We bakers are a strange lot. We love bread so much that we’re willing to make starters, bigas, go through all kinds of contortions, even get up at 3 a.m. to get things rolling. But boil? In water? Boiling water doesn’t usually enter into our repertoire, unless we’re going to make bagels, that is. By my account, bagels are one of the weirder breads going. Some accounts have bagels being invented in Eastern Europe, but I’ve heard other spots too. In North America, particularly in NY, this doughnut shaped bread is instantly associated with the Jewish specialty, bagel, lox and cream cheese. Lox is nice, but just give me the bagel, please.
The following recipe came off a bag of flour I once got at King Arthur Flour, and it’s about the only recipe I’d use. And yes, you’re going to need a large pot. This recipe makes about ten good size bagels, not huge, but not tiny. A perfect-size bagel. Bagels, incidentally, have grown over the years, to almost double the size they used to be, so these will be more like the traditional. And as anyone knows, bagels are well fought over depending on their toppings. You can really go crazy, from poppy seeds to sesame seeds to raisin and cinnamon. I used a pre-made topping mix from King Arthur, containing all kinds of seeds including fennel. One can always go for the Everything Bagel (my personal favourite). Once you try the basic recipe, the sky is limitless on what you can do with your bagel. Top it, toast it, turn it into a bagel chip. Cream cheese is pretty much a necessity, but butter can be nice too (particularly, but not limited to a cinnamon/raisin. Cream cheese is nice with that one too.). I used a dill cream cheese courtesy of Philadelphia this morning for breakfast, and it went really well. So here we go on our bagel adventure, very chewy, topping of choice:
1 tbsp instant yeast
4 cups Sir Lancelot High-Gluten Flour – more on this later
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp. non-diastatic malt powder or brown sugar*1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 quarts water
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp non-diastatice malt powder or brown sugar*
Mix all the ingredients to make a very stiff dough. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turn to coat, cover, let rise till puffy, although I didn’t get real puffiness. It doesn’t double in size. Let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, but my kitchen was cold, so it took a bit longer.
Divide the risen dough into ten balls (they say eight, but I didn’t want large bagels, the choice is yours). Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Heat the water, sugar, and brown sugar or powder to a gentle boil in a large pot or pan. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheir. Poke a 2-inch wide hole through each ball; the entire bagel will be about 4 inches across. Place bagels on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and let rest for 10 minutes.
Gently lower the bagels, 3 or 4 at a time, into the simmering water. I used a slotted spoon to do this. Simmer for 2 minutes, flip them over, and simmer 1 minute more. Place them on a baking sheet. They say sprinkle with seeds at this point. I took a shallow pan with some egg white, and when they were cool enough to handle after the boiling step, dipped them in the egg, then the seeds, and then I put them on the baking sheet. Whichever way you like best. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven, cool completely on a rack. Yield: 8-10 bagels.
High-gluten flour: This is how they get the bagels so chewy, although other recipes consulted use plain all-purpose.
*I didn’t have the malt powder, so used brown sugar to good effect.