May 29, 2009

New York Tax Authorities Shut H&H Bagels

Filed under: Bagels,Elsewhere in America,Los Angeles — Professor Salt @ 12:30 pm

Last Friday, New York State authorities temporarily shut down H&H Bagels, the renowned bagel baker on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The New York Times reports on the story here.

The shutdown affected both the retail store and a second production facility.  Opinions vary on how “good” H&H’s bagels are within the New York City bagel bubble, but H&H is among the few producers that sells authentic bagels (parbaked and frozen) wholesale to restaurants and bakeries across the country. A permanent shutdown of the bagel production plant will have a far reaching effect on customers such as Barney Greengrass in Los Angeles, where expat New Yorkers go for their bagel mit schmear.

February 4, 2006

Gooooooooaaaal!

Filed under: Bagels — Professor Salt @ 10:09 pm

Plain bagelI’ve tried not to bore you with too many updates about my bagel project. Be glad for self restraint because I’ve been intensely tweaking the formula every day for the past two weeks and have learned much with those experiments. I’m glad to say I found a way to hit all the targets for my personal definition of a good bagel. Most of it lies in dough technique, and the rest happens with oven technique.

I started out by using formulas from Peter Reinhart’s Crust & Crumb, Rose Levy Berenbaum’s The Bread Bible, and Beth Hensperger’s nearly identically titled book, The Bread Bible: 300 Favorite Recipes. Each yielded very different styles of bagel, which I’ll talk about when I review the books. Reinhart came closest to my target, and I modified his formula to get exactly what I wanted. What does that mean?

The dark color of the crust comes from high oven heat, which yields a toasty, caramelized flavor, and a chewy, bulletproof crust as thick as a credit card.

See those blisters? The glassine skin on thousands of those tiny bubbles shatter under the tooth, adding a crisp component to the chewy crust. Those blisters develop from two kinds of preferment (a loose poolish and pate fermentee, for you bread bakers out there), and a slow overnight rise in the fridge.

Tearing one of these things in half takes some effort, like ripping a small phone book in half with your bare hands. I kid you, but only a little. This is a desired feature for old school bagels (in my opinion). Bagels were brought to this country by hardboiled Eastern European immigrants who escaped a harsher life than we can imagine. Think they made bagels like poofy rolls with holes in the old country?

The interior is dense, thanks to high gluten flour kneaded by hand to yield a dough so stiff that anything short of a commercial spiral mixer would probably choke on it and burn out. Though the dough starts out dry, the short bake time at high heat keeps the interior moist.

Now that I’ve found one path to acheive my goal, it’s time to expand my understanding of this technically demanding bread. I’m a journeyman baker, and have just begun learning this craft. I wonder how many master bakers would be willing to share their knowledge with us through interviews on this blog? Stay tuned readers, it’s part of the year long bagel project!

January 21, 2006

Hooked up!

Filed under: Bagels,Ingredients — Professor Salt @ 12:00 am

Sir Lancelot FlourA 50 pound bag of flour ought to hold me for a while. Scoring this humongous sack today gave me the same joy i felt as a college freshman when my dorm mate brought home a half keg of beer.

King Arthur Flour’s Sir Lancelot has a higher gluten percentage than just about any American-milled flour, and ought to produce the chewy bagels I’m after. If I can’t, it’s not the flour’s fault.

But scoring a beer keg as an eighteen year old is as difficult as securing this high gluten flour as a home baker. This particular brand is only distributed through wholesale channels to professional bakers. I spoke to a Phoenix distributor willing to sell me a pallet of 50 bags. That’s a ton and a quarter of flour.

A schmuck like me has to jump through serious hoops to get a “small” quantity, or have really good friends with a hookup. Thanks, RM, you are the best!

January 15, 2006

Progress report: Bagels, week 2

Filed under: Bagels — Professor Salt @ 12:00 am

berenbaum bagelYou’re looking at my fourth attempt at bagels since I started the year-long baking project last month.

The recipes I’ve used call for slow-rising dough techniques. Slow, cool fermentation in the refrigerator results in a more flavorful bread with more interesting textures. It takes two days or more to prepare a batch of dough for the oven.

For this batch, I tried the formula in Rose Levy Berenbaum’s The Bread Bible. You may know that bagel dough is parboiled prior to baking. The wetted, precooked surface starches bake into a thicker, chewier exterior in the heat of the oven.

Notice the pretzel-like brownish color on these bagels. Berenbaum’s recipe calls for baking soda in the boiling water, the ingredient which gives homemade pretzels their distinctive color during a similar parboiling treatment.

The recipe calls for an egg white wash prior to baking. This acts as a glue for the sesame seeds, and gives the finished product a nice gloss. Gloss is good, baby. But I want gloss and a crisper crust than what I’ve managed so far. Berenbaum brushes a cornstarch slurry on her rye bread loaves for gloss & crispiness, so I’m trying that on my next batch of bagels to see the effect.

I’ve tried recipes from Berenbaum and Peter Reinhart’s Crust & Crumb: Master Formulas For Serious Bakers. Both authors raise interesting points and are excellent teachers. I’ll continue working from their instructions until I can acheive consistent results for both formulas. In my attempts so far, I’ve made okay bagels, similar to the ones I can buy from my local stores. I’m after something far better, though, and I hope my efforts this year pay off.

Next Page »