I’M OVERLY COMPETITIVE in most areas of my life.
It has finally seeped into my kitchen.
Allow me to explain: A few weeks ago, my coworkers and I were discussing food, as we often do.
At the time, one man I work with said there is no such thing as a good bagel on the West Coast.
He’s from New Jersey, as is another coworker.
I also work with people originally from Massachusetts and New York as well as various other places.
I heard this bagel- hating comment and thought: “Challenge accepted.”
With very little effort, I found a recipe online for New York-style bagels. It was more than that, though. This recipe declared itself to be “The Real New York Bagel Recipe.”
I read through the instructions and ingredients provided by Crazy Christobal on Genius Kitchen.com at tinyurl.com/PDN-Bagels.
“That seems simple enough,” I thought to myself.
Famous last words.
Although the recipe only calls for five required ingredients and two additional ones for the cooking process, it easily had more steps to it than any recipe I’ve worked with previously, including when I roasted a turkey.
And then, of course, I put off buying the ingredients and baking the bagels until the last minute.
I’m a part-time procrastinator competing at the professional level.
When I finally went to buy the ingredients, I found myself searching for bread flour, which is different from all-purpose flour (otherwise known as the only flour I’ve ever bought on a regular basis). Apparently the two are made from different types of wheat and bread flour has more protein in it.
Having procured that, I found yeast (otherwise known as an ingredient I’ve never worked with).
The first few steps of this recipe are incredibly simple. You just combine bread flour with water and yeast and stir with a whisk until they’re well-blended. Then you let the mixture rest for a minimum of two hours.
Although this recipe has many steps, they are nearly all divided by periods of rest. Apparently dough gets as tired as I do in the kitchen.
The next set of steps are ones I found to be incredibly … icky.
There’s just no other words for rolling dough out on the counter and getting your fingers into the gooey mixture. I don’t have the best mixer in the world, so it wasn’t able to properly handle kneading the dough. The outside looked fine, but more flour needed to be incorporated into the inside, which is how I found myself squishing my fingers into a gooey mess on my counter.
I’m sure the look on my face was fairly priceless.
Once the dough is properly kneaded and rolled into 12 balls comes another, very welcome rest period. All I can say about kneading dough is that my shoulders muscles are accustomed to less work.
The next step is an easy one, though. It just requires shaping each ball of dough into the classic bagel shape with a hole in the middle. Then the dough rests again for a minimum of three hours or even overnight. I, of course, went with the overnight option.
The last two steps are the most fun and the most rewarding. I have no idea why, but I was quite amused with dropping the bagel-shaped dough into boiling water and watching it splash and roll along with each bubble.
Then baking the bagels — even in my untrustworthy oven — was quite simple. I took it in five-minute increments so I wouldn’t accidentally burn them.
Finally, with fresh-from-the-oven bagels in hand, I went to work and shared them with coworkers.
One New Jersey man said they had a great chew. The other New Jersey man gave me the best compliment I could expect from him: “You did a good job.”
And a third coworker kindly sent me a written review which included “Your excellent effort proves that it can be done even on the West Coast, and serves as a reminder not to be taken in by the lame, uniformly shaped so-called ‘bagels’ at grocery stores.”
Emily Hanson is a copy editor/paginator for the Peninsula Daily News. She is also a beginning baker and clumsy cook. She can be reached at 360-452-2345 ext. 560-50 or [email protected] dailynews.com.