Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Yesterday was all about a British food staple, so it's only fair that today will be about the American classic that are bagels. For a couple of years I've been thinking about making homemade bagels but since the ones you can get around the city are so good, I was a bit intimidated and worried that mine wouldn't come out just right. Having said that, when a few weeks ago, I spotted Peter Reinhart's original recipe, I knew I have to take the plunge. Oh boy, I am so glad I did because there is nothing more satisfying than creating a classic in your own kitchen. They came out scrumptious.

I feel about them the same way as I felt about making French croissants. There is a whole lot of poetry to it. You can't skip a step. It teaches you patience and puts you in that wonderful state of relaxed alertness. Warning: you'll never stop making them if you try them, they are that addictive.

So if you ever doubted yourself that you can make fantastic bagels at home, think again. You can totally do it and they won't be just any bagels, they will be really amazing bagels! As Tim said, believe in the hype and make bagels:)

Bagels, bagels, bagels:)

Bagels - Makes 6 bagels
(Original recipe by Peter Reinhart's recipe, adapted by TheWednesdayChef. A few tips via Tim, Lottie + Doof)
- 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) bread flour (but all-purpose should work too)
- 3 teaspoons salt, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Optional toppings:
- Poppy seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Cheese, grated
- Cinamon sugar
1. By hand, mix the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, the yeast, honey and the water until the ingredients form a stiff, coarse ball of dough (about 3 minutes). If necessary, add a little more water.
2. Knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface until the dough feels stiff yet supple, with a satiny, slightly tacky feel, 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough seems too soft or too tacky, sprinkle over just enough flour as needed.
3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to several hours.The longer the better, keeping in mind that the bagels must be shaped before proofing overnight.
4. It's a good idea to leave them for up to 5-7 hours in the fridge and when you are ready to shape the bagels, line a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 6 equal pieces following the layout above.

- Form each piece into a loose, round ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand; do not use any flour on the surface. If the dough slides around and won't ball up, wipe the work surface with a damp paper towel and try again - the slight amount of moisture will provide enough "bite" for the dough to form a ball. When each piece has been formed into a ball, you are ready to shape the bagels.

- Using your hands and a fair amount of pressure, roll each dough ball into a "rope" or a "snake" 8 to 10 inches long. (Moisten the work surface with a damp paper towel, if necessary, to get the necessary bite or friction). Slightly taper the rope at the ends so that they are thinner than the middle.

- Wrap both ends of the rope together in a way that you leave a 2-inch hole in the middle and that the ends overlap by about 2 inches too. Squeeze the overlapping ends firmly together and then continue "pinching" and moulding them together until they blend like on the photo above. Take your time!
6. Place the bagel on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the other pieces. Lightly wipe the bagels with oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
7. Next morning, remove the bagels from the refrigerator 90 minutes before you plan to bake them. Start your stopwatch. Fill a large stockpot with 3 quarts of water (be sure the water is at least 4 inches deep), cover with a lid, and slowly bring the water to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on.
8. Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven to 500 degrees.
9. Test the bagels by placing one in a bowl of cold water. If it sinks and doesn't float to the surface, return it to the sheet, wait 15 minutes and then test it again. When one bagel passes the float test, they are ready for the pot. But, if your bagels refuse to float by the second try, it's not a worry. Just move to the next step. They will end up equally scrumptious.
10. Next, gently lift each bagel and drop it into the simmering water. Add as many as will comfortably fit in the pot. After 1 minute and when they float up, use a slotted spoon to flip each bagel over. Poach for an extra 30 seconds. Using the slotted spoon, remove each bagel and return it to the lined baking sheet. Continue until all the bagels have been poached. Now you have an option to leave the bagles without a topping or you can also generously sprinkle each bagel with a topping of your choice.

(Note: If using cinnamon sugar (1 part cinnamon to 5 parts granulated sugar), immediately brush the top of each hot bagel with melted butter and then generously sprinkle with the mixture so that it is coated. It will form a nice cinnamon crust as it cools. Also, if using cheese,  spread it only 2 minutes before the end of the baking time, so it can melt into the bagel without burning).
11. Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the sheet (if using two sheets, also switch their positions). Check the underside of the bagels. If they are getting too dark, place another sheet under the baking sheet. Bake until the bagels are golden brown, an additional 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the bagels to a rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Ta-dah!

(Photos by exPress-o. Layout by Ana Degenaar - Blog Milk for exPress-o. Thank you Ana for your help with this series).

*Darlings, the comments are switched off for this week since I'm in Malta. But if you want to drop me a little hello, you can always reach me via email - :)
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