Sucked Into a Bagel
There are only two acceptable reasons for any sane person to do background work in Hollywood; the paycheck being an obvious list topper followed by craft services. The free bounty of unpredictable snacks and coffee, that you are quite literally paid to eat while waiting for a disgruntled PA on a power trip to instruct you to cross behind the main actors...wait, and then cross back. Riveting work.
The first time I ever had a bagel was on a TV set, working background. I mean, I'd had what I believed to be bagels. In fact, I'd devoured one every day through most of Jr high school, oblivious to the fact that my donut shaped, egg bread was an imposter. On this particular day though, having little to do but pass the hours with snacks, I selected what at the time I believed to be a familiar bagel. Sitting alone in a sea of extras, I self-consciously smeared (or schmeared) my starch with a scant allowance of single serving cream cheese and bit in. I was blissfully surprised at the pull. This bagel was chewy, with a developed gluten structure and a firm exterior skin. Was this was bagels were supposed to be? Had I been bamboozled my whole life? A second bite confirmed my suspicion and a third had me restraining myself not to turn to the nearest stranger to discuss my bagel revelation. Background actors are a bizarre breed...I was just there for the paycheck and the food, I wouldn't go full extra...I wouldn't be weird.
The urge was too powerful. "Have you tried the bagels?" I asked the middle-aged woman, who's book I'd interrupted.
She dismissively shook her head, attempting to put a quick end to the interaction.
"I've never had a bagel like this before. This isn't like a grocery store bagel."
The woman smiled politely and mumbled some nicety before returning to her book, leaving me to proceed on my own for the rest of my strangely exhilarating meal on the sound stage of a Hollywood set, where I'd usually pine to be in front of the cameras with the other stars. For those five minutes however, I was right where I was meant to be.
When I arrived home that afternoon, I scoured the internet for answers. What is a New York Bagel. Are the bagels from the store even real? a Google search for “Homemade bagel recipe” lead me to Joshua Weissman’s Youtube channel. Back then, he was still working as a chef, sharing recipes on the internet in his spare time. I was charmed by his Alton Brown-esque intro, and the fact that he looked and sounded so much like Joseph Gordon Levitt. With these hooks and the straightforward nature of his recipe, I put my ingredients and trust in him and made my first attempt. I’ll never forget the tactile feeling of shaping this delightfully fluffy dough for the first time. It had risen considerably after the first proof and felt like a cross between firm pastry dough and marshmallows. With each satisfying cut and fold, the dough was devouring me. Turning me into a bagel snob…something I’d never thought I’d be but that’s how these these happen. My husband and I accidentally became coffee snobs when our french press shattered and we were forced to improvise, using my vintage glass chemistry funnel for a pour over. The results were inconsistent, sometimes ashy, sometimes sour, prompting me to conduct some armchair detective work on the proper temperatures, grind, and ratios of water to beans. After all of that, no one can top the coffee we can make at home and now, no one can top these bagels.
I can’t tell you what would have happened had I chosen another recipe. Maybe they would have turned out just as good, maybe even better…or maybe it would have been a complete disaster, discouraging me from every making another bagel again. I don’t like to think these dark thoughts and fortunately the experience was so successful that now, I am faithfully devoted to this recipe. There is however, some room for nuance and I do love to make things my own. So If you hadn’t guessed by now, this batch was inspired by the black bagel in Everything Everywhere All At Once, which, at the time of writing this, I have seen in theaters twice. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie that evoked such deep belly laughs and cathartic sobs, all wrapped up in the most thought provoking themes. I’d wager that the giant black everything bagel, one of the film’s central metaphors, inspired craft services to provide actual bagels on set… and I like to think that, while watching action packed takes and heartbreaking lines of dialogue, there was an aspiring actor on set, working as an extra, experiencing a life changing bagel.
JOSHUA WEISSMAN'S NY BAGEL RECIPE *my amendments
297 grams warm water (90 degrees F)
10 grams yeast
23 grams sugar
500 grams bread flour
6 grams salt
8 grams cuttlefish ink*
Everything bagel Seasoning (I use Trader Joe's everything but the bagel*)
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Split the water in half and add the cuttlefish ink to one jar. Stir until fully dissolved.
To the other jar of warm water add the yeast and sugar. Stir and let the mixture bloom for 10 minutes. It's ready when the top is foamy. If your yeast doesn't foam up, it may be inactive.
In a bowl, add the bread flour and salt then pour in the yeast mixture and cuttlefish ink water. Mix until a shaggy dough forms then transfer it to a stand mixer with a dough hook and knead on medium low or knead by hand for a bout 10 minutes.
Once the dough is smooth, shape into a ball and place in a well oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let rise for one hour.
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch the dough in the center to deflate.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 8 equal parts. I like to use a scale for this for more accurate results but you can go by size. Shape each piece into a ball by folding the dough in on itself, until the underside is fairly taught.
Flip the dough ball over so it's seam side down and swirl it around on a non floured surface using the palm and outer edge of your hand to put pressure. Your thumb will act as a guide as you move in a circular motion, creating surface tension. Place on a baking sheet and cover for 10 minutes.
Take a dough ball and pinch through the center to make a hole. Spin the dough around your index fingers, gently stretching the opening wider. I stretch mine a little more than Joshua does because I find that they retract slightly and when they bake, they will puff up closing the hole further.
Being a pot of water to a simmer.
Drop the bagels in one at a time making sure not to overlap. I do this in about 2-3 batches depending on the width of my pot. Simmer the the bagels for 1.5 minutes per side. The longer you boil the tougher they will be so adjust as you wish.
Place the bagels back on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with everything bagel seasoning.
Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.