I have made bagels from scratch. Flat, mediocre bagels. After my first two successful weeks with the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge, this is a bit of a let down. I woke up this morning at 5 a.m. to boil and then bake the bagels that had been retarding in the refrigerator overnight. I had hoped to wow my husband and the boys with fresh, hot, delicious bagels for their breakfast.

Fresh -- yes. Hot -- yes. Delicious -- meh.

The recipe in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice book called for high gluten flour (14 percent gluten protein), but said that using bread flour (12 percent gluten protein) would still work well. I used the bread flour so that might account for some of the mediocrity of my bagels.

They’re still edible, but they taste more like chewy regular bread instead of chewy bagels. And, although there is no baking soda in the recipe, they do get boiled in water with baking soda in it. Both my husband and I had a baking soda aftertaste when we ate them plain.

I toasted one and ate it with butter, and it was fine, but it just wasn’t what you’d expect from a bagel. My bagel-loving 7 year old (my 6 year old turned into a 7 year old last weekend) didn’t like them at all. My older son ate one as a sandwich with bacon, egg and cheese and said it was fine. Sure it was fine -- its blah-ness was masked by bacon, egg and cheese.

Still, I made bagels from scratch, which is something I’ve never attempted before. So I’m going to focus on a few positive things from this experience.

  • I learned about the gluten content in different flours. I never knew what made bread flour better than all-purpose flour for bread, but now I do -- it’s the gluten content (FYI, there is 10 percent gluten protein in all-purpose flour). So I learned something new which is why I’m doing this challenge in the first place.
  • So far in my bread baking experiences, I have been able to reuse materials instead of using new items like plastic zipper bags, plastic wrap and wax paper. I’ve used two layers of dishtowels to cover bowls while dough has been proofing instead of covering with plastic wrap. I’ve used the inside sleeves from cereal and cracker boxes in place of wax paper to let things rest on. Last night, I wrapped my trays of bagels in two layers of plastic grocery bags instead of large, food-grade plastic zipper bags like the book recommended.
    I don’t know if doing any of this has affected the quality of my breads, but I figure 100 years ago people didn’t use plastic wrap or zipper bags and they still made bread.
  • I’m using terms like proofing, retarding and sponge with confidence now.
  • Only four weeks until I get to make cinnamon buns/sticky buns!

I have a feeling there will be other types of breads I will attempt during this challenge that will not turn out fabulously, and I’ll take the time to try again and do it right. I won’t do this with bagels, though. There are many places around me where I can get good bagels and I think I’ll stick with letting the experts make them for now.

Next week I attempt brioche. 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Bread baker's challenge: Bagels
Our food blogger continues her bread baking challenge and has a little trouble with bagels. Still, she's determined to learn from it.