Bagel bakers begin by boiling them

April 21, 1996|By Marcy Goldman | Marcy Goldman,United Feature Syndicate

Oversized muffins, stuffed croissants and oat-bran everythings all started out as bakery novelties. Then they became food trends and suddenly popped up in markets of every stripe -- from gourmet outlets to convenience stores. And then, alas, passed into day-old obscurity. But some have become classics in the American food consciousness. And, certainly, bagels are an American success story.

Not a roll, not a bread, but a unique hybrid, bagels are at once fragrant, crusty, amber-colored and hearty. And, they taste as good as they look: chewy yet crisp, with an honestly wheaty flavor, satisfying in their simplicity. They are also innately low in fat, high in complex carbohydrate and as easy on the budget as on the bulge.

Ounce for ounce, bagels are not higher in calories than bread, but because of their density, one bagel could have as many calories as three or five or, in the case of some of those outrageously oversized bagels, even seven slices of bread. The Food Guide Pyramid recommends six to 11 servings of grains daily (one serving equals one slice of bread), so a big bagel should be considered a lot of a good thing.

Water bagels

Makes 12 bagels, 3 ounces each

3 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons malt syrup or malt powder (optional)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, preferably canola oil

4-5 cups white bread flour, preferably unbleached

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons (approximately) cornmeal for sprinkling baking sheets

2 tablespoons (approximately) sesame, poppy or caraway seeds, coarse salt, chopped garlic or 1/2 cup chopped onion for sprinkling on top (optional)

kettle water

2 tablespoons malt syrup or powder (optional)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. In a large bowl, whisk 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, yeast, sugar, 2 teaspoons malt syrup or powder, if using, and oil until the yeast dissolves. Stir in 1 cup of the flour. Then stir in 1 tablespoon salt and enough additional flour to make a soft dough, about 2 1/2 cups.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead, gradually incorporating more flour, until the dough is smooth and quite firm, 10 to 12 minutes. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.

3. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a 10-inch-long rope. Form bagels by overlapping the ends by 1 inch. Pinch together firmly. Set the bagels aside, uncovered, to rise until slightly puffy, about 20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat oven to 450 degrees. Line 1 large or 2 small baking sheets with parchment paper, sprinkle with cornmeal and set aside. In a large pot, bring 6 quarts water, 2 tablespoons malt, if using, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.

5. Kettle the bagels: Slip several risen bagels at a time into the pot -- the water should be at a healthy simmer. Cook for 45 seconds, turn them over with a slotted spoon or tongs and cook for 45 seconds longer. Drain the boiled bagels on a clean dish towel and immediately sprinkle with any topping.

Bake bagels on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Place the bagels in the oven, reduce heat to 425 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Turn over and bake for about 5 more minutes, or until golden brown.

Baker's Tip: Don't let bagels rise too long before being shaped: ++ The dough becomes slack and the hardy rings cannot hold their shape in the boiling water. Also, the characteristic, appealing denseness is lost.

Nutrition: 205 calories per bagel; 6 grams protein; 2 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat); 41 grams carbohydrate; 536 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol

Cranberry-apricot cream cheese

Makes about 1 1/3 cups

8 ounces light cream cheese

1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Blend all ingredients in a small bowl.

Nutrition: 40 calories per tablespoon: 1 gram protein, 2 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 5 grams carbohydrate; 62 milligrams sodium; 4 milligrams cholesterol

Vegetable cream cheese

Makes about 1 cup

8 ounces light cream cheese

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1/4 cup finely chopped carrots

1/4 cup finely chopped daikon radish

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill weed

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Blend all ingredients in a small bowl.

Nutrition: 30 calories per tablespoon: 2 grams protein, 3 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated fat), 2 grams carbohydrate; 88 milligrams sodium; 5 milligrams cholesterol

Smoked salmon cream cheese

Makes about 1 cup

8 ounces light cream cheese

1 ounce smoked salmon, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives or scallion greens

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Blend all ingredients in a small bowl.

Nutrition: 30 calories per tablespoon: 2 grams protein, 3 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated fat), 1 gram carbohydrate; 101 milligrams sodium; 5 milligrams cholesterol

Pub Date: 4/21/96

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