My first attempt had the shape and density of a hockey puck. There was nothing really bagel-like about it.
Though my grandma and I love eating blueberry bagels, attempting to make homemade versions turned out to be a cautionary tale. It may have been naive to think that fresh blueberries harvested in the middle of summer would deliver a potent blueberry flavor, but that is where my bagel-making journey began.
As soon as I added the berries to my yeasted dough, I knew that something was off. I kneaded and kneaded to no avail. The high moisture content of the fresh blueberries turned the dough into a sticky, formless slime. I tried adding more flour, but still didn’t have a good sense of what the dough should be like.
Even after making a second batch using less water and more flour to compensate for the added blueberries, my end product still looked like this:
Needless to say, I decided that it might be best to tackle plain bagels next time around. So, despite WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) on a blueberry farm with an endless supply of blueberries later that summer, I set out to make simply, plain bagels.
Following this New York-style bagel recipe I found online, my first go at plain bagels ended up looking like this:
The dough was too dry and didn’t stick together well, which resulted in an uneven shape and an uneven bake. They weren’t too easy on the eyes. Yet, they tasted far more like bagels than my blueberry versions ever did.
I knew I was on the right track.
Sticking to the same recipe as before, I decided that the suggested amount of water to add really was a suggestion. So, I trusted my intuition and added water until the dough became pliable, but not sticky. I ended up adding almost twice the suggested quantity of water.
This time, I also started experimenting with flavors—the cinnamon sugar was pretty darn yummy.
Again, this batch was not the most evenly shaped or colored. But they looked and tasted even more bagel-like than before. I’m all about the incremental improvements.
My pride and joy.
With each attempt, I developed a better understanding of what a good bagel dough should look and feel like. As I experimented and fine-tuned the original recipe, I eventually created something that looked and tasted like a bagel.
Next time, to improve my chocolate chip bagels, I’ll try the “punch a hole with your thumb” method of shaping the bagels. With the twisting method, the chocolate chips kept wanting to fall out of the dough.
Nevertheless, I’m over the moon with the results.