Lucky me, I was at the Hanover, New Hampshire Farmer’s Market. It was the line forming at the Charity Bagel tent that stopped me in my tracks. Behind the table was Leo Barnes, the founder, baker, and chief kitmaker of Charity Bagels. Who could resist the beautiful bagels and a conversation?
A conversation had to follow about how Leo, a Hanover high school Entrepreneurship student first began to produce really good bagels and founded Charity Bagel kits.
“When I moved from Los Angeles to the bucolic east coast, there was one thing in my new town that I just couldn’t stomach: the paucity of good bagel bakeries. With the arrival of COVID, and a newfound abundance of free time, I decided to try my hand at making bagels. Within two batches I knew this was something I wanted to pursue. My interest quickly developed into a passion and then grew into an obsession. I researched dozens of different recipes, met seven local bakers (to have them critique my bagels and techniques), and started eating up gastronomy textbooks almost as fast as I did bagels. All in the pursuit of the ever elusive ‘perfect bagel recipe.’
Being transplanted to Hanover NH wasn’t all bad! Leo was conveniently located across the river from Norwich, Vermont and the King Arthur Baking Co. “I started off with Martin Philip’s bagel recipe – (available on HBA member King Arthur’s website). Through my own research, much has been changed to make it taste better and be more consumer friendly.”
After test baking a lot, Leo’s Top Ten changes to the original recipe included:
- Replacing all-purpose flour with High-gluten flour
- Extending poolish time to exactly 8 hours
- Omitting barley malt syrup in favor of barley malt powder
- Adding non diastatic malt powder into the recipe
- Increasing by 5 grams (about a 25% increase) in the amount of salt
- Omitting of the mixing the poolish by hand step and baking stone
- Reducing boiling time from a collective 90-120 seconds to 60 seconds
- Using semolina flour to prevent sticking
- Using convection settings on the oven
- Omitting salt from the water bath
Leo took it beyond baking great bagels for himself by launching Charity Bagels. “As COVID surged, I started donating my bagels to local charities — excited by the idea of giving away something unique and hard to come by — but I quickly became frustrated with how much demand there was and how few I could supply. As I entered Entrepreneurship class at Hanover High School, these ideas danced around my head until it hit me: teach people to make bagels as well as donate some to their community.”
Download this great resource! Making a Delicious Dozen Bagels at Home
In the first month the kits became available, Leo sold fifty kits and is now in the phase of getting feedback and iterating to make the process work the best for the most people.
“We sell DIY bagel kits with everything you need to go from desire to a delicious dozen bagels. Each kit includes pre-measured ingredients, printed/video instructions found at https://www.charitybagels.com/ and all the tools you’ll need for the job.
“To me this recipe is a list of ingredients and instructions for bagels but also for life. Take a tablespoon of meticulous trial and error, add a cup of effort, a pinch of artisanship, and a few pounds of networking. Then stir in a liter of willingness to fail, and you’re in for a tasty surprise.”
Tips I’ve discovered are:
- To minimize waste and save plastic wrap, cover your poolish and dough with a clean plastic bag.
- Timing in this recipe is not as crucial as in some – if your bagels end up boiling for 40 seconds instead of 30, don’t sweat it!
- For extra rise with your bagels, throw a handful of ice cubes into your oven before you put them on the trays. This extends the evaporative cooling period, giving more oven spring and a lighter, airier bagel.
To learn more about Leo Barnes and Charity Bagels, visit CharityBagels.com