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Two Seventh-Graders Learn the Craft of Making an NYC Breakfast Staple

Friday, March 9, 2018

Making Bagels at the MCS Farm

Bagels! Many of us have a favorite—plain, salted, poppy, sesame, cinnamon raisin, pumpernickel, everything. Our toppings—a schmear of cream cheese, some butter, lox, a slice of onion, just to name a few—are an expression of our personal taste. This dietary staple we may eat on the go or leisurely on a Sunday morning is part of our daily fabric, but how many people have attempted to make their own? During this week’s farm trip, two Manhattan Country School seventh-graders challenged themselves to bake enough bagels to feed their entire class. This baking project served as part of their graduation requirements.

Making bagels at the MCS Farm.

Making bagels at the MCS Farm.

Ayo and Sabrina searched for the recipe, doubled the ingredients and set to work. They combined yeast and sugar and added the mixture to warm water. For years, MCS students have learned the “Goldilocks” method of determining the correct water temperature from Donna, the Farm’s cooking teacher. Just like Goldilocks with the three bears’ porridge, the kids felt the water to be sure it was not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Adding yeast to water with an approximate temperature of 104 degrees activates it. The sugar serves as the food the yeast feeds on. Once the mixture is active, it can be slowly added to the dry ingredients of flour and salt. The two students kneaded and rolled the dough, slowly adding more flour to reach the proper consistency. Once the dough was set, it was placed aside to rise. Like the saying “A watched pot never boils,” watched dough doesn’t rise so the kids turned their attention to other needs of the busy kitchen during this process.

Making bagels at the MCS Farm. Making bagels at the MCS Farm.

About 90 minutes later, the students returned to their bowl of dough, which had more than doubled in volume. They “punched down” the dough—a way of manipulating the dough to remove air pockets that form during the rising process and to bring the yeast, sugars and moisture back together. Then they rolled the dough into balls. Poking a hole in the center and pulling the dough open, they created the ever-familiar bagel shape. After letting the dough rest for 10 minutes, the students placed the circular pieces in boiling water, which is the secret to making bagels chewy. Once removed from the water, the bagels were brushed with eggs whites. Half of the batch was sprinkled with poppy seeds before the entire batch was placed in the oven. Forty minutes later the bagels were done—shiny and golden brown and ready to be enjoyed.

Making bagels at the MCS Farm. Making bagels at the MCS Farm.