Bagels!

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Wow.  I promise to only rave about recipes on this blog when they are TRULY rave-worthy... and this is one of them.  This post from Lottie & Doof arrived in my inbox on Thursday and I was immediately intrigued.  It never crossed my mind that I could make bagels at home, let alone that they would turn out to be surprisingly easy to make and delicious.  And this weekend was just the occasion for a special breakfast because my two college roommates were visiting for our annual roommate reunion!

Many other bloggers have posted about these bagels (e.g., The Wednesday Chef, Smitten Kitchen, and the L.A. Times Food Section) and they all seem to have used the same basic recipe from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  There are several variations of the recipe available online, but I'll tell you exactly how I made the bagels and can attest that the recipe works and the bagels are oh-so-delicious!  Do read the recipe through carefully before you begin.  Once shaped, the bagels must proof overnight in the refrigerator, so if you want to serve these at a breakfast or brunch you must start the afternoon/evening before and allow enough time in the morning for the bagels to reach room temperature (approximately 90 minutes).

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The dough post-kneading and heading into the refrigerator

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The bagels rolled and ready to proof overnight... they certainly don't look perfect!

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Poaching!

Bagels

Yield = one dozen bagels

7 cups unbleached flour (I used all-purpose but you can also use bread flour)

6 teaspoons salt, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 tablespoons barley malt syrup (if you don't have this, honey should work instead)

2 cups plus 4 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons baking soda

Poppy and sesame seeds, coarse kosher salt, cinnamon and sugar or any other bagel toppings you enjoy

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Two "everything" bagels ready for the oven1. By hand, mix the flour, 4 teaspoons salt, yeast, barley malt syrup and the water until the ingredients form a stiff, coarse ball of dough (about 3 minutes).  If necessary, add a little more water (I needed more water).  Let the dough rest 5 minutes.  I used a stand mixer with the dough hook for this step, but be careful if you do as the dough is very stiff and can overwhelm a stand mixer so it may be best to use a spoon.

2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until the dough feels stiff yet supple, with a satiny, slightly tacky feel, 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough seems too soft or too tacky, sprinkle over just enough flour as needed.

3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to several hours. Remember that the bagels must be shaped before proofing overnight and plan the timing of this step accordingly.

4. When you are ready to shape the bagels, line two baking sheets with lightly greased parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 12 equal pieces (I used a pastry scraper to divide the dough).  Form each piece into a loose, round ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand.  Do not use any flour on the surface.  When each piece has been formed into a ball, you are ready to shape the bagels.

6. Using your hands and a fair amount of pressure, roll each dough ball into a "rope" 8 to 10 inches long.  Slightly taper the rope at the ends so that they are thinner than the middle. Place one end of the dough between your thumb and forefinger and wrap it around your hand until the ends overlap in your palm; they should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together and then press the joined ends into the work surface, rolling them back and forth a few times until they are completely sealed.

7. Remove the dough from your hand and squeeze as necessary to even out the thickness so that there is a 2-inch hole in the center. Place the bagel on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the other pieces. Lightly wipe the bagels with oil, cover with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator overnight.

8. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 90 minutes before you plan to bake them. Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Fill a large stockpot with approximately 3 quarts of water (be sure the water is at least 4 inches deep), cover with a lid, and slowly bring the water to a boil.  When the water comes to a boil, add the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 teaspoons of baking soda, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on.

9. Test the bagels by placing one in a bowl of cold water.  If it sinks, return it to the baking sheet, wait 15 minutes and test the bagel again.  If it floats, the bagels are ready for the pot.  When one bagel passes the float test, they are all ready to be poached.

10. Gently lift each bagel and drop it into the simmering water.  Add as many as will comfortably fit in the pot.  After 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to flip each bagel over.  Poach for an additional 30 seconds.  Using the slotted spoon, remove each bagel and return it to the lined baking sheet. Continue until all the bagels have been poached. Generously sprinkle each bagel with the toppings of your choice. 

11. Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the temperature to 450 degrees.  Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the sheet (if using two sheets, also switch their positions).  Check the underside of the bagels.  If they are getting dark, place another sheet under the baking sheet.  Bake until the bagels are golden brown, an additional 6 to 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and transfer the bagels to a rack for at least 30 minutes before serving  (I wish you luck with this last instruction.  The scent of these bagels will test your strength and patience.  Consider yourself warned.)

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