Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bagel Maddness

In this past years of trying to eat healthier and get in shape, I have taken to really reading labels on food again. I used to do this a lot in college, mostly because I had to for many of my classes. It was something that was always interesting to me but not a dire thing that I lived by. It was not until I took a food and nutrition class that things like additives and preservatives became a concern for me, and I made some small changes. Margarine and butter like spreads were banned from the house. I tried to make some efforts to cut back on corn syrups and other additives, but then life took over. I was a busy working person and had less and less time to look at things, and the husband was right in the same boat with me, too busy to notice. Once I left the working world for my new calling as a homemaker, label reading came back into vogue for me.

We began to eat healthier foods, and most of our food began as pure elements into the finished product rather than prepared fair that was matched together in a menu. I was, however, still packing on the weight in a way that I did not particularly relish. One of the biggest culprits I found, breakfast. I love breakfast... it is my favorite meal of the day. I started to notice, however, that I was eating large breakfasts every day regardless of how hungry I was. One of the biggest issues in the big breakfast and portion size was the bagel. I love bagels, I could eat them just about every day, and sometimes I even substitute them in for dinner and lunch. It was looking at this staple of our house that I found a calorie culprit. I am not a big fan of eating only one half of a bagel, and that was the serving size on the package. Then I looked at the total calories when eating both sides. Yikes! Too many for a meal, and that was not including the cream cheese or peanut butter on top, or the yogurt or fruit on the side! I needed to find smaller bagels.

This search for smaller bagels resulted in finding only those tiny bite sized ones that people would use to make bagel pizza bites. This also, surprisingly only came in plain most times as well. I did finally find one type made for a local discount grocery chain that were small enough with few enough calories to qualify. I was, however, disappointed in their construction. No real chewy skin, few raisins to speak of, and the cinnamon flavor was severely lacking. I decided to go down the path of homemade. This, unlike my attempts at replacing English muffins, went smashingly. I turned to my trusty Reinhart's Artisan Bread Everyday book for advice. He had a wonderfully easy recipe for bagels. I thought this had to be too good to be true. I spend about 20 minutes tops at the mixer, let things rest, shape and then into the fridge for two days to ferment. This is by far the hardest thing about the recipe, remembering to start these with enough time to have a new batch before you run out of them. From there it is a trip to the boiling water concoction and into the oven. So easy, and so worth it to make bagels from scratch. I still have to work on my shaping skills, but they come out wonderfully.

A few notes on things I have learned from this. Make a double batch of the dough. It really is worth your time and effort to make two sets as the boiling liquid uses barley malt syrup, the only expensive item in the recipe. I like to get the most bang for my buck, so making a double batch means only making one batch of poaching liquid and less waste as the liquid is discarded after boiling the bagels. I also find that I eat them so fast that a double batch makes me have to work on this remembering two days in advance business. I also let my bagels cool completely, place them into a plastic bag, and then freeze them. This keeps them in good condition longest. Remember that with out stabilizers and preservatives, mold can creep into these breads faster. I hope that this recipe review is helpful. I find myself turning to his book more and more for things. Hopefully I can work on my English muffin technique more soon to come up with some notes on how that quest is going. I think I may have the right recipe, just not the right technique yet. Practice makes perfect, and eating my mistakes is at least not that painful.

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