I have been wanting to make bagel for a few months now. I love bagels, but don’t usually get to enjoy them during the week as breakfast. As early as I get in for work, the only thing that I can manage to grab are usually some sort of low-fat cheese & granola bar. Additionally, even if I wanted to go out for a bagel on the weekends, there really isn’t a great bagel shop in our area, well… maybe Panera’s, and yes, I do love their bagels–especially the one with the caramelized sugar on the top. That kind usually goes out first when someone brings a big carton of them to work.
Then, I told a couple of my friends that I wanted to make bagel, and one of them exclaimed: “Eeww! You’re sure about that? I tried it once, and it sucked. It was hard like a rock.” Errgh.. okay, I wasn’t sure how to respond. I just stared at her. Well okay, so maybe I was a little bit worried after that comment. And then, as I was shopping for the ingredients, I couldn’t find instant yeast. I went to several different groceries, and no luck! I finally posted my status on Facebook (yea.. I know, lame, right?) saying that I couldn’t find instant yeast to make bagels. So for about a week, I thought I probably should just drop the idea. But then, one of my friends emailed me and told me that she mailed me a pack of instant yeast! Wohoo!! Bagel was back on the list.
So what did I think? Well… the experience itself was not really as intimidating as it sounds. I followed the recipe to the “T”: I did not make any substitutions and I read the recipe a few times before I made it to make sure that I was prepared to do the next steps. It really does take some time to make, so you need to plan. I made this during the weekend, and split it into a two-day project, and it worked out great. I also only made a half of the recipe (well, just in case it doesn’t turn out!), and it made about 18-mini bagels. I personally think that the regular-sized bagels are a bit too much for me to enjoy in one sitting, so the mini-sized was just perfect. Whenever I eat a “standard” size bagel, I would end up in a food-comma, which isn’t always a good idea at work. I’d spend the rest of the morning fighting my yawn. Now that I feel a bit more confident with this recipe and process, I think I will be making this again in the future!
As seen on Smitten Kitchen, adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
NOTE: This can be a two-day or one extended day project.
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 1/2 cups water, room temperature
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar
2 cups loosely packed raisins, rinsed with warm water to remove surfact sugar, acid, and natural wild yeast
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
Melted butter for brushing (optional)
Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling (optional)
Day one: 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, cinnamon, sugar, salt salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough. In the last two minutes of mixing, add the raisins. (I ended up adding a bit of flour with them, as mine were still wet and made the dough a little sticky.)
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 ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should 77 to 71°F. If the dough seems to dry and rips, 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 12 (4 1/2 ounce) pieces for super sized bagels, 16 (3.375 ounce) regular-sized bagels, or 24 (2.25 ounce) perfectly smaller bagels. 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. Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter for a supersized bagel, two inches for a large one or just slightly more than one inch for a miniature. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)
Place each of the shaped pieces two 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, see head notes), preheat the oven to 500°F 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 (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute, flip them over rand 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 decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.)
When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on two middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately five minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only one pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450°F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may 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.
Yield: 12 super large, 16 regularly large or 24 miniature bagels