The ever resourceful Gert Jan Vos, chef/patron of Oren, Hole in the Wall Street in Caernarfon, changes his menu every week which keeps this baker well on his toes. Last week he was drawing from both the Ashkenazy and Sephardic traditions for a Jewish week. Not very original or authentic, I thought it would be a good opportunity to make bagels + some poppy seed plaits.
So I turned to SourDom’s recipe on the Australian Sourdough site which I had been meaning to try for years http://sourdough.com/recipes/sourdough-bagels. Fortunately just for once I decided to do a trial run but I didn’t go as far as reading the recipe properly. The plan was to mix the dough, ferment it at ambient temperature, scale and shape the bagels and prove them overnight in the fridge, do the business in the morning.
When bedtime came I was just too shattered to face scaling & shaping. I was about to stash the dough in the fridge when the thought “brown sugar” crept into the remains of the brain. To be honest this batch hadn’t yet become a trial run but it was just about to. I knew there was sugar in the recipe and I knew I hadn’t included it. So I did a silly thing. I pressed out the dough sprinkled some of the sugar over the surface, did three folds, pressed out and repeated a couple of times. Into the fridge/into bed.
Next day was a day of omens (what good are omens a day late?). I was lying in the bath as deep in hot water as I could make it, with embryonic Great Thoughts just noodling around on the edge of manifesting themselves, when they evaporated in a great crash against the window. Bloody Hell, I thought, that has to be a seagull or at least a jackdaw. Moving gingerly to avoid causing a tsunami I cautiously opened the Venetians to be confronted by a large …… cat.
Yes, the window is fifteen feet above the road.
It was Legs Lazareth. Legs because the bottom half of his hind legs are white and are still walking when the rest of him has disappeared into the jungle; Lazareth because he rose from the dead. So far in my three and a half years of microbaking there has only been one day of total disaster. We had a rare combination of heat and humidity that caused doughs to collapse before I could get them through the oven. Doughs in the fridge continued to rise in temperature. In the midst of the chaos Sue found Legs, then a very young cat, lying in the garden in the sun, hyperventilating. She moved him into the shade and gave him water but he just lay there for hours panting away. Was sure he was going to die. Checked on him that night before we went to be and he was gone.
But he rose from the dead and now he is so grateful he would like to give us the pleasure of his company during our every waking hour. Piss off Legs.
Omen II. Later in the day, lunchtime to be precise, I had a Pulp Fiction moment, you know, like when dozens of bullets are sprayed at point blank range and no one gets hit and Samuel L Jackson takes it to be a miracle. My big oven is on a deep shelf set into the window reveals about five feet above the quarry-tiled floor. I was taking something out of the oven and inadvertently dragged out a dinner plate put in to warm. I just about got a knee to it which only served to deflect it slightly towards a group of about ten empty wine bottles (lucky it was Lent) awaiting recycling. The plate bounced off its edge on the tiles and crashed into the bottles, knocking every one over AND NOTHING BROKE. The noise was phenomenal.
In my youth I did a stint as assistant stage manager at Dundee Repertory Theatre. During Panto, in one scene the sound of a revving engine preceded the fleeting sight of the Ugly Sisters shooting across the stage on a clapped-out Vespa into the wings where I was waiting to simulate the noise of a crash. We had the recorded sound of a crash which I augmented by tipping a bin of tin cans down a short, stone staircase by the side of the stage. There was a bit of latitude at the last performance and us menials where allowed to play the odd trick on the actors. So for the last night I assembled a huge collection of cans in a galvanised dustbin including a full week’s empty McEwens Export tins from the bar (and we are talking Dundee here), short scaffold tubes, old saucepans – anything that would make a din – and managed to keep the sound going for about 30 seconds before lobbing over the bin itself. But I would have been proud to have created the sound of the devastation in the kitchen that day.
Back to the bagels. When I took the dough out in the morning it had become a sort of patchy laminate, the laminations separated by wet, sugary areas. I gave it a bit of an unconvinced kneed which didn’t make it much better but carried on anyway (without checking the proper way of forming bagels). Rolled them out and pinched the ends together. Started off proving them at room temperature, read something that suggested they should be chilled when they go into the boiling water, so switched back to the fridge.
Most of them opened up in the boiling water because I hadn’t rolled the ends together. The final product was pretty lumpy and uneven. Our neighbours fell on them saying they were wonderful but I know the truth.
The second batch came out fine but that doesn’t make such a good story. Except I don’t think sugar was needed in the first place.