When I lived in Pittsburgh, I learned to really appreciate the taste of a good bagel. Though the Pacific Northwest has a lot of fantastically tasty food, the only good bagel is 2 hours away by car. So! Time to make my own. I’ve tried many different recipes and finally have gotten down a procedure which I thinks makes a pretty good bagel.
The procedures and recipe are adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, a wonderful and informational book. If you’re only ever going to buy one bread book, this should be the one. I’ve left out a lot of details about technique and would suggest checking out the book if you’re interested in perfection.
Homemade Plain Bagels
Mix together the sponge:
1 tsp. instant yeast
4 cups bread flour
2 1/2 cups water, room temp.
Mix the yeast into the flour and then gradually mix in the water. Your mixture should be very sticky (like pancake batter.) Cover with plastic wrap and a dry towel. Ferment the sponge at room temperature for 2 hours.
Prepare the dough:
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
3 3/4 cups bread flour
2 3/4 tsp.salt
1 tbls. malt syrup (The book says you can sub. honey or brown sugar. I’ve never tried it. You can find barley malt syrup in most glitzy organic stores.)
With an electric mixer or your own muscle, add the malt. Then add the additional yeast and 3 cups of the flour and salt. Stir or mix on low speed until you’ve got a nice ball. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour to make the dough stiff.
Knead for at least ten minutes. The dough should be smooth and pliable, but not sticky.
Divide the dough into 4 1/2 ounce pieces and roll into smooth balls. Cover the balls with a damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.
Line 3 sheet pans with parchment and mist lightly with olive oil.
After the dough has rested, shape by poking a hole in the center of the ball with your thumb and gently stretching out into a bagel that is even on all sides. Make the holes slightly bigger than you think they should be.
Place the bagel on the pan, mist with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit for 20 minutes. Now, it’s time for the float test! Slip one bagel out from under the plastic wrap and test to see if it will float within 10 seconds in a bowl of water. Pat it dry, return to pan, and place your bagels in the fridge overnight. (If your bagel does not pass the float test, do not despair, just wait a little bit longer and try again.)
Fill a stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Preheat the oven to 500F. Add 1 tbls. baking soda to the boiling water. Stir.
Take your bagels from fridge and drop, in batches of four, into the boiling water. Cook for one and a half minutes per side – flip your bagels over with a slotted spoon (or gently with tongs). While your bagels boil, sprinkle your parchment with semolina flour or cornmeal. Place boiled bagels on the prepared sheet.
Bake at 500F for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 450F and bake for another 5 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove to racks to cool.
-For raisin bagels, increase the yeast in the dough to 1 tsp. and add 1 tbls. of cinnamon and 5 tbls. of sugar. Rinse 2 cups raisins and add to dough during needing. Keep an eye on them when baking, because they will brown more quickly than plain bagels.
-Add seeds or toppings after you boil and before you bake. (Kosher salt is a good topping, but be warned, these won’t store well.)
- Shape your balls carefully. If you begin with smooth balls, you will have smooth and pretty bagels.
- Semolina flour does the trick but disappears. Use cornmeal if you want a crunch on the bottom of your bagel.
- If you like a chewier bagel, increase the boiling time to 2 minutes per side. Like less chewy? Decrease to 1 minute per side.
- Of course, a homemade bagel is even better with some homemade fromage.
- Should you have any leftover bagels left, you can turn them into chips. Slice thinly. Toss with melted butter (about 1 tbls. per bagel used) and salt. Bake at 300F until lightly brown.
Many thanks to the crew who helped me ‘hand-forge’ 98 bagels for our school art sale this weekend. Woo! We’re a team! (And the kitchen wasn’t even really that messy….)