bagels

I grew up in Philadelphia, with easy access to some amazing bagels at Rolings, leaving me disappointed at my options in rural New Mexico and even in Madison, WI. This left me with no choice but to try to bake my own. I find them a bit onerous to make, but as long as I only make a single batch, or half batch, they’re not bad at all. I make them on the chewy side, but you can incorporate a bit less flour if you want them lighter.

Makes 10 bagels.

Ingredients:

Dough starter:
-1 tsp instant yeast
-2 1/4 cps water at room temperature
-3 cps high gluten flour or bread flour (you can make it yourself by using a cup of all-purpose flour with a teaspoon of wheat gluten stirred in)

Flour mixture:
-2 1/3 cups high gluten or bread flour
-1 tsp instant yeast
-1  tb malt powder or barley malt syrup
-1 tb sugar
-1 tb salt
-1 tsp ground black pepper

Water bath:
-2 tb molasses or sugar
-1 tsp baking soda

Glaze and toppings:
– 2 large egg whites
-1 tsp cold water
– 3 to 4 tb of whichever topping you want: poppy, sesame, or caraway seeds, kosher salt, minced onions sauteed in vegetable oil, minced garlic

1. Make the sponge:
Put sponge ingredients in a mixing bowl, whisk for 2 minutes (until very smooth), and scrape down the sides. Cover the bowl while you make the flour mixture.

2. Make the flour mixture:
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour mixture ingredients. sprinkle lightly over the sponge and do NOT stir. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid, and let stand for 1-4 hour at room temperature, or for best flavor development, 1 hour at room temperature and 8-24 hours refrigerated. If you take the latter option, let it stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before proceeding. Note that the sponge will bubble up through the flour mixture in some spots – this is expected.

3. Mix the dough:
Use a wooden spoon or your hand to mix the flour and sponge until too stiff  to mix. Knead the dough in a bowl until it comes together, then scrape onto a lightly floured counter. Knead for 5 minutes to begin to develop the gluten structure, using a bench scraper or metal spatula to scrape dough off the counter while you knead. It will be very sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and let it rest for 20 minutes (this will make it a bit less sticky).
Knead the dough for 10-15 min more, or until it is very smooth and elastic. It should be slightly sticky to the touch.

4. Let the dough rise:
Place the dough in a 4-quart container, lightly greased with oil. Press the dough down and lightly oil the top. Cover the container tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature until doubled, 1-2 hours.
Deflate the dough by gently pushing it down into a rough rectangle. Then fold the dough like a tri-fold paper in an envelope, then fold that longer, skinnier rectangle like a trifold paper again. Put it back in the container, lightly oil the top, and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to 2 days – the longer you wait, the more lovely fermented flavor the bagels will have.

5. Shape the dough and let it rise:
Set a piece of parchment or lightly floured towel on a countertop near the stove. Transfer the dough to an unfloured counter. Cut the dough into 5 equal pieces, and let it rest for 10 minutes. As you shape the bagels, work with only one piece at a time while keeping the other pieces covered. Place each piece on the parchment or floured towel and cover with a second towel or oiled plastic wrap.

Shaping method:

a) draw up the sides of the dough and pinch them together tightly to form a round ball.
b) turn it over so the pinched side is on the bottom.
c) stick your index finger all the way through the center of the ball to make a hole.
d) hook the bagel over your thumb and insert the index finger of your other hand into the hole, stretching and rotating it to make a hole about 2.5 inches in diameter.

6. Let the bagels rise for about 15 minutes, or until they puff slightly.

7. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F about 30 minutes before you want to bake. Place the oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.

8. Boil the bagels:
As you finish boiling the bagels, you’re going to place them either on a baking sheet with seeds scattered on it, or, if you aren’t using seeds, back on the parchment or floured towel. Then, you’ll transfer to a baking sheet or to a peel if you’re going to transfer them to a baking stone in the oven. Prepare a baking sheet with a light coat of oil.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in the molasses (or sugar) and baking soda, and bring back to a boil. With a skimmer, transfer the bagels, one at a time, to the boiling water, without crowding them. You’ll probably only fit 2 or 3 at a time. You don’t want them to touch. Boil for two minutes or less (less for thinner-skinned bagels), gently flipping them over with the skimmer and boiling for two minutes or less on the other side. Remove the boiled bagels, shaking off excess water and set onto the parchment/towel/seed-covered sheet, and then move them to the oiled baking sheet or peel. Don’t worry that the bagels look wrinkled – they’re smooth out when you bake them.

9. Glaze the bagels:
Whisk together the egg whites and cold water, and pass through a sieve into a bowl. Brush only the top side with the glaze – but don’t let it get on the bottom or the bagels will be glued down when they bake. Sprinkle with toppings.

10. Bake the bagels, either on the sheet or directly on the stone, in batches if needed. Bake for 5 minutes, and then lower the heat to 450 degrees F. Bake the bagels for 20 more minutes. Turn off the oven, without opening the door, and let the bagels remain for 5 more minutes. Then open the oven door and leave the bagels in the oven for 5 more minutes.

11. Cool the bagels:
Remember that cooling is part of the baking process – if you can’t resist the temptation, the bagels will be gummy.

Eat the bagels within 1 day, stored in a paper bag. They really don’t last long otherwise, unless you put them in freezer bags – and then you can store them for up to a month. Thaw at room temperature.

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