The New York Times recently had a piece about baking bagels with lye. Given my predilection for homemade bagels (and strong support of the use of lye) I took a look at their recipe for Baron bagels. While I’ve had good success with Peter Reinhart’s recipe (modifying my cooking time to 20 minutes at 425 F for a crispier crust), I decided it was time to branch out.
The original recipe that’s still posted on the Times’ website hasn’t been updated for the use of lye, but reading between the lines, the major differences appear to be the use of a starter and a lye bath instead of baking soda. The 0.15% solution was quite a bit lower than the 0.5% solution I usually use, but that was derived from vague descriptions on scattered websites (whereas this was from a legitimate bagel bakery). The original recipe calls for 600 g of flour and 365 mL of water (for a 61% hydration, slightly more than Reinhart’s 57%), but I replaced 50 g of flour and 50 mL of water with 100 g of a 50% sourdough starter. This kept the hydration the same. I cut the yeast slightly to compensate for the sourdough. The Baron recipe also uses diastatic instead of non-diastatic malt (the former contains enzymes that break down starch, the latter is basically a mild sweetener).
The dough was definitely wetter and more difficult to work with. Unlike Reinart’s recipe, there was no resting time before loading the bagels into the fridge for an overnight rest, and it showed when I loaded them into the water bath. They sank like a rock, and didn’t float until nearly the end of their 2 minutes. However, despite getting a bit misshapen as i tried to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot, the end-product was reasonable. They were a bit dense, but had a good flavor and crust. I’ll try merging some of the elements from each recipe for my next attempt, adding some more rising time, but keeping the diastatic malt and mid-cooking flip from the Baron recipe.