August 19, 2013
At work or with friends, the question, "What have you baked lately?" often comes up. Truth be told, I haven't been baking as much with the summer heat, but I did bake bagels recently.
Now, before you go, "Whoa…making bagels? Ca-razy," hear me out. Bagels are do-able to make at home. There are six main steps to making bagels, and it is spread over two days. Day 1, you make a sponge, turn the sponge into a dough, shape the dough, and refrigerate. Day 2, you boil and bake! The hardest part through all of this is being patient. Your patience will be rewarded with unbelievable bagels.
What makes bagels extra-chewy? Gluten, and lots of it. I prefer chewy bagels, so I use high-gluten flour to make bagels. High-gluten flour is not always easy to find. I order it from King Arthur Flour. If you can't find it, no worries! I've made this recipe many times without high-gluten flour, and the bagels have been perfect in taste. (Eeks, at one point, I had ten different types of flours in my house.)
Malt powder or malt syrup can also be tricky to find, or at least it was for me. The first time I went looking for it, I could only find malted milk powder, which is different from malt powder and does not work for bagels! I can now find malt syrup near the maple syrups and honeys at the store, and malt powder is available via King Arthur Flour.
Boiling the bagels helps develop a chewy, crisp crust. By boiling, this helps set the crust. The starch on the exterior gels and forms a barrier, so the bagels will not rise as much in the oven. This helps to give the bagels their signature chewy dense interior. The baking soda helps the crust brown in the oven.
These bagels are just as comparable in flavor and chewiness to New York bagels. When you slice into them, they have these pockets just waiting to be full of cream cheese (or peanut butter). While it sounds inhumane, wait about 15 minutes before slicing into the bagels, as they will be easier to slice. I promise you, they'll still be warm, and you won't need to toast them. Eat these bagels fresh with some cream cheese, with any lox desired. Is there a better way to eat a bagel? I think not. :)
Yields 1 dozen large bagels
For the sponge:
1 tsp (0.11 oz.) instant yeast
4 cups (18 oz.) bread flour or high-gluten flour
2 1/2 cups (20 oz.) water, at room temperature
For the dough:
1/2 tsp. (0.055 oz.) instant yeast
3 3/4 cups (17 oz.) bread flour or high-gluten flour
2 3/4 tsp. (0.7 oz.) salt
2 tsp (0.33 oz.) malt powder, or 1 tbsp. (0.5 oz.) malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar
For finishing the bagels:
1 tbsp. baking soda
Semolina flour or cornmeal, for dusting the bagel bottoms
Any desired toppings (cinnamon-sugar, everything topping, cheese, etc.)
First, you need to make the sponge. To make the sponge, add the flour to a medium mixing bowl (or, if you are using a stand mixer, you might want to use the stand mixer bowl), and then stir the yeast into the flour. Then, add the water. Whisk until it forms a sticky smooth batter that is almost like pancake batter. (Note, if you are using your stand mixer bowl, do not use your stand mixer attachments to whisk.)
Then, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes bubbly and foamy. The sponge will double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the counter.
While you are waiting for the sponge to double, line two sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Set aside for later.
Second, you now need to make the dough. In the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of a a stand mixer), add the flour, salt, malt, and yeast to the dough. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball.
Next, transfer the dough to your counter and knead for 10 minutes (or 6 minutes if using a stand mixer). The dough should be firm, but pliable and smooth. All of the ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test and be approximately 77 to 81ºF.
If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or tick, then add more flour by the tablespoon to achieve the stiffness required. The dough should feel satiny and pliable but not overly sticky.
Third, after making the dough, divide the dough into 4 1/2 oz. pieces. (If you want smaller bagels, use a smaller amount.) Form the pieces into rolls. Place the rolls onto the baking sheets (that you lined earlier with parchment paper) covered with a damp towel, and allow them to rest for about 20 minutes.
After the bagels have rested, begin shaping them by pushing a hole through the center and stretching it out to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Place the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pan. Mist the bagels lightly with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow the bagels on the pans to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
When the bagels have finished sitting at room temperature, it is time to see if they are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the "float test." You need to fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds after being dropped into the water. Drop one bagel into the water. If it floats, immediately return it to the pan, pat it dry with a paper towel, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator overnight. (You can refrigerate the bagels 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, and check back every 10 minutes or so until a tester floats.
The next day, preheat the oven to 500ºF with the two racks in the middle of the oven. Have your toppings ready! Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon nearby.
Remove the bagels from the refrigerator, and gently drop the bagels into the water, boiling only as many will comfortably fit in the pot. After one minute, flip the bagels over and boil for another minute. For chewier bagels, you can extend the boiling to two minute per side.
When the bagels are boiling, sprinkle cornmeal or semolina flour onto the parchment sheet lined pans. If you want to top the bagels, add the toppings as soon as they come out of the water. When al of the bagels have finished boiling and have been topped with any desired toppings, place the pans onto the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for five minutes, and then rotate the pans. (You want to give the pans a full 180ºF rotation.) After the rotation, lower the oven temperature to 450ºF and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown.
Remove the pans from the oven, and allow the bagels to cool on a rack for about 15 minutes before serving.
Source: Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice