Week 5: Honey Whole Wheat Bonus Round!

We have an “extra” Sunday this month, so thank you for playing and welcome to the bonus round! Rather than switch to a fundamentally different recipe and start from Square One to make it work, I have time to freely experiment with the current recipe and see what might happen if I make a radical change.

Actually, this week I want to make two big changes — to shorten the second rise, and to use a completely different type of flour altogether. (“A completely different type of flour.” Yeah, I hear you.)

Last week’s long rise made for a tasty bread, but I think it would have made a great toast-and-sandwich bread if it hadn’t been disguised in a bagel shape. I’ll use last week’s recipe to make a whole wheat loaf sometime, but this week I want to shorten the rise from 30 to 15 minutes (or maybe even 10) to “pull back” the texture and density to the Standard Bagel Range.

And the flour. This month has shown that the type of flour I’ve used, as well as the ratio of flours if I used more than one type, made a huge difference in so many aspects of the dough. Some of the upcoming recipes will call for bread flour, which I already have on hand. Using it now, in a recipe that already works without it, seems like a great opportunity to see what its effect might be — not quite isolating it as a single variable, but coming close.

Changes to last week’s recipe
Instead of 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 2 cups of unbleached white all-purpose flour, I’ll be using 3 cups of bread flour. I’ll stand pat with all the other ingredients.

Bread flour makes more gluten than unbleached all-purpose flour, so this recipe might not need the combination of bread flour and wheat gluten, but I’m determined to make just the two changes I specified earlier. This time I’ll use both, and if that results in too much gluten, I can omit the wheat gluten next time.

I was aided in coming to this conclusion by a post from May 2014 at Joy the Baker (joythebaker.com). I haven’t been to this site before, but it looks like a place where I can learn a lot about baking.

I’ve started processing the dough, so while that is taking place I’ll write about last week. I didn’t read any further in the bagel history book, but I did pick up a hardcover 1974 edition of the James Beard classic Beard on Bread. (A friend of mine is speculating upon the existence of more anagrammatic food-writing titles. If you think of one, post it in the comments!) It’s a cookbook, yes, but still more of a teaching book about breadbaking, and one I would profit from reading, so I’ll add it to my list.

You’ve seen a portion of my kitchen table at the top of my blog. My kitchen table is very special to me and I’ll provide its origin story later. But for right now I can confess that I’ve been having a lot of trouble keeping it cleaned off. I really could use the work space, especially on Thursday nights when I prepare challah for Fridays, and it’s a beautiful table that I’d like to have on display all the time, but some items just have to sit on it because they don’t (yet) have anywhere else to go.

Since I started the bagel project I’ve been trying to remove one more item from it every week, hoping that would be a painless way to clear the table. But last week I made a batch of large cupcakes and a batch of mini cupcakes (for the same school bake sale), I experimented with a variation on a friend’s recipe for pumpkin-based dog treats, and cooked a pizza or two. By the end of the week I wound up with a mountain of half-sheet pans, cookie sheets, muffin pans, and a cake pan and a cupcake carrier that were used to get the goods to school — all sitting in the middle of the kitchen table. Today I’m finally cleaning the items one at a time and trying to be easy on myself for letting things build up. It happens. Each week is another opportunity to make progress in a number of areas, and I don’t need — and can’t afford — to punish myself for it. I got other things done this week that I’m happy about, and I’ll keep working on the kitchen table.

There’s a bit more than half an hour left in the dough cycle, and I do have more of the kitchen table cleared off now — not all of it, but enough for this week. It’s satisfying to scrub that surface every week, remove the food bits and dust, and see all of the different species of wood glow so warmly.

This week’s dough rose far above the rim of the bread machine pan; once it was punched down it made a tougher, but still quite workable, dough that only took up about half of the pan. I decided to divide the dough into six bagels instead of eight. Last week I let them rise 30 minutes before making them into bagel shapes. This week I quickly rolled out each ball into a rope, formed it into a ring, and tried to smooth out the joined area a bit. I covered them with a tea towel (does anybody really use these for tea?) and left them to rise for 10 minutes.

The water was already boiling in the deep skillet before the dough was ready, so I turned the heat down one notch to keep the water from boiling away. One of these weeks I’ll get that timing down.

This week’s reference bagels come from what I refer to as “the hipster grocery store” one county over, and their type was helpfully labeled as “Assorted.” For the sake of argument, let’s just call them “Plain.” They look like bagels but feel so tough that I don’t wish to eat one. They shall now be used solely for photographic purposes.

Oops! I wasn’t watching what I was doing and I crowded the pan when it was time for the boil. These bagels got huge! NOTE: next week, make eight bagels instead of six, remembering that they will get bigger.

I beat one whole egg for the glaze. Four of the bagels got a double glazing, heavy on the yolk; two got a single egg glaze and a heavy coating of Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle from Penzeys Spices. Son Two and I didn’t get to pick out a cheese for this weekend’s topping; this is my experimental attempt to make it up to him. I can only hope that if it doesn’t turn out as expected, he will still be able to taste my good intentions.

Halfway through the baking time, the bagels were so huge that Son Three urged me to take a picture of them. But I didn’t want to (a) take a picture through the oven door or (b) open the door and let that much heat escape. So you’ll just have to use your imagination.

When the baking time was over, they still looked pale and felt under-done when I checked on them. I put five minutes back on the clock and ushered them into sudden-death overtime. The cheese-sprinkled bagels looked and smelled very good!

All the bagels are out of the oven and cooling on the wire rack. They are light for their size compared to the reference bagel, but finally they match the size of the reference bagel.

Yeah. Next week I definitely need to make eight bagels instead of six, though Son Three teasingly asked, “Why not seven? How about fourteen?” I wonder if these will now be the biggest bagels he’s ever seen.

Daughter (spotting largest bagel): That one’s mine.

Daughter tried to guillotine the smallest bagel of the batch, but it wasn’t dense enough to fight back against the blade. I stopped her before it was completely smushed, and I finished slicing it by hand. She toasted the bagel and ate it with unsalted butter, then announced, “Next week’s bagels have to be exactly the same.”

Comparing this week’s bagel to a store-bought bagel is one thing, but look what happens when we compare it to one I made just two weeks ago. We’ve come a long way, baby!

From the field of six bagels, two cheese-coated ones were promised to Son Two. Daughter ate one plain. Another taster is getting a bagel tomorrow morning. That leaves two bagels to, possibly, be shared between myself and Son Three. That is not a week’s worth of bagels.

Next week I definitely have to make eight bagels. Definitely eight.


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