For those of you who don’t know, I’m originally from Toronto. Now, in and of itself, that’s neither here nor there. What I can tell you is that the big city wasn’t quite so big when I was there. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a village, although I did live in one for a while. But it was definitely a small big city and quite possibly a kinder, gentler place than it is now. “Toronto the Good” was a place where a gaggle of twelve year old girls could take the subway downtown to do a little shopping and the only thing the Moms and Dads really had to worry about was how much money they might spend. There was a rush hour but it was exactly that. One hour. No road rage. Just a little inconvenience. The CN Tower was a really big deal and no one, anywhere lived above the 34th floor. As you can well imagine, things have changed since those days. Which isn’t too much of a surprise to me as, so have I. And although Toronto has gotten bigger and badder, and I have gotten older, there’s one thing that has stayed the same over all of these many years. Bagels. Toronto loves its bagels!
In anticipation of what you are thinking, yes I have heard of Montreal and New York but since I didn’t sow my oats in either of those cities I can only speak from my own experiences. And I know Toronto. And its bagels. But here’s the thing. Bagels in the “Big Smoke” are a rather contentious issue. Because in Hogtown this is a one sided affair. Never both. In the “6” you’re either going to frequent Gryfe’s or Harbord Bakery. What a Bagel or Open Window. Bagel World or Bagel House. It’s always one but never the other. Not that you have a choice. Like Democrats and Republicans, albeit with less vitriol. And malice. Ok. Lots less these days. It’s a family tradition. You’re born into it. Try bringing home a dozen from any of the competition and you’ll find out exactly what I mean. One will be too chewy, another not chewy enough. One’s like a brick, another’s just bread with a hole in it. And don’t even get me started on flavours. I mean who ever came up with the cockamame idea that blueberries, or worse yet, chocolate chips, belong in a bagel? Repeat after me. Poppy (but only if you can avoid having them stuck in your teeth). Sesame. Period.
No doubt about it. In my hometown, bagels are serious business. Which leaves both you and me wondering what the heck possessed me to decide to try to bake them. Maybe it was muffin fatigue. Maybe I got a little carried away with baking hubris. Maybe it was just that the recipe assured me it would be “easy”. There were only 5 (6 if you count the topping of choice) ingredients. What could go wrong? Whatever the reason, late one afternoon I donned my apron, gathered up all of my baking accoutrements and got to work. I was going to make bagels. For dinner no less.
I suppose I should have known. Things didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. Before long I found myself elbow deep in what can only be described, in pro baking lingo, as a gooey mess. With the equivalent of the dough of an entire bagel glued (there’s no other word for it) to my hands, my inside voice urged me to dump the whole damn thing, run down to my local bagelry and bag myself a baker’s dozen. After all, who would know? Suffice to say I soldiered on, deciding that the only thing left to do was wash off the detritus, dump copious amounts of flour on the remaining dough and get these puppies into the oven. You know. When life throws you lemons. To make what has become a long story shorter, 25 minutes later dinner was being served. On my bagels. Did they live up to expectations? They weren’t terrible. Although I’ll be the first to admit, maybe they were a little chewy.
Oh yeah. In case you’re wondering where my allegiance lies in the T.O. bagel controversy, I’m afraid I’ve been away for much too long to voice a valid opinion. Unlike my brethren to the south who I strongly encourage to exercise their right to vote in November, I will sit this one out on the political fence. Next time I’m back in the big city you’ll likely find me in line at the closest bagel joint, whichever and wherever that may be. I’m sure much to the chagrin and distaste of my family.
The Recipe: Prep time: 5 minutes! Cook time: 25 minutes; Rest time: 15 minutes; Total: 45 minutes
Me: Prep time: 37 minutes! Cook time: 25 minutes; Rest time: 15 minutes; Total: 1 hour and 17 minutes
Favourite thing about this recipe: I made bagels!
Least favourite thing about this recipe: My little inner voice telling me over and over again I was going to fail.
Lesson Learned: Read the comments before starting out (I think I learned this once before). Had I done so I would have known that many people ended up adding lots more flour to their very sticky dough.