Monday, October 24, 2011


Unless you live in NYC and get them fresh from the bakeries in the morning, you've never experienced a bagel until you've made your own. I will forever be making my own bagels now. Yup. No more Thomas's or Lender's for this family.

And when you think about the idea of homemade bagels you instantly imagine a terribly complex process that is nearly impossible. It's not, I swear. It's a little daunting to read through at first, but when you go through the motions for the first time you'll realize, it's not bad at all. Let me walk you through the process!

Take the flour, water and yeast and mix together to make a sponge. You don't have to do this with an electric mixer. You can do it by hand. If you do, you're crazy though, this dough is pretty dense. 

Make sure you let the dough sit long enough for it to bubble to the point of deflation when tapped against the counter, about two hours. I ended up letting my sponge rise for an hour, then putting it in the fridge for a while because something came up. When I came back to it about two hours later, I set it back out at room temperature again for about another hour. 

By the end of the sponge's rising period it will look like this and the bubbles will pop and it will deflate a bit when tapped against the counter. 

At this point, add the remaining flour along with the yeast, salt, honey/malt/brown sugar.
As you can see I used honey.

Knead it for 10 minutes or until you can stretch it without it tearing and it passes the window pane test. 

You'll end up with a very dense, beautifully elastic dough. 

Divide the dough into balls weighing 4.5 oz each. There will be about 12 depending on the density of your dough and how much flour you ended up using. 

Cover the balls of dough with a damp towel and let them rest for about 20 minutes.

Shape the dough balls by pressing your thumb into the center and stretching into a ring with a diameter of about 2 to 2 1/2 inches. The elasticity will cause the center hole to shrink when placed on the sheet pan, that's why you need to stretch it so large when shaping. 

Set them across two sheet pans lined with parchment that has been misted with cooking spray. 

Spray tops with cooking spray and cover loosely with plastic wrap. 
Let rest for about 20 minutes.

They'll look like this by that time. Not too much of a difference.

They'll be puffed up just a little bit, see.

Now it's time for the float test. Take one bagel, or rather sacrifice one bagel, and drop it gently into a bowl full of cool to room temperature water to see if it sinks. If it does not and stays a float then the bagels are ready to be retarded overnight in the refrigerator. Take the float bagel out and place it back on the sheet pan. Cover the bagels back up with plastic wrap. 
I went so far as to cover them loosely with aluminum foil on top of that.

The next day they will look like this. Take them out of the refrigerator about 30-60 minutes before you want to start making them so that the dough can come up to room temperature. 

Aren't they just awesome looking?

Now once the water comes to a boil, dump in 1 Tb baking soda. 
Plop in as many bagels that will fit in your pot without overcrowding them too much. They are pretty forgiving when they touch, but let's not test our luck here.
Boil them for about 1 1/2 minutes to 2 minutes. The longer you boil them, the chewier they will be.

Flip them onto their other side and boil them again for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. 

Take a spider strainer or mesh strainer and gently lift the bagels out of the water and onto a sheet pan lined with parchment and dusted with cornmeal. 

You'll want to dust with the cornmeal or else they may be difficult to come off the parchment after baking. I'm telling you this from experience. Don't be cocky now. 

This is what they will look like before going into the oven to bake.
This is where you'll want to sprinkle on any toppings you may want to add.

Here are the beauties, all boiled and baked. 

Not too bad for being homemade, right???

You'll want to slice one open as soon as they cool so you can see how amazing they taste.

See, how perfect the texture of the crumb is. Oh my goodness.... I want one now.

We like to toast our bagels.

Then spread them with some cream cheese. We're a cream cheese family.
Feel free to use butter... jam... whatever your regular bagel accompaniment may be. 

adapted from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinart

makes a dozen
Print Recipe
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
4 cups (18 ounces) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 ½ cups (20 ounces) water, at room temperature
½ teaspoon (.055 ounces) instant yeast
3 ¾ cups (17 ounces) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 ¾ teaspoons (.7 ounce) salt
2 teaspoons (.33 ounce) malt powder OR 1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar
To Finish
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, or chopped fresh onions that have been tossed in oil (optional)
1. 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.
2. 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. Stir (or mix on low speeds with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining ¾ cup flour to stiffen the dough 
3. 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. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees F. If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achiever the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feels satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
4. Immediately divide the dough into 4 ½ ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. Form the pieces into rolls.
5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
6. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Proceed with shaping the bagels 
7. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pan. 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.
8. 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.
9. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500 degrees 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.
10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute flip them over and boil 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-line sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you decided to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.) If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water. You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination. I make a seed and salt blend.
11. 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. (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.
12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

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