Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Make your own Bagels!

We were watching "Baking with Julia" the other day and she had a guest chef cooking up some homemade bagels, a New Yorker of course.

I wasn't too nervous to give it a try because the dough seemed similar to pizza dough and the process similar to that of making soft pretzels.

So, we gave it a try and - WOW! Talk about soft and fluffy and amazing. There is nothing that beats a fresh bagel. And if you can do it in the comfort of your own home, all the better.

I did make a few modifications to the process for simplification purposes and based upon my own preferences. Just a heads up - the dough can/should be made in advance because this can be a bit of a two-day process, so be sure to read through everything carefully before beginning. See my step by step below.

1 Tablespoon Butter
1/4 cup warm water + 2 cups warm water + 1 cup water
3 Tablespoons Crisco vegetable shortening
2 Tablespoons Sugar + 1/4 cup Sugar
1 package dry active yeast
1 Tablespoon Salt
5-6 cups Flour, preferably Bread Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
6-10 ice cubes
Egg White, optional

2 Medium-sized mixing bowls
Plastic Wrap
Medium Pot
Slotted Spoon
Clean Kitchen Towel
Pizza Stone
Baking Tray

Step 1: Using the 1 Tablespoon of butter, grease one mixing bowl and one side of a square of plastic wrap (enough to cover the top of the bowl). Set aside.

Step 2: In the other bowl, dissolve the yeast package in 1/4 cup warm water. Let sit, the yeast will dissolve and begin to bubble (about 5 mins.).

Step 3: Add the 2 cups warm water, 3 Tablespoons of vegetable shortening, and 2 Tablespoons of Sugar to the bubbling yeast mixture.

Step 4: Add the flour to the mixture, about 2 cups or so at a time. Using your hands, combine the wet and dry ingredients together and continue to add flour until the dough is no longer sticky.

Step 5: Knead the dough (rub it, turn it, smash it around) for about 5 minutes. This will encourage the activated yeast to continue to do its magic.

Step 6: Place the dough in the greased bowl, cover with the greased wrap, and let sit for 1 - 2 hours (the longer you let the dough sit, the more fluffy and airy the consistency, so I recommend letting it sit for as long as you can bare).

Step 7: Refrigerate dough for a minimum of 2 hours and a maximum of 2 days. Again, the longer you let sit, the lighter the bagel will be. But if you like a more dense bagel, then by all means, cut the time short.

Step 8: When you are ready to bake the bagels, place your pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

Step 9: Fill your medium pot with water and bring to a boil. You want to be sure that there is enough water in the pot for the bagel to be fully submerged in the bath. Once the water is boiling, add 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the pot.

Step 10: Place a clean kitchen towel on the counter for drying.

Step 11: Remove the dough from the refrigerator and give it a few good punches. Pull off fistfuls of dough and break into the size of tennis balls. Keep covered with the plastic wrap for freshness as you continue working on the bagels.

Step 12: Take one ball at a time and using both hands, knead the dough inward with your thumbs, creating a funnel to the center. Then poke your thumbs through the middle to make a hole.

Step 13: Take your pointer and middle fingers of both hands and put them in the middle of the hole. Then turn them around, turning the dough around to make the hole bigger.

* The hole in the middle should be about 2 inches big. Yes, it seems ridiculous, but the dough will pull itself back together in the bath, so don't worry and have confidence. Your end result will be a beautiful looking bagel, perfectly shaped.

Step 14: Place the bagel in the boiling water bath. The bagel will sink to the bottom and then rise up after a few minutes. Once it has risen, turn it over for about a minute, to get the coating on both sides.

Step 15: Using the slotted spoon, remove the bagel from the bath, and place on the towel, smooth side up.

Repeat Steps 12 through 15 for the remainder of the dough.

OPTIONAL Step: Brush the tops of the bagels with egg wash. This will not have an impact on the flavor, but does give the bagels a shine for a cosmetic finish.

Step 16: Remove the pizza stone from the oven and carefully place each one of the bagels on the stone, trying not to break the coating from the bath (it's okay if it breaks, again it's just cosmetic).

Step 17: Bake the bagels for about 20-30 minutes, until the tops are browned.

Step 18: Let cool for about 5 minutes, remove from the stone, and enjoy! Eat it plain, toasted, with cream cheese, or pimento cheese! Nothing beats the freshness.

ALTERNATIVES - Feel free to kick it up a notch and vary the flavor. For the following:

Sesame, Salt, Poppyseed, Cinnamon Sugar, Everything, etc. - add anywhere from 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon of the seasoning, depending on your desired potency, between Steps 4 and 5. Then, prior to Step 16, brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle the seasoning lightly on top of bagel.

Cinnamon Raisin - add anywhere from 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon of the cinnamon, depending on your desired potency, between Steps 4 and 5 and add 1/8 to 1/4 cup of raisins. Then, prior to Step 16, brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle the cinnamon lightly on top of bagel.

Asiago Cheese - Between Steps 4 and 5 add 1/8 cup of shredded Asiago, or cheese of your choice, and knead in with the dough. Then, prior to Step 16, brush the tops with egg wash and lightly sprinkle a touch of cheese on top of bagel.

Finally, for fun, here is the link to the Baking with Julia video: