Saturday, January 24, 2009


A while back I purchased Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" and I have been playing around with some of the recipes. For our Christmas Eve fete, to go along with Stefan's delicious cioppino, I made sour dough bread. This is a San Francisco thing- the fisherman there are credited with creating the fish and shellfish stew. The required accompaniment for nearly everything, and especially cioppino in San Fran is sour dough bread. In fact, the bacteria in the yeast and bacteria balance that makes the famous flavor is named Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis.

Sour dough breads are made with a starter. It's a mixture of flour and water which sits at room temp and the wild yeast on the flour and in the air does its thing gobbling up the sugars in the flour and releasing carbon dioxide which is what makes the bread rise. The starter can be kept and maintained forever. Some San Fran sour doughs claim to trace their mother starters back to gold rush time- Wow!

I didn't find the sour dough loaves that I made to be sour. It was decent home made bread, but it wasn't like the sour dough loaves from San Francisco, or even those in Seattle. This may be because the yeast and bacteria on my flour were different (airborn yeasts in a region tend to take over), or maybe the culture hadn't been going for long enough to get enough sourness established.

With the starter hanging out in the frig, I turned to consider bagels. The Double Daring Baker's December challenge (yes, still catching up) was bagels. I used the starter to make the "sour dough" version of bagels from the Reinhart book (recipe below) and the DDB recipe which you can find here.

The basic procedure is to make a very stiff dough, let is rise, divide, shape, rise, boil, bake. This is one time that I wish I could get everyone a taste. The Reinhart bagels are the best I have EVER had. They aren't very sour despite using the starter. I may try the sponge method described in the recipe below and see if there is a difference.

bagels waiting to be boiled

bagels boiling

finished bagels- some with seeds and salt

The DB recipe is ok. Kevin thought that if we didn't have the totally amazing, best ever bagels as a comparison, we'd have been quite happy with them.
They rose quite quickly compared to the Reinhart recipe and had a slightly fluffier texture, although they were REAL bagels, not the round bread passed off as bagels at the grocery store.

The Daring Baker Bagels

Peter Reinhart recipe for 12 large bagels

Sponge (In case you don't have 35 oz. starter)
1 t instant yeast
18 oz. bread flour
20 oz. room temp water
Stir together and cover. Sit at room temp for a couple of hours. It should foam and bubble, and double in size.

1/2 t instant yeast
17 oz. bread flour
2 3/4 t salt
2 t malt powder or 1 T honey or brown sugar (I tried honey and brown sugar. Both gave good results.)
Add the yeast to the sponge. Add 3 c of the flour, salt, and malt. Combine, slowly working in remaining flour to create a stiff dough. Knead for 10 min. The dough should be pliable and satiny, not tacky.
Divide into 12 equal pieces. Form into balls and let rest for 20 min. covered with damp towel.
Shape the dough balls into bagels- either make a rope and stick the ends together or poke a hole through the middle and shape it. Put the bagels onto oiled parchment lined sheets, mist with spray oil and cover. Let sit at room temp for about 20 min. Bagels are ready to be retarded when they pass the float test. Put one in a bowl of water- if it floats it passes. If it does not float, wait and test again in 10 minutes.
Put the covered pans in the frig overnight. They'll keep for a couple of days.
When you're ready to bake, heat the over to 500, and put a pot of water with 1 T baking soda on to boil. Boil the bagels for 1 min. each side (2 min. for chewier bagels) and return to the oiled parchment that you've sprinkled with a little cornmeal.
While wet, sprinkle with seeds and salt, or leave plain. Bake for 5 min. Rotate pans, reduce temp to 450 and bake another 5 min. ENJOY!!
These bagels kept well, 2-3 days. I will be experimenting with freezing them next.



Debyi said...

Your bagels look great! Mine did not boil up well, but they tasted good. After seeing how yours turned out, I'm going to try them again.

Sara said...

Mmmmm, these look REALLY yummy! I'll have to try them as I just got the Reinhart book but haven't tried any of the sour dough recipes from it...and I know I won't be able to resist the best bagels ever! :)