I have a confession to make. I love food. Okay. No surprise there. Who doesn’t love food?
Let me rephrase that. I love German food. Now, German food isn’t necessarily known as the the crème de la crème when it comes to international cuisines. Usually, people think Italian, French, Indian, Thai, Japanese, … People probably think about a lot of cuisines before German occurs to them.
My love for German food is undoubtably affected by the fact that I am German and that it’s as much a matter of taste buds as it is a matter of the heart. But all bias aside, I sincerely enjoy the tastes and textures of German cuisine. The meats, all kinds of Knödel (dumplings), cheese, Sauerkraut, Laugenbrez’n, Spargel (asparagus – a big deal over here!), Lebkuchen (gingerbread), our wines and beers… the bread. There are a lot of really delicious things coming out of this little country and bread, above all, has always been one of the things I miss first and most whenever I stay abroad.
When I moved to New York, one of the most exciting food cities in the world, I’ve had my fair share of struggles with missing what gave me comfort. There is German food and there is good German food, but it never felt easy to get. It wasn’t like here, where you’d just walk a couple of meters to the next bakery to get some good bread, take it home, spread it thick with butter (or Nutella, depending on what kind of day it was) and enjoy the comfort it provides. In New York, good German bread always meant a subway ride, a small or big trip, one you usually realized was too much of a hassle.
I wasn’t crazy about American food while I lived in New York. There are more amazing international restaurants than you could possibly ever go to in your life and I was happy to stick with those. Don’t me wrong, I did enjoy the occasional burgers and fries, but most of the time, I would’ve picked the hummus and falafel place instead. So to me, the irony wasn’t lost when I started craving one of the most iconic NYC foods. The bagel. All these amazing sourdough, dark rye, pumpernickel, whole wheat breads and pretzels just a couple of meters away and all I want is a bagel. Too bad that a good bagel is pretty much impossible to find. (Murphy’s Law? Hi Murphy!)
Last weekend, I had some time on my hands and I decided to take matters in my own hands. After all, mine couldn’t be worse than the ones you get at the store here, right? I’m by no means an expert at bread baking, but I’ve baked a handful of breads and know how to knead and let it rise, how to shape the whole thing. So when my bagels started looking like this, I was a little concerned:
This was taken after kneading and rising for an hour during which the dough should’ve doubled in size. Mine didn’t.
I was prepared for ending up with some mini bagels. However, after cooking them, this happened.
The four in the front have been cooked, the two in the back are pre-bath. I never imagined them to swell quite this much.
The bagels turned out quite large, however, didn’t rise further once baked. (Good! My baking sheet wouldn’t have held larger bagels.)
Bagels, freshly baked.
Bagels, close up.
Of course, one of the hardest tasks was to let them cool. As always.
Overall, I was quite pleased with the result for a first try. I’ve noticed a couple of times in the past that my oven isn’t quite as strong and that I have to bake cakes and breads a good amount of time longer than instructed by the recipe. For these bagels, I used Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s recipe from How to Make Bread. The recipe called for 15 minutes of baking. I kept mine in the oven for 30 and still wasn’t too happy about the firmness of the crust. I think I need to try a different temperature next time. I liked the taste of these bagels.