Avoiding the German bagel curse

May 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm (breakfast, Starches, unrated, Website / blog)

I’ve tried a number of bagels in Germany, both here in Saarbruecken and a few in Berlin.  Every time I’ve been wholly (hole-y?) disappointed.  The German bagels I’ve had are nothing like a true bagel.  They’re essentially just a tasteless white fluffy bread abomination, which—by virtue of having a bagel’s shape—attempt to deceive the bagel-ignorant.  I decided that if I wanted to eat real bagels I would need to make them myself.

The first time I tried my hand at bagel making I (stupidly) used some mystery flour I got at my local bakery, and it was a total disaster.  My bagels ended up tasting exactly like the typical German bagel that I abhor.  This time, however, I tried to find a higher protein flour.  I looked for 812 flour, which is supposed to be the closest equivalent to u.s. high gluten flour or bread flour (which is usually between 12.5-14% protein and 70-80% extraction rate), but I couldn’t find it anywhere.  Instead, I used German 1050 flour, which is supposed to have a similar amount of protein (about 13-15%), but also more bran and wheat germ (a higher extraction rate).  It’s often recommended on German websites for recipes that require particularly elastic doughs (like pizza dough and bagels), but it is supposedly a denser, heartier flour with a greyer tinge than regular American high gluten / bread flour.

With the 1050 flour, my bagels turned out significantly better than last time, although still not quite perfect.  They at least resembled bagels, but the texture of the inside of the cooked bagel was a bit “stickier” than I would have liked.  (I know this word isn’t that clear, but I can’t figure out how else to describe it.)

I tried two different bagel recipes.  The first was Peter Reinhart’s updated bagel recipe from Artisan Breads Every Day.  I used 50% more yeast than called for since I thought that my German yeast was regular active dry not instant, but it turned out that it was instant, so I probably used too much.  I think my salt is in between fine and coarse kosher salt, so I ended up using somewhere in between the two volume amounts.  But then the dough ended up tasting very salty, so I left the salt out of the poaching liquid.

The second recipe I tried was Jo Goldenberg’s recipe, by way of Serious Eats. Again, however, I screwed up the yeast.   I forgot that I was doubling the recipe and only put in one recipe’s worth of yeast.  When I realized my mistake I added it with (along more water), but then the dough was too wet and I had to add tons more flour.  But I ran out of the 1050 high protein flour and had to go back to normal flour.  When doubled the recipe calls for 2 Tbs. of salt, which seems absurd, but I didn’t cut it back (or maybe I cut it a little, but not enough).  The bagels ended up extremely salty.  Other than that, however, the general flavor and consistency wasn’t  all that different from the Reinhart recipe (which has much different proportions and calls for an overnight rest in the fridge).  But the outside was definitely chewier, as we boiled them longer.

For the Reinhart batch we boiled the bagels for 1 minute per side, but the outside wasn’t quite as chewy as we liked, so for the second (Goldenberg) batch we boiled them for 2 minutes per side, which was perhaps a bit too much.  Next time I’ll try 1.5 minutes per side.  Another thing that was a little strange about the bagels was that they came out super dark, I think because of the malt syrup in the poaching liquid.  The bagels that were poached for two minutes per side were so brown they almost looked burnt. We topped all our bagels with poppy seeds, but next time Derek wants to try onion and/or garlic.

Vegan cashew “cream cheese”

The head of the Saarbruecken Vegetarian Society sent me a recipe for vegan cream cheese made from cashews.  She wanted to know if it tasted “authentic”.  I sent it to my mom to try, but she couldn’t get past the odd ingredient list, which includes ginger, garlic, cayenne, and lemon.  The recipe also calls for Schabziger Klee, which seems to an herb from a relative of the fenugreek plant.  Diana brought me a small bottle of the stuff, and (many, many months later) I finally tried making the cream cheese.   Here’s half the recipe (which is plenty in my opinion).


  • 1 cup / 150g raw cashew kernels
  • 1/2 bunch parsley or chives (I used chives)
  • 1.5 tsp.  fresh garlic
  • 1.5 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 dried chili (I left this out and used a pinch of cayenne pepper)
  • 3/4 Tbs. natural crystal salt
  • 2 2/3 Tbs.  / 40ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup / 60ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1.5 medium-sized lemons)
  • about 1/8 tsp blue fenugreek (optional, I used 1/4 tsp.)

Instructions: Soap the cashew kernels in fresh cold water overnight, then blend with the other ingredients.

The blue fenugreek is called Schabziger Klee in German.  Other names for it appear to be  ground blue-white clover, blue-white trigonella, sweet trefoil, curd herb, and blue melilot.

My notes:

I ended up having to use quite a bit of the soaking water to get my blender blades to turn.  At first I thought the consistency was too thin but it thickened up nicely after a night in the fridge.  I was a thick, viscous, pale green spread.  I first tried it on a bagel, and didn’t like the combination at all.  Although the spread didn’t have such a strong taste (I actually couldn’t detect the ginger or lemon at all), once spread on a bagel it completely covered up all the nice wheaty, bagel-y taste.   So I found other ways to use up the cashew spread.  Both Derek and I enjoyed it as a dip for raw veggies, and I also thought it made a nice dressing for a beet salad. (It had a consistency similar to that of mayonnaise, but not the distracting soy flavor of tofu mayo.)



  1. Jenn said,

    I’ve become addicted to this recipe for bagels: http://www.crumblycookie.net/2010/08/26/whole-wheat-bagels/

    I can’t do supermarket bagels anymore, after making these a few times. However, it’s a ton of work.

  2. My favorite raw veggies and accompanying dips | The captious vegetarian said,

    […] vegan cashew “cream cheese” […]

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