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MAKING YOUR OWN BAGELS

I used to buy bagels at the bakery inside the supermarket I frequent. They used to be 25 cents, then 35, and suddenly I noticed they were fifty cents each, and when you eat as many bagels as we do, that adds up fast. I decided that maybe I could make them for less.

(I can just hear the bellowing of certain New Yorkers. It’s the same self-righteous bitching you hear about New York pizza, New York cheesecake, New York this or that. “THOSE AREN’T REAL BAGELS!” Oh, just shut the hell up. No one cares.)

So anyway, bagels. I adapted this from a recipe I found on the internet. After doing all the kneading by hand the first few times, I now use my Cuisinart food processor to add flour to the sponge. I do NOT recommend doing this unless you have a good-quality food processor or Kitchen Aid mixer, as the dough will almost certainly overwhelm and stall or burn out the motor of an ordinary food processor.

A couple of ingredients I use:
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Gluten flour is high-protein flour and it acts in baked goods the same way that rebar acts in construction. Upping the gluten content makes for a chewier bagel. Gluten is the current whipping boy of the culinary world, and for certain people with celiac sprue, it really is to be avoided at all costs. But like so many past pariahs, this kind of publicity also brings out the hypochondriacs who leap on any food sensitivity issue like groupies on a rock star and proclaim they can’t tolerate peanuts/milk/etc. – though they’ve been chowing down on those foods with no problems.

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Bread flours are perfect for – duh – making bread. Again, they are higher in protein and gluten and will give bagels a better structure than all-purpose flour alone. While it isn’t desirable in every bread – baguettes, for instance – here it is what you want.

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Dry yeast comes in little packets containing just under 1 tablespoon (sold in strips of three packets) for a simply astronomical price. For about a dollar more than one of those strips, I buy yeast in a jar. If you’re going to bake bread often, this is the way to go.

I like this recipe because I can make and shape the dough in the evening, then boil and bake the bagels first thing in the morning. Fresh-baked for breakfast – like you lived down the block from a bagelry.

BAGELS

sponge:

  • 1 teaspoon dry yeast
  • 1 cup gluten flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread flour
  • 2 cups white bread flour
  • 2 1/2 cups water

Mix all sponge ingredients together in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for two hours.

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It will look pretty much the same after the two hours as it did when it was first mixed.

If  using a food processor:

Scrape the sponge into the bowl of a food processor.

Add:

  • 1 teaspoon dry yeast
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey

Pulse the mixture until combined. Then, one cup at a time, add

  • 1 cup whole wheat bread flour
  • 2 cups white bread flour

and pulse until combined.

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The first cup will combine well, but after that you will probably need to stop the processor and turn the dough over manually to get it to accept all the flour. Keep adding flour, one cup at a time, pulsing on and off, and turning the dough as necessary until it is all integrated.

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Or cut the sponge in half and process half at a time in the food processor.

Remove from processor bowl and knead dough by hand for five minutes. It is not desirable to knead the dough entirely in the processor because the dough can get hot enough to kill the yeast.

If mixing dough by hand:

Add:

  • 1 teaspoon dry yeast
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey

Add the 3 cups of flour gradually to the sponge in  the bowl. This is tedious work, no way around it.

  • 1 cup whole wheat bread flour
  • 2 cups white bread flour

 You may or may not need to add up to 3/4 cup more flour to achieve a dough that is sufficiently heavy (the additional flour does not seem to be necessary if using the processor). You will wind up with a dough that is much  less “bouncy” and stiffer than normal bread dough.  Knead by hand for ten minutes.

By either method:

If you want to add minced onions, garlic, cheese bits, etc.,  knead them in by hand.  If you’re going to add minced onions, learn from my mistake: use yellow or white onions. Red onions will turn blue-green.

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Immediately after kneading the dough, split it into 12 equal pieces. I use a dough scraper or large knife for this.

Roll each piece into a ball. Cover them with a damp towel and let rest for about 20 minutes. I cover them with two paper towels and sprinkle water over the towels.

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Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper; spray the paper with nonstick spray or very lightly oil it.

After the dough has rested – it’s pretty tired after all that – punch a hole through the center of each ball with your finger and rotate the dough so you have a bagel-y shape.

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Place each bagel on the oiled paper. They won’t be pretty and they won’t look big enough to be bagels, but keep the faith.

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Cover the cookie sheet with plastic. I cut a plastic produce bag to fit and tuck it over and around them. You could put the whole thing in a plastic garbage bag, or use plastic cling wrap. Whichever you use, cover the dough so it doesn’t dry out and put the whole thing in the refrigerator. Night-night.

In the morning:

  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Yes, 500.
  • Spray two cookie sheets with nonstick spray, then sprinkle cornmeal all over the sheet.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda to the water.
  • If you want to top the bagels with seeds (poppy, sesame, etc.) make a wash of 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup water.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator. Add two or three at a time to the boiling water and boil for one minute, then turn them and boil on the other side for one more minute.

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Remove the bagels to the cornmealed cookie sheet. You’ll only be able to fit about six on each sheet since they have magically grown. If you are using seeds for topping, brush or drizzle the cornstarch wash over each bagel and add the seeds.

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Bake one sheet at a time for about 12 -15 minutes, or until they are puffed, crusty, firm, nicely browned, and the cornmeal on the bottom of the pan is turning dark brown.

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Remove to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before wrapping in a plastic bag. These will keep at room temperature for 2-3 days or freeze for longer storage. Microwave frozen bagels about 30 seconds so they’re easy to slice.

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2 responses »

  1. Kathleen Stracner

    Must try this! What about adding cheese? Have you tried to put Asiago cheese on top?

    Reply

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