Sourdough Bagels, New York Style

It’s been a couple weeks since we got back from our trip to Manhattan. While my daughter loved Broadway, I really got into the food, in particular hunting down a couple good bagel bakeries and sampling their authentic wares.

Of course, this left me yearning for some New York back home, and wondering if I could replicate them in my own kitchen. And, this particular recipe seemed to do the trick:

New York Style Sourdough Bagels

200g active sourdough starter (stiff)
430g cold water (less for looser starter)
30g maple syrup
750g all-purpose flour
10g salt
15g baking soda (for boiling)
15g brown sugar (for boiling)
150g toppings, eg sesame seeds

First, you should know that I use a fairly stiff starter with about 70% hydration. If you have a looser, wetter starter, your measures should calculate for less water. Bagels tend to target a stiffer dough with a hydration of around 60% so definitely account for that in your water percentage or else you’ll make breadier, lighter, maybe-not-bagels. For example, with a wet starter, say 90% hydration, you probably need about 100g less water.

Otherwise, you’re going to mix up these ingredients — starter, water, syrup, salt and flour –into a nice stiff dough that you can rest for a few hours to a couple days. Longer rests are going to develop the flavours better, of course, but work with the time you have.

After you’ve rested the dough, divide into eight (8) equal pieces, rolling these into balls that you can rest for another ten minutes or so. These balls eventually need to get shaped into the bagels which is an effort that involves rolling out a log that is 20-25cm long and then looping and pressing the ends together into that familiar bagel shape.

Because this is sourdough, you’re in for another 6-8 hours or rise time on your freshly shaped bagels, but when they have risen (which because of the stiffness of the dough is going to seem a bit less than you might get with bread) you can set up your cooking assembly line: a pot of boiling water with the baking soda and sugar dissolved, a plate or shallow dish with your toppings, and a cooking sheet with some parchment.

Boil the rings for about 20 seconds on each side, then as you pull them from the water dip or sprinkle on the toppings and set them onto the baking sheet with a little room to rise (so they don’t stick together!)

Bake at 450F for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

My results on the first try were fairly authentic from my week in New York. Tasty. Fresh. Firm on the exterior and chewy-soft on the inside. They cut and toasted beautifully.

My biggest problem is that I’m gonna need to go find myself a vat of whipped cream cheese to schmear atop them.

Travel: New York in November

It’s been nearly a year since we left the country last, but after six months of plotting and planning our long awaited return to Manhattan finally rolled into view on the calendar.

Whatever else, it might give me some things to write about here over the coming week or two as I settle back into that post-vacation it’s-snowy-at-home winter blues, but for now I thought it useful enough to kill some time on a six hour airport layover writing that it happened at all.

The trip itself, like so much we seem to do these days, was a make up trip from one that was supposed to have happened during the pandemic. The Kid was paid and ready for a school-run adventure to the Big Apple with her eighth grade classmates back in 2020, a trip that never happened, and one that was rewarded as something of a honours-in-middle-school do-over that came due this past weekend.

The Kid, being a theatre kid, was primed for some Broadway brilliance, so no less than three of our evening and a substantial portion of my October paycheque, bought us a trio of a trio of tickets for The Music Man, Beetlejuice the Musical, and Book of Morman.

Thar was her jam.

My jam was taking a ton of photos, eating pizza and sitting in Central Park on a rock and sketching.

I’ll have more to write about the trip soon, as soon as the trip settles in my writing mind, but for now it’s probably good enough to say that it was an excellent mini-vacation, I’m tired as heck, and I still got most of a continent to traverse before bedtime.

The Mystery of Big Island (Part Three)

It’s been nearly a year and a whole long winter of impassable trails through the river valley since I posted an update about the work being done to turn a small bit of land with a big local history into a small provincial park.

The last time we thought about that effort on this site, a small group of us had gone off on a short adventure run to test our prospects of finding a runnable trail between my house and the bit of natural space clinging to the edge of the river.

What we found instead was a dead end. And a furthering of the mystery behind this bit of future park where it seemed our odds of future adventure were good, if not simple to find.

You can read about the first two parts of that adventure here on this blog in The Mystery of Big Island Part One and Part Two.

The mystery seemed as if it would continue to allude us with no more media coverage and limited ability to drop into a snow-filled river valley for our own fact-finding-fun prior to May. My aim was to start up my investigations once again this summer with some alternative entry options and perhaps drag along a friend or five to continue our search for elusive access to Big Island.

And then I was meandering through Twitter this morning only to discover this (politically charged) tweet of how one of our local, bumbling politicians had accidently (really?) posted a confidential planning map with some clear intentions for the ongoing work around Big Island.

(Screenshot of the tweet archived here.)

The little grey blot in the middle of the sea of appropriately-coloured blue land marks the Big Island proper with some surrounding farmlands clearly marked for possible buyout or annexation or something relating to creating a protected public zone around this little natural treasure.

I’ve been studying maps of this exact area, trying to understand if there is a good place to park and find access into the valley .

Clearly if I have a government sticker on my truck (which I do not) parking near to and descending upon this bit of land wouldn’t be a problem. Looking at the tweeted photos it’s clear that if a politician can clamber down into the area in his work clothes, a handful of runners with trail gear must be able to find a way too.

Of course, this accidental leak implies that multiple people are thinking much bigger than I am about this little future park. I’m working on a video about a different river valley park and some time I spent there recently, but seeing this information has made me even more determined to bring some friends and a camera back on another summer adventure, an adventure to uncover the mystery of Big Island… preferably before they plow a road there and everyone figures it out.

Stay tuned for Part Four…

Hiking: Mountain Bunkers

Back in March of this year, 2022, we made yet another long weekend into a family adventure getaway to the mountains. With few plans besides a booked hotel suite and our hiking gear, we landed in the town of Canmore after a four hour spring drive.

A year earlier we had zipped off to the same general area (but a different side of the mountain and a different set of plans) and had done some fun, easy hikes but then had a crazy winter drive back home at the end of it all.

While the forecast turned out to be more cooperative this trip, we were a lot less prepared for what to do with our relatively pleasant weather. So when I suggested a short hike to try and find the mysterious nuclear fallout bunker on the side of a nearby mountain, there were few objections.

for whatever one photo is worth:

If you stand at the mouth of the Heart Creek Bunker and look North (and down) you can easily see the Trans-Canada Highway snaking by in the valley below, rounding the corner of Lac des Arcs and disappearing around the far end of the same mountain upon which you are standing.

The bunker is not difficult to find, though the route is not clearly marked as to what you will see when you embark on the short two kilometer trail part way up the side of a cliff face.

In fact, if it wasn’t for various social media and independent hiking guide sites I doubt many people beside the locals who live in nearby Canmore would know about this odd little gem.

As the story goes, the bunker was started (but never finished) in the late 1960s as “part of a Cold War-era plan to keep important government records safe in the event of a disaster, up to and including a nuclear bomb.”

But it leaked, water dripping through the porous rock, and then too political tides changed and I’m sure the whole endeavor became financially unfeasible so… now there is a cave dug out a couple hundred meters into the side of a mountain, and a narrow, unmarked trail through the forest leading to its entrance.

There were three other hiking parties there when we arrived in the mid-morning, and also about a half dozen other dogs. We chatted and let the dogs play and took each other’s photos at the mouth of the cave.

Then we went in.

It was pitch black inside save for the lights we carried with us.

I took as many pictures as I could in the dim light and recorded some video:

The walls were marked with graffiti and messages from past visitors as the site is apparently popular with locals for parties and late night fun and light painting and boondocking.

The dog was spooked by the whole experience and she needed to be carried out after less than ten minutes in the pitch black and eerily quiet cave.

And then … we turned our back and returned down the mountain path to our car. On the ride home, spotty mountain internet service stretched to the limit, my wife who is usually a planning and research guru for our travels took the chance to finally look up the weird history of the strange mountain bunker we’d just visited. Even our server at dinner later that evening perked his ears and seemed curious that a trio of tourists had made their way up to the secret Canmore bunker.

Off-the-beaten path sights are not necessarily rare, but they are always weird and magical and mysterious when you find them… especially if you didn’t even plan on looking in the first place.