Perfect bagels and flying dreams

We watched one of those movies that goes through a person’s whole life in under two hours. [A biopic, I guess it’s called–and is that pronounced bio-pic or biOpic? (I’ve never known, and I studied film theory.)] They always make me a little melancholy, a little thoughtful, but I guess this one infected my dreams. Maybe because I’m getting so very old and the boys are growing so fast, so fast, into adults, when I’m not ready to be an adult myself.

In the dream I was a young woman, but not myself–I was a character. And then I got older and older in minutes. But at one point I could fly, in the way you can fly in dreams, where you just sort of take off into the air, and it’s a little frightening because you can’t control how high or how far you go, but it’s exhilarating none-the-less. And I kept singing, “I’m going to fly over the lovely lovely Firth of Forth.” Then I got older and somehow I had written a famous book and there was a sort of slideshow of my kids and grandkids falling in love, and then, mercifully for the reader of this post, I awoke. BUT, I also had a dream about a hummingbird in my bedroom, who landed on my arm and my face and was very affectionate.

That’s it for the dreams. But there are tiny flowers, and cardinals singing their mouthy-primadonna-lovely hearts out every morning. And very very hopeful light.

And after months (or is it years? Decades?) of snow-covered earth Clio can roll on her back in a patch of winter-wasted grass. She LOVEs to roll on her back in the grass.

I’ve been making bagels for YEARS now. Years. I’ve followed a bunch of recipes. I’ve tried Montreal-style bagels, New York-style bagels, This-is-all-you-have-in-your-cupboard-cause-of-quarantine bagels. I make bagels at least once a week. And the last few weeks they have come out just mother-flipping perfect. AND I DO SAY SO MYSELF. So I decided to try to account for the measurements and timings and share here. They have some elements of a Montreal bagel (boiled in honey, though you could use Maple syrup if you’re vegan.) Some elements of a New York Bagel) a little thiccer, so they hold up well to fillings. If you have some malt syrup, you should probably add it at some point, but I haven’t been able to find any in a while. I always separate out enough for two cinnamon raisin bagels, though you certainly don’t need to. I always try to do a couple with “tuxedo” black-and-white sesame seeds (from the Asian foods section) because it’s pretty. And my favorite is poppyseeds. But you could throw anything you want on there, or nothing at all. If you’re vegan, try maple syrup instead of honey, and just leave the egg out. It will still be good.

As with all bread-ish recipes, amounts and cooking times vary. You’re going for more of a feeling than a precise measurement or timing. Err on the side of more with the flour.

This is very very stuck in my head. And there’s nothing in it.

2 T carbonado sugar, brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup
1 T yeast
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup warm water

1 egg
3 T vegetable oil or olive oil
3 cups (+/-) flour
2 t salt

Additions/toppings
Tuxedo sesame seeds
Poppy seeds
Mixed raisins
cinnamon sugar

to boil
2 T honey or maple syrup
2 t baking soda

Mix the sugar, yeast, flour and water in a large bowl. Add a bit more water, if necessary to have a soupy, stirrable paste. Leave for 10 – 15 minutes to get bubbly.

Add the oil and egg (if using) and stir well. Add the flour and salt, stir to combine. Then add enough warm water to make a fairly stiff, dry dough. Start with 1/2 cup, but it will probably be closer to one cup. Mix to make a raggedy dough and set aside for about 10 minutes.

Knead for 2 or 3 minutes. Cover with a plate or towel, and leave for ten or 15 minutes. Knead 2 or 3 minutes. Cover with a plate or towel and leave 10 or 15 minutes. Repeat the process for about an hour, until the dough is pliable but very dense. It should be sort of a pleasure to knead. Then break off as much as you would like to be cinnamon raisin bagels (for us it’s usually about 1/4 or the dough) Spread this thin and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Roll up and knead. Spread thin and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Roll up and knead. Spread thin and cover with a thin layer of raisins. I love this mix we’ve been getting, with some golden, some purple, and some big red, but you can use what you like. Roll up and knead again. Lightly oil a couple of bowls (if you’re making cinnamon raisin too) and set the dough aside in a warm place, covered, for about two hours. It shouldn’t get too big and puffy and floofy. It’s a dense dough!

To shape the bagels, I break off pieces that feel a little bit too big for a comfortable handful, and this usually works out evenly. A more scientific approach would be to divide it in half and half and half again until you have 8 even pieces. (or six even plain and two even c & r). Then I take the lump of dough, and I set it on the counter where it will stick a little bit, and I rotate it till it gets smooth and taught. Then I poke a hole in the middle with my thumb and stretch evenly on all sides till it’s bagel-shaped. Then I put it on a lightly buttered or greased baking tray. When all the bagels are shaped (they don’t need to be pretty, they will get much uglier before they get beautiful), I preheat the oven to 450 and start a big pot of water to boil.

When the water is boiling, add about 2 T of honey (or maple syrup if you’re vegan) and 2 t of baking soda. Drop the bagels in however many fit at a time (usually 3 for me). Count to 60 slowly, flip the bagels with a slotted spoon. Count to 60 again. Slotted-spoon them out, draining most of the boiling water, and place them back on the buttered tray. Repeat with the rest of the bagels in batches. If you want sesame or poppy seed bagels, now’s the time to lightly scatter these over the surface. I always do the cinnamon raising bagels last in case they flavor the water.

When they’re all boiled and nicely arranged on the tray, pop them in the preheated oven and turn the heat down to 425. Cook for about 25 minutes, turning the tray from time-to-time for even browning. They’re done when they’re toasty golden and feel light when you try to pop them off the tray. Let cool, and then eat! or toast!

2 thoughts on “Perfect bagels and flying dreams

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