There are people in the world who can do things; you know, things like skiing, or geometry. Others know how to sail or can tie fancy knots. I’ve even come across people who know how to parallel park!
Being me, not one of these activities are skills I can claim. As someone who is still scared of the ball (all that “keep your eye on the ball” stuff from PE in junior high still terrorizes me), there’s not a whole lot that I claim that I can “do.”
This recipe is time-consuming, but embarrassingly easy. I started them on a Friday evening, and boiled and baked them for brunch on Saturday morning. As a former New Yorker, I can attest to their lovely, chewy doughy quality, and I plan on adding this recipe to my repertoire of go-to brunch foods.
Start off by making the sponge
and then wait patiently for your sponge to get spongy. This is what mine looked like:
After mixing in the flour, you’ve got your dough. I weighed mine into 4 1/2 ounce pieces to make sure that the bagels were approximately the same size and let them rest.
After their nap, form them into bagel shapes
The next day, I boiled my bagels (which sounds like a euphemism for something naughty, but as the photo proves, it’s really not)
Cover in your topping, pop into the oven, and here’s what happens…
from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
makes 12 large or 24 mini bagels
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (I used the bread flour
2 1/2 cups water, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cup unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder OR 1 tablespoon 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
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 (I did this step in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid).
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 (my dough was pretty stiff already, so I ended up only worked in another tablespoon or two of the 3/4 cup he calls for).
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°F. If the dough seems too 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 (I have no idea the temperature of my dough; I did do the windowpane test, where you pull off a small piece of dough and stretch it 4 ways; if it doesn’t tear any holes, and can be stretched thin enough to see light through, then you’re good to go!)
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. To shape the bagel, poke a hole in the ball of dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots).
Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. 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.
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 stiffness of the dough.
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 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. (I mixed together poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, garlic salt, and kosher salt)
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.
Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.