01 February 2010

Adventures in Bagel Land

This past week I had the opportunity to work in the breakfast section of our bakery. What made me most nervous, but also what interested me the most, were the bagels. The process of proofing the bagels to the right size, storing in the cooler as a means of retarding the yeast, boiling them until they float and swell just enough, spicing them up with a variety of seeds and flavorings, putting them in the 470 degree rotating shelf oven, flipping them at the right moment, and allowing them to bake just long enough to get a deep golden crust but not burn, was at first intimidating- but when I pulled my first batch of beautifully golden, crispy, everything bagels out of the oven, I have to admit, I felt a little rush of love.

In our busy bakery, we are unable to make the dough from scratch. Our company's bake shop takes care of that part of the process and we receive the bagels frozen, already formed into their famous shape. Because of this, I wasn't able to experience the whole process start to finish and this left me wanting more. So, I decided to take the plunge and give it a try in my own kitchen.

I found this recipe at HubPages.com. I couldn't find a name to give credit.

Homemade Bagels

4 cups bread flour
1 Tbls sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt
1 Tbls vegetable oil
2 tsps instant yeast
1-1/4- 1-1/2 cups of warm water

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Most yeast that you buy in the stores today is instant, so you don't have to worry about soaking it. The dough should be stiff, but moist enough to incorporate all of the flour.

Knead the dough ball on your counter for about 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is uniform and smooth. (This will give you a good arm workout so that you don't feel so guilty when you go back for a second bagel later.)

Cut the dough into 8 equal sized balls and let rest for 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 425.

After the 20 minutes are up, it's time to turn your dough balls into dough logs. Using two hands, roll each ball into a little log on the counter. The log should be just longer than the width of your two hands. Then, wrap the log around your dominant rolling hand so that the overlapping ends are together at your palm. Now take the two overlapping ends, and use your palm to squish/roll these two ends together. Once the dough is fused, you've accomplished the famous shape! Some people will poke a hole in the middle of the dough ball and work it into a circle from there. The only problem with this method is that you don't allow some pent up gases to expel, as you would with rolling, and so your consistency will be different.

Allow your bagels to rest for another 20 minutes while you bring a large pot of water to a boil. Adding malt syrup to your water will add some sweetness to your bagels and add to the golden shine of the crust. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any at my grocery store. But I did add a little sugar to my water. You should also go ahead and lightly grease a baking sheet now.

After the 20 minutes, your bagels should be looking a little more pudgy. It's time to get them boiling. Put them in the boiling water, as many as will fit, but so they are not overcrowded. Let them boil on one side for about a minute, flip, and do the same on the other side. Your bagels should be floating. This boiling process causes the protein in the flour on the outside of the bagel to gelatanize, which gives you the crispy crust and chewy interior.

Allow the water to drip off of them before putting them on your baking sheet. If you want to add toppings, place your bagel into a bowl of your topping of choice face down. Set them on your baking sheet face up.

Now put them in the oven for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool for about 20 minutes, and apply your favorite shmear!

(My favorite is cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, and salt and pepper! I didn't have any nice beefsteak tomatoes on hand, so these grape tomatoes took their place and we had polka dot bagels for breakfast. One of the most satisfying bagels I have ever eaten. Seriously, these are worth the couple hours it takes to make them!)

Tree Bird

Thank God eating and drinking are not only a necessity, but a pleasure!