I just love bagels. I can eat cereal when I wake up and within an hour I’m hungry again. On the other hand I can have a bagel and somehow I can make it to lunch without my stomach sounding like something out of an African Safari. Until a year ago the way I got my morning bagel was to plan ahead and stop at a local bakery to pickup my bagels for the next few days. Any longer then just a few days and I might as well be chewing on a rock. Despite their short fresh lifespan I do love them. I’m a butter or creme cheese fan depending on the mood, but please don’t toast my bagel. The rough/sharp edges are like a knife sliding down my throat. So to anyone who offers to buy me breakfast, I’m pretty easy to please just don’t toast the bagel.
About a year ago I started exploring the option of baking my own bagels. At that point all I knew about them was they they required high glutton flour and at some point were boiled. I wasn’t exactly sure how boiling dough worked but I was up for learning something new, maybe, if the mess wasn’t to much to clean up.
I quickly learned that the hardest part of baking bagels was making sure you worked enough flour into them. I never noticed just how dense a bagel was until I started working with the raw dough. Lets just say by the time I had worked all the flour into the dough and kneaded it my hand were done for the day. Never the less the bagels that were produced the first time were to much like bread. I hadn’t worked enough flour into them. Since the first bagel experiment I have learned to just keep adding flour as long as the dough will incorporate it. Any extra flour gets washed off during the boil.
The process starts just like any other bread. You mix in some yeast, water and flour and let the yeast become active and bubbly. Barley Malt Syrup is added along with additional flour and a little salt. The barley syrup is what gives the bagel it’s traditional taste. This is also one of the items used to make beer. The additional flour at this stage is where your hands will start to hate you, but it’s so worth it in the end. After your hands have given up and the flour is all together in perfect harmony it’s time to form the traditional bagel circle. If you want to can make your bagel in any shape you would like. I’ve often wondered what a bagel hot dog bun would be like. They have pretzel dogs why not a bagel dog?
The bagels are allowed to raise once again for roughly 20 minutes to an hour. You will noticed that your bagels are starting to get larger. Once they are roughly double the size they started out as, it’s time for the float test. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. As it sounds the goal of this test is to make sure the bagels will float. If it sinks then there isn’t enough air in the dough and it needs to raise longer. If it floats your ready to boil or put them in the fridge to boil the following day.
When I boil my bagels I tend to get the really boiling before adding the first bagel. As you add the bagels the water tends to cool down and having the water hotter then you need it speeds up the process. I boil each bagel for a minute and a half on each side and move them to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and some cornmeal. The length of time that you allow your bagel to boil will determine how chewy the bagel ends up being. Less chewy then boil it for about a minute, more chewy your looking for something around 2 minutes. Putting the bagel on corn meal and parchment paper makes it easier to get the bagels off the sheet later. After this they go into the oven for roughly 5 to 8 minutes or until they get golden brown.
The best part about baking at home is you have the option to make changes that fit your taste. I love homemade bagels because the taste is a lot stronger then any I’ve tried from a bakery. I ‘m still working on the perfect shape, but as long as it taste amazing I’ll keep eating my imperfect circles just as they are.