Hi and welcome to a big moment in my personal bagel and lox journey! This journey began at the beginning of this year when I made the decision to move bagels and lox from the category of “things best left up to the experts and eaten only in new york” into the category of “things we can make at home because ughh flights to new york take so longgg and absolute bagel drone delivery doesn’t exist yet.” What took me so long to make this decision? A few things:
-Requirements for special ingredients that aren't readily available at the Hugo's Family Marketplace down the road
-All this talk of maybe needing special “New York water”
-A general lack of fish knowledge
-Fear of recipes that require multiple days to make
Eventually my bagel craving got too big however, so I started researching, listening to bagel podcasts, reading recipes, and talking about my imminent journey to anybody who would listen. Two bagel experts emerged in town: Robert, who used to own a bagel shop in Idaho, and my friend Dave, a New York native and fantastic bread maker. Robert and I began making bagels every Sunday at our sadly now closed co-op, and Dave served as my recipe and special ingredient consultant. I learned what I could about the bagel shops that used to be in Grand Forks (one of them apparently flew bagels in from New York every day?!) and started listing features of a good bagel and lox: chewiness, doughiness, plumpness, a bit of sweetness, some texture that fights you but not too much, a very small if not closed up hole, bagel-y flavor (whatever that is), fluffy cream cheese, thinly sliced aggressively salty lox, capers, tomatoes, onions, Sunday morning chill. At one point after I spoke about my journey on Unorthodox, this Star Tribune recipe appeared in my inbox from Jonathan, Mark the Host’s brother, affirming that this was my “path to bagel heaven.” (The recipe I now use is a descendent of this one!)
All you need is high gluten flour and barley malt! Is what I learned from Dave. No New York water necessary. Just flour and a syrupy substance, two easily Amazonable things, and a few basic pantry staples, I had no excuse. So I bought 50 pounds of high gluten flour and got to work on my at-home bagel practice.
Some things I learned about bagels:
-Barley Malt makes bagel-y flavor! I like adding it to the dough and to the water when boiling them. It lends that distinct bit of sweetness that makes bagel flavor so good.
-Once the dough is formed into bagels, they get really sticky. So when I tell you in the instructions to line your pan with parchment and grease it, do that and do it well!
-But they don’t stick to the toppings! So Dave and I use egg wash to help them stick. (Vegan bagel-ers, what would be a good substitution for this?)
-One minute on each side is a perfect amount of time to boil your bagels to get a deliciously chewy crust and doughy inside. Any longer and the crust fights you a little too much.
-I’ve had the most success letting the dough proof overnight in the fridge and then shaping them and boiling. Some recipes have you shape the night before and then refrigerate and then boil and bake. Mine always fell flat when I did this. Any thoughts?
(flat bagel 👆🏼)
-Bread flour can be substituted for high gluten flour, says Dave, simply knead for a few minutes longer to develop more gluten in the dough.
-I suck at the shaping method where you make a long snake and then roll the two ends together (I think this is more traditional??) so I stick to the method where you make a ball and poke your thumb through, as demonstrated in the above video. Both taste great :)
-These bagels freeze beautifully!!
After a few months of bagel practice, my journey took me to Alaska for salmon!! It was one of the best trips of my life (thank you, Copper River!)! Gerry, Nik, Alana, Kristan, Rob, and I stayed in the itsy bitsy town of Cordova, right near the Copper River, where some of the world’s tastiest wild salmon is caught, and learned about and ate salmon all day. I knew nothing about salmon before this trip and I didn’t actually really like it except for in lox (omg I’m sorry!), but now I can’t get enough of it.
Here are some pics from my trip!
Some things I learned about salmon and lox:
-Lox = Salmon cured with salt. Gravlax = Salmon cured with salt, sugar, dill, and spices. I wasn’t sure what name to go with for this blueberry recipe at first, but since there are no spices or dill and since we’re eating this on a bagel, I’m going with lox. But I think gravlax will totally work too, right?
-Wild salmon is pretty much only caught in the Pacific Ocean. (Salmon from the Atlantic is usually farmed.) And most of the wild salmon that we eat in the states comes from Alaska.
-Wild salmon is caught at the end of its life cycle, while it’s making the journey back to its birth place (somehow it remembers and knows to do this?!). Since the Copper River is super long, salmon need to be extra fatty in order to make that journey, making it super flavorful. (Check out Gerry's and Nik's posts about our trip to learn more about this process!)
-Filleting is hard! Fisherman Ian and Kinsey from Copper River both showed me. I know that you should have a flexible knife. But past that I'm useless and definitely need some practice. Thankfully, fishmongers will fillet it for you and get all of the pin bones out.
-Any salmon that you’re going to eat uncooked (like lox or sushi) should be frozen for at least 24 hours before preparation to kill any bad cooties.
-Cutting lox is hard! Getting it as thin as they do at Russ and Daughters is something I may never be able to do but I have a deep freeze full of bagels and an endless appetite for lox so I have time to practice...
The videos above are a culmination of my bagel and lox journey, and I’m so excited to share them in time for Yom Kippur!! (I'm already plotting out part 3, a how-to for fluffy bagel shop cream cheese...) The lox takes about three days to cure so if you get started *now* it'll be ready for Saturday evening. Happy bagel and lox-ing everyone!
2 c (474g) warm water (105º-110º)
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tb (25g) brown sugar
1 tb salt
2 tb (42g) barley malt, divided
6 c (762g) high gluten flour, plus more for dusting
1 tb baking soda
2 tsp poppy seeds
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp dried minced garlic
1 tsp dried minced onion
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp caraway seeds, optional
1 egg white, beaten
In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and a teaspoon of the brown sugar and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the brown sugar, salt, 1 tablespoon barley malt, and flour and mix to form a stiff dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and slightly sticky. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Let the dough sit at room temperature for an hour and then turn it out onto a clean work surface. Divide it into 12 equal parts and stretch them into smooth balls, making sure to seal any dough seams well. Shape the bagels by sticking your thumb through the center of each ball and using your fingers to gently stretch a 2” hole. Cover the bagels with a towel and let rise for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450º. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda and remaining tablespoon of barley malt. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and grease them well. Also lay out a clean kitchen towel near your pot of boiling water.
Working with 3 bagels at a time, boil them for 1 minute on each side (use a timer for this). With a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer them briefly to the kitchen towel to catch any excess moisture and then transfer them to the baking sheets.
To make the topping, combine the poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, onion, salt, and caraway seeds, if using. Brush the bagels with the egg white and sprinkle with the topping. Bake the bagels for 10 minutes, switch racks and rotate the pans 180º, and bake for 6-8 more minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly and enjoy!
Leftovers can be frozen and reheated in the toaster!
One of the best things we ate in Alaska was BLUEBERRY LOX, made by Diane Wiese, an amazing cook in Cordova who comes from a family of fisherman. The lox had the most beautiful blue edges, a faint blueberry flavor, and was super smoky, almost bacon-y. I couldn’t stop eating it!! So when I got home, I figured, if I’m going to make lox from scratch, it should definitely be blue! So this lox recipe is inspired by Diane’s blueberry lox!
Makes 1 fillet
1 c (230g) kosher salt
3/4 c (150g) sugar
2 c (280g) frozen wild blueberries
Zest of 1 lemon
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1 salmon fillet (about 3 pounds), pin bones removed and halved horizontally
In a large bowl, combine salt, sugar, blueberries, lemon zest, cilantro, liquid smoke, and a bunch of turns of black pepper. Lay a large piece of plastic wrap down on a work surface and place a small handful of the blueberry mixture in the middle (I recommend wearing gloves for this). Place half of the fillet skin side down over the mixture, top it with most of the remaining blueberry mixture, and then top that with the other half of the fillet, flesh side down. Cover the top and sides with the remaining blueberry mixture, making sure that all parts of the fish are covered. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, place on a rimmed baking sheet, cover it with a cutting board, and weigh it down with something heavy (a few bricks, some cans, a cast iron pot). Refrigerate it for 3-5 days, flipping every 12 hours and pouring out any juices as they accumulate in the pan. It’s ready when the fish is firm to the touch. Rinse off the curing mixture, pat it dry, and slice it as thinly as possible. Enjoy! Keep leftovers wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge for up to 5 days.