After my recent success with Peter Reinharts Pizza dough (which, by the way I just ate for dinner) I thought I would give his bagel recipe a go. Proper bagels are not easy to come across anywhere here, in fact the only traditional bagel I have ever had in Britain was in London on Brick Lane. That bagel was considerably chewier than what I regularly get from the supermarket which are okay but nothing special. Bagels, like the Pizza Dough, are a two-day process and use a slow rise in the fridge overnight. Whilst the process is long I think it’s worth it, there is nothing better than fresh bread to improve any sandwich.
1 Tsp Instant Yeast
4 Cups Unbleached High-Gluten or Bread Flour
2 ½ Cups Water, room temperature
½ Tsp Instant Yeast
3 ¾ Cups Unbleached High-Gluten or Bread Flour
2 ¾ Tsp Salt
2 Tblsp Malt Powder
or 1 Tblsp Dark or Light Malt Syrup, Honey, or Brown Sugar
1 Tbslp Baking Soda
Cornmeal or Semolina Flour for dusting
Sesame Seeds, Poppy Seeds, Kosher Salt, Re-hydrated Dried Minced Garlic or Onions
To Make the Sponge
Stir the yeast into the flour in a large bowl. Add the water gently stirring with a whisk until the mixture resembles pancake batter, smooth and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the mixture is very foamy and bubbly. It should have also swollen to about double its size.
To Make the Dough
In the same bowl, or that of your mixer, add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Add 3 Cups of the flour and all of the malt. Stir (on low speed with the dough hook if using a mixer) until the mixture forms a ball slowly working the remaining flour in to stiffen this dough.
Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (6 if using the mixer). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour and the dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77F to 81F. If the dough is too sticky add more flour and if too dry add a few drops of water to achieve the desired stiffness. The final dough should feel satiny and smooth and pliable but not tacky.
Immediately divide the dough into 4 ½ ounce pieces (Yes I did weigh them) for regular sized bagels. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and rest on your work surface for about 20 minutes. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment and mist lightly with spray oil.
You now need to shape your bagels and the book provides 2 methods but I used a slight variant. I put a piece of dough on the work surface and firmly put my thumb through and then gently twirled my thumb round to increase the width of the hole to about 2 ½ inches.
Place each shaped bagel 2 inches apart on the pans, mist them with spray oil and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the fridge by using a float test. Fill a small bowl with cool or room temp water. Place a bagel into the bowl, if it floats within 10 seconds your ready if not leave them another 10 minutes and re-check. Dry the bagel with kitchen roll and replace on the pan. Place the covered bagels in the fridge overnight (they can stay in the fridge up to 2 days)
The following day preheat the oven to 500F (my oven doesn’t quite get that high so I just turned it to maximum) and centre a rack in the middle. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the baking soda.
Gently drop the bagels into water only adding as many as will comfortably fit. Flip them over after 1 minute and boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels increase this time to 2 minutes per side. Whilst boiling sprinkle the parchment with the cornflour or semolina. If you are topping the bagels do as soon as they come out of the water.
When all the bagels have been boiled place the pans on the 2 middle shelves of the oven and bake for approx 5 minutes then rotate the pans, both from top to bottom and through a180-degree turn. After the rotation lower the oven to 450F and bake for a further 5 minutes or until light golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes or longer until serving.