Late last night I was requested to make bagels. The last time I tried it (years ago now) they came out a bit anemic, so it was about time for another attempt.
Since the previous attempt, I’ve made a lot of bread and come to some conclusions about the nature of bread and leavening. I think I’m right in saying that the objective is to add just enough leavening so that it runs out of steam just as the crust hardens in the oven. As a corollary, you’re trying to delay that moment in the oven as long as possible.
In a no-knead bread, you add very little yeast, (1/4 tsp) and let sit for 12-18 hours. in a faster bread, for the same amount of flour, you multiply the amount of yeast to get the targeted amount of time. This would lead to the math that suggests that 1/2 tsp would be 6-9 hours, 1 tsp would get you 3-4.5 hours and 2 tsp would bring it all the way down to 1.5-2 hours or thereabouts. Of course the shorter fermentation time does not develop the same array of flavors, but it seems to be borne out by the various recipes I’ve looked at. In this case, the recipe calls for 2 tsps, and the rise (and various relax times) add up to about 1.5 hours plus a bit.
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour. (all-purpose will work, but not as well)
- 1 1/4 cup warm water. (warm to get the yeast going)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp active dry yeast.
- 4 1/2 tsp sugar (I’ve been using light brown sugar, but granulated is fine. it’s largely here to speed the yeast and promote browning)
- a little oil to coat the dough when rising.
- mix the water, yeast and sugar at set aside to prove for a few minute if you really trust your instant yeast you can skip this step but it doesn’t hurt
- throw everything into a bowl (except the oil) and mix. then knead until the bread is nicely smooth. add water if it turns out too dry
- coat in oil and set aside in a covered bowl to rise for an hour or so.
- preheat oven to 425º
- punch down and divide into 8 even pieces.
- form into a small ball and set aside under a towel for 10 minutes to relax before forming the bagels.
- poke your finger down into the ball to make a hole. spin the dough on your finger to stretch out the dough to make a ring. the hole should be about the same width as the dough itself. it will rise considerably to close the hole, so you can be generous with it’s size.
- Boil a deep skillet or sauté pan full of water and in small groups, drop the bagels in the rapidly boiling water for about a minute, flipping halfway through. the objective here is to make the outside surface a bit gelatinous. they may look a bit wrinkly at the moment, but when they spring in the oven the skin will tauten and get nice and glossy.
- after a minute, remove the bagel and drop onto whatever topping you’re using, (sesame seeds, poppy seeds, bacon bits if you’re feeling outré, whatever.)
- bake for about 25 minutes.
Optional note. turning these into cinnamon raisin bagels was a matter of dropping a teaspoon of cinnamon in the flour at the beginning and kneading about 3/4 cup of raisins into the dough at some point. I did it at the end, but in retrospect it might have been worth while to drop them into the flour at the beginning so that they would dredge in the flour and the dough might stick to the raisin better. I leave that as an exercise to the reader.
Important note, make sure you have cream cheese around the house in case this urge strikes… The disappointment that comes from not having any at a time like this is almost too much to bear…