Monday, April 26, 2010


Since The Bread Baker's Apprentice came out, I've seen countless recipes on blogs featuring absolutely delicious looking breads. I don't make yeasted breads very often because I just don't have the patience and time to follow the directions exactly, measure exactly, wait the specific amount of time to do each step, etc.
When I saw bagels on many blogs, I admired them, but thought it seemed like a lot of work, and I can get some great bagels from the bakery, and I'm happy to support small, local bakeries. But still, something about making a bagel struck me as so exciting.
For the past week, my parents and sister and brother in law have been on vacation at my house. My sister recently told us she's pregnan (yay!!!) and when we talked about what she was able to eat, she told me lots of plain bagels. I knew this was my opportunity to finally make the bagels! So that's just what I did. They were as much work as I thought they'd be, and they came out very close to what you'd buy from a bagel shop.

from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhardt

For the sponge:
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
4 cups (18 ounces) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 ½ cups (20 ounces) water, at room temperature

For the dough:
½ teaspoon (.055 ounces) instant yeast
3 ¾ cups (17 ounces) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 ¾ teaspoons (.7 ounce) salt
2 teaspoons (.33 ounce) malt powder

To finish:
1 tablespoon baking soda
cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
sesame seeds

1. To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.

2. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining ¾ cup flour to stiffen the dough.

3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all the ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees F. If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achiever the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feels satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

4. Immediately divide the dough into 4 ½ ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. Form the pieces into rolls.

5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

6. Line two sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Proceed with shaping the bagels by pushing a hole through the center and stretching out the hole to 2 ½ inches in diameter.

7. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pan. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

8. Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

9. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500° F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 2 minutes flip them over and boil another minute. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-line sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour.

11. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation.

12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.


Debbi Smith said...

I LOVE bagels and would never even think to make my own! They look delicious! Thanks!

Jennifer said...

Go you for having them turn out right (of course if anyone's going to make a recipe work right, it's you!). I tried some banana-honey bread from the Jamie Oliver cookbook I just got and boy did they bomb. Never rose right! I wonder what I did wrong? So they became bird food, poor tweeties! I doubt I'll be doing anything with yeast for a while!

Sophie @ yumventures said...

I have just started to get into bread baking, and bagels have been in the back of my mind. These look great, though I can agree with you about having the time and the patience for the yeast part of the process. So nice to do this for your sister, congratulations to her!

Kelly said...

Congrats to your sister. I love baking yeast breads and such. It's been awhile since I've made bagels and they along with pretzels are by far two of my favorite things to make.

Joanne said...

Those look fantastic! I've been meaning to try the BBA recipe but haven't gotten around to it yet. Hopefully soon. Congrats to your sister!

Anonymous said...

You are awesome! Bagels! At some point I want to learn to make bread and bagels too. I feel like then I mastered many things.

P.S. I hope life is going well for you and your weight loss efforts.

Anonymous said...

WOW those look good!! I loooooove bagels!