The Bread Diaries: Bagels! (and a delicious schmear)

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Sourdough bagels: (back to front) plain, sesame-aleppo, and dukkah
If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know I am now the caretaker of a bubbling bucket of sourdough starter, based on Peter Reinhart’s “Crust and Crumb” barm recipe. I think this is a good thing, but initially I had flashbacks to that old “Amish Friendship Bread starter from a decade or so ago–all that sugar and milk, the stress of finding unsuspecting friends to pawn it off on, and why is does the recipe have instant pudding powder in it? Is this the equivalent to the electric Amish fireplaces? But back to Peter Reinhart… when your starter turns out delicious bread like these bagels, there’s no remorse, and I hope to keep this baby going for as long as possible.

The bagels are fantastic! Bagels are denser than loaf bread by design, and these are dense, soft, and perfectly chewy and flavorful, with just a little hint of sour. The crust has tiny blisters all over, characteristic of barmy breads, a perfect crusty contrast  to the chewy inside.

While the dough is pretty stiff, it’s still really easy to handle. Even using my giant mixer, I wasn’t able to get my dough to the recommended temperature after kneading (my dough reached 70F instead of the recommended 80F), but after forming they rose well in a controlled 70F environment and baked off beautifully after poaching.

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Sourdough bagels poaching before bake
I didn’t add anything to the poaching water,  but for my next batch I am considering adding either some malt syrup or baking soda to the poaching water. Malt is supposed to aid in achieving good color while baking through caramelization, and soda may result in a shinier bagel. I’m not sure how shiny my bagel needs to be, but I’ll give both of those techniques a try and report back.

Before baking, I sprinkled some with sesame and a sesame-aleppo mix, others with  dukkah, but left a good number plain, for the purist in me. The flavor of the bagel was so good, it didn’t need much else (except butter, always butter).

The magnificent bagels were shipped off to my husband’s office this morning, thank goodness, because I would have eaten them all. I made a batch of Green Olive Rosemary Cream Cheese Schmear to go with. Yum!

Green Olive Rosemary Cream Cheese 

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Green Olive Rosemary Cream Cheese
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 3-4 oz butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped stuffed manzanilla olives
  • 1 T olive brine (or to taste)
  • 2 t finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 c chopped toasted pecans (optional)

Cream together the butter and cheese. Stir in remaining ingredients and enjoy!

For cocktail hour, wouldn’t this be delicious on tiny bagels with a martini in hand?

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