One Saturday night, ‘Chefski and I took a much-needed walk downtown to clear our minds. What follows is the true story of what happened next.
‘Chefski, with nostalgia: “…you know, I used to really like bagels…”
Caro, with equal dreaminess: “…yeah, me too! I used to love them…”
‘Chefski, ominously: “…then I realized what bagels really are…”
Caro: “I know….they’re like FOUR slices of bread!”
::Mutual shudder, followed by silence::
‘Chefski: “Do you think we can make our own?”
Our Very Own Bagels!
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 cups bread flour
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 3/4 cups bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 Tablespoon malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal for dusting
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and whatever else you want on your bagels (like pepper flakes and dill!)
1. Making the Sponge: Activate the yeast by combining 1/4 cup of warm water.
2. Once it is dissolved, combine with 4 cups flour in a large bowl and add remaining 2 1/4 cups water. Whisk mixture until smooth.
3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours or until foamy and bubbly.
4. Making the Dough: Add 1/2 teaspoon yeast to a tablespoon of water. Add that to sponge and mix. (If you’re making cinnamon raisin, increase the yeast here to 1 teaspoon)
5. Add 3 cups of flour, the salt, and the malt (if you have it) or sugar/honey. Stir until the dough forms a ball, and slowly incorporate the last 3/4 cups of flour if necessary to make a stiffer dough. (For cinnamon raisin, also add 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon and 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar)
6. Turn out dough onto a flat surface and knead for 10 minutes. All ingredients should be held together — no dry flour adhering to dough. In the words of Smitten Kitchen, the dough should be “satiny and pliable.” (For cinnamon raisin, rinse two cups of raisins with warm water to get rid of any excess sugar, acid, and wild yeast. Add them to the mix during your last two minutes of kneading.)
7. Divide the dough into the size of bagels you want to make. I would say err on the side of smaller than you want, as they will rise some. Form them into rolls.
8. Cover the rolls with a damp paper towel (hey, I have no towels for cooking!) and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
9. Cover two sheet pans with aluminum foil (cuz we don’t ever have parchment paper) and spray lightly with oil.
10. Shape your bagels by poking a hole in the center of each roll and gently widening it to 2.5 inches for large bagels, or 1.25 inches for small ones.
11. Place each piece about 2 inches apart on the pans and spray oh-so-lightly with oil. Cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let sit for 20 minutes.
12. Time to “retard” the bagels. Fill a bowl with cool water, and if your test bagel floats within 10 seconds of being dropped in the water, they are ready to be retarded. If it floats, return it to pan, pat it dry, and re-cover all the bagels with the plastic and place in the fridge overnight (or up to two days). Now, my bagels didn’t float. So what I did was wait 20 minutes, put half in the fridge to bake the next day, and actually went ahead and put half in a pre-warmed but turned-off oven for 30 minutes. They rose a bit, so I put some back in the fridge for the next day, then ::GASP:: baked a few using “the next day” instructions the very same day! And they tasted great, and are pictured in this post. So lesson: keep experimenting!
The Next Day:
1. Make sure two racks in your oven are in the middle, and preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
2. Bring a large, wide pot of water to boil. Add the baking soda, and be sure to have a slotted spoon nearby.
3. Get the bagels from the fridge and drop in the water, without overcrowding the pot. Flip after two minutes (I like extra-chewy bagels, but if you want slightly less chewy, you can boil 1 minute per side).
4. Meanwhile, sprinkle your lined pans with cornmeal. Brush tops of bagels with egg wash to to keep toppings on after baking. Place them on the pans. (For cinnamon raisin, you can brush the tops with melted butter and dip in cinnamon sugar for a sweet crust. Optional).
5. Once you’ve got all the bagels on your pan, place the pans in the middle two racks in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate pans 180 degrees. Now lower oven temperature to 450 degree F and keep baking for 5 more minutes, until bagels are light golden brown, or longer if you like them darker (up to an additional 5 minutes).
6. Cool the bagels on a rack for 15 minutes or so before serving.