I have started to catch up a little bit on the previous Daring Baker challenges that I have missed. I did miss last months, but I did complete this months extra challenge which was: Bagels!
I have never made bagels before, but I was excited to try, since I love to eat them! Well, I pulled out all of my ingredients, pulled out all the equipment I needed and got to work. I started with Step 1, proofing the yeast. I poured in my warm water, sprinkled in the sugar, stirred to combine, then added the yeast, stirred to combine and then, the phone rang. It was work. Could I please come in early because they were really busy! Well, of course I said yes, so… Well, I sprinkled on a cup of flour over the yeast mixture to make a sort of biga, covered it and put it in the fridge until the next day. We were really busy at work and I’m glad I went in, but I was a little concerned about leaving so early into my bagel making.
The next day, I pulled my “biga” out of the fridge to warm up a bit while I read through the directions again. I moved on to Step 2, but only added 2 cups of flour to begin with because I had already added 1 cup yesterday. I probably should have added about ½ cup more flour while I was kneading the dough, but it still came out good. The biggest problem I encountered was in the boiling of the bagels, that’s when I knew I should have added more flour (and maybe kneaded a little longer), they were just too soft and were starting to break up in the water. To fix the problem, I just boiled them for a shorter period of time (1 ½ minutes on each side).
I would like to try these again sometime when I can do the whole recipe all at once!
Real Honest Jewish Purist’s Bagels Daring Bakers Challenge #8: April 2007
Host(s): Queilla (All Things Edible) & Freya (Writing at the Kitchen Table)
Recipe Quantity: Fifteen (15) large, plain, Kosher bagels
1. You can customize your bagel with toppings (like sprinkling some sea salt, sesame or poppy seeds to the OUTSIDE of the bagel) but DO NOT ADD ANY FLAVORS TO THE INSIDE of the bagel dough itself. That means no cheese, no herbs, no funky salts, no onions, no nothing. Any additional flavors can be put on the outside only.
2. Toppings should probably stay on the SAVORY side.
3. FILLINGS / SPREADS ARE OPTIONAL: Although you cannot flavor the inside of the bagel dough itself, you can FILL your finished bagels. From Queilla: “In addition to this (bagel) challenge, I also present you with an additional challenge: How would you like to fill these bagels? Want to make your own cream cheese spread, or stick with peanut butter? This is your chance to be as creative as you want! Want a sweet spread (my kids love strawberry cream cheese,) or a savory?”
4. Once you have made at least 1 batch of the bagels for your post (where you used the chosen recipe & adhered to the rules), please go as crazy as you like.
6-8 cups bread (high-gluten) flour
4 tablespoons dry baking yeast
6 tablespoons granulated white sugar or light honey (clover honey is good)
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups hot water
a bit of vegetable oil
1 gallon water
3-5 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar
a few handfuls of cornmeal
large mixing bowl
measuring cups & spoons
wooden mixing spoon
butter knife or baker’s dough blade
clean, dry surface for kneading
3 clean, dry kitchen towels
warm, but not hot, place to set dough to rise
2 baking sheets
How You Do It:
Step 1- Proof Yeast: Pour 3 cups of hot water into the mixing bowl. The water should be hot, but not so hot that you can’t bear to put your fingers in it for several seconds at a time. Add the sugar or honey & stir it with your fingers (a good way to make sure the water is not too hot) or with a wire whisk to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, & stir to dissolve. Wait about 10 minutes for the yeast to begin to revive & grow. Skipping this step could result in your trying to make bagels with dead yeast, which results in bagels so hard & potentially dangerous that they are banned under the terms of the Geneva Convention. You will know that the yeast is okay if it begins to foam & exude a sweetish, slightly beery smell.
Step 2- Make Dough: At this point, add about 3 cups of flour as well as the 2 tsp of salt to the water & yeast & begin mixing it in. Some people subscribe to the theory that it is easier to tell what’s going on with the dough if you use your hands rather than a spoon to mix things into the dough, but others prefer the less physically direct spoon. As an advocate of the bare-knuckles school of baking, I proffer the following advice: clip your fingernails, take off your rings & wristwatch, & wash your hands thoroughly to the elbows, like a surgeon. Then you may dive into the dough with impunity. I generally use my right hand to mix, so that my left is free to add flour & other ingredients & to hold the bowl steady. Left-handed people might find that the reverse works better for them. Having one hand clean & free to perform various tasks works best.
When you have incorporated the first three cups of lour, the dough should begin to become thick-ish. Add more flour, a half-cup or so at a time, & mix each addition thoroughly before adding more flour. As the dough gets thicker, add less & less flour at a time.
Step 3- Knead Dough: Soon you will begin to knead it by hand (if you’re using your hands to mix the dough in the first place, this segue is hardly noticeable). If you have a big enough & shallow enough bowl, use it as the kneading bowl, otherwise use that clean, dry, flat counter top or tabletop mentioned in the “Equipment” list above. Sprinkle your work surface or bowl with a handful of flour, put your dough on top, & start kneading. Add bits of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking (to your hands, to the bowl or counter top, etc….). Soon you should have a nice stiff dough. It will be quite elastic, but heavy & stiffer than a normal bread dough. Do not make it too dry, however… it should still give easily & stretch easily without tearing.
Step 4- Let Dough Rise: Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, & cover with one of your clean kitchen towels, dampened somewhat by getting it wet & then wringing it out thoroughly. If you swish the dough around in the bowl, you can get the whole ball of dough covered with a very thin film of oil, which will keep it from drying out. Place the bowl with the dough in it in a dry, warm (but not hot) place, free from drafts. Allow it to rise until doubled in volume. Some people try to accelerate rising by putting the dough in the oven, where the pilot lights keep the temperature slightly elevated. If it’s cold in your kitchen, you can try this, but remember to leave the oven door open or it may become too hot & begin to kill the yeast & cook the dough. An ambient temperature of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Centigrade) is ideal for rising dough.
Step 5- Prepare Water for Bagels: While the dough is rising, fill your stockpot with about a gallon of water & set it on the fire to boil. When it reaches a boil, add the malt syrup or sugar & reduce the heat so that the water just barely simmers; the surface of the water should hardly move.
Step 6- Form Bagels: Once the dough has risen, turn it onto your work surface, punch it down, & divide immediately into as many hunks as you want to make bagels. For this recipe, you will probably end up with about 15 bagels, so you will divide the dough into 15 roughly even-sized hunks. Begin forming the bagels. There are two schools of thought on this. One method of bagel formation involves shaping the dough into a rough sphere, then poking a hole through the middle with a finger & then pulling at the dough around the hole to make the bagel. This is the hole-centric method. The dough-centric method involves making a long cylindrical “snake” of dough & wrapping it around your hand into a loop & mashing the ends together. Whatever you like to do is fine. DO NOT, however, give in to the temptation of using a doughnut or cookie cutter to shape your bagels. This will push them out of the realm of Jewish Bagel Authenticity & give them a distinctly Protestant air. The bagels will not be perfectly shaped. They will not be symmetrical. This is normal. This is okay. Enjoy the diversity. Just like snowflakes, no two genuine bagels are exactly alike.
Step 7- Pre-heat Oven: Begin to preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 8- Half Proof & Boil Bagels: Once the bagels are formed, let them sit for about 10 minutes. They will begin to rise slightly. Ideally, they will rise by about one-fourth volume… a technique called “half-proofing” the dough. At the end of the half-proofing, drop the bagels into the simmering water one by one. You don’t want to crowd them, & so there should only be two or three bagels simmering at any given time. The bagels should sink first, then gracefully float to the top of the simmering water. If they float, it’s not a big deal, but it does mean that you’ll have a somewhat more bready (& less bagely) texture. Let the bagel simmer for about three minutes, then turn them over with a skimmer or a slotted spoon. Simmer another three minutes, & then lift the bagels out of the water & set them on a clean kitchen towel that has been spread on the counter top for this purpose. The bagels should be pretty & shiny, thanks to the malt syrup or sugar in the boiling water.
Step 9- Bake Bagels: Once all the bagels have been boiled, prepare your baking sheets by sprinkling them with cornmeal. Then arrange the bagels on the prepared baking sheets & put them in the oven. Let them bake for about 25 minutes, then remove from the oven, turn them over & put them back in the oven to finish baking for about ten minutes more. This will help to prevent flat-bottomed bagels.
Remove from the oven & cool on wire racks, or on a dry clean towels if you have no racks. Do not attempt to cut them until they are cool… hot bagels slice abominably & you’ll end up with a wadded mass of bagel pulp. Don’t do it.
How To Customize Outside of Bagels: After boiling but before baking, brush the bagels with a wash made of 1 egg white & 3 tablespoons ice water beaten together. Sprinkle with the topping of your choice: poppy, sesame, or caraway seeds, toasted onion or raw garlic bits, salt or whatever you like. Just remember that bagels are essentially a savory baked good, not a sweet one, & so things like fruit & sweet spices are really rather out of place.