Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I’m from New York and enjoy a good bagel. There are a few decent ones here in Seattle but none that get me excited. For some reason they haven’t found a way to replicate that chew. So instead of complaining, I decided to try making my own.
I’m the first to admit that baking isn’t my forte but I like a culinary challenge as much as the next guy. After some researching, it appeared that the bagel recipe in Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice is considered the gold standard. It involves making a sponge, an overnight retardation, and then a classic boil and bake preparation. This was definitely a weekend project and, finally last Saturday, the rubber hit the road.
The recipe calls for instant yeast, which, apparently, is so small that the granules can be mixed directly in with the flour. I only had active dry in the pantry so a simple conversion of instant yeast amount x 1.5 worked well, as long as the active dry yeast gets proofed in warm water before adding the flour. Also, I didn’t have any malt powder or syrup but a tablespoon of brown sugar seemed to do the trick.
In the same way that I like my pasta doused with sauce, I like my bagels doused with everything -- onion, garlic, sesame seeds, poppy seeds and salt –- and as you can tell from the photos, I didn’t hold back. Feel free to be a bit more conservative with the toppings or leave them out altogether. You could also mix cinnamon and raisins into the dough.
All in all, I’d deem this little experiment a major hit. We ate the first round straight from the oven slathered with homemade vegetable cream cheese (recipe follows), smoked salmon, red onions and capers. Round two, which served as today’s breakfast, was toasted with butter. I’m pretty sure I got a few covetous looks from my coworkers.
Bread flour works best here due to its high protein content. If you don’t have any, simply add 1 teaspoon of vital wheat gluten to each cup of all purpose flour. These are perfect for a weekend project – start them the night before and bake them in the morning. Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.
Makes 1 dozen
1 teaspoon instant yeast (or 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast)
4 cups bread flour
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast (or ¾ teaspoon active dry yeast)
3 3/4 cups bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder
1 tablespoon malt syrup, honey or brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda for the water
3 tablespoons dehydrated garlic flakes
3 tablespoons dehydrated onion flakes
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1-2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt, or to taste
The Night Before:
In a large mixing bowl, stir the instant yeast into the flour. Add the water and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to bubble and rise for 2 hours. (If you are using active dry yeast, simply sprinkle it over 1/4 cup lukewarm water with a good pinch of sugar. If the yeast is alive, it will begin foaming after about 10 minutes. At this point, add the remaining water and the flour and continue with the recipe).
Remove the plastic wrap and stir in the additional yeast. (This time, if using active dry yeast, simply hydrate it in a touch of warm water before adding). Add 3 cups of the flour, salt and malt powder; mix until all the ingredients come together and form a solid mass. At this point you will need to add the remaining 3/4 cup flour, either by mixing in the bowl or by kneading. The dough will be quite stiff.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead for 10 full minutes. It should be smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces, about 4 ½ ounces each. Roll each piece into a ball and set aside. When all 12 pieces have been rolled, cover them with a damp towel and allow them to rest for 20 minutes.
To shape the bagels, poke your thumb through the center of each ball of dough and rotate (or twirl, in my case) to expand the hole slightly, being sure to keep an even width all the way around. Place the shaped bagels onto two oiled (or parchment-lined and lightly sprayed with oil) sheet pans, leaving a bit of space between them. Cover with plastic wrap and allow them to rise for 20 minutes. Note: I used a paper towel dipped in oil to lightly brush the tops of the bagels to prevent them from sticking to the plastic wrap.
Peter Reinhart’s method for determining whether the bagels are ready to retard is as follows: drop one of the bagels into a bowl of cold water. If it floats to the surface in under 10 seconds, it is ready to retard. If not, allow it to rise a bit longer. I actually skipped this step and simply allowed them to rise for 30 minutes instead. Cover the bagels with plastic wrap and place them into the refrigerator to retard overnight.
In the Morning:
Preheat oven to 500°F. Put a large pot full of water on the stove to boil. In the meantime, mix the topping ingredients and set aside.
Once the water is boiling, add one tablespoon of baking soda - this supposedly replicates that authentic bagel shop flavor. Drop a few bagels into the boiling water (I could only fit 3 at a time) and allow them to boil for 1 or 2 minutes. Using a large slotted spoon, carefully flip them over and allow them to boil on the other side for another minute or two. Remove and place them back onto the oiled sheet pan (or 2 that are freshly lined with parchment paper and a light coating of oil). Immediately, while bagels are still hot and wet, sprinkle them with the topping mixture, flip over and sprinkle topping on the other side.
When all bagels have been boiled and topped, transfer them to the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 450˚F, rotate the pans and bake for another 5 minutes or until bagels are golden brown (mine took another 8-10 minutes). Remove from the oven and let cool.
Vegetable Cream Cheese
Pretty much anything goes here. Try it with chives or dill.
16 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
3 green onions, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
2-3 radishes, finely diced
1 1/2 ribs celery, finely diced
Salt to taste
Pinch of finely ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon celery seeds, optional
1/2 teaspoon onion powder, optional
Place the cream cheese, carrot, green onion, radish, celery and seasonings in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix on low speed until blended.