Everything you need to make and serve bagels – The Forward
On the momentous occasion of National Bagel Day – February 9 – comes news of an upcoming book that will help you celebrate well.
“Bagels, Schmears and a nice piece of fish: a whole brunch of recipes to make at home“(Chronicle Books) by Cathy Barrow is about all things bagel: how to get seeds to stick properly, the right way to spread a bagel, and a treatise on the all-important skill of constructing a bagel sandwich whose ingredients don’t Crush when you bite into it.
So it’s the bagel book we didn’t know we needed, a must-have for bagel and food lovers everywhere, especially outside of the big cities where good bagels are hard to find.
Given the continued popularity of bagels, it was only a matter of time before someone wrote an entire cookbook devoted to them and their accompaniments. There have been plenty of Jewish cookbooks that already include bagel recipes, but this is perhaps the first to make bagels the centerpiece.
Barrow immediately established his Jewish credibility by dedicating the book “To my Mishpocha”. A food writer and cookbook author who lives in the Washington, DC area, Barrow has previously written three award-winning cookbooks, including James Beard Award-nominated “Pie Squared.”
The intro is titled “My Bagel Life,” and its second sentence will no doubt make many readers nod in recognition: “My Boston-born mom, Jan, wasn’t built for Toledo, Ohio. , lamenting a world without a seaside, an international airport, or a single fresh-baked bagel.
We then learn how her grandmother Bea would fly out to visit family, bringing bagels from her mother’s favorite Brookline bakery, an act of love that resonates deeply with all of us who have become bagel mules, filling our luggage with valuable ferry luggage from bagel mecca like New York to where we live in bagel exile.
For years, Barrow tried to bake the perfect bagel herself, with poor results, most often ending up with just a roll with a hole in it.
Everything changed when a Washington Post recipe introduced her to high-gluten flour, which allowed her to crack the code for an authentic bagel that passed in all the necessary categories: consistency, crust, malt, taste and chewing.
Once she mastered that skill, she went on to experiment with all the accompaniments one could crave: schmears – both sweet and savory – fish, pickles.
The bagel section is the largest though, with 11 pages devoted to technique, 29 pages devoted to the classics, and then “bagels my grandmothers wouldn’t recognize.”
Disclaimer: Blueberry is just a starting point.
Barrow, whose family has European Jewish roots, did not grow up religious. Not only did her mom’s parents have a Christmas tree, her mom’s mom (get ready) flavored her matzo balls with bacon grease. Therefore, no one should be surprised that the section on unrecognizable bagels includes one with Asiago cheese and pepperoni.
Ask anyone who’s made them and they’ll tell you that bagels aren’t hard to make at home. Barrow’s standard recipe calls for just five ingredients: high-gluten flour, malt-based sweetener, yeast, salt, and water.
But given that they require many steps, some of which the day before, the time commitment is more than many home cooks are willing to invest. Not to mention that the fermentation process, which can take anywhere from eight to 14 hours, takes up valuable space in the fridge overnight.
Barrow’s method keeps the morning boil and cook routine down to one o’clock, provided you take the right steps the night before.
There’s also a gluten-free bagel recipe, which Barrow says comes pretty close to a New York specimen, and of course, it touches on the distinction between New York and Montreal.
Barrow includes a section on all of its recommended ingredients by brand, and what substitutes will and won’t work. It gives explicit instructions on how to measure barley malt syrup and gives up the idea that legitimate bagels require New York City water.
A stand mixer is recommended. The trusty Kitchen Aid that many have will do, but the heavy batter will take its toll. Hand kneading for 15-20 minutes is another option.
Barrow is excellent at troubleshooting, offering advice on everything from bagels that are too dense to how to keep them from sticking to parchment paper. It includes recipes for pletzel and bialy, and discusses bagel-like items from other cultures.
The schmears, fish and pickles sections continue with the same amount of granular detail. While bagels take at least 12 hours to make, making cream cheese from scratch takes four days. No active time, of course, but it takes just as much time for the dairy to flow properly and become cultured.
Like the bagel section, the schmear section offers all the classics. Many of us probably wouldn’t need a scallion or chive cream cheese recipe, but they’re there anyway, with a non-kosher option, bacon, and scallions too. Other novelty shmears include ready-to-use options like Hot Honey and Marcona Almond, Dried Apricot, Coconut and Thyme, and Tamari Almond Candied Ginger.
There are recipes for salting your own fish in different ways, as well as standard appetizer spreads like whitefish, tuna, chicken, and egg salads.
After the pickles section, which has both vinegar and lacto-fermented pickles, there’s a chapter on bagel sandwiches, which, again, has both classic ideas we’d recognize and things which we certainly wouldn’t recognize, like “If a bagel was a burrito”.
There are menu suggestions for a bagel brunch and a shiva.
“I did not start this project with the idea that writing and cooking would evoke memories of my grandparents, that I would taste again foods that we ate regularly when I was very young, or that I would start dreaming about this time,” Barrow wrote at the start. “But that is precisely what happened.”
Hopefully, the same will happen to the reader.
The book will be available next month and can be pre-ordered nowon National Bagel Day.