Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bagels

I remember living in Brooklyn and walking to the deli on the corner with my dad as a young child to get a breakfast bagel. New York/New Jersey bagels can't be beat. They're chewy, delicious, and amazing. Lender's and Thomas's can't compete.

It does take a bit of effort and time to make bagels at home but it's fun and delicious and the dough only requires only 5 ingredients, so why not?

Total time: 3 hours

3-1/2 cups of bread flour (more gluten means a chewier bagel)
1 package of dry yeast (2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of sugar
1-1/2 cups warm water

1-1/2 gallons of water in a big pot
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar

OPTIONAL:
1 egg
bagel toppings - I used sesame seeds but you can top it with whatever you like (poppy seeds, onion bits, etc.)
I combined the flour and salt in a bowl.

Then I bloomed the yeast in 1/4 cup of  warm water with the sugar. If the water is too warm, you'll kill the yeast. An easy way to make sure the temperature is okay is to mix 1 cup of cold water with 1/2 cup of hot water.
I let it sit for 15 minutes, undisturbed.
After 15 minutes, I stirred it to make sure everything was dissolved.
I used a large cutting board as my surface. I started with the flour in a big pile and then made a little well in the center.
I poured in the yeast/sugar/water mixture in the well and mixed it around with my finger until it made a paste. Be careful not to knock down the walls of your well, otherwise you'll send the liquid running all over the place. Once the mixture in the center of the well was thick, I started incorporating in more more flour. I added the remaining 1-1/4 cups of water, 1/4 cup at a time and kneaded the dough for 20 minutes until it was firm and elastic. The more you knead, the chewier the bagel!
I love how pretty the dough looks once it's kneaded. (Sorry that I didn't take more photos of the kneading but my hands were gooey and my sister was still asleep so I didn't have anyone to help).
I put it in a bowl, coated the bowl and dough with oil, and then covered it with a damp cloth. I set the bowl in a warm place and let the dough proof for an hour, until it had pretty much doubled in size.
If your dough doesn't rise, that probably means the yeast was bloomed in water that was too hot and it all died so you'll have to start over. I knew my dough was good though because it was bigger and I felt the air in the dough when I punched it down. Once I punched it down, I covered it with the moist towel, and then let it sit for another 20 minutes. Then, I put the dough back on the cutting board and cut it up into 8 even pieces.
you can see the little air bubbles forming in the dough from the yeast "burping"
Then I made the dough pieces into little balls. The easiest way to do this is to make a "C" with your hand and hold the dough, then rotate your hand in circles on the cutting board until you have a nice smooth ball.
I coated my fingers in flour and got ready to make the holes in the bagels. I just pushed my finger into the center of the ball of dough until it poked through the other side.
I covered the bagels with a damp cloth again and let them proof for another 10 minutes. You can see from the before and after photos that the holes seem smaller because the dough poofed up.
Close up of the bagel. Looks great already, right?
The reason that New York bagels are so chewy and delicious is because they're boiled before they're baked. Get a huge pot of water boiling and add in a teaspoon of baking soda and a teaspoon of sugar. The baking soda and sugar help the bagels brown faster once they're put in the oven. That means less time spent baking which means a more moist and chewier bagel. This is also a good time to get your oven preheating to 350 degrees.
I carefully placed each bagel in the water using a strainer. I let them cook for 2 minutes on each side.
To make sure the bagels wouldn't stick, I tossed a few tablespoons of cornmeal onto the cookie sheet.
Once the bagels are boiled, you can top them. I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and then brushed the bagels with an egg wash and sprinkled them with sesame seeds.

Once the bagels are topped, bake them in the oven for 25 minutes.
They came out beautifully! Except they looked more like rolls than bagels. I know now that I should make the holes a bit bigger.
I let them cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes until they were cool enough to handle (though they were still warm on the inside).
Slice, shmear, and eat :)
I made my own vegetable cream cheese as well. I let half an 8 oz package of cream cheese come to room temperature.
Then I whipped it using a hand mixer.
I finely chopped up 1 scallion and a small piece of red bell pepper (enough to make about 1 tablespoon).
Then I mixed it all together.

Oh, and these bagels made one mean breakfast sandwich! Taylor ham, egg, and cheese. YUM.
baby sister enjoying her bagel
If you have the patience, I recommend you try this at least once.

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