By Matthew Yglesias
Kate and I decided to deal with the paucity of good bagels in DC by taking matters into our own hands and making some Saturday morning. Actually we decided to do this a few weeks ago, but it turns out to be way easier to make bagels when your yeast works. Indeed, other than “this will take some time” there’s really nothing to it beyond avoiding bum yeast.
You put one point of bread flour, one teaspoon of yeast, one teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of sugar, and 1.25 cups of warm water into your mixer. Then mix it up a bit with the paddle, then a bit more with the hook until it forms a nice ball. (or, you know, do this by hand like a sucker). Then knead by hand for a minute. Then let it sit covered for two hours, punch down, let sit for 30 minutes, and divide it up into your bagels. According to Mark Bittman you can make 12 small bagels out of this much dough. I assumed he meant that the bagels would be small relative to the giant bagels you see everywhere these days—i.e., like normal-sized traditional New York bagels. It turns out that Bittman, a real New Yorker, meant those would be small relative to traditionally sized New York bagels so I wish I had actually made eight.
All the authorities seem to agree that you ought to take your small dough balls, roll them into dough snakes, and then turn the snakes into bagel-shaped loops. I didn’t do that—I just rolled the balls into ball form and used by thumbs to poke holes in the middle. That seemed more logical and works just fine. Then you boil each bagel one minute on each side, then bake ’em for 20 minutes (I used a pizza stone, which seemed to work well). The results are delicious, and it was all pretty easy.
Indeed, it was actually frustratingly easy. Time-consuming is not a good quality in a breakfast product. You can’t get up in the morning, start cooking, and then have something to eat three hours later. You just can’t. At the same time, the technique here is quite simple—you don’t need years of training or whatever to make delicious bagels. In other words, this is a food product that’s ideally suited for someone to make in bulk and sell to the public. So why don’t more people do it? I get that this is a bit more time-consuming, and therefore less-efficient, than the process used to produce sad pseudo-bagels. But I’d happily pay a premium for the good stuff. And yet instead of quality spreading, my impression is that we’re seeing more and more bad bagels even in the heart of New York.