Bagels hold a dear place in my heart. Lots of my food memories include a bagel as part of a simple meal. Some of those bagels were good, but some were perfection.
I first made bagels while working at The Morning Glory Bakery in Bar Harbor. The owner, Ralph, had the dough all mixed and ready when I arrived, bright and early on those warm summer days. After cutting, shaping, resting, boiling and baking the dough, the bagels were ready to eat. Warm out of the oven, slathered with some peanut butter and jelly, it was my first food after a very busy morning of baking. The sweetness of the jelly, slight sour of the bagel, a little salt from the peanut butter, mmmmmmmm. Delicious! The firm outer with a chewy inner, a true, yet simple culinary pleasure.
A few years later I was introduced to a more complex bagel flavor at one of the first Kneading Conferences. Allison, from Scratch Baking Company, headed a bagel making workshop. Those bagels were AMAZING! They were lighter than my (formerly) favorite (sorry, Ralphie), Morning Glory bagels, yet still chewy, sour, with a beautifully, caramelized outer. I was hooked! Any time my family found ourselves in the Portland area we made a special trip to that super cute bakery to obtain some of those amazing bagels. My most recent trip there I dragged my kids and a good friend along with me to get the bagels, not too early, on a Sunday morning. The bagel line was out the door. We contemplated whether to stay and wait or find a second best breakfast option. My patient companions stuck it out and we waited. The bagel baskets filled, then emptied, and we waited some more. More bagels came out of the oven and we were among the last to grab the beauties from that batch. There’s a twelve bagel purchase limit and I had planned to buy the maximum number so we could share some. At the last minute, as I was filling my paper bag with those round bits of deliciousness and nearly emptying the baskets, I couldn’t bring myself to take that many from those still waiting in line behind me. Those bagels are that good. They invoke bagel guilt!
In an attempt to enjoy those bagels more often, I tried making bagels at home a few times. I found some simple recipes from a few different blogs. The basic techniques were similar with a few variations. Some poked a hole in the middle of the dough ball to create the hole, others rolled it out and then connected the ends into a circle. Some added ingredients to the boiling water, others didn’t, some were sourdough, others used only yeast. The final product was always edible and tasty, but… not like The Scratch bagels.
Somewhere along the way I learned that The Scratch bagel recipe was available for purchase! The next time I visited that bakery I bought a copy of their first The Baker’s Notes and inside was the much awaited recipe! It includes simple ingredients and easy to follow directions. After hitting up a friend for some of her sourdough starter, I was ready to get to work. The first attempt was successful but the second attempt was even more rewarding. With more of the kinks worked out, I dare say, those bagels were almost as good as the originals! The “sea gulls” flocked around as the bagels emerged out of the shop oven, some cream cheese and/or butter was spread and everyone (ok, Brock, at least) sang out in gustatory pleasure.