Bagel Eve

1:30pm Saturday
Based on the fact that I got one bagel for myself out of last week’s batch of six, I’ve decided to make two batches this weekend. It’s time to try a new recipe — though I don’t know which one I’ll use yet — but I don’t want to just throw away everything I’ve learned from working on the first recipe.

So. Tonight I’ll make a change or two to the current recipe. While it’s in the bread machine stage I’ll use that time to select the new recipe.

The current recipe seems to be working pretty well, but I’d like to try adding more flour to make a denser dough and therefore a chewier bagel. At this point I’m tempted to add whole wheat flour back in to make the name of the recipe a bit more, well, truthful. Half a cup should contribute some whole wheat taste and texture without absorbing all the moisture and “crashing” the dough.

Some kind of flavoring — maybe to half the batch — would be interesting too. I’d like to try Fox Point or Mural of Flavor from Penzeys Spices, but I’m not sure what a good amount of spice blend would be, or even when I should add it to the dough. I could add it with the flour, into each individual ball before the second rise, or as I form each bagel (which does not seem to me like the best option). By the time I’m forming the bagel shapes, it might be hard to get the spices worked in evenly. And adding them before a rising time might add some moisture to the spices and might enhance the flavors.

I also have onions, garlic, roasted garlic, shallot salt, and dried shallots from Penzeys that I can add. But I plan to make a lot of bagels this year, and there should be time to try many ingredients and toppings.

I got to go to Half Price Books today, and I was delighted to find that their Cooking section had a prominently labelled subsection for Food Writing. I picked up Ruth Reichl’s first food memoir, Tender at the Bone, in hardcover. And I also bought a copy of The Jewish Artisan Deli at Home by Nick Zukin and Michael Zusman, which was either on one of my Amazon wishlists or was a book that Amazon recommends to me every time I visit their website. Gee, do I want to buy a book whose cover illustration is a photo of an assortment of artisan bagels and bialys? What do you think?

I’d like to write a little side note about Half Price Books (HPB) now.

You don’t have to go to a physical store to buy books from Half Price Books; you can search for a wanted book at (click on Shop Online) and sort your available purchasing options not just by whether the book is new or used [guess what? it’s probably used], but by which edition it is. It’s a fantastic search option if you’re trying to complete a set of something, and just feel a little happier when a set of books actually looks like a set.

Every March for the past several years, HPB has made up literary-themed competition brackets as a alternative for socially acceptable wagering on men’s college basketball during March Madness. You can download and print out the forms, or just vote online every week. Personally I like filling out the bracket and making others fill it out, too, before “teams” start getting eliminated. It also keeps people from changing their stories about whether they thought Captain Picard was a bigger hero than the Doctor.

I love HPB. Don’t get me wrong: I also love independent bookstores. But HPB was there for me many years ago when I was so broke I needed to sell books to have enough money to eat. (If I’d known about selling plasma, though, I might have held on to the books a little longer.) And is a joy to search. When my local bookstore can order me a cheap Very Good copy of the 1964 edition of the Feynman Lectures on Physics, Volume 2, let me know.

Browsing at HPB, especially when you have enough money to buy books instead of sell them, can’t be beat for (1) sheer eclecticism and (2) the possibility of meeting other people who share your interests. Seriously, how cool would it be if they held Singles Nights?

I digress.

Before I even entered the HPB I stopped into the Penzeys store next door to ask when I should add spices to the bagels. The cook on hand referred me to the baker on hand (hi, Mary!), and I explained my situation to her and gave her the address for this blog.

It turns out that I was, in fact, not overthinking the question of when to add the spices. Mary wasn’t sure what might make things better or worse, but she did offer to taste test the bagels and give me her opinion in return. Mary, I’d be happy to!

Also this evening, I had the opportunity to talk to a former New York Jew (the “former” label applies to her state of origin; I assume she’s still Jewish). Ida lived for a while in a building that housed a bagel bakery in the basement. According to Ida, bagels must be boiled before they are baked, or something’s just not right. Also according to Ida, the bagels you can buy from popular chain bagel stores are “just bread” — not real bagels. Because Ida belongs to a demographic I am attempting to please via the Bagel Project, I will take her thoughts seriously and try to make more bagels.

So — now that it is 11:30pm and too late to start making a batch of bagels, I’m technically no further along in the process of deciding how to modify my current bagel recipe. But I *feel* closer.



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