In the BBA book, Peter Reinhart talks about different kinds of bagels – chewy water bagels and softer steamed bagels. Peter’s theory is that nothing can top the taste of a memory. So true for me... Every Saturday night we would visit my grandparents and on the way home stop for bagels on St. Viateur, in Montreal. I remember those very very cold snowy evenings, shivering in the back seat and my mom telling me that I would soon have the bagels to warm me up. We would pull up to the little shop. The windows were always steamy and there would be a line up in front of the wood oven. I would go in with my dad and watch the bakers. The bagel workers would be rolling out ropes of the dough and winding it into bagels...incredibly quickly! I was so impressed and still love watching them-even now! After shaping them, they would drop them in the boiling alkalized water (I think) and then place them on the long wooden planks in the wood burning oven. The place was always busy and when you walked into the store, the wonderful smell of the bagels was intoxicating - a memory that will last forever. Perhaps that is one reason that I love baking bread. The bagels were still so hot that they had to be packaged in brown paper bags – plastic bags would have melted. I would run back to the car clutching the hot bagels and my mom would repeat to me many times “you can’t eat them when they are so hot. You will get a stomach ache!” ...hmmm I’m not sure if any of that is true, but the fact is, bagels to me were a way to stay warm and yes, of course I ate them (sneaking them of course). If you ever get to Montreal, you can still go to St-Viateur Bagel. It really hasn’t changed much over time and is worth a visit.
For the Bread Bakers Apprentice Challenge, bagels were next on my list. I had fun making them and when I tasted them, I closed my eyes and yes they were tasty and chewy and really quite good. But there was no wood-burning oven to give them the look and smoky taste that I remember so well. I don’t have a wood-burning oven though, so I can’t compete with that taste. The first time I made them, I didn’t make the holes big enough so when they baked, they almost completely closed. This time, I made the holes too big...next time I hope to get it right - practice makes perfect! I will be going to Montreal soon and will definitely pick up bagels on my next trip... and I promise I won’t eat them hot Mom!
Until we bake again...
In support of Peter Reinhart's book, we will not be posting the recipes from The Bread Baker's Apprentice.