Craving comfort

  • Homemade sourdough bagels. Staff photo/Andy Castillo

  • Homemade sourdough bagels. Staff photo/Andy Castillo—

  • Homemade sourdough bagels topped with a fried egg, mozorella and avocado. For the Recorder/Brianna Castillo

  • After boiling them, the bagels go in the oven for about 20 minutes. For the Recorder/Brianna Castillo

Staff Writer
Published: 6/25/2020 9:58:15 AM

On most mornings, my breakfast is comprised of Greek yogurt with granola and a tall glass of iced coffee refrigerated overnight. But sometimes, on weekends, in particular, I crave complexity — like a fried egg sandwiched between a homemade sourdough bagel with farm-fresh veggies, mozzarella cheese and avocado.

This craving, which I’m sure is experienced occasionally by everyone reading this article right now, started for me exactly seven years ago when I was, in all places, serving with the Air Force in Manama, Bahrain. 

Right next to the barbershop and across from the base chapel there was a one-room ‘New York-style’ bagel shop with very limited hours that served halved bagels smothered in melted butter and cream cheese. Of course, the offerings of that small restaurant can hardly be compared to that which is readily available stateside. But in the desert, everything tastes better, especially when you’re homesick and searching for something that’s familiar.

While I’ve since departed the military and no longer ask for a ‘high-and-tight’ haircut, I still seek out bagels when I’m looking for comfort food.

Quarantining has made me homesick for normalcy.

Unfortunately, there’s no quaint ‘New York-style’ bagel shop near me that’s open for business right now. So, when my bagel-craving set in last week, I was faced with two choices: Go without or make them myself. I chose the latter, ensured the sourdough starter I’d started in May was still active and loosely followed a recipe for sourdough bagels I found on the website Baked: The Blog — they came out exactly as I’d envisioned them: crispy on the outside with a complex flavor and chewy on the inside. 

Served with a fried egg, fresh greens and thinly chopped garlic scapes from Bardwell Farm in Hatfield, mozzarella cheese and avocado, the bagels brought me to a place of heavenly bliss — for a minute, I forgot that I was living through a global pandemic.

New York Style Sourdough Bagels

This is a multi-day process, so make sure you anticipate your cravings at least a day before they happen. The bagels can also be frozen or chilled for a longer shelf-life. Also, note that I added a teaspoon of active dry yeast because my starter was a little bit flat. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can always add more flour and water (maybe ¾ cups of flour to ¼ cup water, perhaps more). The consistency of my dough came to about that of pizza dough.

1 cup sourdough starter

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 1/4 cups water

2 teaspoons maple syrup

5 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

Flour for proofing

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 tablespoon brown sugar

On the first day, mix the starter with the water and maple syrup. Then add the flour and salt. Knead the dough until it’s smooth, for about six or seven minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, cover and rest 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into eight equal smaller balls, rolling them on a flour-covered surface in order to make an exterior skin. Cover them and rest for another 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour.

There are two ways to shape the bagels: First, you can roll each ball into a log, then wrap the ends together into a circle. Alternatively (the option that I went with), you can flatten the balls of dough into a disk, poke a hole through the center and shape the dough into something that looks like a bagel.

Once they look like bagels, put the dough on the floured sheets, cover them, and let them proof at room temperature for around three or four hours. To make sure the bagels are proofed, drop a bagel in cold water — if it floats, they’re in good shape. Cover the pan and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

On the second day, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and get out your toppings. At this point, I massaged a few blueberries into the dough. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda and brown sugar. Boil the bagels, one at a time, for around 15 to 20 seconds per side. Use a slotted spoon to flip them.

Remove the boiled bagels, shake off the water, sprinkle the toppings and put them back on the baking sheet. Once all the bagels are boiled, bake them for around 20 minutes until the dough is golden on top.

Voila. Craving satisfied.

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