When I woke up yesterday and realized that I would be stuck inside for a few days because of Hurricane Lane, my mind went immediately to bagels. On holiday mornings, our family indulges in eating bagels with smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, fresh tomato, and onion. When it’s a holiday, we are normally distracted by gift-giving and meal preparation, but this time, the situation was different, and I actually had time to think about what I could do. Since bagel making is no easy feat, I decided that I could take my time and not rush the painstaking bagel process. I’ve had many bagel disasters that turned out to be dense, rip-your-teeth-out, pucks of hard tack.
All together, I’ve had some recipes that were great, and some that were complete disasters. Part of the biggest challenge with making perfect bagels lies in my environment, which is at a tricky and humid ‘4000 elevation. If you’re like me, it may take you a few tries to find the perfect recipe for your cooking environment and particular culinary taste. The preference of bagel texture and tastes are often very personal and/or rooted in tradition, and I tend to prefer a New York Jewish-style bagel and consider anything else blasphemy.
One of the better bagel recipes I’ve come across, is this one by Peter Reinhart. This recipe makes a good-sized batch, and has more of the chewy, mildly, dense texture as opposed to the more bread-like texture of the store bought varieties. Since I did not have bread flour like stated in the original recipe, I added vital wheat gluten and also switched out a cup of white for wheat flour. **If you have bread flour on hand, you can skip the wheat gluten in this recipe. Overall, this is a good base to start with, and you could add savory flavors to the dough, like sundried tomatoes or chopped Kalamata olives. You could also just as easily turn these into cinnamon raisin bagels by adding 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and a cup of raisins.
- 1 teaspoons yeast
- 3 cups AP flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water DOUGH
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 4 1/2 cups AP flour
- 4 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
- 1 tablespoon baking soda (set aside) TOPPING SUGGESTIONS: Garlic, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, poppy seeds, sea salt, cracked pepper
- Make the sponge in advance by combining the yeast, AP flour, wheat flour and water in a large bowl. Cover with a towel and let rest for about 1 1/2 hours, or until expanded and bubbly.
- In the same bowl, add the remaining yeast, additional AP flour, vital wheat gluten, salt and agave. Carefully knead the mixture to incorporate all of the flour, about 8-10 minutes. The dough should feel firm, but smooth. If dough is too sticky, add a few tablespoons of flour until it feels somewhat firmer. (This is not as soft as normal bread dough, but should not be too stiff either!)
- Divide dough into 12 or 24 evenly sized pieces and roll around in your palm until smooth, and then place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Let the dough balls rest for 30 minutes.
- Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper and begin shaping bagels by poking a hole into the center of the piece. Gradually widen the center hole to approximately 1 1/2 inches. (It should look a lot like a donut.) Then, place 12 bagels per large sheet, a few inches apart. Let bagels rest again for 30 minutes at room temperature and them put in the refrigerator (for at least two hours) or overnight. I did mine overnight for this.
- When you are ready to begin cooking the bagels, preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and make sure to put the oven racks in the middle of the oven for even baking.
- Bring a very wide pot, filled with several inches of water, and the remaining teaspoon of baking soda to a boil. Using a wide, slotted spoon or spatula, carefully slip the bagels into the boiling water. Flip each one gently over after 1-2 minutes and boil each side.
- Remove bagels from the boiling water back onto the parchment lined baking sheets. If you can, do this as quickly as possible so that you can start putting on the toppings while the bagels are still sticky.
- Brush the tops of each bagel with olive oil and heavily dust your toppings over the top of each one. Place them in the oven and bake for 5-6 minutes on 500 degrees. Turn down the temperature to 450 degrees and rotate sheet pans so that they cook more evenly. Cook for another 5-6 minutes or until light brown and remove from oven. I like to leave them on the trays until they are completely cool because I like the bottoms a little more crisp, but you can remove them from the trays right away of you prefer.