Imagine you have a cold. Your consciousness is fuzzy. Your nose is dripping like a leaky old faucet. You have a balloon in your brain right between your eyes, cotton in your ears, and sandpaper in your throat.
Someone lovingly approaches you with a piping hot bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup.
You slurp down the magic tonic and its healing qualities warm your insides. You begin to taste the flavor... celery, and onions, and carrots... noodles and chicken and herbs and spices. Your cold just melts away.
Now imagine you're in a cold drafty house with a messy kitchen, you're all alone, and after 10 minutes of searching for the can opener, you finally plop some Campbell's condensed chicken soup into bowl, zap it in the microwave, and choke it down while the salt burns your already aching throat.
Still with me?
Okay... that's kind of the difference between store bought bagels, and these homemade ones. The difference is so stark as to be unworthy of comparison. And I like store bought bagels!
Are these bagels easy to make? It's about as difficult as making a good overnight-stewed chicken noodle soup vs. opening a Campbell's can. Yes, it's work. But why even mention work when there are such rewards to be had?
They come out chewy, but airy... with a flavor that's just... that's just... incredible!
This time I made three different kinds from one batch: jalapeño white cheddar, cinnamon raisin, and plain. I really prefer plain, but my husband likes cinnamon raisin. Next time I'll try blueberry, too.
Eventually I hope only to bake with all whole grain wheat, but I'm progressing slowly towards the long-term goal of "real food."
Homemade Authentic Amazing Chewy Bagels
Recipe from Annie's Eats, originally from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, 10 Speed Press, 2001.
Yield: 12 large or 24 mini bagels
For the sponge:
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
For the dough:
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
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 deflate 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 speed 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. (Blah blah blah... knead it for 10 minutes by hand or 6 minutes by machine; make sure there's no dry flour, and try not to burn out the motor on your mixer... this is seriously stiff dough).
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 two sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Proceed with shaping the bagels by pushing a hole through the center and stretching out the hole to 2 ½ inches in diameter.
7. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pan. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and 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.
Now go to bed. Tomorrow you'll forget the work you've already put into it, and it'll feel like a new recipe. Baby steps, baby steps!
9. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), 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.
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). (Don't worry if they look like they're tiny little things -- they puff up big time once you boil them). 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 (yes! it's necessary, trust me!! After all that work, on two occasions I had the stinkin' things stuck like glue on my well-cornmealed sheet; please use parchment paper and spare yourself a truckload of agony; the third time I learned and was amazed when they slipped off). 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.
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° 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.
What are you making?