BBA #3: Bagels!
I was really excited to undertake the third recipe in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice for the BBA Challenge — bagels! After reading what some of the other participants experienced with the dough, it seemed like it would be a challenge, and I’m always interested in recreating foods and dishes at home that you would normally just buy somewhere. And it was a challenge: this was the stiffest dough I’ve ever worked with, and it certainly gave me quite the workout getting it kneaded, but overall I thought for a first attempt, they came out pretty nicely.
There were a few ingredients that Reinhart recommended using to achieve the best results: high gluten flour (I decided to make whole wheat bagels, so I substituted whole wheat bread flour for half of the white bread flour) and malt powder or syrup. I picked up some barley malt syrup at our local co-op, then I was ready to begin.
The process spans two days. On the first day, the first step was to mix up a sponge with flour, yeast, and warm water — I left this to bubble up and double in size, which took a few hours.
After the sponge had doubled in size, I added more flour, the malt syrup, more yeast, and salt.
I mixed all of these ingredients together until they formed a (very) stiff dough, leaving some of the remaining flour out to incorporate during the kneading process per Reinhart’s instructions. Now: you’ll notice I have no pictures of the kneading process. This was because by the time I was finished, I was so worn out that it was all I could do to shape the dough, stick it in the fridge and plop down on the couch! The dough was very stiff, so I tried to take a slow, steady approach to the kneading, working it for about 10 minutes then taking a 10 minute break to let the gluten relax a bit before working it more. At times the dough seemed like it was getting way too dry, so I dripped a little water onto the dough as I was kneading it and that seemed to help. After 3 periods of 10-minute kneading with breaks in between, the dough finally passed the windowpane test and I was ready to shape it into rolls. Whew!
Now, here’s where I realized my scale might need a smidge of recalibration. Reinhart says the dough should make enough for twelve 4.5 ounce balls…but when I measured out 4.5 portions, I only got 8. I realized afterwards that I had to recalibrate my scale, and so the portions of dough I had shaped were going to become bagels on the large side…but oh well. They were already portioned out at this point and I was so tired from the kneading, I decided to just press on. Next time I’ll just divide the dough into 12 balls outright.
These balls rested for about 20 minutes, then it was time to shape. Reinhart suggests two methods: (a) poking a hole through the middle and gradually pulling outward to create a ring, and (b) rolling each ball into a rope and coiling the rope into ring. I wanted to avoid bagels with a “seam,” and thought the latter method would probably result in that, so I chose to go with the poke-a-hole method.
Not looking too bad. So these went into the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, overnight. When they emerged the next morning, they had risen slightly and were looking even more like we’d be having quite hefty bagels.
And now it was time to cook them! Into a large pot of boiling water (to which a little baking soda has been added) they go, cooking for 1 minute on each side.
After their boiling water dip, onto a sheet pan they went where I sprinkled them with sesame seeds.
Now it was into a 500 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until they were golden brown.
The verdict? Tasty! They were chewy, pleasantly whole wheat-y without being overly grainy. I wasn’t entirely happy with the slight bumpy-lumpiness of the exteriors — they weren’t as picture perfect as those you get in a bagel shop — but for a first attempt, I thought they turned out pretty well and they tasted delicious. I’d definitely make these again, perhaps playing around with adding cinnamon and raisins, or maybe some fresh herbs.
We had them toasted, with some cream cheese into which I mixed scallions, parsley and garlic – yum!
Previous BBA Bread: Greek Celebration Bread
Next up: Brioche (mmmm…..)