Bagels, bagels, bagels, I made them out of…dough

I am really interested in breadmaking at the moment-in my current mood I really don’t bother much about eating bread if it is the supermarket-sliced variety. But if I have had a chance to get to a good bakery (like this one, or this one, or this one) or if it is homemade, then I’m all ears. It’s not snobbery, the other stuff just doesn’t do much for me (or my guts!)

And I do love a good bagel. You see a lot of crappy white bread dough being fashioned into different shapes and sold as “bagels” (or sprinkled with dusty herbs? Bada-bing, now it’s “foccaccia”! Roll it out long and thin? Presto! “french sticks”! And beware…slather it with cheddar, ham bits and a few chunks of pineapple and *babow* our same dough can degenerate even further into “pizza roll” territory) but sometimes you can find a proper, boiled, chewy, lovely bagel. And if you can’t find ’em, you can make ’em!

I have seen Peter Reinhart’s bagel recipes mentioned on a number of blogs, so I decided to have a go at the recipe as retold by Smitten Kitchen-there are some useful method notes included. I started my bagel-mania on a Saturday and the process wasn’t finished until Sunday morning, so as a warning-if you are desperate for a bagel for lunch and it is 11am-maybe forget about this for now!

First up the sponge-no, not a cake, but a method of activating the yeast by feeding it with flour and warm water. This makes the kitchen smell GREAT, and it is very satisfying watching it bubble up and increase in volume before your eyes!

the sponge starter

the sponge starter

Next up, adding more yeast and flour, and getting the dough to a kneadable stage. I find kneading dough a lovely, satisfying process, and the more I make bread (and knead dough), the better I am at working out if the dough has had enough kneading to activate the gluten in the flour.

After that I divided the dough into equal portions. I was pretty careful with this and even used the scales to make sure the pieces were of equal size so that they cook evenly-pretty important when you are cooking them twice (boiling then baking them.) This was one of the good tips from Smitten Kitchen. After a little rest it was time to shape these suckers up to look like legit bagels-I chose the first of the 2 methods described, basically poking a hole in the middle of the ball and gently stretching and shaping the dough to make sure that the dough is an even thickness all the way around. After another little rest it was time to test the bagels for their readiness to be retarded (basically to put the stops on the yeast activity for a little while) overnight in the fridge…this involved floating a bagel in a bowl of tepid water…and it did indeed float so it was time for the overnight sojourn in the fridge ready for various cooking methods in the morning. One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the recipes version I was following was that the clingwrap /plastic that you put over the bagels in the fridge can stick a bit (or a LOT) to the dough, so I used a little spray canola oil on the glad wrap before I covered the tray and this worked well.

shaping the dough

shaping the dough

production line:before and after

production line:before and after

nitey-nite, bahel-ohs!

nitey-nite, bagel-ohs!

By this time I think that Mr Red Hen was getting a bit weary with baby-minding duties. And the process thus far had taken a little while. But I do love a highly involved project, so I was happy to have a bit of baby-free pottering time. And I think that if you made this recipe a few times you would get faster at the steps. It won’t ever be a quick process though-but that’s ok, good things come to those who wait, blah blah blah.

Sunday morning bright and early I put the big pot of water on the stove and preheated the oven to the hottest temperature it could go to (and according to the recipe it was still technically a little on the cool side, even with the adjustment to allow for the fan-forced temperature difference.) In my tired state I am afraid I forgot to take pics of this step, but I am sure you can imagine a boiling bagel! The recipe stated that time differences in this step would be the deciding factor in the chewiness of the bagel, and I experimented with times of 60, 90 and 120 seconds per side-and marked these with different toppings, either poppy seeds, sesame seeds or none-and I reckon the 120 second versions were the best. After the boiling, it was onto an oven tray lined with non-stick baking paper sprinkled with semolina, the tops painted with egg wash (another Smitten Kitchen tip that the original recipe didn’t call for, but the toppings need the help to stick) and then topped with the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or a few salt flakes. I keep seeing Kosher salt mentioned in bread recipes lately, and haven’t seen any on my travels but I am guessing that the Sydney suburbs of  St Ives or Bondi would be a good place to start the search as they have some Kosher delis/ foodstores. For now I just used Maldon flakes…

One thing I did find at this stage is that the bagels must be boiled pretty quickly once they have come out of the fridge-if you get distracted (and say, have to rush off to feed a baby) and the bagels warm up, the yeast gets cracking again and the bagels get a little puffy and bloated, and are a bit weird after they have been boiled. They will still be edible, but my tip is that if you have to breastfeed or whatever before you can finish boiling the whole batch, I’d say cover up the bagels and stick them back in the fridge. It’s like having a choice between this:

young-elvisand this:BE046049

‘Nuff said-keep ’em in the fridge prior to boiling, people!

After they were boiled and topped, the bagels went into the oven for 10 minutes or so and despite the temperature differences I mentioned earlier, they were golden and lovely within this amount of time. And the verdict when they were finally done? More-some! Sorry, that’s lame, but they were pretty good if I say so myself. Even Mr Hen thought so, but I don’t think he could understand why I would choose to make something that took 2 days…I should stress that it wasn’t 2 FULL DAYS-the various stages just needed that amount of time. All in all, Mr Reinhart’s bagels and Smitten Kitchen’s tips and tricks get the thumbs up, I will definitely make them again!

the finished product

the finished product


~ by Little Red Hen on March 27, 2009.

2 Responses to “Bagels, bagels, bagels, I made them out of…dough”

  1. wow, they look amazing! Inspired me! Going to bake today!

    • hehe-they were quite satisfying to make, you should do it! I am going to post soon about a great place I found to order proper, strong bread flour online…

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