Monday, December 15, 2003

CHEWY BAGELS

And, the reason you’d make your own, when bagels are for sale everywhere? Because sometimes it’s the journey that counts, more than the destination.

STARTER
2 cups King Arthur unbleached bread flour
1 cup water
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast

Combine the flour, water and yeast, mixing till well combined. Cover and let rest at cool room temperature overnight.

DOUGH
all of the starter
2 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt or malted milk powder (optional)
1/2 cup water

To make this dough by hand or in a mixer, combine all of the ingredients and knead vigorously, by hand for 10 to 15 minutes, or by machine on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes. Since we're using a high-protein bread flour here, it takes a bit more effort and time to develop the gluten. The dough will be stiffer than usual; if you're using an electric mixer it will "thwap" the sides of the bowl, and hold its shape (without spreading at all) when you stop the mixer. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and set it aside to rise till noticeably puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, and divide it into 16 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll it into a smooth, round ball. Cover the balls with plastic wrap, and let them rest for 30 minutes. They'll puff up very slightly.

Use your index finger to poke a hole through the center of each ball, then twirl the dough on your finger to stretch the hole till it's about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place each bagel on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Allow the bagels to rise, covered, for about 45 minutes.

While the bagels are rising, place a steamer rack in a wide pan; a canning kettle works well here. Or try your electric frying pan and a small cooling rack, if you have one; I was lucky enough to find a round cake cooling rack that fit exactly into my electric fry pan. Add a couple of inches of water (to the canning kettle; less to the frying pan), and heat just to a simmer. Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Transfer the bagels, four at a time if possible, to the rack. Increase the heat under the pan to bring the water up to a gently simmering boil. Steam the bagels for 90 seconds. Using a turner and your fingers, gently remove the bagels from the steam and place them back on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bagels.

Spray the bagels with Quick Shine (or brush with beaten egg white), and apply the seeds of your choice. Bake the bagels for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're as deep brown as you like. Remove the bagels from the oven, and cool completely on a wire rack. Yield: Sixteen 3 1/2-inch (friendly diet size) bagels.

VARIATIONS

To make onion-topped bagels, bake unglazed bagels for 20 to 22 minutes (or until they're almost as brown as you like), and remove the pan from the oven, keeping the oven turned on. Working with one bagel at a time, glaze as instructed above, and sprinkle with minced, dried onion. Return the bagels to the oven for no more than 2 minutes (the onions will burn if the bagels are left in longer than that).

Want to make cinnamon-raisin bagels? Knead about 2/3 cup of raisins into the dough towards the end of the kneading process. Just before you're done kneading, sprinkle your work surface heavily with cinnamon-sugar (which you’ve made by combining one part cinnamon with 12 parts sugar), and give the dough a few more turns; it'll pick up the cinnamon-sugar in irregular swirls. Divide the dough into eight pieces, form each piece into a ball, and roll each ball in additional cinnamon-sugar. Proceed to let rest and shape as directed above.

We've seen bagel-store bagels in varieties as diverse as jalapeño pepper, spinach and cheese, and marbled rye. You can make bagels with just about any kind of bread dough. To retain the characteristic chewy texture, just be sure to make a dough that's low in fat and quite stiff, and follow the shaping, rising, steaming and baking techniques above.

www.BakingCircle.com
December 9, 2003

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