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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Bite Sized Stories: Bountiful bagels

Jaclyn and Maddie woke up early in the morning to start preparing the bagels for a potluck brunch. There were few expectations for their first attempt at these hole-y breads, but with plenty of everything bagel seasoning — caraway, sesame and poppy seeds along with dried garlic and dried onion — they were bound to taste good. The real judgement of the bagels would ultimately be of their texture. Our judge, Alice, who controversially proclaims Long Island bagels as superior, was looking for the contrast of a firm crumb and a fluffy interior.

Starting with a foamy and active mixture of yeast and sugar, flour and salt were then added, and the mix was kneaded into a ball of tacky dough. It was then lightly covered in olive oil to both prevent it from sticking to the bowl and to trap as much moisture as possible. As the hungry yeast munched away at the sugar and flour, the dough became elevated with bubbles of air, suspended by the elastic gluten. It only took an hour for the dough to double in size while sitting above the warm oven, which was busy baking some mini frittatas to accompany brunch.

Once the dough was done rising, it was cleaved into two halves that were each gently rolled out into a log and split into 12 pieces. These 24 pieces of dough were then rolled tightly into seamless balls, to varying degrees of success. They rested for 10 more minutes before many helping hands began sticking their thumbs through the center of the dough balls and stretching them into a bagel’s identifiable shape.

All the bagels finally came together after being boiled, seasoned and baked in two batches. Traditionally, bagels are boiled with barley malt syrup mixed in New York’s acclaimed water. While some bagel shops across the country will ship New York water for authenticity, we opted for baking soda and Medford’s finest from our own tap. The alkaline solution, according to our friend Mert, gives the bagels their distinct chewiness.

Each bagel was boiled for two minutes on each side and then set aside on a baking sheet before being washed with some egg white and seasoned. While most friends requested the everything seasoning, we had a few bagels left to spare for some experimentation with fennel, rosemary and Japanese rice seasoning. The rice seasoning, called furikake, is packed with the umami flavors of nori, bonito flakes, salt and sesame seeds.

After baking for 20 minutes, the bagels transformed from wet, wrinkly dough rings into beautifully browned and puffed bagels. One bagel even came with some extra protein thanks to a rather heavy egg wash. All of the bagels quickly disappeared that morning into words of praise, accompanied by an amazing spread of other brunch foods like apple pancakes, fried chickpeas, scrambled eggs, chocolate chip waffles and shakshuka. It could have just been our friends' grumbling stomachs that welcomed the food, but even Alice decided they were the best bagels she’s had — in Boston.