Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What's the secret ingredient?

I've been looking into bagel recipes to help me create a great tasting bagel.  It seems like malt syrup is an ingredient that shouldn't be substituted.  But, what exactly is the difference between malt syrup, malted barley, malt powder?  And, why is it so important in the recipe?  The second secret ingredient; time.

Barley Malt Syrup is the result of malting barley, usually kiln roasted so the water is extracted, then slowly reduced to a thick, rich syrup. It's an ancient process that uses only the grain's enzymes created in the spouting process, and the knowledge and care of artisan maltsters. The end result is that it has half the sweetness of refined sugar.  

Why is Malt so important?  After much reading, it's pretty simple.  It gives the bagels the warm honey color on the outside and the subtly sweet and unique taste that is a bagel.

Besides using the malt, I think the next most important part of producing the perfect bagel, is the length of time used for fermentation/proofing/rising or allowing the dough to rest.  This may be the ultimate reason why the common bagel from the corner deli or grocery store just doesn't quite taste right.  My guess would be that the bakeries producing the heavy, doughy, tasteless bagels today are not allowing their dough to mature long enough.
Bagels originated in the U.S. by Jewish Polish immigrants in New York.  It was thought that the bagel possibly became popular in the Jewish community because traditionally the dough rests for 12 hours before baking, making it a popular choice for Jews observing the Sabbath -- they could let it rise during the time that work was forbidden, and then quickly prepare the bread once the Sabbath was over.

It seems like every recipe I've found does vary when it comes to making a sponge, and/or letting the dough rise.  Some recipes say to let the sponge sit for 2 hours, then shape the dough into bagels and have them rest overnight in the fridge.  My first attempt was to have the sponge rest overnight in the fridge.  So, I might try the opposite this time.  I will probably follow this recipe by Peter Reinhart; or an adaptation of it.  I will have another test run of bagel making starting tonight and post tomorrow (since it is a two day process) how things worked out.   

Till then.


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