After doing a May Intensive Independent Study deep dive on bagel chemistry, here are a few cool things that I learned.
Why do we boil bagels?
Boiling is rare in breadmaking. For bagels, it creates a starchy gel wall. This gel wall, when baked, holds back expansion, keeping the bagel from over-rising and turning into ordinary bread. Once baked, it becomes shiny, crusty, porous, and delicious.
Will they rise to the occasion?
When we bake bagels, they gain a lot of volume in a phenomena called 'oven spring.' In this process, gases in the dough get hotter and expand, in turn forcing the crust to expand. Oven spring eventually stops when the crust browns and stiffens making it able to contain the pressures of the gases.
Do you knead some air?
Air (N2 and O2) is an essential ingredient to a good bagel. During mixing, air gets trapped in your dough and helps strengthen the gluten network that keeps your bagel sturdy. Kneading also traps air in your dough, forming tiny bubbles essential to a chewy, airy bagel.