Category Archives: Bread Bakers Apprentice Challenge


Delicious Gluten Free Bagels… An Oxymoron?

ready to eat 625 sq 2I consider myself to be something of a bagel aficionado. Partly because I have eaten my fair share (and perhaps several others fair shares as well) over my life span, and partly because I have baked hundreds of bagels myself, after learning the craft when I participated in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge.

I will not delve into the hotly contested debate of New York vs. Montreal style bagels, because really, that argument is laden with trash talking and never ends well. For those not familiar with the difference between the two styles, a little bagel primer here.

Montreal bagels are thin, a little sweet and quite chewy. They are boiled and then baked in a wood fired oven. They are really only good within the first few hours of being baked. After that, they get quite tough and leathery. New York bagels are bigger, doughier and fluffier than Montreal style bagels. They are also boiled first and then baked, but not usually in a wood fired oven.

montreal bagels labellednyc bagel labelledOne’s bagel preference is imprinted on them early in childhood and it’s extremely tough to shake it.   Personally, I do not care for either Montreal or New York bagels. I grew up in Toronto, and for me, bagel bliss is a Bagel World Twister. Weighing in at 8 ounces, these behemoths are chewy in the center and heavily seeded with poppy to create an extreme crunch on the outside. Twisters are spiralled by hand; the dough is literally twisted before the loop is closed to form the bagel. The result is that the baked bagels tear apart in beautiful little sections. All the better to slather on salted butter.twister 625Bagel World realized that it is a hazard to your health to eat twisters on a regular basis, so they created Twister flagels (flat bagels). I do not care for them quite as much as a regular twister since the chewy middle part has all but been eliminated. Sadly, I no longer live in Toronto and here in Ottawa bagels are made in the Montreal style. Blech!

I’ll be so bold as to bring a different species of bagel into this discussion: The Gluten-Free Bagel. Are delicious gluten-free bagels possible, or is that an oxymoron? Up until about 5 years ago, I would have said that gluten-free bagels should not even be allowed in the same conversation as regular bagels. We put out youngest son on a gluten free diet about 12 years ago, and one of the hardest things for him to give up were bagels. I tried buying commercially made gluten-free bagels and truthfully, they were awful. The vast majority of them were made from a combination of rice flour and tapioca starch. The texture was quite gluey.

Then, a friend of mine, who suffers from Celiac disease, gave me a recipe for gluten-free bagels that he discovered in the magazine “Living Without.” I was sceptical, but when I read the list of ingredients, I was intrigued. These bagels incorporate 6 different types of flour (Garbanzo-fava bean flour, brown rice flour, arrowroot flour, potato starch, tapioca flour and amaranth flour) to create a multi-grain flour blend.  In addition, the recipe also calls for flax meal (ground up flax seeds). All these ingredients combine together to create a bagel with some heft and chew. I will be honest and tell you that they are best toasted, but if you are unable to have gluten, these really are a delicious substitute.

I make them regularly for my son and decided to blog about it, since gluten-free diets seem to be gaining in popularity. Today I made a batch of seeded (poppy and sesame) and a second batch of cheddar jalapeno gluten-free bagels. The dough for regular flour bagels needs to spend a night or even two in the fridge to allow the gluten and flavours to develop. Since these are gluten-free, they can be made quite quickly.

This is quite a sticky dough, so it is best made in a stand mixer. Start out with the paddle attachment and then switch to the dough hook after several minutes of mixing. A plastic pastry scraper will make it easier to get the dough out of the bowl and a metal bench scraper makes portioning the dough easier.essentials labelled

jamie's bagel mixadding liquidcutting dough with bench scraperrolling balls of dough 2making the holestretching dough boiling bagelsThe seeds are sprinkled on after boiling and before baking.seeded bagels ready for ovenFor the cheddar jalapeño bagels, I mixed in some shredded cheddar and finely diced pickled jalapeño peppers. After 10 minutes in the oven, they get topped with some additional cheddar, for the the last 10 minutes of baking.

adding cheese topping after 10 minutes of bakingcheddar jalapeno bagels done

bagels in wooden dough bowlClick here to print recipe for Gluten-Free Seeded Bagels.

Click here to print recipe for Gluten Free Cheddar Jalapeno Bagels.with cream cheese and jam

ready to eat 1

Confessions of a Bread Baker’s Apprentice

I am feeling a little lost after finishing the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. My last post just seemed so final and shockingly, I still have things left unsaid.  So here, in no particular order, are the final thoughts/reflections/confessions of this Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

10.  When the number of  mail order parcels arriving from King Arthur Flour began to rival those from J Crew,  I knew I was a true bread freak.

9.  I spent $30.25 on a 4 ounce bottle of Fiori di Sicilia . No, that’s not a fancy perfume. It’s an aromatic essence of Sicilian flowers.  It is the flavouring used in authentic Italian Panettone bread.  The recipe uses 1/2 an ounce.  I discovered that I hate Panettone bread.  I still have 3.5 ounces left.  Oh well, the bottle is pretty!

8. I still have not mastered the “windowpane test”.  For the uninitiated, this is a test to determine when the dough has been kneaded enough.  After kneading for awhile, you cut off a small piece of the dough and gently stretch and pull it to see if it will hold a paper-thin translucent membrane, without ripping or falling apart.  Every time I tried this test, my dough ripped.  I continued kneading for several more minutes, but my dough still ripped.  TxFarmer, a fellow BBA Challenger,  achieved perfect windowpanes with every loaf she produced. (see the photo below)  She also produced drool worthy photos and gorgeous breads.  I am more than a little envious!

100%全麦面包 <wbr>– <wbr>取长补短

7.  I speak to the woman on the order desk at King Arthur Flour more often than my own mother.

6.  On of my fellow challengers, named Susie, made many of her breads in the shape of the letter S.  She baked 22 of the 43 breads and hasn’t been heard from since last November.  I’m a little worried about her.

5.  I’m thinking it of requesting the Poilâne Miche pillow for my birthday this year. Bread #33 in our Challenge was the Poilâne-Style Miche.  Poilâne is a bakery in Paris famous the world over for their bread. They make a cushion in the shape of their most famous bread.  It is only $82.23 (that includes shipping).  I can have a loaf of the real bread shipped to me for $62.30, but I figure the pillow will never get stale!

4.  I still have not mastered my slashing skills.  Slashing (also known as scoring) the bread prior to baking is done to allow some of the trapped gasses to escape. The tool I bought to slash with is called a lame but it does not work very well.  Someone told me to try a straight edge razor blade (the old fashioned kind) but I can’t find them at my local pharmacy.  I found a web site that will ship me 1000 of them for 2 cents a blade but I worry that my name will be placed on a “persons of interest” list since I am stockpiling dangerous weapons.

3.  I have bought Peter Reinhart”s new book Artisan breads and am considering baking my way through that one!!

2.  Peter Reinhart  may have replaced Nick Malgierei in my baker fantasy dream.

1.   I  don’t even bat an eyelash when the lady at King Arthur Flour tells me that shipping to Canada is a $25.00 flat fee and all I am ordering is a $5.99 bag of Sir Lancelot High Gluten flour because I need a bagel fix bad!

Thanks again to Nicole of Pinch my Salt for organizing this challenge and of course to Peter Reinhart for writing such a wonderful book.  It truly is a fantastic tutorial for anyone interested in learning to bake their own bread.  I am grateful for all the new bread freak friends I have made along the way.

#43. The End! (Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche)

I waited to make the last bread in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge until all my children were home and the whole family was under one roof again.  It only seemed fitting that we should end this together as we were all home together last spring when I began my journey.  So finally, the planets were aligned and we were ready for a family dinner.  It turned out that my nephew was in town visiting, so we invited him to join us.  Only one hitch in the plan.  My nephew’s mom was visiting with him.  It had been a long time since I had seen my (ex) sister-in-law, as she and my brother-in-law were divorced over 12 years ago.  But in the spirit of, “the more the merrier”, we invited her to join us as well. 

I have to admit that it was a bit strange at first, but once I pulled this bread out of the oven, and sliced it up there was no need for any more awkward conversation.   I poured some wine, sliced more bread, served dinner and soon we were all laughing and telling stories about when the kids were little and reminiscing about family holidays of years gone by.  Before I knew it, over 4 hours had flown by.  It was really nice to catch up and have a visit.  I do believe that this is a magical bread, able to bridge any gap and smooth out any awkwardness that life has thrown in your path.

The recipe makes such a huge amount of dough that it has to be kneaded by hand as it will not fit into the mixer.  I began with roasting the onions in the oven and ended up burning them.  I put a second batch in the oven and proceeded to burn them! again!  So then I sliced them thinly and caramelized them on top of the stove where I could keep an eye on them.

I sliced the green onions and chives and grated some Asiago cheese.

 Once the dough is mixed, the green onions and chives are kneaded in and then it’s shaped into a boule and placed in the fridge for an overnight rest to allow the flavours to develop.

The next day, the dough is brushed with olive oil, dimpled and covered with a thin layer of Asiago cheese, the caramelized onions and more cheese.  Into a hot oven and 20 minutes later, golden perfection.

The crust was crunchy on the bottom, chewy on top from all that cheese and the bread had a beautiful open crumb.  A perfect ending to the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge!!

#42. Cheesy Goodness!

With only 2 breads left to go in this challenge, I have been dragging my heels somewhat.  I sort of feel a bit sad that the end has come.  I have come to love hearing from my fellow Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challengers and feel like they have become my new friends.  It will be a bit lonely around here without their feedback and support.  Aggh!! I’ve become my own worst nightmare, “A group person!!”  In school, I always hated group projects.  I’m a bit of a loner and prefer to work in isolation.  However, having cyber friends is the perfect solution for me.  They are around when I want them and then gone when I click my heels! (well, not quite my heels but my computer mouse).

This week’s bread is Potato, Cheddar and Chive Torpedos.  The dough is made with a bit of my wild yeast starter as well as some commercial yeast.  The addition of boiled potatoes and some potato cooking water make a silky dough.  When I first started adding the chives I thought I’d never get them all incorporated into the dough, but after a few minutes of hand kneading, mission accomplished.


Once the dough rises, it’s time to add the cheese and shape the loaf into torpedos.

 The dough is left to rise a second time and then it’s scored right through to the cheese layer.  Into a hot oven to bake.

Once we sliced into this loaf,  it disappeared very quickly.  A little chewy and crusty on the outside and soft and gooey inside.  A perfect loaf.  Damn these caloric little torpedos.

#41. Whole Wheat Bread gets rescued!


This week in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge we tackle whole wheat bread.  I had been warned by fellow challengers that this bread was not a favourite.  One of the best things about participating in this challenge is the fraternity we have created.  We share our successes and failures (not that we have had too many of those!) as well as our knowledge.  I have discovered that bread bakers are a very generous people by nature.  They are willing to help one another and share what they have learned along the way. 

Mags shared her tip of adding vital wheat gluten to the dough to improve it.  Txfarmer shared 6 wonderful tips (including a longer autolyse time, double fermentation as well as longer kneading times) with us on how to improve this bread on our google group page.  As I read these helpful hints, I felt grateful to belong to such a giving group of bread freaks. 

Of course, by the time I actually got to baking this bread, several weeks later, my aging brain completely forgot about these helpful hints.   So I have no one to blame, but myself,  for my less than stellar results.  

Although this was the 41st bread in our challenge, this was actually the first time I had formed my bread into a “sandwich loaf” and baked it in a loaf pan.  Although this had been suggested as an option for many of the breads in this  book, I had always resisted, thinking that using a loaf pan made the bread look a little too uniform in shape and thus institutional and not artisnal or homemade.  My misshapen wonky hand formed loaves were made with love and no one could mistake them for factory bread!  However, I figured that shaping into a loaf to be baked in a loaf pan was another skill I should master before this challenge was over, so I went for it.

My little institutional bricks needed about 90 minutes of proofing before they crested up over the sides of the pan and were ready for baking.

The loaves baked for about 40 minutes and then I patiently waited the requisite 2 hours for them to cool so I could slice and taste.

Oggi was right.  This bread was dry and crumbly.  And it was bland too, just like Sally said.  I was planning to serve this bread for dinner but was not exactly thrilled with the results.  This bread needed something to wake it up!  I whipped up a batch of smoked paprika mayo (garlic, lime juice and smoked paprika mixed with plain light mayo).   I sprinkled some chicken breasts with chipotle chile powder and grilled and sliced them up.  I caramelized some onions in olive oil.  I sliced some Kumato tomatoes and washed some leaf lettuce.

Killer chipotle chicken sandwiches with smoked paprika mayo!!