Yes, you read the title right. Bagels. Gluten free bagels. Until last week the idea had crossed my mind a few times, and all I could picture are those kinds that come frozen in a bag that you have to microwave to defrost at which point they become a bit mushy for my taste. My husband likes them. He misses not having those frozen bagels available to buy. But that’s because it’s been SO long since he’s had a truly good bagel. I’m talking about one you can make a sandwich out of, sink your teeth into and let your tongue dance on the sweet and soft flavors as they cross over each part of your mouth – the kind where you lick your lips fast as you can after taking a bite because it would be a high crime to allow any crumb to fall to the merciless floor, wasted.
Unlike my husband, I spent a summer in NYC once, on Manhattan. It was seriously one of my favorite summers in college. I lived for all the picnics and concerts with my friends in Central Park – especially the jazz! Some of the best jazz music I’ve ever heard has been in Central Park. And while my kitchen skills were pretty atrocious back then, it was in NYC that I first was awakened to a world of new and exciting foods. That summer was probably one of the most formative times for finding myself, and finding my love of food.
My roommate and I had this little teeny kitchen (maybe smaller than what I currently have, which certainly says something) – and neither one of us had a clue about how to cook anything. But we did – maybe half of what we made was really edible, but we were poor so we ate our failed experiments anyways. And then there were times when our meal attempts were so awful that even we couldn’t stomach them – ha yes, being a good cook takes practice! And neither of us had had any. On those days, sometimes we’d give up on dinner and the next morning head down a few blocks to one of our favorite little shops to get a latte before work – but by far our favorite breakfast out was from this particular bagel stand just 2 blocks away.
You had to be a bit smart about ordering bagels from this guy though. Have you ever seen the Seinfeld episode about ordering soup? This guy ran his bagel business in about the same way. And forget about ordering more than one bagel per person – meaning that one of us couldn’t just run out to get them and bring them back to the apt.
“I’d like to order two plain bagels please with cream cheese.”
“No, you only get one bagel.”
“But I’m buying one for a friend too, I’d like two bagels please.”
“One! I have other paying customers besides you, you know. What are they going to do when they come to my stand and I tell them that YOU are the reason I have no bagels to sell to them?! You can buy ONE bagel. Now go!”
Well, he did have the absolute best bagels around, so I followed his rules so I could keep coming back to buy my one bagel, and the subsequent trips my roommate and I always decided to go together, so that way we could justify buying two bagels.
Since moving to Suisse, bagels have been one thing I’ve really been missing. And my husband didn’t really know it, but he’s been missing a good bagel for a lot longer than that. So when Maggie of She Let Them Eat Cake posted a guest post on Amy’s blog last week with a gluten free bagel recipe, I just had to make it. In fact, I went and made it the very next night. There was just one problem – it didn’t work. The bagels halfway dissolved in the poaching, and were so crumbly after baking that it was near impossible to slice them.
I was disappointed, but I wasn’t giving up. I’ve learned enough through several trials and errors now to start to be able to think critically about my actions in the kitchen when it comes to gluten free baking. I suspected the problem was due to my gluten free flour mix, which I made myself, and which did not include any binding agent. This was not a deliberate choice on my part, but merely due to lack of finding any to buy. However, we had heard a rumor of a certain natural foods store a couple towns over that might carry some, and so this weekend went to check it out. And there it was, the ever elusive guar gum!! I was so excited – not having this stuff has meant the needless failure of more than one bread attempt on my part since moving to Suisse.
This weekend I repeated the recipe – I made the bagels bigger this time, and made sure to include the guar gum. What a difference that made! They didn’t dissolve in the water, they baked beautifully, they sliced beautifully. So moral of this story – when it comes to gluten free breads, a binding gum is critical to their success. Don’t believe me? I took pics of them side by side – the bagel made with guar gum is on the right – which one looks more like a success to you?
Some things you just cannot make do without. A gum like guar gum is one of those things in gluten free baking. The end result was perfect. They were thick, dense, chewy – the kind to make a sandwich out of that is a meal. The kind that brought me back memories of awesome tasting bagels in NYC. The kind that Ryan hasn’t been able to eat in years. You can bet that we will be making these again.
Gluten Free NY Style Sun-dried Tomato Bagels, adapted from Maggie at She Let Them Eat Cake, adapted from Canadian Living Cooks
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 1/2 c. warm water
- 4/3 c. quinoa flakes
- 4/3 c. potato starch
- 2/3 c. white rice flour
- 2/3 c. amaranth or corn flour
- 2 tbs. guar gum
- 2 tbs. your favorite dried Italian herbs
- 1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs, beaten, room temperature
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbs. sugar (for poaching liquid)
- 1/4 c. milk (for glaze)
1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water and cover until yeast is activated and liquid volume has doubled. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix together the dry ingredients – quinoa flakes, potato starch, white rice flour, amaranth flour, guar gum, herbs, sundried tomatoes and salt.
2. In a large bowl (this will be the one you use to bring all the dough together), whisk together eggs and olive oil, and stir in yeasty water. When combined, gradually stir in the dry ingredients, until you can just start to work with it with your hands (about 2 cups). At this point, bring it out onto a floured surface (I used corn flour), and gradually knead in the rest of the flour until it’s all incorporated. For keading with a gluten free dough, I was a bit gentler than I would be with other breads. I just kept folding in half alternating which way I folded by 90º. It started off sticky, but in the end was still pliable, and did not crack much when manipulated. If it is cracking it is too dry and you added in too much flour – if this happens, remedy with the slightest amount of water, but take care if you do this!
3. Place kneaded ball of dough back in to your bowl and cover with a warm damp towel and allow to rise for an hour, preferably in a warm sunny spot. It should double in size.
4. When risen, split the dough into 4 sections and roll each into a ball with your hands. Then, on a floured surface, use your hands to pat each ball into a disk, and use your finger to work a hole in the middle, gently pulling the dough away until the hole is about the size of a dime. Do this with each until you’ve got 4 bagels. Cover them with a damp towel while you heat up the water.
5. Preheat your oven to 400F. Fill a pot (any pot that is bigger than your biggest bagel) halfway with water and add in 2 tbs. sugar. Bring it to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. Gluten free dough is much more water soluble than regular dough so you want to make sure your poaching is rather gentle. Slip one into the water, and let poach for 2 minutes on each side to get nice chewy NY style bagels. Once poached, glaze with milk (I just used my hands) and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
6. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Since these are big bagels, at this point flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes until the other side is golden. Let cool on a rack (or don’t) and enjoy! We enjoyed ours with some cream cheese mixed with pesto, as pictured above.
Notes on changes to the recipe –
- I omitted the baking soda. As far as I can tell, it’s not really needed in this recipe – I don’t think the dough is so acidically hostile as to prevent the yeast from doing their thing, and I’m not sure that it would still be active after the proofing time anyways. The bagels still rose a bit when baking without it.
- Eggs. Maggie’s original recipe is egg free. We have no issues with eggs, and so used eggs rather than the flax seed replacement. Feel free to use what suits you best.
- Olive oil. This was just a personal preference from the sunflower oil, I felt it would best fill out the flavor profile with the sundried tomatoes and herbs (another addition of mine).
- Sugar. The original recipe as seen on Amy’s site calls for evaporated cane sugar – I used plain old cheapo sugar.
- GF Flour mix – As a rule I don’t use premade mixes, because I like to have control over the flavors that are going into what I make and not every mix works for everything. Also, until last Saturday I didn’t even know where to buy a premade GF mix. So I make my own. Quinoa flakes are awesome. If you have not used them, I encourage you to try cooking with them. If nothing else, they are a great substitute for oatmeal in the mornings.
- Milk. Maggie’s recipe is dairy free. We have no issues with milk, and all of the dairy en Suisse is freaking awesome.