Japanese people love chewy foods (have you ever had mochi, the super gooey Japanese rice cakes?) and I'm not an exception. Lately I've been going through a bagel baking phase, and I find myself wanting to make chewy bagels. I realize this sounds funny because bagels are already chewy, but I wanted to make them chewier.
First, I need the ingredients that make things chewy. I knew that starch makes thing sticky and gooey. I remember my mom was using smashed cooked rice as a glue when fixing Shoji. So I decided to add more starch to my dough. I mixed a bit of tapioca flour with bread flour. The bagels came out softer than ones without tapioca flour, but they didn't possess the extra chewiness. Plus, they were good only when freshly baked. They were too dry the next day. I was missing something...
So I searched "starch" on Wikipedia, and it says, "Starch becomes soluble in water when heated... During cooking, the starch becomes a paste and increases further in viscosity" ... and here I had my Alton Brown moment (but please keep in mind that all the contents here is merely my interpretation of a Wikipedia article. I'm not a scientist so I could be way off.) Basically I need this process, called starch gelatinization, to increase the viscosity. I guess that's what happening when we boil the bagel. The bagel become chewy because the starch in the outermost layer of the dough is "cooked" and thus gelatinized. But I need it not only on the outside but on the inside too. So I decided to "cook" the starch first then mix into the dough. I heated up the tapioca flour and water mixture stirring vigorously over the stove top. The mixture was becoming thicker and sticker (see the picture below.) When I bake bagels, I do all the kneading with my hands so it's much easier to knead half of the dough at a time. This was even more necessary for this dough since it is stickier than regular dough and much more difficult to knead.
Well, the result was much better than my first attempt. They were chewer and slightly sweeter than regular bagels and were still good the next day. My husband prefers regular bagels, and I could go either way, but it was definitely an interesting experiment.
The starch gel