22 February 2011

Food Lab 7: Boiled Doughs

Food labbing during football season didn't work quite as well as we'd hoped, but the season's over now, so it's time to get back to experiments with food!

First up: boiled doughs, aka bagels (and pretzels).

So one of the things that's interesting about boiled doughs is that the boiling process basically super-charges the second rise. Which is a good thing, since immersion in boiling water also kills the yeast.

We decided to do two takes on bagels:

1. Based on the recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

2. Based on a recipe from Emeril Lagasse.

The Bittman recipe was a long rise recipe, so we went with pumpernickel flour (4 parts to 2 parts whole wheat pastry flour and 2 parts bread flour, all King Arthur) and SAF red label yeast. Initial rise there was about two hours.

The Lagasse recipe was a short rise recipe, so we went with Fleischmann's yeast (which is faster-acting) with equal parts whole wheat pastry flour and bread flour. We also substituted barley malt syrup for the sugar, since we had it on hand for the pumpernickel bagels, but you could also use honey or a honey/molasses combo. Its initial rise was about an hour.

(The sugar, of course, helps activate the yeast by giving it something to feed on, and using something other than plain granulated sugar adds some subtle flavors and a little moisture.)

In the meantime, we also mixed up a soft pretzel dough. I can't remember where I got the recipe (although I do promise to reproduce it in another post), but I do remember that I found it while looking for a replacement for the recipe in the CIA baking book, which calls for barley malt syrup (which I didn't have on hand at the time) and...boiling in a lye solution. Not gonna happen. (Although Mama IA is agitating for a liquid nitrogen lab, so perhaps Dangerous Kitchen Ingredients Lab is in my future.)

Pretzels are nice because they're super fast - first rise is 45 minutes, you form the pretzels, second rise is 20 minutes, you boil them, then bake for 20 minutes. From "let me collect my ingredients" to "break out the mustard!" it takes less than 2 hours.

Most recipes for bagels advise dividing your risen, punched down, and re-kneaded dough into 8 (or 10 or 12) pieces, rolling them into logs and then pinching the ends together. That seemed a little silly to us. We formed our bagels by making dough balls, then poking a hole through the middle, and swirling them around on a finger to form a dough ring.

Then it was time for the second rise, about 30 minutes for each set.

Quick pop into a kettle of boiling water - about a minute per side - then baking for about 30 minutes in a 425 degree oven.

Observations: these are nice normal sized bagels, not GIANT bagels, thank goodness. And they taste great, particularly the pumpernickel variety. But they came out sort of flat. I think in retrospect, I'd definitely let the second rise go longer, and possibly the first rise, too. I think the whole wheat pastry flour might be the culprit, as the texture was nice, but we didn't get a strong rise. Perhaps a little more kneading time would be of benefit, too. Also, we had the kitchen door open (you'll see why below), so it might have been a little chilly for dough.

So why was the kitchen door open? Because what goes with bagels better than smoked fish?

Specifically, smoked rainbow trout and smoked salmon.

Chef Spouse and I stopped at Eastern Market on our way to the IAs' pad and bought two beautiful whole boned but head and skin on trout, and a gorgeous piece of wild Alaskan king salmon fillet.

We were going to attempt an outdoor smoking in the IAs' outdoor fire pit, but it was a code red day for fires around here (high winds), so we used The Mad Kitchen Scientist's indoor smoking method:

Line a large saute pan with a tight-fitting lid with foil.

Cover the foil with a thin layer of rice and sugar (aka, "stuff that will burn").

Set a circular rack on some foil ball spacers.

Season your fish as you like, pop it on the rack, and cover with that tight-fitting lid.

Heat the pan on high until it starts smoking (that tight-fitting lid won't completely contain the smoke, which is why the door was open), and leave on the fire for about 25 minutes.

Then turn the burner off and let the pan sit, tightly covered, for about another 20-30 minutes, at which point lifting the lid hopefully will not set off your smoke alarm.

This was delicious and SUPER easy.

Accompanying drink? Manhattans of course. (Get it? Bagels? Manhattans? I kill me!) We all fell in love with Redemption Rye (a recent acquisition) and Fee Brothers bitters, although I remained firmly in my traditional whiskey barrel bitters camp, while Mad Kitchen Scientist definitely preferred the rhubarb. Chef Spouse is a Peychaud's man. Regardless, if you've been mixing cocktails without bitters, shame on you. They add a level of complexity that's impossible to achieve any other way. And they're dirt cheap - a bottle will run you about $6 and probably last you at least a year. You have NO excuse! Go get some!

One of the frequent side effects of food lab is that I discover new kitchen tools I MUST have. This one showed me four:
  1. A circular rack for my largest saute pan so I can stovetop smoke my own fish.
  2. A Danish dough whisk. LOVE! Makes starting a yeast dough MUCH easier than using a spoon.
  3. A SodaStream. Do you have ANY idea how much club soda we go through during mint julep season?
  4. An Appalachian kneading bowl. The Mad Kitchen Scientist has a gorgeous hand-carved specimen he acquired while in Blacksburg, VA that I attempted to steal. Sadly, he noticed. So now I have to figure out where to get one. Any ideas?


Tony T said...

I think you'd find that the lye solution for boiling pretzels is fairly dilute, so you might want to give it a try some time.
And, I believe you could get an Appalachian kneading bowl in Blacksburg VA. Now you just need to decide whether it's worth the trip. :)

Mad Kitchen Scientist said...

The kneading bowl source is a woodworker named Glendon Boyd, of Floyd, Virginia. A quick search of the Internet suggests he has kept a fairly low electronic profile. Some references to participation in various art shows and festivals, but not much else . . .