May it Please the Palate- Bagels without ingredients

By Nick Roumel

Been wanting to try bagels for a long time. There was no compelling reason to make them myself, as I hear they're available in local stores. For instance, there's a place near my office called Zingerman's that sells bagels. I hear they're pretty good.

Then I start finding out, other people know about Zingerman's. Maybe not on every planet in the universe, but certainly throughout the solar system. In fact, Zingerman's may even become the ninth planet after the recent demotion of Pluto. If Zingerman's were in fact a planet, I think it would have rings. And the rings, naturally, would be bagel-shaped.

My LS&A Magazine, a twice-yearly publication that goes out to University of Michigan graduates, published a food issue in Spring, 2012. I learned that superstar Chicago chefs Rick Bayless and Stephanie Izard are UM alumni. So is Frank Carollo, who makes bagels at Zingerman's Bakehouse. He shared his recipe in the magazine.

Problem was, of the seven ingredients Carollo listed, I only had three--and two of those were water and salt. The others I had partial ingredients, or near misses, or completely different substitutes altogether. But that was not going to deter me, so here's what I used:


2 3/4 cups water - I had this.

1/4 cup and 1 TBS barley malt --I didn't have this. I didn't know what to use. This sounded vaguely beer-like so it gave me an excuse to crack a PBR longneck. But when I started researching the issue, I learned that molasses is a slightly less sweet substitute for this ingredient, so I mixed molasses with a bit of corn syrup.

1 TBS demerara sugar--I did not have this fancy pants raw sugar. I used brown sugar.

1 tsp. yeast - I had this.

8 1/4 cup bread flour--I fell a bit short. To top off my measuring cup, I wavered between xanthum gum and garbanzo bean flour. I opted for the latter.

1 TBS sea salt--I had this.


I am faithfully reprinting the directions below, but I can't resist some editorial comments.

1. In a bowl add the water, barley malt, demerara sugar, and yeast. Stir together with a wooden spoon. Add half of the flour and mix to incorporate the ingredients. Why a wooden spoon? I learned that (a) wooden spoons fold ingredients more gently than a sharper metal object, and (b) do not chemically react in an unpleasant fashion with some ingredients.

2. Add the remaining flour and salt and incorporate the ingredients together until the dough is a shaggy mass. Shaggy? Oh baby, it's an Austin Powers recipe! Or perhaps Scooby-Doo?

3. Empty the bowl onto a clean, dry surface. Knead the dough for 8 minutes, then put the plain dough into an oiled container. Cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest (ferment) at room temperature for 1 hour. Seriously, 8 minutes? Who figured that out? And why couldn't I use beer to help it ferment?

4. Divide the plain bagel dough into 12 pieces and cover with plastic. Roll each piece of dough into a strand about 8 to 10 inches long with bulges on both ends. Wrap the ends together overlapping about 1 inch and roll the seams to lock the ends.

5. Place the finished bagels on a lightly floured board and cover with plastic wrap. Ferment for 1 hour.

6. Pre-heat the oven to 475° one hour before baking bagels.

7. Bring a stockpot filled with water to a simmer. Add the bagels to the simmering water and boil until the bagels float (10-45 seconds). Mine took closer to the 45 second mark.

8. Remove the bagels from the water. Place on a bagel board (wood covered with wet burlap) for a few minutes and then transfer the bagels to a cookie sheet and place into the oven. No. I do not have a bagel board. I did meekly substitute cheesecloth, rather than make a bold stand to place the bagels on naked wood.

9. Bake at 475°F for 3 minutes, then flip the bagel and continue baking for 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool.

These turned out beautifully, if a bit small. They had the trademark shiny, chewy crust of a real Zingerman's bagel and a perfectly textured interior. With the substitution for barley malt, there were distinct molasses flavor, but they were nonetheless delicious. They'd be even better with cream cheese--assuming I had any in the house. Hmm, what can I use instead? Now, where did I put that PBR longneck?

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitplease thepalate.

Published: Thu, Jan 24, 2013