Sunday, January 13, 2013

To Begin with Bagels

So here I am. Somewhere I never thought I'd be. Writing a blog. 

It's interesting how everything condenses in just such a way as to point you towards something that seemed so aloof and unfathomable. Such as posting my thoughts on life, the universe and food on the Inter Webs. Funny, really. This idea came about thanks to my friend, Claire, who said that I had a wall full of food on my Facebook page. Turns out she was right. (Not literally. THAT would have been interesting.) I'm trying this out as a new forum for my experiments and misadventures-turned-masterpieces. 

Though I may set any number of goals at this point, I doubt very many, if any, will be kept. I may say that I will post a recipe each week, but then some catastrophe (read: math test) will almost certainly occur. So instead, I'm going to off-handedly announce that I will be attempting to cook from a new recipe each week and write about the adventure at some point before the details have faded. Is that vague enough, Murphy?

Anyway, I'm simply looking forward to chronicling my ups and downs in a meaningful way that is also enjoyable to the audience. 

Welcome, 2013. I can't say I'm ready for whatever awaits, but I'll definitely take a stab at it.


Now that the introduction is complete, let's get down to the dough. The first weekend in 2013, I made bagels.

I'd had the dry ingredients measured and combined, sitting in my fridge, waiting for when I had at least 24 hours to commit to a process that was undoubtedly the longest that I have so far encountered in my cooking experience (in terms of sheer work hours). 

Don't let that scare you off, though. It's not complicated, just repetitive, and the reward is a batch of piping-hot bagels. Not to mention the extreme self-satisfaction (this I freely admit).

To be sure, this will never replace the convenience of Bruegger's, but it's worth a try if you're ready for a challenge.

Half-Wheat Bagels
I found this recipe on Kath Eats Real Food. She has gone into great detail about the mechanics of breadmaking and why each step works the way it does. I would recommend going to her blog to look at the original recipe, especially for the highly useful photographs of the process, notably the shaping. Furthermore, Kath provides measurements in weight, which are considered to be a more accurate.


     1.  Prep dry ingredients.
     2. Mix dough.
     3. Rise for 1 hour. 
     4. Shape dough.
     5. Rise for 6 hours to overnight.
     6. Boil.
     7. Bake.

  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • stand mixer (somewhat optional)
  • damp kitchen towel
  • food scale (or the ability to eyeball accurately)
  • dough divider (or a knife and counters that don't mind being scratched)
  • sheet pan (or several)
  • tongs/slotted spoon
  • cooling rack


1) Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer until the dough comes together, then beat on first speed for 3 minutes. Mix on second speed for 3 more minutes. The dough may become so stiff that the mixer stalls and/or grinds gears. If this is the case, switch to using your hands. When kneading is complete the dough should be very strong with full gluten development.

2) Place in a warm location to rise for 1 hour. There will be very little noticeable rising (though the dough will soften and become a little less stiff). 

3) Divide the dough into 14 equal portions of 3.5oz each. Make sure to keep your dough covered with the damp towel so it doesn’t develop a crust. This goes for the dough lump as well as the individual balls. Don't bother shaping them during weighing. 

4) Making sure all your dough portions are covered with the towel, remove one of them. Since the dough will be all twisted with random seams in it, or constructed from several small pieces as you portioned them, tuck the junky looking parts underneath so you have a nice smooth surface facing up. Lightly press it down so you have a fairly square piece. Begin to roll the piece with one hand into a tube. You don’t need to be too vigorous here, and it's not too big a deal if the ends taper somewhat. When it gets long enough, use two hands to roll it. The goal here is about 8 inches long. Start each roll with your hands in the middle of the tube and as you gently roll, move them to the outside to lengthen. Uniform thickness is important for even cooking. 

5) Once you have a nice tube, lift the dough up and wrap it around your fingers with the two loose ends on the underside of your fingers. Lay this down and gently roll to press the two ends together and form a full bagel. There should be an overlap of about the width of your hand. No need to put too much force into it. You’re not so much trying to roll the whole bagel up and down your fingers – it’s more about joining the ends of the dough tube together from several different angles. Don’t worry if the final product looks a little lopsided. The most important thing is getting the two ends to join up. If you still have some seams after rolling, you can pinch them shut. I ended up turning them inside out to ensure that the inner seams had closed entirely.

6) As you finish each one, place them on a sheet pan, leaving at least an inch between them, and cover well with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours, and up to overnight.

7) When you take the dough out of the refrigerator, you’ll notice that they will have slightly risen, but not nearly as much as you would expect normal bread to have expanded. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

8) The first step is boiling. (I learned that this is the step that gives bagels their characteristic chewy crust and soft inside.) I used a large stock pot, though the instructions said to only put in 3 at a time otherwise they could reduce the water temperature and get soggy. After putting them in, stir for a second to make sure they don't stick to the bottom. You can flip them once during the boiling, but it's not entirely necessary. Boil for 1-2 minutes (they should be floating on the surface at this point). I found it was a little tricky to keep the water at a rapid boil, but it mostly worked if I recovered the pot after I had ensured that the bagels were not stuck anywhere. 

9) Remove them with your strainer and put them in the ice water for 3 minutes. (You'll probably have to empty the bowl a little after half the bagels have been cooled in it and refill it with ice.) Don't start cooking the next set of 3 bagels until you've cooled the prior set for the full 3 minutes. Distribute them on the baking sheets, spacing out about 1 inch apart  Don’t worry about drops of water on the pans.

10) I didn't put toppings on my bagels, but the instructions said to put the toppings on the side that you desire and then place that side on the baking sheet so that they are facing down. If not, don't worry about which side is up. Place in the oven and bake for 5 minutes.

11) Flip the bagels quickly on the pans, leaving the oven door open just long enough to remove and replace the pans. Then they're back in the oven for another 15 minutes. 

12) Place the bagels on a cooling rack immediately. Eat hot. If there are any left over, store in an airtight bag at room temperature for a few days. Slice them in half and toast them if they become undesirably stale.

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