I have made bagels before, so I kind of knew what I was doing this time around. It's not a hard process, just time consuming, and takes some definite planning. For this particular recipe, you need a few hours to deal with it the day before you want to serve them, and then about another hour or so on the morning you want to bake them (at least that's how I did it). It may seem complicated and time consuming, but I assure you, it's worth it. These bagels are so good. They have a great flavor, and the boiling-then-baking process gives the a wonderful chewy inside, with a crispy exterior.
I made these for a girl's brunch (after a 4 mile run - hence the reward), and as you can see, I served them with the standard cream cheese, smoked salmon and capers. They were gobbled right up, and some of the leftovers were sent home with the girls. I've heard that you can freeze bagels, but I've never had them last long enough in the house to even think about freezing them. This recipe says it makes 12 bagels, but I ended up with 13 regular ones, and one midget bagel. I ate the midget before we ran. It was delicious.
If you have the time to put in for these, please do so. But, I know it takes a lot more time than most other baked good. However, I can tell you that nothing about this is particularly hard, just a little time-consuming. I have one note about rising time and temperature: my house is often on the cool side, so it can mean that dough takes a long time to rise. Very often, to deal with this, I put the oven on "Warm" while I make the dough or sponge, and then when it's time to let it rise, I turn the oven off, put the dough in the oven, and keep the door closed. That little extra bit of warmth really helps. So keep that in mind if your house is cool like mine.
Source: "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart
Makes 12 large or 24 mini bagels
1 teaspoon instant (rapid rise) yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 1/2 cups water, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder, or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar (fp note: i used honey, because it was what i had. seemed to work just fine.)
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or Semolina flour for dusting
Sesame seed, poppy seeds, kosher slat, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, or chopped fresh onions that have been tossed in oil (optional). (fp note: i used a mix of poppy and sesame seeds, salt and minced dried onions.)
- To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.
- To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt (or other alternative). Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.
- Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes. (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour -- all the ingredients should be hydrated. If the dough seems too dry and rips when you try to stretch it, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
- Immediately divide the dough into 4 1/2 ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. Form the pieces into rolls.
- Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
- Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Proceed with shaping the bagels in one of the two following ways:
- (A) poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and (B) gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots). (fp note: this is the method i use. seems easier to me.)
- Toll out the dough into an 8-inch long rope. (A) Wrap the dough around the palm and back of your hand, between the thumb and fore-finger, overlapping the ends by several inches. (B) Press the overlapping ends on the counter with the palm of your hand, rocking back and forth to seal.
- Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
- Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the "float test". Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.
- The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500 degrees with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.
- Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit. After 1 minute flip them over and boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water.
- When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You make bake them darker if you prefer.
- Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.