Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bagels - The Freshly Baked Breakfast

Who can resist this?
I have made bagels a few times throughout the years, with varied success. Usually, the flavor is good, but the height/density can get iffy. Sometimes, they turn out fine (although misshapen when compared to bakery bagels), but other times they look perfect after rising, look perfect in the water...and look like someone sat on them when they come out of the oven. Flat, dense, and not particularly apetizing.

Hrm. Research suggests that over-risen bagels will collapse when boiled, but these didn't – the collapse came in the oven. I'm guessing the reason is the same, though. The only thing I can see that might change it is, unfortunately, being more patient in the process. I feel like Indiana Jones... “Patience. Why does it always have to be patience?!?”

On the surface, this is counterintuitive; it seems that rushing the process (not letting the bagels rise as long) would solve the problem. However, the main step I have failed to follow in my bagel endeavors is adding more time. Most recipes call for retarding the rise in a refrigerator for at least six hours, and preferably overnight. The longest I ever made it was two hours.

Pfiffle, I thought, that's just unnecessary steps to make people feel fancy schmancy with their baking. Unfortunately, it seems to actually make a difference. Luckily, sourdough has helped me see the light in stretching out the process.

Also, Zoey and Parker rarely give me enough time to go through all the steps in one day, anyway.

I decided to go with the base recipe from The Fresh Loaf. They have good forums there that explain the steps and help troubleshoot – I like to check them out when looking up new baking recipes/techniques.

Of course, I didn't follow it completely, as I like adding stuff into my bagels – cheese and jalapenos for Randy and me, and cinnamon/raisin for Zoey. And me.

Also, the recipe calls for bread flour, which I keep putting off buying because it costs twice as much as all-purpose and I'm cheap. And it calls for malt powder which I don't have and couldn't find in WinCo's bulk section (if I can't find a baking ingredient there, it's dead to me)*; I used honey instead, which this recipe said was acceptable as a substitute.

It starts much like sourdough – making a sponge out of about half the flour and yeast and all of the liquid. It's a relatively short rise for a sponge (two hours), and then the remaining ingredients get added and kneaded in. (Full disclosure: I forgot to add the honey here and had to put it in halfway through the knead. It worked, but I don't recommend it. Ever.) This is a different method than the more typical throw-everything-in-a-bowl-and-mix-well routine I've seen before, and has the benefit of activating the yeast before the main flour is in, so the bagel dough itself doesn't have to rise that long.

Sadly, bagel dough is too stiff for my Kitchenaid to knead while I do other things; I have to knead it by hand. The one time I tried to make the mixer do it for me, it made angry sounds and threatened to quit. I rely on it too much to have that happen, so I relented and agreed to knead by hand in the future.

Almost good enough to eat raw.  Only not.
At the end of the knead, I split the dough in half and added in the extra ingredients before dividing and shaping the bagels. If I wasn't making two flavors, I'd have added these in sooner, but it works equally well either way – it's just a bit easier to mix them in before the dough gets too stiff. Two minutes of kneading ensured the ingredients got equally distributed.

The standard method for shaping bagels is to roll the dough into a ball, stick your thumb through the middle, and stretch the dough until it is a ring 4-5 inches in diameter. You can also roll the dough out into a 4-5” circle then poke a hole in the middle. Or make a rope 8-10” long and then pinch the ends together to form a ring. I tried all three so you can see the difference and so I could see if there was a difference in the end result.
Left to right: rolled out, hole-in-ball, and rope methods

After baking
As you can see in these pictures, there is a discernible difference, mainly with the bagels that I rolled out. However, that was probably due to me over-enthusiastically flattening the dough – a problem I had with the hamburger buns I made last week as well. The poke-a-hole-in-the-ball method is my favorite because it seems to have less potential for me to mess it up and those bagels came out looking the most bagel-y, but all three methods are about the same level of effort, so pick your poison.

What could all that meat be for?  Stay posted...
After shaping, let the bagels rise for 20 minutes, then throw them in the fridge overnight. I was silly and made these on the day of our monthly shopping trip, when fridge space is at a premium. Whoops.

Then I was done for the night, which was kind of nice. I celebrated with a beer. Not one of Randy's, because those are being bottled today (a nice Hefeweisen from a kit – made 6 gallons just in time for the sun – they should be carbonated and ready to drink in a couple of weeks).

Boil, my pretties!
The next morning, I boiled and baked the bagels. Boiling separates bagels from bread and gives them their distinctive chewiness. The morning cooking worked out well, since the kids tend to be more cheerful in the morning. Also, I had fresh bagels for breakfast! Even better, my hopes that the longer timeline would help solve the Great Bagel Flattening were upheld. Hooray!

The bagels probably would have risen more had I used a higher-gluten flour (bread flour), but these came out just dandy, so I can pinch my pennies a bit longer.

We probably ate them a little sooner than we should have, because Zoey was standing behind me the entire time saying “Okay, mama, want dinner. Okay, mama, I eat now. Okay, mama, blue seat” (The seat in question is her booster seat). I felt like Gordon Ramsay was standing behind me yelling “How LONG? Get it together! It's a simple breakfast, for God's sake!” Luckily, these don't take long to cook!
My Ultimate Eggwich (fried egg, cheese, bacon, avocado, and tomato.  Not low-cal)

*Luckily for my gluten-free experimentation, I discovered they carry xantham gum in bulk.

1 teaspoon instant yeast ($0.03)
4 cups flour (500g) ($0.32)
2 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast ($0.01)
3 3/4 cups flour (470g) ($0.30)
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon honey

4 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1/3 – ½ cup nacho jalepenos, chopped roughly
1- 1 ½ c raisins
1 rounded tablespoon cinnamon

Finishing touches:
1 tablespoon baking soda for the water ($0.01)
Cornmeal for dusting the pan ($0.02)

The Night Before
Stir the yeast into the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and stir until all ingredients are blended. Cover and allow to rise for two hours.

Stir the additional yeast into the sponge.
Add 3 cups of the flour, the honey, and the salt into the bowl and mix until all of the ingredients form a ball. Add in any additional ingredients (blueberries, raisins, cheese, etc.) here if you are making the whole batch the same
Work in the additional 3/4 cups of flour to stiffen the dough, either while kneading. The dough should be stiffer and drier than normal bread dough, but moist enough that all of the ingredients are well blended.
Pour the dough out of the bowl onto a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes.
**If you are making multiple flavors, divide the dough in half and add your additional ingredients here**
Split the dough into a dozen small pieces around 4 1/2 ounces each.

Roll each piece into a ball and set it aside. When you have all 12 pieces made, cover them with a damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.
Shape the bagels by poking a hole in the middle of each ball and stretching to desired size
Place the shaped bagels on an oiled sheet pan, with an inch or so of space between one another (use two pans, if you need to). If you have parchment paper, line the sheet pan with parchment and spray it lightly with oil before placing the bagels on the pan.
Cover the pan with plastic and allow the dough to rise for about 20 minutes.
Put covered pans in the refrigerator until morning.

In the morning:
Preheat the oven to 500.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
(optional) Add one tablespoon of baking soda to the water

When the pot is boiling, drop a few of the bagels into the pot one at a time and let them boil for a minute. Use a large, slotted spoon or spatula to gently flip them over and boil them on the other side.
Before removing bagels from the pot, sprinkle corn meal onto the sheet pan.
Remove bagels one at a time, set them back onto the sheet pan.
**If you are topping your bagels rather than mixing extras in, top them here, while the bagels are still moist**
When all the bagels have boiled, place the sheet pan into the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 450 degrees, rotate the pan, and bake for another 5 minutes until the bagels begin to brown.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool


  1. I <3 tje Indiana Jones quote.

  2. I am making bagels right now to go with the smoked trout and green onion cream cheese I just made. I always make them in one day and haven't had that flattening experience (maybe its the altitude?). I will have to try your recipe sometime. Besides honey, molasses works well to replace the malt. I add it to the boiling water as well. Looks delicious!

    1. It very likely could be my very own brand of ineptness. I may have just over-proofed them in an effort to get them "doubled in size" and the retardation that happens in the fridge regulates the proofing better.

      Some people swear the flavor drastically improves with the longer timeline but I didn't notice a difference.

    2. I ended up cooking half now and putting the other half in the fridge to cook tomorrow. I'm curious. The ones today were sooooo good!

    3. Let me know if there's a difference!

  3. There was quite a difference. The ones I let sit overnight were loftier and chewier and not as dense. The flavor was very good but I don't know if there was a significant difference. I will try my best to wait every time I make them.

    1. Good to know there really is a reason to wait! I'll have to make them again soon. I love bagels!