Friday, July 2, 2010

Culinary Chronicles: Tassajara Bagels

When I was a kid, five or six to be exact, my mom worked at a restaurant on Canyon Road called The Haven.  On Sundays one of the items on the brunch menu was a basket of bagels straight out of the oven.   They were so tender that they practically melted in your mouth.  I distinctly remember sitting on a banco, listening to Spanish guitar and devouring bagels as soon as the basket hit the table.  Devouring food from The Haven was a big past time for me back then.  The owners' daughter and I would spend Friday nights in the storeroom eating chicken wings while sitting on big bags of flour.  Their chicken wings were made with Hoisin sauce.  Soo good.  Also memorable was their version of red stuff, Red Zinger iced tea with lots of lemon and honey.  Friday nights were extremely busy, thus our seats in the pantry.  We didn't mind though, familiarity with the pantry provided us with another past time, sneaking baking chocolate.  We'd take whole bars of it, eat our fill, and the hide it around the property to consume later.  Only we never remembered where we had hidden it... the wood pile?  Behind the extra toilet paper in the supply closet?  Apparently the staff would find partially gnawed chocolate bars all over the place and their complicity meant they only made comments within our earshot that the mice must really like chocolate.

One of the items on my New Year's resolution list was to learn to make bagels, and I started with The Haven's bagels... which were really the Tassajara Bread book's bagels.  They turned out a little small, just like those pesky croissants, but they are tender and delicious-- just like I remember.  I will definitely work at perfecting this one.  Just a note, they are more bread-y than chewy-- so not like New York bagels, if that's what you are looking for.

The Tassajara Bread Book is still sold, you should definitely pick one up if you are interested in baking.  Since I couldn't find the bagel recipe online anywhere here it is:

Makes 4 dozen bagels and 1 Challah bread.

3 c warm water
1 T yeast
1/2 c sugar (
6 whole eggs, well beaten
5 - 6 c unbleached white flour

Beat dough well and let rise.  (For onion bagels, add 2 small, diced raw onions to sponge).  After rising fold in:

1 c oil
1 T salt
4 - 5 c whole wheat flour (or unbleached white) until dough comes away from sides of bowl

Knead 5 minutes.  Let rise 50 minutes.  Punch down.  Let rise 20 minutes.  Punch down.  Cut dough into thirds and roll into balls.  (Cover dough with plastic bag when not in use to keep a crust from forming and also to keep dough moister).  Cut one third into 24 pieces and roll out in tubes.  Connect ends of tubes around first two fingers, sealing by rolling on table.  Dip rings into boiling water for 10 seconds (for that genuine bagel crust).  Place on greased cookie sheet, allowing a little elbow room.  Egg-wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, or leave plain.  Let rise 20 minutes.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.  Repeat entire process with second portion of the dough.  

With the third portion if you want to make a challah, divide into six portions and braid.  (Since it's no longer 1970, I'm going to direct you to this youtube video on how to braid the loaf, rather than the book's illustration).  Let rise 1/2 hour, then egg-wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.


  1. oh man those look SO good! i wish i was at your house right now :)

  2. I love the Tassajara bread book. It's a hippie classic.

  3. Hippies indeed-- along with the Vegetarian Epicure cookbook, another classic.

  4. I have been making these bagels for years and years now . . . and they are so delicious. Now we have a cobb oven on our farm and we bake them in that . . . which makes them even better. There are so many good bread recipes in the Tassajara Bread Book. I have been making the sourdough rye and it is my favorite . . . it seems to be everyone's favorite.

  5. @Suzanna-- I want a cobb oven! Well, actually I'd probably have and adobe horno, but more or less the same thing. Does it impart a wood smoke flavor? Since I'm currently in a tiny apartment with a tiny oven I've been limited with my sourdough baking, sticking mostly to english muffins which don't require a lot of kneading (bc I'm lacking counter space), and pancakes.