Saturday, April 13, 2013

Homemade Bagels

Difficult: A little
Time consuming: not actively, only about 45 minutes.  But it needs around 10 hours (total) of resting time.

So last week I confessed to doing a whole lot of cleaning on spring break and not a whole lot of baking.  With all that time to bake something, anything, even kinda remotely cool coming to an end, I decided to make bagels.  My husband and I visited my parents for a long weekend for Easter and got to do all the bagel magic in my parents fabulous, spacious, and well stocked kitchen.

Bagels made me kinda nervy, I'm not gonna lie.  They need to be doughy and spongy, but the exteriors need to be crisped and well baked.  And the yeast...gah, I always worry about not letting the yeast do its yeasty thing long enough.  But these bagels were not too difficult.  In fact I was surprised about how easy they were.  And oh-em-gee homemade bagels taste was just out of this world, eating them fresh from the oven was some of the best bagels I have ever eaten.  And I had a lot of Jewish friends growing up and ate a lot of great bagels in their company.  The recipe I'm sharing is from Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice which I saw on Smitten Kitchen - don't they just look amazing?

To start this recipe, you need to make a sponge.  As I was making it, I was wondering why it was called a sponge, it seemed sort of odd.  But after combining the water, yeast, and flour, and letting it sit for a few hours, the dough rose.  When stirred to add in the other ingredients, the sponge revealed a most sponge like appearance.  Actually, it reminded me of the sponge my dad uses to wash his car.

After adding the rest of the ingredients to the sponge and kneeding thoroughly, the dough gets divided.  Depending on how big you want your bagels, you can get around 12-24 bagels.  Let the dough balls rest for 20 minutes, then shape into bagels.  I made mine by piercing the center with my thumb then whirling the dough around my fingers until the hole was big enough.  Then let the dough rest for another 20 minutes, then transfer to the fridge overnight.

The next morning, bring a 10 in skillet filled with 1" of water (combined with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda) to a boil.  Assemble your toppings (I made sesame and everything bagels, but you could leave them plain, top with dried onions, poppy seeds, or anything else you can think of).  Also prepare an egg wash.  Boil the bagels for 1-2 minutes per side (longer = chewier, which to me = good).  Let dry on a cooling rack, brush with egg wash, dip in toppings, then put on a baking sheet and bake.

Let cool before serving.  They are amazing the first day, but keep well at room temperature for a few days, or in the freezer for even longer.

The Recipe


1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
4 cups (18 ounces) bread flour (or unbleached high-gluten)
2 ½ cups (20 ounces) water, at room temperature

½ teaspoon (.055 ounces) instant yeast
3 ¾ cups (17 ounces)  bread flour (or unbleached high-gluten)
2 ¾ teaspoons (.7 ounce) salt ** weighing salt is important if you can since all salt is not created equally
2 teaspoons (.33 ounce) malt powder OR 1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar

To Finish
1 tablespoon baking soda, divided
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
1 egg white scrambled with 1 tablespoon of water
Toppings: Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, or chopped fresh onions that have been tossed in oil (optional), everything topping (from Brown Eyed Baker: combine 4 teaspoons poppy seeds, 4 teaspoons sesame seeds, 4 teaspoons dried minced or flaked garlic, 4 teaspoons dried minced or chopped onion, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt)


Make the sponge
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine (just with a whisk or spatula or something, no need to dirty a paddle) the yeast (1 teaspoon), flour (4 cups), and water to form a smooth, sticky batter.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature (or if you kitchen is cooler, then leave in a warmer place) for about 2 hours.  The mixture will smell yeasty and may appear foamy and bubbly.  It'll be about doubled in size.

Make the dough
2.  Add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir to combine.  Then add 3 cups of flour, all the salt, and the malt.  Mix with a dough hook on low speed until the ingredients for a cohesive ball.  During this slow mix, slowly add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour.  When all the flour has been added, kneed the dough on low for 6 minutes (using the kitchen aid; or 10 minutes by hand).  All the ingredients should be hydrated, but if the dough seems dry, add a few drops of water; if it seems too sticky, add more flour - just a little at a time).  When the dough is kneaded, it should feel satiny and pliable but not tacky.

3.  Divide the dough into balls (don't put the hole in yet!)  For 12 bagels, divide evenly by hand, or if you're really a stickler like me, weigh to 4.5 ounces - this makes a pretty typically sized bagel.  For 24 smaller bagels, weigh each to 2.25 ounces - these are just slightly bigger then the Thomas brand bagel minis.  Let them rest on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with a damp dish towel, for 20 minutes.

4.  Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper (or move your bagel rolls and reuse the parchment from above; or just let the dough rest in step 4 on another surface).  Spray with nonstick spray.  Shape the bagel.  There are 2 ways to do this: (1) stick your thumb into the center of the roll and stretch out the hole to about 1" or so, or (2) roll the dough into a rope slightly longer then the distance across your hands from pinky to pinky, overlap the ends and smoosh together, creating a bagel.  Woo! Place the bagels on the pan, lightly mist with nonstick spray, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.

5.  To determine when the bagels are ready to go to the fridge, drop a bagel into a bowl of cool or room temperature water, it should float within 10 seconds - if not, then pat dry, and let rest for another 5-10 minutes, then test again, repeat until it floats within the 10 second time frame.  (You don't need to test all the bagels, just one.)  When the bagel floats, remove, pat dry, and place the trays of bagels to the fridge over night (and up to 2 days)

Make bagels!
6.  When you are ready to make the bagels, place the oven racks in the middle and preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Bring 1" of water to a boil in a 10" skillet.  Add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda.  Have your egg wash and toppings ready in their various bowls.  Also grab some cooling racks and place them in the vicinity of where the boiling and topping festivities will be happening.

7.  Remove the bagels from the fridge and drop into the boiling water.  About 3 large bagels or 5-6 small will fit - don't overcrowd the pan as they will puff up slightly during the boil.  Boil for 1 minute on each side (or 2 if you want a chewier bagel), then transfer to the draining rack.  Repeat until all the bagels have been boiled.  If the water seems to get too low, add more, and add the remaining baking soda.

8.  Get the baking pans ready for the oven by sprinkling cornmeal or semolina flour over the parchment paper, set aside.

9.  Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the bagel, then dip into the topping mixture, place on baking sheet leaving about 1" between bagels.  Repeat until all the bagels have been topped.

10.  Place in the oven, bake for about 5 minutes, then rotate the pans 180 degrees and alternate the shelves.  Decrease oven temperature to 450 degrees, and bake for another 5 minutes.  The bagels should be turning a light golden brown - this might take longer than the 10 minutes (mine took around 13ish).  Remove the pans from the oven and cool on a rack for 15 minute or longer (they are really hot!)

11.  Split in half, schmear with cream cheese, and enjoy :)

The bagel recipe and the everything topping recipe were adapted slightly and rewritten here in my own words.

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