Foodie Firsts: Homemade Bagels

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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You all may not be aware of this, but for about the last 18 months or so, my fair city has been in the throes of a bagel crisis.  You see, we Portlanders generally like our goods locally sourced, carefully tended to, and not mass produced whenever possible.  Our city is a bit of a haven for small business owners and even when they begin to spread their wings and fly off into other areas (ahem . . . Stumptown Coffee is NOT FROM Brooklyn), we still hold them dear to our hearts.

When it came to bagels, one local business had the city wrapped around its little flour-dusted finger – Kettleman’s.  Kettleman’s Bagels had been around for several years, had established five locations throughout the city, and served up some very tasty bagels.  Though a few other local bagel makers existed, it was Kettleman’s that had a large, devoted following and graced the breakfasts (and lunches) of many citizens on any given day.

plain bagels on plate 3 - edited

Then, completely out of the blue, a bomb dropped.

Kettleman’s had been sold.

To the Einstein Bagel Company.  Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Not only had Kettleman’s been sold, but to be sold to a large, national chain ready to serve up mediocore (not locally sourced) coffee alongside mass produced (not made carefully with hipster love) bagels was devastating.

Portlanders revolted.  The Willamette Week paper set out to try to find a suitable local replacement.  New bakers and chefs jumped in and tried to fill the bagel void.

We’re still recovering.  We’re trying to find our way through as a bagel-loving community, one day at a time.

I have eaten other locally made bagels since.  Some have been good.  Some have not.

flour - edited

Last week, by the way, Einstein’s announced it was closing THREE of its shops in the Portland market, just a year after trying to take over the city (I should tell you they also bought out all the Noah’s Bagels outlets locally, too, turning the city into a little Einstein’s monopoly). Hah.  Take that, Einstein Brothers.

Sorry.  Sometimes, I get a little vengeful.

Because of all this, I decided to reclaim my own bagel destiny and make my very own bagels – in my very own kitchen.  This was an intimidating process for me, because bagels are the type of food that I imagine are always best purchased from a bagel shop, fresh from the oven, wrapped in a little waxy sheet of paper or brown paper bagel bag.  There’s something about the experience of that process that adds to the eating experience.

Making bagels was a totally foreign concept to me and I spent quite a good deal of time looking up various methods and recipes on the Internet.  Most were straightforward and pretty similar to one another, so I plunged forward.

I made two batches and 4 different flavors.  The first batch was made following this technique found over at the Happy Herbivore Website.  I made four large bagels from this recipe and left them all plain – just wanting to experience the bagel in its purest state.

The second batch was made following this technique found at The Veggie Converter.  This batch made up about 10 smaller bagels.  I mixed this group up and made a few each of cinnamon-raisin, garlic-sesame seed, and salted bagels.

mixed bagels plated 6 - edited

Both batches were made by boiling the bagels briefly before baking and both batches were very, very good.  I used white whole flour in all of my bagels, which I know makes them a bit denser than if I had opted for all-purpose flour, but I don’t mind that and appreciate the slight health benefits from making that switch.

I must say, the process was very simple.  Mixing the dough was a breeze (I have a stand mixer now thanks to a generous gift from Mr. Move Eat Create’s family), the boiling part was kind of fun, topping them was a cinch, and the baking requires little attention other than popping them in and out of the oven.

I do have a couple of specific thoughts about the methods I tried.  First, both methods for creating the dough holes (rolling the dough out into long strips and then closing them together to create circles versus making balls and then sticking my fingers through the center to work a hole into the ball) worked well.  Even though it was slightly more work, I think I preferred rolling the dough out into long strips, because it just created a smoother, more attractive bagel surface.  Second, even though both recipes called for small amounts of sugar, I think I would decrease it even more.  Unless I’m making a sweet bagel (i.e. cinnamon raisin), I just don’t think it’s necessary.

Overall, I highly recommend giving homemade bagels a try.  They are, quite frankly, one of the less fussy things I’ve made in a while and they tasted really, truly good.  I enjoyed their texture, ability to re-heat, and the freedom I had to make up as many flavors as I wanted.  I will most definitely make homemade bagels again.

Though, I do still miss you, Kettleman’s.

Notes & Final Thoughts:

Serving Suggestions:  Get creative with your toppings and flavors.  Now that I know I can make them, my brain is wild with the possibilities!plain bagels - edited  Things I want to try include poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, onion, blueberry, and jalapeno.

Lessons Learned:  I faced down some apprehension with this week’s topic.  For whatever reason, bread making is an intimidating process for me, especially bread making that specifically involves kneading of any sort.  Add to that the very specific experience of bagel eating that I have in my mind and I felt like I was trying to pull off something that was impossible to re-create.  In reality, though, I learned that some images are just that – images.  They may be wonderful, but they are not the only thing that is wonderful.   Re-fashioning my notions of what a good bagel experience could be was achievable and being able to create something so enjoyable with my own hands and means was totally gratifying.