Got a question last evening from a reader by the name of Dan, who asked:
If high gluten flour is what helps give breads bigger holes, why do you use high gluten in bagels where the ideal is smaller holes?
That’s an excellent question, for in truth the idea of making bagels with high-gluten flour seems somewhat contradictory. Remember how I said that gluten performs two basic functions in bread. First, it creates big holes in the crumb and second, it makes it chewy. But what if you wanted to isolate one of those two characteristics? What if you liked your bread chewy but with a very fine crumb? You’d give your dough everything it needed for chewiness (lots of gluten and the intensive kneading to develop it), but then deny it the other critical thing it needs to grow those really, really big bubbles: water. For it’s the degree of hydration (water) in a dough that determines whether or not the bubbles created by the reproducing yeast, the bubbles that all that gluten traps, can easily combine with one another into big, cavernous spaces. Good bagel dough is so stiff it’ll practically burn out your KitchenAid if you aren’t careful, and that’s a texture that makes it very difficult for bubbles to merge.
So then you say, just for argument’s sake, what if you were the opposite type of person? The kind who liked bread with big holes but that wasn’t at all chewy? You’d be pretty much SOL, pal. And what kind of weirdo are you anyway?