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Growing up, bagels or (non-sugared) cereal were what we ate for breakfast regularly. On weekends my mom would make us these baked pancakes with apples and cinnamon, but most of the time it was bagels.
In fact, until I went away to college I had never even tasted a Pop Tart or eaten a doughnut for breakfast, and to this day, doughnuts for breakfast are just odd to me. I’ve been told this is a Jewish thing.
Back to the bagel. There are two kinds of bagels: good bagels and bad bagels. Good bagels have a tough exterior and are chewy on the inside. Bad bagels have a soft exterior and are bready on the inside. Seriously, it’s that simple.
My family would usually buy a dozen bagels at a time, and we’d eat them throughout the week, in various ways. For breakfast you can eat them with a schmear (and lox), with jelly, with melted cheese, you name it. At lunch time, you can use a bagel in place of loaf bread in a sandwich. And for dinner–the pizza bagel (my sister and I loved these)! See, bagels are a multi-purpose food. And you can freeze them too. Which is what I did with some of these.
And surprisingly, they weren’t that difficult to make. As with most breads, there was a lot of waiting time, but other than that, the recipe was pretty simple. Unfortunately, mine are ugly and probably could have used more time to initially rise, but I was impatient and my apartment was getting warm (this is when I mention it was 75 degrees here yesterday, don’t hate me.)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (I used bread flour)
2 1/2 cups water, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (I used bread flour)
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, or chopped onions that have been tossed in oil (optional)
- 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. 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 and all of the salt and malt (I used brown sugar.). Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.
- 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 pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 71 degrees 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 4 1/2 ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. 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. Proceed with one of the following shaping methods:
- Method 1: 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 (half of this for a mini-bagel). The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)
- Method 2: Roll out the dough into an 8-inch long rope. (This may require rolling part of the way and resting if the pieces are too elastic and snap back, in which case, allow them to rest for 3 minutes and then extend them again to bring to full length. Wrap the dough around the palm and back of your hand, between the thumb and forefinger, overlapping the ends by several inches. Press the overlapping ends on the counter with the palm of your hand, rocking back and forth to seal.
The Following Day
- 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.
- 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 and 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.) 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.
- 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.
- Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.
Recipe from Peter Reinhart via Smitten Kitchen.