I finally did it – I tackled homemade bagels. Bagels have been on my “to-bake” list for a long time. They are a food with fond childhood memories for me. Growing up my dad also had an affinity for bagels. Before I turned 16 and drove myself to school, my dad would occasionally drive me to school. En route we would stop at a local bagel joint, Elaine’s, and pic up several salt bagels to share with my high school friends. We enjoyed them warm from the bakery – no cream cheese – as we made our way to first block classes. My freshman year of college I would often go home on the weekends. My dad would drive me back to campus and stop for a bagel with cream cheese before my morning class. Needless to say, bagels, salt bagels in particular, are near and dear to me.
When it came time to baking bagels, and choosing varities, I knew Asiago would be in the mix. The bagels I baked were for a brunch in my mom’s honor, and Asiago are her favorite flavor. Cinnamon raisin were included in the group because I have recently started to love the cinnamon/raisin/bread combination! After hating raisins since age three, enjoying raisins in food is definitely nice.
The recipes that I followed were all based off of Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I used Brown Eyed Baker’s asiago bagel recipe. I actually used her recipe for the base of the salt bagels as well, and simply withheld the cheese. For the cinnamon raisin bagels, I followed a whole-wheat base found at Confections of a Foodie Bride and the filling was modified from Annie’s Eats. The recipes were all great. The cinnamon raisin bagels may have had a little too much raisins, but that is not really a bad thing. For the salt bagels I boiled them as usual, and then sprinkled them with coarse kosher salt and poppy seeds prior to baking. Word of the wise: definitely use parchment or a silpat when baking. The bagels WILL stick. I learned this the hard way with the cinnamon raisin bagels.
BEST BAGEL RECIPE
Based on Bread Baker’s Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart, as seen on Annie’s Eats, Brown Eyed Baker, and Confections of a Foodie Bride
1 teaspoon (0.11 ounce) instant yeast
4 cups (18 ounces) unbleached bread flour
2½ cups (20 ounces) water, at room temperature
½ teaspoon (.055 ounce) instant yeast
3¾ cups (17 ounces) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2½ teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon honey
Asiago Dough (add in during last minute of kneading): 8 ounces Asiago cheese, shredded
Cinnamon Raisin Dough (add in during last minute of kneading): 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon, 5 tbsp. sugar, 2 cups rinsed and drained raisins
1 Tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal for dusting
Asiago Bagels: 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
Salt Bagels: coarse kosher salt and black poppy seeds
1. To make the sponge, stir together the yeast and flour in a large 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 about 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. I left the sponge overnight in my kitchen and it worked out fine.
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. I combined the two in my large KitchenAid mixer bowl. Then add 3 cups of the flour, salt, and honey. 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, quite stiff, but still pliable and smooth. 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. In the last minute or two of kneading add the bagel flavorings, if desired. If you’re making salt bagels you’ll just keep kneading.
4. Immediately divide the dough into equal sized balls, about 4 ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. 4 ounce pieces yielded about 13 large bagels for me.
5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and let rest for approximately 20 minutes.
6. Line two sheet pans with silpats or parchment. Proceed with shaping the bagels by pushing a hole through the center with your thumb and stretching out the hole to 2 ½ inches in diameter.
7. Place each of the shaped pieces a few inches apart on the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and 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”. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into a small bowl of cool water 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). 9. 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 (the wider the pot the better), 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. After 1 minute flip them over and boil another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the lined baking sheets with cornmeal.
11. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. Bake for about 5 more minutes or until light golden brown.
12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.