If you’re like me you love Mel Brooks. If you know me, you know I love Mel Brooks. Despite the fact that he made my maiden name famous and now the Schwartz is always with me, I love his farces and parodies. One of my favorite movies of all time, one I can watch over and over is Robin Hood Men in Tights. Mostly because I think Carey Elwes is hot. Remember that line where Rabbi Tuckman says Robin and Marion are made for each other? “I mean what a combination! Loxley and Bahgel! It can’t miss!” That’s what goes through my head every time I eat a bagel.
So yeah… bagels.
France consumes more bread than any other country in the world and they are proud of it. The numbers of baguettes per household far surpass any other household anywhere. Visit a bakery one day in a small French village. People order two, three, four baguettes for one day. People eat bread along side pasta. It’s an obsession. There are boules, ficelles, pain de mie, bâtards, pain de campagne, and the list goes on. But they don’t really know about the bagel.
My husband first tasted, first saw a bagel the first time he came to visit me. I was living in Vermont and he went to Dunkin’ Donuts one morning when I was at work. I asked him how his breakfast was and he said “I had this thing called a bagel. It was amazing. Do you know it?”
“Dude,” I said, “I grew up Jewish. Of course I know bagels!”
He didn’t quite understand the whole Jewish-bagel-lox thing then. He does now.
Back to what I was saying: bagels are not common in France. They’re getting there. McDonald’s – the bane of my French existence – has/had bagel burgers, and Picard – the frozen foods wonder – sells bagels frozen in packs of six and frozen bagel sandwiches. But who wants a frozen bagel? Not me.
And with all the good, fresh bread here, I rarely thought about bagels, though my husband – now aware of the heaven of the lox and cream cheese on a bagel combination – talked about them often. So maybe it’s the past four years of watching him buy frozen bagels and the sudden appearance of Philadelphia Cream Cheese in all the supermarkets. Maybe it’s due to my recent trip to the States. Whatever. I cracked and made us bagels.
Bagels are, in fact, one of the first breads I baked in France. However, that was before I could shop for complicated ingredients that required reading packaging on my own, and bought the wrong kind of yeast. The bagels of then were OK, they were edible, but there was a certain amount of disappointment in the house.
This time – four years later – armed with a degree in gastronomy and definite French skills – I got the right yeast and the bagels I wanted.
We topped them with garlic and herb cream cheese, tomato, onion, avocado, lettuce, a tiny bit of Dijon mustard and turkey breast.
Fries and pickles. This is haute-cuisine, people. Because it’s fresh, it’s simple and it’s a bagel.
Apparently, this is what a degree in gastronomy gets you. Not just bagels, but Bagel Sandwiches.
For the record, my husband, who was sent to the store for these ingredients, also came home with smoked salmon. Because he needed his bagel, cream cheese and lox fix.
- 1 package of active dry yeast
- 1½ cups of warm water
- 200g of multi-grain flour
- 300g of whole wheat flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons of salt
- Sandwich fixings like: turkey, tomato, cream cheese, avocado, lettuce, red onion, and Dijon mustard
- Pour the yeast into your water. Do not stir. Let it sit for five minutes, and then stir the yeast, until it all dissolves in the water. While waiting for the yeast to dissolve, mix your flours and salt in a large mixing bowl with a fork.
- Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in part of the water/yeast, mix a bit and then add the rest of the water. You should have a shaggy, coarse dough. Knead for ten minutes until the dough is smooth, firm, and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic and a damp towel and let rise at least 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size (I always just skip the bowl change; kneading and letting the dough rise in the same bowl.)
- Preheat oven 220°C/475°F. Carefully divide the dough into 8 pieces Shape each piece into a round. Now, take a dough ball, and press it gently against the countertop moving your hand and the ball in a circular motion pulling the dough into itself while reducing the pressure on top of the dough slightly until a perfect dough ball forms. Repeat with 7 other dough rounds. (See his photo on the link.)
- Coat a finger in flour, and gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the ring to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a baking sheet lined with cooking paper. When all eight balls have been bagel-shaped let sit for another 10 minutes. While waiting, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Coat a finger in flour, and gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the ring to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Repeat the same step with the remaining dough.
- Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to lower the bagels into the water. Boil as many as you are comfortable with boiling. Let them sit there for 1 minute, and them flip them over to boil for another minute. Extend the boiling times to 2 minutes each, if you’d prefer a chewier bagel (results will give you a more New York Style bagel with this option).
- If you want to top your bagels with something – seeds, herbs, what have you, you’re supposed to do it now. Or you brush the bagels with an egg wash. I disregarded all of these things and just brushed mine with olive oil. Why? Because I didn’t have any eggs and like olive oil.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until bagels are golden brown. Flip all bagels once about halfway through for crisp-ness on each side.
- Let bagels cool completely until slicing open. Top one side with cream cheese, then turkey breast, then onion, tomato and avocado last. On the other side spread a very thin layer of mustard, and top with a small handful of lettuce. Assemble for sandwich goodness. Eat with pickles.