Food for Thought: The Great Bagel Bake-Off

Jul 26, 2017

This showdown's been brewing ever since Nancy Leson claimed she could make perfectly good bagels, start to finish in one hour.  Naturally I scoffed, but Nancy swears they're good.  We and about ten other guests finally got a chance to do a comparison tasting last weekend.  The results surprised me.

In the week running up to Saturday's brunch I made two batches of same-day bagels.  Mixed, risen, kneaded, shaped boiled and baked all on the same day.  About four hours total.  As soon as they cooled I wrapped them individually in plastic and stashed them in the freezer for the big day.

Then on Wednesday of that week I started the three-day process I normally use.  First a sponge; next day, the fully kneaded dough; followed by shaping on Friday night; and boiling/baking Saturday morning.  Each stage spent the night in the fridge.

Nancy's process was somewhat briefer. "I woke up, had a cup of coffee, mixed a batch of bagel dough, let it sit for 15 minutes while the water was boiling and the oven pre-heating, and then I rolled them out, punched a hole in the middle, boiled them, baked them, and then I jumped in the car and drove from Edmonds to Tacoma, where an hour later we were eating my one-hour bagels," she said  Here's the recipe.

Credit Dick Stein / KNKX

Were they any good?  I still think my three-days were better.  What kills me is that they weren't all that much better.  And as Nancy rightly notes, "After you put a big schmear on it and some lox who can even tell the difference?"

By the way, that lox on the left? Nance made it herself with the Lox Box she picked up cheap at the Goodwill. 

"Bagels can be an enormous power for good or evil.  it's up to us to decide how we use them." 
– Daniel Pinkwater