Yes, this post title deserves an exclamation mark after it. Why? Because during my year in Japan the food I ended up missing most surprised me: it wasn’t one of the foods I ate on a regular basis like non-fat yogurt, seriously sharp cheddar, or multigrain bread…it was bagels! Bagels with cream cheese or PB&B or just a generous slathering of butter. Yes, my friends, I craved the usually oversized, chewy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside: BAGELS!
Well, I’ve been back on this side of the planet for about 3 years now and have been able to satisfy any cravings that pop up unexpectedly…until now. I’m sure there has to be a homemade bagel shop somewhere in either Halifax or neighboring Dartmouth, but without a car or significant free time I’ve been stuck with these. I was gamely making do until a friend of mine from Colombia mentioned that the only bagels he’s ever tried are the pre-packaged ones from the grocery store (*gasp*). I decided that, for both our sakes, I was going to try the homemade bagel recipe so clearly laid out for me in my go-to bread book: The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens.
Homemade Bagels! (adapted very little from The River Cottage Bread Handbook)
makes 1 dozen little bagels
1 lb. 2 oz. unbleached, white bread flour
1½ t instant yeast
2 t fine salt
1 C + 1 T warm water
1½ T superfine sugar
3½ T vegetable oil, plus extra as needed
1 medium, free-range egg – beaten*
poppy or sesame seeds for topping (optional)
* Note: For my vegan friends out there, just skip the egg-wash and use water or a light brush of oil to adhere seeds.
1) In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast onto the warm water and let sit while assembling the rest of the ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and sugar (since I didn’t have superfine sugar, I dissolved mine in the water). Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry and begin to incorporate the two with a wooden spoon. Once the dough has begun to cling together, turn it out onto a clean surface dusted with flour and kneed until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes) – or, alternatively, use a standing mixer with dough-hook attachment for about 5 minutes on medium speed.
3) When dough has approximately doubled in size (anywhere from 1 – 3 hrs depending on the temp. of the room – I let mine sit overnight), deflate it, kneed it a bit to redistribute the yeast, and divide into 12 even pieces. One at a time, roll the pieces into a sausage-shape about 6″ long. Wet the ends and press them together to seal piece into a ring shape. Assemble all 12 pieces and place on a lightly-oiled baking sheet. Cover rings with clean clothes and let proof <– have a cold room and/or want to speed up this step? I began preheating my oven here and set the covered baking sheets on top (NOT in!). The heat from the oven warmed the dough and the rings doubled in size within an hour.
4) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a wide pot filled with about 4″ of water to boil. As water is heating, place proofed rings on a tray (I used a bowl but some got squished) off to the side and re-oil your baking sheet off to the other. In addition, get a clean dry towel ready to drain the wet bagels on. When water is at a rolling boiling, turn it down to a simmer and begin poaching your bagels in small batches – they will puff up a bit in the water! – by cooking a batch for 1 minute on each side before putting them gently onto the dry towel.
5) When all the bagels have been poached and drained, gently place them onto the prepped baking sheets. If any have come apart just carefully stick them back together again. Brush bagels with beaten egg and sprinkle with any toppings you’d like. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bagels are a uniform, glossy, golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes or until just slightly warm before slicing (otherwise they’ll seem gooey).
Folks, Daniel Stevens knows what he’s talking about. These little guys had the perfect texture and the most lovely color, and you know what? They really aren’t difficult to make, you just add in the poaching step. My dough was a bit dry, I’ll admit, but I think that was due to letting it rise overnight. If you’re going to do the same you might want to rub in an extra teaspoon of oil beforehand.
My friend from Colombia said he really liked them although, since he’s never had any homemade bagels before mine, we admit he’s a bit biased, haha. Finally, if you’re like me and really love a good bagel, you might want to consider doubling the batch and either making 2 dozen small ones or one dozen jumbo. I rather like the palm-sized versions so I’m going to make 2-dozen next time and begin trying more exotic flavors (cinnamon raisin, cinnamon sugar, blueberry…).
Overall Enjoyment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥