Food Nostalgia Challenge: Bagels

When you ask an American student what they most miss about home, after their family, the most common response is often…the bagel.  My plan L (for lottery winning) in life is to open up a bakery here in Seville called Desa y Unos that specializes in American pastries – pie of the day, quality cookies, and of course – bagels.  Caroline and I still wax nostalgic over our bagel dates in college – a fresh bagel, toasted crispy and shmeared with flavored cream cheese accompanied by an almond latte.  So, so, so good.  Here in Spain, they are not to be found.  Like anything denied, it starts to grow in importance, taking on a rosy glow in your memory.  I had had it.  I had made gluten free bagels before, why not make glutentastic ones?

I called up my friend Erin and told her my plan and she started chipping in with her own sighs. The desire of her heart? A sandwich: the Tribeca Turkey from Manhattan Bagels.  The plan coalesced: we were going to make this sandwich and failure was not an option.


The Tribeca Turkey is actually a focaccia-based sandwich, but I had bagels on the brain.  Focaccia, your day is coming.  To pull if off, first we’d need two sauces – a chipotle mayo and pesto to flavor the bagels.  I also wanted cinnamon raisin because I had a stubborn mental image in mind: breakfast on the terrace.  Cinnamon raisin was the mental flavor that slotted in correctly, to play off my almond cafe con leche. So let’s get the sauces out of the way first.

Chipotle Mayo

Manhattan Bagel uses what they term a mild mayo, but since Erin is from Southern California and also has repeated Tex Mex cravings, I decided to keep it spicier.  I poked around on the internet for awhile, but didn’t find a recipe that piqued my interest.  I had Subway’s sauce on the brain, so I knew I wanted something both spicy and sweet.  This is what I came up with.

1 cup mayonnaise

4 small chipotle peppers – from the can in adobo, not dried.  Rehydrate if dried.

1 Tbsp chopped onion

1 medium clove garlic

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp honey

In a food processor, grind the peppers, onion, garlic, and lemon juice.

Add honey and mayonnaise and blend again until smooth. Stick in the fridge.  I tone mine down with  more mayonnaise, but Erin is quite content.  It has a bit of a kick.  Just don’t be an idiot and lean over the pepper mixture to smell and taste for spice level.  You will get a nice coughing fit for your pains.  Add the mayo, then adjust to taste.  Isn’t that why we read food blogs? To avoid the mistakes of others? Don’t be me in this instance.


I found a lovely blog entry here about making pesto from scratch, the way it should be. I would really encourage you all to jaunt over there and read her entry as it’s very well written.  Her pesto is made slowly and with love.  Unfortunately, I was running out of energy by this time and I did not follow her dictates very well.  By this time I had already gone to work and back, done to loads of laundry, and wandered around my neighborhood looking desperately for yeast.  More on that later down the page.  I figured that by this time, I could take a few shortcuts and still keep my food blogger dignity intact.  But I want you to know that I agonized as I brought the food processor out again.

Recipe from 101 Cookbooks

1 large bunch of fresh basil

3 medium cloves of garlic

1 small handful raw pinenuts

3/4 c freshly grated Parmesan

A few Tbsp olive oil

Desa’s food crimes in this post: I couldn’t find Parmesan at the grocery store I hit by my Metro stop.  Well, I did, but it was that dried Kraft powder.  Deal with it.  Also, I used a food processor instead of a big ole sharp knife.  My apology? I used fresh basil!

My poor basil plant got the everliving snot kicked out of by a windstorm the other day,  now that fall has started in earnest here in Sevilla.  It will be coming to live inside very soon. It has now got a lovely little yarn thread to fix its scoliosis and its own box of tinfoil to live in in my bedroom. My parsley and mint are much happier, being much shorter.

The only problem with using my own basil plant is that the definition of a ‘big bunch of basil’ gets a little tricky to measure.  So I denuded my plant, pruning out the most bruised leaves and ended up with this:

So.  Add the garlic to the food processor and give it a whir for 3 seconds.  One of the stern critiques from the other blog of food processor pesto is that it has no texture; that it becomes soupy.  My solution?  Don’t overprocess.

Add the basil in and repeat. Don’t make it into a puree, because there is more whirring of blades in its future.

Add in the pine nuts, blend.  Add the Parmesan, blend. Turn it out into a bowl and pack down lightly.

Just cover the dry mixture with olive oil, then go ahead and store in the fridge for when you need it. Try not to make it to far ahead of time, because it will start to lose its vibrancy after a couple of days.

I knew there was a reason I saved the jam jar.

Phew!  Sauces done.  Now I can go to bed –  Oh wait!  False. One more prep step that I hope you all can avoid:

This is yeast.  It took me four stores and a whole lot of chatting to strangers to get my hands on it. If you are here in Sevilla, the best place to find it is El Polvillo, a bakery chain.  My herb store guy who ended my search for sage last year gave me the tip, though he says he also has seen it in Mercadona.  El Corte Inglés does not have it.  The minor problem was that the words for yeast and for baking powder are one and the same – leavening.  By explaining in a roundabout way that I wanted leavening for bread, yah know, the biological kind, the little bugs, not the powder, I was redirected once and again.  Eventually I was given this beautiful phrase by my herb store guy:

Yep.  There’s a special word that has captured my imagination: breadification. The only problem is that I have never in my  life worked with cake yeast.  I dinked around online until I found what I suspected – if you are going to use cake yeast, you must be sure to work out your conversions.  Dry quick rise yeast is a different weight and volume.  And I had to laugh again when they said that cake yeasts come in packets of 2 or 0.6 ounces.  Mine came in a 500 gram brick.  That’s about 17 and a half ounces, by the way.  So I slowly shaved off what I needed after doing some cooking arithmetic and stuck it in the fridge to come slowly up to temperature.  Cake yeast is much more temperamental and will throw a tantrum and refuse to work if you don’t treat it just right. Avoid it.  I can’t because no one here makes bread – when you can walk 2 minutes away from your house for fresh delicious bread cheap why the heck would you?  BECAUSE THERE ARE NO BAGELS HERE.

Oh, and for the love of god, don’t get distracted and lick your fingers while working with yeast.  It tastes absolutely awful. How it smells, but stronger and more…organic.  What’s worse?  This is not the first time I’ve done that.  You could say that every damn time I accidentally end up eating yeast.  Just…don’t.

We thought the yeast looked a lot like tuna. Erin referred to it as a waiting beast, ready to spring to life at any moment. I think Yeast Beast would be a catchy cookbook title.

Pesto Bagels and Cinnamon Raisin Bagels (highly adapted and frequently ignored from this source)

Makes 8 bagels

4 1/2 – 5 c flour (I used 1 c whole wheat flour to up the gluten content because my herb store was out of straight up gluten)

1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 Tbsp white sugar

1 tsp salt

1/4 oz fast rising yeast OR .6 oz cake yeast

1 1/2 c hot water

For the pesto bagels: 1/4  c pesto for 4 bagels. Multiply accordingly.

For the cinnamon raisin bagels: 1/3 c raisins and 3 Tbsp cinnamon sugar (very cinnamony) for 4 bagels.

The brown sugar variation was lifted from one of ten bagel recipes I read, to improve flavor. It was easier than hunting for malt extract.

First, proof the yeast.  Mix the hot water with the sugars until it dissolves, then add in the yeast.  Let stand ten minutes. Get hungry.  Try out the pesto.

Mix in 2 cups of flour and beat for 2 minutes.  A mixer would be awesome, but as we have discussed frequently before, my kitchen is a little low on the handy dandy kitchen machinery.  I used the hand tool as my dough hook.  Erin took all pictures that my hands are in.

Add in enough of the flour to make a soft dough and then turn out onto the counter to knead the rest of the flour in.

Knead for 6 minutes.  The dough should be rather stiff.

For those of you who have not kneaded bread, fold the bread in half towards you and use the heel of your hand to press down, in, and forward. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Ad nauseum.

We are not done kneading, but we need to break off to add in our flavors. We cut the dough in half to make two flavors.

Whenever cutting dough use a sharp nonserrated blade to cut the least amount of gluten possible

Spread the pesto on half of the dough and knead for two more minutes.

Knead in the raisins little by little and on the last few turns, spread the cinnamon sugar on top and bottom. The kneading process will give it a set of interesting swirls.

Put the dough into greased bowls and cover with a slightly damp cloth.  Let rise in a warm place for twenty minutes.  I used the boiling water in the oven trick that I learned from the gluten-free bagels. Especially since there is no central heating in my apartment and now that the crisp weather has arrived…there is no warm place in the apartment.

After twenty minutes, punch them down and cut into 8 bagels.  Form them into balls, then poke your thumb through the middle and expand the hole a little.  Set them on a greased cookie sheet, cover with a damp cloth and let rise again for another 20 minutes.  After ten minutes has passed, set a large pot of water to boil on the stove.

Ok.  Set your oven to 375 F (190 C I finally remembered this time).  For it to be a true bagel, it must be boiled.  Each bagel must be boiled for 3 or 4 minutes.  You want them to float up at the end.  For the last minute, flip the bagel so it is boiled evenly. Let them drain on a clean dish towel for a few minutes before baking.


Bake them for 25 minutes, flipping them upside down after 15 minutes. Now for the hard part – you must let them cool for an hour before eating them otherwise the texture will be gluey and unfortunate.  Curse them for smelling so good, because by this time you are starving.

Breakfast the next day?

But first…

Tribeca Turkey Bagel

Pesto bagel

Chipotle mayo


Thinly sliced red onion


Toast the bagel, add the mayo, layer accordingly.  We unfortunately only had ham because for some reason the lunchmeat case had ham-only based products.  It was…bizarre.  But what else can you expect from a store called El Jamón? But guess what?

It was still awesome. Go forth and make one yourself.


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Hey, I'm Desa. I've been bouncing between the Pacific Northwest and Sevilla, Spain in the last few years and from tiny apartment to tiny apartment. I cook mainly for one, which means some potentially boring meals, but here I'll be sharing the food that excites me. Feel free to offer suggestions, commiseration, or desires. And thanks for coming by!


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