This weekend I took on the challenge of making a whole wheat bagel with a cinnamon-sugar flavor. I didn’t want to make a sweet dough or turn out a bagel-shaped cinnamon roll; I wasn’t sure at first whether I wanted to put cinnamon and sugar directly in the dough, or just use it as a topping on an otherwise plain bagel. In the end, I compromised and put one inside, one outside.
The current recipe seems to max out at 6 cups of whole wheat flour (even though it calls for 7!), so I started with 5.5 cups, knowing that I would be adding extra dry ingredients. As far as the amount of cinnamon was concerned, I took a shot in the dark and decided to use 2 teaspoons. I used the Penzeys Indonesian Cinnamon because the label recommended it for all kinds of baking.
I decided to incorporate the cinnamon into the dough because I thought that if it might taste bitter or burnt if it were only a topping. I didn’t want the bagels to have a harsh taste.
Using only 5.5 cups of flour, the dough was still rather sticky. I added flour as needed to reduce the stickiness, but I doubt that it would have added up to half a cup. I would like to be able to be more precise about this, but yeast breads in general often need adjustments in the proportions of their ingredients in order to deal with conditions like humidity or cold. As my kids might say, it’s just a bread thing and you have to deal with it. Cookies generally come out the same way every time when you do the same procedures with the same ingredients. But they’re not bread. They’re just cookies. With yeast bread, you have to follow its lead and give it what it needs to do well. Sometimes you guess correctly, and sometimes you hear the harsh buzzer and have to leave the set with the home version and a year’s supply of Rice-a-Roni or a case of Turtle Wax. That’s just how it goes. (That’s also why the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book has a chapter called “How to Slice a Brick.”) But the more bread you bake, the better you get at guessing.
Again this week, I made 12 bagels from the dough. After a few weeks of pasting the bagels to the baking sheet with the hardened egg wash, I’ve developed an alternative procedure: form the bagel and let it rest on a cotton kitchen towel, drop it upside-down in the boil water, flip it, return it to the towel to let it dry, give it an egg wash, then put it on a baking sheet that has a coating of nonstick cooking spray.
These bagels felt almost fluffy as I was forming them and dropping them into the boiling water. I was concerned that a whole wheat bagel would be dense and tough, but this didn’t seem to be the case.
I gave the bagels their egg-white glaze while they were cooling on the towel, then sprinkled 8 of the 12 with Penzeys Vanilla Sugar before transferring them to the baking sheet. I was sure that I would be able to tell which ones had been sprinkled with vanilla sugar….
…but I couldn’t. I suppose I thought that the sugar-coated bagels would sparkle like third-rate vampires, but they really didn’t.
The bagels I sampled had a subtle cinnamon flavor and a hint of sugar. We’ll see what my tasters have to say this week.
Next weekend is the beginning of Passover. Though I am not Jewish, I have (since the beginning of 5776) been challenging myself to see if I could live according to the Jewish dietary laws. And Passover dictates that absolutely no yeast be used. I won’t be banishing leavening agents from my house, “selling” them to Gentile neighbors, or hosting a seder, but I will be switching from bagels to macaroons for a week. Instead of baking bagels I may be reading about bread or evaluating a food memoir. Whatever I do, I’ll try to stay on schedule and hope that you’ll still be interested in reading what I’m writing.