Embracing My Inner Jew

Like many Americans, my heritage is a hodge-podge of ethnicities. Genetically I am a Heinz 57 – related to both John Adams and Pope John Paul II as well as a host of nefarious characters I can only imagine. Culturally, I am equally diverse – according to my DNA, my ancestor was an African man by way of Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and England, Ireland, and Wales. Harry Potterally, I am Muggle.

In a culture that encourages us to embrace our inner child, inner femininity, and inner peace, today I embraced my inner Jew. The details are sketchy, but I have Jewish ancestry on both sides of my family. On my father’s side, there is a murky story about a Jewish boy from Germany who was adopted (or kidnapped, depending on who told the story) in the early days of World War II and became part of my lineage.

I credit my love for a good bagel to my Jewish ancestors, whoever they were. I am constantly disappointed by what passes for a “bagel” these days. They are too soft, bready and lack any satisfying texture. So, as with many things in life, if you want something done right, do it yourself. I stumbled upon a traditional bagel recipe last week and it has haunted me. I make a mean challah, so I thought I would give bagels a try.

As I walked through the aisles of Whole Foods, past all the faddish “gluten free” items, I was actually searching for wheat gluten. I found it, as well as another new ingredient – barley malt.

I mixed. I kneaded. I rolled. I boiled. I baked. The results were not as pretty as those in a good New York bagelry, but the taste, texture, and chewiness were right on. I will work on my technique of shaping them better. But I may never enter a Panera again.