As part of my continuing quest to have breakfast foods readily available so I don’t go reaching for cookies, brownies or other yummy, but not really breakfast-appropriate treats, I spent some time in my kitchen recently making bagels. They’d been on my to-do list for a while and after some gentle nudging from a few friends on Twitter, I finally got to work. I’d considered a few recipes and initially planned to go with the one from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice because I know it’s been hugely successful for just about everyone that’s tried it. Recently though, I’d picked up a copy of Peter Reinhart’s newest book, Artisan Breads Every Day, and when I pulled it off the shelf and flipped through not only was there a recipe for bagels but it made a relatively small batch (6 bagels). It was perfect as there are only 2 of us and 6 bagels is more than enough. I know I could have frozen the extras if I’d gone with a recipe that made more, but our freezer is already overflowing so trying to shove a bunch of bagels in there wasn’t necessarily something I wanted to do. My friend Di had already tried this recipe and enjoyed the bagels too so I didn’t have to worry much about whether the result would be worth the effort.
Don’t be put off by the fact that bagel recipes tend to be a bit lengthy; this was seriously one of the easiest yeast breads I’ve ever made. On the first day you make the dough – I made mine by hand and it still took less than 20 minutes from the time I started until I stuck it in a bowl to start rising. I’d been warned that bagel dough is stiff and that making it with my KitchenAid might be scary so that’s why I made mine by hand. After letting the dough rise, it’s time to shape the bagels, which proved to be the trickiest part of the recipe for me. There are two possible methods for shaping – in the first you make a ball with the dough then use your fingers to press a hole in the center. I went with the second, the rope method, in which you roll your ball of dough into a rope and connect the ends to form a circle. The actual shaping wasn’t hard, but after a night in the fridge, I pulled my bagels out and noticed the ends weren’t holding together as nicely as I’d have liked; I was worried they were going to come apart when I poached the bagels. Fortunately, they did not, but the joints were very visible in many of my finished bagels and the perfectionist in me was bothered by that, even though it didn’t impact the flavor at all.
Speaking of the flavor, these bagels were fabulous! Once toasted, the outside was crisp and the interior was soft and chewy. They were definitely worth the effort and I’ll be making them again as soon as we finish this first batch. I may try the other shaping method next time, who knows, but I’ll definitely experiment with other flavors. My favorite is cinnamon raisin so that’s probably next up, though I’m also tempted by the whole wheat variety so maybe I’ll combine the two. Oh one other note – this recipe called for barley malt syrup and I didn’t bother looking for it before I made my bagels. Apparently barley malt is a distinctive ingredient in bagels but I thought they were terrific even with the honey I substituted. If I remember to look for it at the store, I’ll use the malt syrup next time just to compare the difference but rest assured that you can definitely get good results if you substitute honey.
from Artisan Breads Every Day by Peter Reinhart
[I've rewritten the recipe below to reflect the manner in which I made these bagels. If you'd like to see the entire recipe, which includes directions for making the dough in a mixer as well as the alternative method for shaping and other flavor variations, you can find it on The Kitchn here.]
1 tablespoon (0.75 oz / 21 g) barley malt syrup, honey, or rice syrup (I used honey)
1 teaspoon (0.11 oz / 3 g) instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons (0.37 oz / 10.5 g) salt, or 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 oz / 255 g) lukewarm water (about 95°F)
3 1/2 cups (16 oz / 454 g) unbleached bread flour
2 to 3 quarts (64 to 96 oz / 181 to 272 g) water
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 oz / 28.5 g) barley malt syrup or honey (optional)
1 tablespoon (0.5 oz / 14 g) baking soda
1 teaspoon (0.25 oz / 7 g) salt, or 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
In a measuring cup stir the honey, yeast, salt and water. Add the flour to a medium bowl and pour in the honey mixture. Use a large wooden spoon to stir the dough for about 3 minute, until well blended. The dough should be stiff and coarse, and the flour fully hydrated. You can add a bit more water if necessary to hydrate the flour. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Move the dough to a floured work surface and knead for about 3 minutes. You’re looking for the dough to be stiff but smooth and supple and just barely tacky. If necessary, knead in a small amount of extra flour. Form a ball and put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray the parchment lightly with cooking spray or oil. After the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and divide it into 6 pieces, each weighing about 113 grams (or 4 oz). Form each piece of dough into a ball by rolling it on the work surface with your hand. Do not use additional flour on the work surface. To shape your bagel, use both hands to roll the ball out into an 8-inch rope, tapering the rope slightly at each end. Use a bit of water to moisten the last inch of each end of your rope then wrap the dough around the palm of your hand to form a circle. Overlap the ends of the dough by about 2 inches and squeeze them together well by closing your hand around them. Once sealed, use your hands to shape the circle to an even thickness all around, with a hole about 2 inches in diameter in the center.
Repeat to shape all 6 bagels and transfer each to the prepared baking sheet after shaping. Spray the tops of each lightly with cooking spray then cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days.
On the day you plan to bake the bagels, remove them from the refrigerator about 60-90 minutes before baking. Perform the “float test” on one to check if the bagels are ready – place a bagel in a bowl of cold water, if it floats you are good to go! If the bagel sinks and doesn’t return to the surface, return it to the pan and wait 15-20 then test again. Once a single bagel passes the test, they’re all ready. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 500 F.
Fill a pot with 2-3 quarts of water that is at least 4 inches deep. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and stir in the baking soda, salt and honey (if using). Lower each bagel into the poaching liquid, taking care not to overcrowd the pot – you can do them in batches if necessary. After 1 minute, flip the bagels over and poach for 30-60 seconds on the other side. Use a slotted spoon or kitchen spider to transfer the bagels back to the baking sheet, domed side up. Make sure the parchment is lightly oiled or you won’t be able to remove the bagels after baking. I resprayed the parchment with cooking spray while the bagels were poaching.
After all the bagels have been poached, transfer the baking sheet to the oven and lower the temperature to 450 F. Bake for 8 minutes, then check the underside of the bagels to make sure they aren’t getting too dark. If they are, place under baking sheet under the one already in your oven. Bake for another 8-12 minutes, until the bagels are golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and wait at least 30 minutes before slicing.
Makes 6 bagels