Week 9: Reverse onioneering

Every so often I go to Woodman’s grocery and pick up the kind of item that I just can’t get anywhere else. Woodman’s is a Wisconsin (and little-bit-of-Illinois) thing, an employee-owned store that feels like a cross between Jungle Jim’s and the old Grocery Warehouse stores I remember from the 1980s. Near the end of my last visit, I paused and noticed a refrigerated bin of bagels. They were a brand that was not David’s, which seems to be the only brand I can find at my local stores, so I grabbed a bag.

Although I’ve been baking mostly plain bagels, my favorite flavor is onion, and for many years (but not recently) one of my standard snacks has been a toasted onion bagel topped with crunchy peanut butter. This was also one of the snacks that led my mother to predict that I might eat “normal” food if I were ever pregnant. And it suddenly occurred to me, as I looked at the printed bagel bag from Shullsburg Creamery, that it listed the ingredients right on the bag. Here they are, in order of the greatest proportion:

  • enriched high gluten flour
  • water
  • onion
  • sugar
  • malt
  • yeast
  • salt
  • cornmeal

It was a recipe! It just needed, well, amounts and directions.

So, I decided to develop a procedure to try to make onion bagels using these basic ingredients. I did read something recently about fresh onion turning pink during the bagelmaking process, so I decided to delay the use of fresh onions until I understood more about the chemistry that might be involved in that reaction. For now, I’ll stick to the dried spice versions of onions.

And “malt” on the ingredient list didn’t specify whether the bakery used malt powder (of which there are two kinds, diastatic and non-diastatic) or barley malt syrup. A quick Google search led me to a recipe at epicurious in which a tablespoon of barley malt syrup was given as the equivalent of one teaspoon of diastatic malt powder. Since I had barley malt syrup on hand, but only non-diastatic malt powder, I decided to use the syrup this time.

General procedure
Warm the water and combine it with the malt syrup in the pan. Add sugar, salt, and dried onion. Add flour. Add yeast. Ignore the cornmeal.

My onion bagel recipe
warm water
barley malt syrup
sugar
Penzeys shallot salt
Penzeys minced white onion
bread flour
yeast

After the bagels were boiled, I planned to add an egg-white wash and a topping of Penzeys Air-Dried Shallots. And if you think this is too much onion, just wait until I start messing around with the garlic.

About the shallot salt: I love this stuff, but to tell you the truth, I haven’t used it in a long time. Penzeys states in their catalog that the shallot salt “tends to clump,” and suggests that you store it in the refrigerator to prevent this. I don’t know if it prevents clumping. What I do know is that it will clump if you store it outside of the refrigerator, and that if you refrigerate it after it has already clumped, you will need to scrape it apart with a butter knife in order to eventually shake some out. If a knife isn’t effective, you may want to try the fine-grind bit on a Dremel motor tool. That might work.

Locked-up shallot salt may well possess the inverse viscosity of barley malt syrup, which is now stuck to everything in my kitchen. It looks like mucilage that breaks down into Silly String.

I should certainly learn a lot from this batch of bagels. And if they prove to be a spectacular failure of one sort or another, I’ll be even more grateful that yesterday’s recipe yielded ten.

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5:28pm
The bagels have been formed and covered with a cotton towel. I made ten, in a range of sizes. I decided to give them a ten-minute rest.

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5:45pm
The bagels are now in the oven for 30 minutes at 350°. It turned out to be easy to coat the bagels with the shallots. I gave the first two boiled bagels an egg white wash. By the time the next two were out of the water and ready for an egg white wash, the previous two  bagels had cooled off enough for me to pick them up and press them into a saucer containing a layer of dried shallots.

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The tall jar of Penzeys shallots is 1.2 ounces by weight and I used just about half of it with a small amount of waste. If you wanted to try making just one batch of shallot bagels you could just get the smaller jar (0.5 ounces for $2.49) and plan to use it up. But if you like shallots enough to even want to try shallot bagels, you do save money on the 1.2 ounce jar. (Just sayin’.)

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Halfway through the baking time I went to turn the baking sheet around, and found that the bagels were stuck to the Silpat sheet. I pried a few of them loose before I decided that the heat loss of the open oven was worse for them than the sticking, and I put them back in for the remaining 15 minutes.

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6:20pm
Bagels are out! They look a bit dry and dark, and the shallots look burned, but the bagels felt soft when I picked them up. After they cool, I’ll try one before they get tough.

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The infinity bagel

 

Nice. And, surprisingly, not too onion-y.

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