We all need a snack once in a while, and a nice chewy bagel definitely qualifies. However, it can be hard to find a decent bagel if you don’t live in NYC or Montreal. And these days, people really seem to like them. What to do? Well, I made my own. Work didn’t start for a week, so I had a bit of time.
Now, my oven wasn’t working at the moment, so I was a bit limited in the quantity of bagels I can produce. Anyway, I just wanted a little snack, so I decided to make a single wild garlic sourdough bagel with black sesame seeds. The right way.
Of course, if you’re making sourdough bagels correctly, the entire process should take about three days. And if you’re not making sourdough bagels correctly, then you should start making sourdough bagels correctly.
Day 1: Reviving the Starter
I started this bread in the afternoon, around 5 pm. I removed my sourdough starter from my fridge (I’m sure most normal people have one, but it’s not that difficult to make and keeps well in a jar). I then proceeded to revive my starter over the course of three feedings.
I started with a bit of inactive starter, mixed in my first batch of water and bread flour (actually a mixture of All Purpose flour and vital wheat gluten – I wanted high gluten content for this bread).
I waited about six hours before the next feeding.
While this happened, I went to forage for some wild alliums. I simply popped over to my favorite mystical clearing in the woods and asked the elves for a couple garlic plants, who were happy to oblige. Should someone lack a favorite mystical clearing, one could just pick a nice plant that isn’t growing too close to a road.
I used one plant, root and all. I chopped it up, fried it a bit and stuck that in the starter.
Next, I gave it another feeding, waited 6 hours, then added a bit more flour at some absurd hour of the night. Remember: if you aren’t up at weird hours, you aren’t serious about your bread.
In the time between feedings, I slept fitfully and suffered many nightmares, as most bakers do. It is a known fact that the majority of one’s baking occurs when one is deeply troubled. If you’re just baking a tray of chocolate chip cookies here and there, no problem. But when you start cranking out airy baguettes and fruit pies with tender yet flaky crusts, you may want to seek help.
Day 2: Making the Dough
Very early the next morning, I got to making the dough. With my now-active starter, I added salt, some malt syrup (I’d use honey if I was an awful person), my same bread flour mixture and water. Oh, and I didn’t add any oil because I was making a bagel, not a damn focaccia.
I then kneaded my ingredients for 10 minutes. Like, legit, 10 real actual complete minutes, because that’s how you get good bread. I stuck it in the fridge (covered) overnight.
Traditionally, New York bagels are given the overnight treatment after shaping. However, my fridge is kind of small so any New Yorkers I may have offended are free to fight me.
Day 3: Boiling and Baking my Bagel
I removed the dough from the fridge, let it warm up and shaped it into a bagel. I then gave it the usual second rise, so you bake a bagel and not a hockey puck.
Next, I did the thing that separates bagels from disks of bread shaped like bagels: I boiled it. Supermarket bagels usually skip this step, which leaves you with sad, brittle bagels with no bite. Remember: you should burn about half the calories you get from the bagel just by chewing it. If it eating the bagel isn’t a workout, it’s not worth your time.
Now, because my oven doesn’t work, I made my bagel in a dutch oven with an overturned bowl on top of it. I brushed my bagel with egg white, covered it in black sesame seeds and put it in the dutch oven for about 20 minutes. I somehow managed not to burn my house down.
The fruits of my labor? It was pretty good, I guess. Better than supermarket bagels. And it only took three whole days to make.
Now, I know what you’re wondering. “Could this be scaled up to make a more reasonable amount of bagels?”
The answer is, of course, “No, don’t be ridiculous.”
So stop being ridiculous and make yourself a three-day bagel. After all, what’s better than a freshly-baked bagel?