty excited to finally bake with yeast. Early Sunday morning seemed like an ideal time to make my bagels. (I don't know why but I seem to associate bread baking with Sunday morning.) I really loved the smell of the yeast proofing. Although incorporating the flour into the yeast-water mixture with a wooden spoon was a sticky situation, the kneading by hand was very therapeutic. I hardly needed any flour to keep the dough from sticking to my marble kitchen counter. I did have to knead for some time to bring the doughy mess to a nice smooth ball, but it was very relaxing and the yeasty smell in the air was somewhat comforting.
The ambient temperature of my kitchen was only 67F but considering how much yeast the recipe required I expected my dough to rise really quickly. And it did seem like I was off to great start since the dough started to rise quite noticeable at first. But then after 2 hours my dough had only grown to about 1.5 times the original volume. But I was anxious to finish up my bagels and get on with the rest of my day so I went ahead and punched down the dough and divided the dough into 16 chunks like the recipe instructed. (Although, I think the dough could've been divided into 24 regular sized bagels as opposed to 16 giant bagels.)
Initially I formed my bagels using the "snake" method but I didn't like the way they looked. I had trouble rolling them evenly so some parts were thicker than other parts and the area where I pinched the ends together just didn't look good to me. So I switched over to the "hole-centric" method which I found was easier for me and made my bagels more even all around. I let them rise for about 10 minutes on the countertop before boiling. I didn't really notice any change in the size of my formed bagels during this rest. (And in hindsight I made my holes way too big, but I thought the dough would rise a bit more and "fill in" but unfortunately it didn't. Instead I'm left with ugly bagel rings instead of cute chubby bagels*.)
Now these were some really big bagels. I mean, they are huge. I used a large stock pot that's 12 inches in diameter but I was still only able to boil 2 bagels at a time. Towards the end I did boil 3 at a time but they crowded each other in the pot and squished each other a bit. So as I'm boiling batch after batch, I'm thinking that these are the biggest ugliest bagels I have ever seen and that the next (and final) step of baking in the oven won't change that fact. I must say that I was quite disheartened. But this was my very first tryst with yeast, kneading and forming dough. Even so, I had hoped for the best outcome.
So after I pulled my first batch of bagels from the oven I thought they looked more like fossils than bagels. I tasted one and thought they weren't too bad. But I did think my bagels were a bit flavorless. Topping my bagels with poppy seeds, sea salt or sesame seeds before baking wouldn't have improved the flavor by much. They were slightly chewy but not tough, a tad crispy on the outside and without any doughiness on the inside. These were definitely not those fluffy things you get at Noah's Bagels. I have no idea if these truly are real Jewish bagels, but I will definitely try making bagels again (maybe with this or a different recipe). And I'll definitely try baking other things with yeast. Hopefully I'll have better luck next time.
If you'd like to try your hand at the "Real Honest Jewish Purist Bagels", you can find the recipe (and a list of links to the other Daring Bakers' bagels) at All Things Edible and Writing at the Kitchen Table.
* When I write my monthly DB challenge post I try not to read the challenge posts by the other Daring Bakers until after I publish mine. But given the talent pool, I'm positive that everyone else's bagels will be cute chubby ones.