Bagels

Look out Panera, there’s a new bagel maker in town! I do love Panera bagels and usually always get one whether I’m there for lunch or dinner, and multiple stops at the breakfast mecca while on vacation left me really wanting to try my hand at making them from scratch. I put it off for a couple of months until I found myself with an extra block of cream cheese and it gave me the nudge I needed to make a batch of bagels to slather it on. My friend (and new baking buddy) Annie baked these with me, and although our KA mixers almost died a fiery death, we had a great time comparing notes and then partaking in what was a truly satisfying accomplishment!

Much more on the process, recipe, and pictures after the break.

This recipe comes courtesy of Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, from which I recently made some white bread. The intro to the recipe for bagels is about three pages long and goes into much detail surrounding the history of bagels, the different methods used to shape, different pre-baking techniques (steaming vs. boiling), and how higher gluten flours lead to a more authentic taste. Of particular importance was that he said this bagel dough was stiffer than any other in the “bread kingdom”. He couldn’t have been more right. Annie had her KA mixer smoking and I could smell mine burning while it was kneading the dough. Both mixers survived, and the result was incredibly flavorful, chewy bagels that pretty much ensure I’ll never reach for a sleeve of Thomas’ or Lenders’ again (I probably can’t stay away from Panera forever!).

As with breads, I am a bagel minimalist. I like ‘em plain and slathered with cream cheese. Every now and then I’ll take one with sesame seeds or an asiago one, but by and large, I like my bagels simple and that is just how I made them.

The process is pretty well mapped out within the recipe, so I will add my own notes (in red) where applicable. Unfortunately, almost all of my process pictures didn’t turn out well, but I will try to supplement with notes where I can.

Bagels
(Source: Peter Reinart The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, pages 115-122)

Makes 12 large of 24 mini bagels

Sponge
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
4 cups (18 ounces) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 ½ cups (20 ounces) water, at room temperature

Dough
½ teaspoon (.055 ounces) instant yeast
3 ¾ cups (17 ounces) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 ¾ teaspoons (.7 ounce) salt
2 teaspoons (.33 ounce) malt powder OR 1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar

To Finish
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, or chopped fresh onions that have been tossed in oil (optional)

1. To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter) [this really looked like pancake batter]. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 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 had a couple of bubbles deflate, but the whole sponge did not collapse when tapped against the counter].

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. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speeds with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining ¾ cup flour to stiffen the dough [I did end up using all of the flour, but as with all yeast-based recipes, how much you use will depend greatly on your individual kitchen environment and how sticky or smooth your dough is].

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, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all the ingredients should be hydrated. 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.

4. Immediately divide the dough into 4 ½ ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. Form the pieces into rolls.

5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

6. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Proceed with shaping the bagels [there are illustrations in the book - it's basically pushing a hole through the center of the roll with your thumb and stretching out the hole to 2 ½ inches in diameter, making sure that the resulting ring has a fairly even thickness all around].

7. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pan. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. 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”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the 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). If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

9. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven [my oven has 5 racks so I used positions #2 and #4, or upper and lower middle]. 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 (they should float within 10 seconds). 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 same parchment-line sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you decided to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.) If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water. You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination. I make a seed and salt blend.

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. (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer [I baked for an additional 2 minutes].

12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

YUM!

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10 Responses

  1. They look so perfect! I actually have the Breadbakers Apprentice but I haven’t made too much out of it because the multi-page recipes intimidate me.

  2. I’ve tried a few different bagel recipes, but this one is mostly my favorite. I make a few adjustments, most importantly adding a little extra flour. I also reduce the boiling time to 30-40 seconds; they seem ridiculously chewy otherwise.

    I’ve made these many many times and I don’t think my sponge has ever collapsed either. Oh well!

    Oh yeah, and I cut the recipe in half, which is probably why I’ve never noticed my mixer struggling as much as yours did!

  3. These look great. I tried making bagels once and I ended up with crescent shaped bagels.

    After seeing your bread and bagel posts, I’m thinking I may need to pick up copy of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Thanks!

  4. Great job Chelley! They look wonderful :)

  5. Wow, these look absolutely amazing!! I have had my eye on this recipe for a while now, I am going to have to make it soon.

  6. You did a great job on these bagels! I loved this recipe. I think they’re definitely worth the effort because homemade bagels are so much better than store bought :)

  7. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Panera bagels, but I’m probably the most spoiled/pickiest bagel buyer there is! If it’s not made using New York water, and with the water bath method I pretty much won’t even use it for breadcrumbs!!!!

  8. They look fabulous! I had so much fun making these with you :-) Thanks for the fantastic recipe.

  9. Kate – Actually a large part of the preamble to the bagel recipe is how Peter Reinhart went about trying to recreate the classic “New York bagel” because that’s what he grew up eating. He claims that these are as close to authentic NY bagels as he’s ever tasted. He had a bagel recipe in a previous cookbook (Crust and Crumb) and says that he has improved upon it. If you’re ever moved to try homemade bagels, I’d love for you to try the recipe and let me know how they stack up! Admittedly, I have never had a NY bagel!

  10. Great job on the bagels!! I’ve had bagels on my “to make” list for a long long time now.

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