When I decided to do play along with the folks doing the BBA Challenge there was one item in Peter Reinhart’s “Bread Baking Apprentice” that had me quivering in my apron. OK, maybe not. I don’t wear an apron… but the fact remains, the idea of homemade bagels scared me. Unfortunately the book is in semi-alphabetical order, and so the fated Battle Bagel arrived all too quickly.
I’d tried to make bagels once, about er… well, let’s just say a VERY long time ago. Suffice to say I was just out of college at the time, and I remember life before MTV and call it good, shall we? That early disaster left me scarred and, if it hadn’t been for the BBA Challenge, I probably would have never made another attempt. Boy, would I have been missing out!
Many years later now, and after having endured a decidedly steep learning curve during just the last year, I have started to understand the “whys” of baking. While I’m far from an expert, I’ve learned what ingredients actually DO in a recipe, and when I can substitute and when I can’t, and what other adjustments I might need to make when I do. I decided that if I was going to do this, and possibly fail, I was going to fail BIG and on my own terms. Having decided to do it, I was going to do it MY way, in a way I thought would produce a slightly healthier product as Reinhart’s original contained no whole grain at all. That one change made for many others. Most baking lore will tell you that you can substitute up to 1/4th of the flour in a baking recipe with whole wheat. I went for nearly half in a bread that already calls for high-gluten flour instead of just bread flour. This is one of those times where AP flour just really won’t cut it. King Arthur White Whole Wheat has more protein than some wheat flours, and a finer grind so that it acts more like white flour, but I still added in vital wheat gluten to up the gluten and chewiness of the finished bagel. Altering the flour and adding the gluten required the addition of water – but going into it, I had no idea how much extra I would need. In the end it turned out to be about 2 ounces – a rather significant amount when you consider most adjustments are done in scant tablespoons. I also changed the baking temperature and decided not to bake on parchment or semolina flour due to my fire alarm’s propensity for going off with the slightest provocation when I cook at high heats. Yes, my neighbors (and my dog) hate me. Pro Tip: Reynold’s Parchment is rated to ONLY 425F.
Reinhart also stated that his recipe made 12 “regular” bagels and 24 “mini” bagels. He lies. If you’re expecting “mini” to mean about the size of one of those “Bagel Bites” – nu-huh. These “mini” bagels are what I would consider “normal” size bagels that just fill the palm of your hand. Reinhart’s “normal” must mean NYC Over-The-Top Bakery “normal.” Just go ahead and make the mini bagels, you can always eat two, and it’s really not that much more work. Who wants to eat half a bagel?
Mini “Everything” Bagels
1 tsp Instant Yeast
12 oz King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
4 oz King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
20 oz Water (Plus up to 2oz extra for adjustments)
1 tsp Instant Yeast
17 oz King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
21 grams Salt (3/4t table salt, use weight for other types)
2 tsp Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
3 Tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten
1 tbsp Baking Soda
1 LARGE Pot of Boiling Water
2 tbsp Dehydrated Onion Flakes
2 tbsp Garlic Powder
2 tbsp Poppy Seed
2 tbsp Sesame Seeds
1 tbsp Coarse Sea or Kosher Salt
Nutrition Info, estimated by A Cook’s Book recipe software for Macs.
Calories: 156, Fat: 1.4g, Fiber: 6g, Carbohydrate: 30g.
In the bowl of your stand mixer use the paddle attachment to combine the dry ingredients for the sponge and add the water as the paddle turns. Mix just until all ingredients have combined into a wet batter. Remove the bowl from your mixer and set aside, covered, for about 2 hours until the sponge is very bubbly, foamy and light. When it is fully ripe it will collapse fairly easily if the bowl is firmly tapped against the counter. (You can see on the left side of the picture where it has slid down the side of the bowl.)
Switch your mixer attachment to the spiral dough hook and put your bowl back into place. Add the additional yeast, salt, brown sugar, and vital wheat gluten. Mix on medium (Setting 2 on a KA – NEVER knead above 2 on a KA you may damage your machine and void your warranty) adding the remainder of the flour one cup at a time until all flour has been added. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl to help incorporate any loose flour. The dough should be very dry and stiff. If all of the flour will not incorporate, move the lump of dough to one side and sprinkle a little water (1 tablespoon at a time) over any remaining dry flour, then restart the mixer. Knead for 6 minutes. Your mixer bowl may “buck” – hold the handle to help keep it stable. If your mixer hesitates or strains STOP. Sometimes the dough just gets bunched up and you can even it out and start again. If you’re kneading this by hand, Reinhart says to knead for at least 10 minutes. If you do this by hand, you’ll probably want to invest in some BenGay beforehand, just don’t apply it until you’re done baking. Just trust me.
Immediately divide the dough into 24 sections of roughly 2 1/4 ounces. Roll them into balls and set on a pan that has been lined with lightly oiled parchment paper. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
Work with one ball of dough at a time, leaving the remainder covered. Roll the ball out into a rope about 6 inches long, then wrap it around three fingers with the ends overlapping. Press the ends against the counter and roll to mash them together. Set the bagel back onto the lined pan. Once all bagels have been formed, spray lightly with oil, then drape lightly with plastic wrap and allow them to rest for another 20 minutes.
At the end of 20 minutes, choose one bagel and drop it into a 2-cup container of room temperature water. It should float within 10 seconds. If the bagel does not float it is not time to put them in the refrigerator. In either case, remove the bagel from the water, pat it as dry as possible, and return it to the pan and re-cover. Repeat the float test at 10 minute intervals until it floats to the top of the water within 10 seconds. Once the bagel has floated, slide the pan into a plastic bag and then refrigerate overnight, or for up to 2 days.
When you are ready to bake your bagels, preheat your oven to 450F. On the stovetop bring a large pot of water to boil and add the baking soda. Having a wider pot is more important than deeper, it only needs to be about 3-4 inches deep, just enough to flip the bagel without hitting bottom. A 5.5 quart Dutch oven is PERFECT.
In a bowl, combine onion flakes, granulated garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and kosher salt. Set aside.
Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and carefully deposit 2-3 at a time into the boiling water. Be careful not to overcrowd your pot or let your bagels touch. Boil 2 minutes, then flip and boil for 2 minutes on the other side. As you remove bagels from your pan, remove the parchment that was below them and spray the pan lightly with oil. You may need an extra pan – the bagels will swell while boiling and may not all fit back on their original pan. Yes, this is bold and italicized for a reason – ahem! Use a slotted spoon to remove your bagels from the pan and allow each to drain for a couple of seconds before depositing back on the pan. Immediately top with the seasoning and seed mixture.
Bake on the 2 middle racks ove the oven for 6 minutes. Rotate the pans top to bottom and 180 degrees. Then bake for an additional 5-6 minutes.
Remove the bagels from the pan and transfer to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. No, really, I promise – you HAVE to let them cool. I know they smell good. I know it’s tempting. I know it’s hard to resist. Just DON’T. At the very least your butter will end up a melted, runny, drippy mess instead of a creamy slather.
It of course goes without saying that I feel I have won Battle Bagel. These will of course be sent to Wild Yeast’s weekly bread-baking roundup, YeastSpotting