Friday, 13 February 2015

Experiment: Spelt Bagels (Wheat-, Dairy-, Egg-, and Yeast Free)

So, recently I've been feeling a little experimental. I've been doing a bit of my traditional usual stuff recently, so I thought I'd shake things up a bit; I thought I'd try my hand at making some spelt bagels!

Bagels are a simple bread dough product - so the dough is the same dough as a bread loaf, for example - but the cooking process is a little different. Bagels are formed into doughnut shapes and then parboiled before being baked in the oven until crisp on the outside. The parboiling gives them their signature dense and chewy texture, and the baking gives them a nice crust.

But here I where I make a little confession: I absolutely and utterly despise working with yeast. Oh Lord, I hate it. It's just so darned fickle: the room is too hot, then it's too cold; the yeast touched off the salt and died; the activation water for the yeast was too hot and it died; the activation water for the yeast was too cold and it didn't wake up. Too many variables! So, whenever possible, I try and adapt bread recipes for use with baking powder, and this was one such attempt.

I used my go-to bread dough recipe with baking powder, that I use for my pizza base, but I doubled the olive oil to 2 tablespoons, which was partially because I forgot my own recipe, but it worked out for the better. I allowed them to sit at room temperature for a few minutes to rest, and I prepared some boiling salted water, and preheated my oven to 200°C (400°F, Gas Mk.6, or hot). In my oven is a big tray shelf, which I preheated in the oven too, sort of like a pizza stone, and dusted with flour.

Once the dough had rested, I divided it into four and rolled each piece into a ball. I then poked my thumb through the middle and stretched it out to made the classic bagel shape. I should have made the centres a little larger, and in retrospect I could have easily divided the dough into six instead of four.

I placed the bagels two at a time in the boiling water. To boil them, I actually used a wok half filled with water, which gave them more room to float about. Because the dough was leavened with baking powder, the bagels were dense in their raw form, meaning that they sunk to the bottom of the wok, so I had to poke them about a bit to get them to float. I boiled them for about a minute on each side, before taking out with a fish slice.

On my work surface I had a plate of poppy seeds. Poppy seeds are very cheaply available in Polish food shops, and I got a big ol' bag for about 1.75 euro. While the bagel was still sticky from the water, I sprinkled some poppy seeds on top, then popped them directly onto the preheated tray in the oven. I baked them for about 10 to 15 minutes (in batches) and then let them cool. They were a little pale, but I think I had the tray too far down the oven.

I fed one to my mother, and one to my brother. My mother said they were one of the nicest wheat-free bread products she'd had in ages, and my brother just ate the whole thing without complaint. I think that means they were successful. There's a few kinks to be ironed out before I can safely publish a full recipe on it, but so far so good!

As you can see from the photos, they look the part. The interior is dense, and the crust chewy, and they taste just like a delicious bread roll. These were lovely smothered in butter, but I only had a nibble off my brother's one (I'm watching my waist at the moment, only another 4 pounds to my ideal weight).

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