Last weekend was a quiet one. Well, quiet as far as being social goes, but Bertrand and I both had tons of work to do, so we agreed to stay home and work, interrupted by intermittent cooking and eating.
On Saturday afternoon, I put the few long-ass eggplants our friend Maria had given us on an open flame on the stovetop while I tossed a pint of end of the world tomatoes, slivers of garlic and olive oil into the oven. I whipped up some pita bread dough, tossed it into an oil-rimmed bowl, wrapped it in plastic and set it on the front porch, where it rose safely in the warm sun.
Within an hour, we were dining on warm pita bread with a tomato sauce dip on one side of the table and baba ganoush on the other. It was rather sublime. Having used only half of the dough, I threw the rest into a container and stored it in the fridge.
The following morning, scrolling through Instagram, I stopped at a post from Crossroads Food Shop in nearby Hillsdale (@crossroads_food_shop). It had me at the shot of nine bagels being covered in poppy seeds, but its caption was a lyric from The Proclaimers. So it stuck with me. Mentally shrugging, I pulled the dough out and filled the large Staub with water, turned on high. They boil bagels, don’t they?
A Google consensus landed me on one minute of boiling water on each side, but what topping to use? I texted my neighbor Emily.
“Do you have poppy seeds? I’m making bagels!”
She kind of killed my buzz with her answer: “Yes! We make bagels all the time!”
Fine. So, I wasn’t that original, after all. Then again, Emily doesn’t have a blog, so maybe I’d keep her expertise a secret…Armed with a small Mason jar full of poppy seeds, I found some leftover black sesame seeds and grabbed the Maldon salt. 25 minutes later, I pulled my experiment out and touched the top of one with a protected finger.
“Hard as rocks,” I laughed to Bertrand. “Oh, well.”
But then I pressed a bit more firmly, and, to my astonishment, the bagel gently gave way, emitting a subtle crunch sound.
Excited, I grabbed some butter and the bread knife and sliced through. As steam spat out, I separated one bagel in two, then slabbed it with butter.
We took a bite in unison and our eyes went wide. They were kind of perfect.
Instagram drew many questions. “You made bagels??” my sister asked. “I want the one on the left’,” my friend Courtney wrote. Havens Kitchen commented: “OhhhThen I got a DM from Adam Sachs, three-time winner of the James Beard Journalism Award. How had he found me??? I’m kidding. He’s a friend. “Those look great. How’d they taste?”
Good question. Yes, they were great, even really great for the first time, but they could be improved upon. But how. Sugar.
Just a tiny bit, tho. I made them again this morning, adding two teaspoons to the dough and it did the trick. Having stocked up on poppy seeds at Guido’s market, I liberally dumped each wet, pre-baked circle into a bowl of the stuff, then pulled out some new ghee that 4th & Heart had sent me in different flavors: garlic, vanilla bean and pink Himalayan salt. Garlic won.
- 1 packet yeast
- 1 1/3 cup warm water
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 2 t salt
- 2 t sugar
- 1 T olive oil
- 1/2 poppy seeds
- Maldon salt to taste
In standing mixer bowl, combine yeast with warm water and let melt for 8-10 minutes, or until bubbly. In separate bowl, mix flour and salt, then add to the mixer bowl once yeast and water have bubbled. Using dough hook, mix on 2nd level and gently add 1 T olive oil into the mixer. After about 2-3 minutes, the dough should begin knocking against the edge of the bowl. At that point, turn it off and remove from bowl. Place on well-floured cutting board, then, with hands well-floured, knead for about 3-5 minutes. Set in small bowl that’s been coated with olive oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot and let rise for one hour.
A few minutes before the dough is ready, fill a large Dutch oven with water and bring to boil. Also, pour poppy seeds into a small but wide and shallow bowl. Remove dough from bowl and separate it into 8-10 little mounds (I just tear it with my fingers).
Preheat oven to 450. Roll each mound of dough between both hands until it’s thin and about 4-6 inches long, then connect both ends into a circle. Once all circles have been made, place them in the boiling water and let cook for about a minute on each side. Remove from water and set on a dry towel to allow for excess water to drip off. Pick each bagel up and gently dip both sides into bowl of poppy seeds, then place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Sprinkle with sea salt, if you like (I found a tiny bit helped, but I’m not a salted bagel fan). Place baking sheet in oven and let bake for 20 minutes. Remove and SLATHER with ghee.