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musings - a baker’s discipline

Well, perhaps it was a bit insane to launch my bagel baking blog just before I journeyed to two of the biggest conferences for my day job (GDC & SXSW). Phew. Rest assured, I’m alive and baking bagels, amongst many of the other things I emotionally-bake throughout the week (and attempt to resist emotionally-eating). This morning, just a scribble of thoughts (which you’re gonna find from time to time on Jo Bagel. I warned you, bagels & feelings.). Stay tuned in coming weeks for tales of baking in friends’ kitchens, chatting with locals bakers, baking things that may not be bagels, and yes, bagel baking. Thanks for reading as I find my footing in this weird project <3.

Maybe part of the reason I started this project is I naturally lack a baker’s discipline. I get stubborn about specific instructions. I’m easily distracted. Scatterbrained. Impulsive. I am messy. Y’all, I’m messy. Gah. I get anxious and second guess every move I make. Also, I’m clumsy, and trust me, not in an endearing rom-com protagonist sort of way. More Urkel level clumsy (true story: at my favorite coffee shop recently I spilled a bunch of water and knocked over TWO PLANTS within 10 minutes. Shoutout to Figure 8 for letting me still be a customer).

To give myself some credit here, I do love a good plan, navigating the best processes for managing a project, and I live for writing lists in this world. Jo Bagel gives me an opportunity to nurture the planner that I am, but also navigate some of the skillsets in this universe that may not exactly come natural to me… and then hey, I get rewarded with delicious, chewy bread.

Patience is another baker virtue not quite inherent in me, and slow iteration is key in any baking journey. While people love to exclaim “Bagels!? I hear those are hard!”, the process itself isn’t complicated, it’s just… tedious.

Make a sponge, let it rest.

Make your dough, knead your dough.

Roll your dough into balls, let them rest.

Shape them into bagels, let them rest.

Let them rest some more in the coolness of a fridge. Overnight.

Boil water.

Add lye (don’t die.).

Boil bagels.

Bake bagels.

Cool bagels.

Eat bagels.*

Cooly, calmly, repeatedly making hundreds of bagels and restraining the urge to change dozens of things at once. This is not something that comes natural to me. I’m easily excitable. After the first batch of bagels I made, though delicious, I went down a rabbit hole of “What if I added barley malt syrup to the water?/Barley malt syrup vs powder?!/What if I roll them differently?/Should I make them smaller?/Should I make them bigger?/What if I boil them even longer?/What if I boil them less?/What if I use an egg glaze?/What if I leave them in the fridge longer?/What if I leave them in the fridge less?”. An overwhelming laundry list of ideas I'm eager to execute all at once. Curiosity is great, but my eagerness to jump into so many changes resulted in a lot of sad bagels last year. Oh, and also a lot of thoughtless oven burns. Anyway, I'm learning how to talk myself off this overwrought baking ledge, slow down, and breezily bake the best bagels in this city.

Repetition, patience, and the most minute of adjustments from time to time- the processes I learned over this year (and continue to work on) that are important for a baker, a bagel, and, perhaps, important for hyper, impulsive little ol' me.

*Ya, a lot of resting time. We’ll dig into the nitty gritty of this process sometime!


Hi, I'm Jo.  I live in Marfa, and seem to be fixated on trying to master baking a perfect New York bagel.  In the west Texas desert.  Yep. More about me.

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