Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bagel Lessons

I've been making bagels every week for more than a month, experimenting with variations of my basic recipe. I've hit on a cinnamon raisin variety that is especially good. More on that later.

A few findings:
  • Vegetable oil or other fat is unnecessary in the dough. Many recipes call for a tablespoon or so, but I think it's perfectly fine without it. You want nice lean dough.
  • Proofing overnight -- another staple of many bagel recipes -- makes the insides airy, which I personally don't like. To me, a good bagel is chewy and dense. If you lighter bagels, good ahead and proof, but if not, you can boil and bake them after a 40-minute rise (20 minutes as dough balls, another 20 after forming into bagels).
  • Peter Reinhart in his "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" insists that barley malt is key to a good bagel. He recommends putting it in the dough instead of sugar. I've tried sugar and the barley malt and personally think that the sugar is a little better. Where the barley malt does make a difference is in the boil. A tablespoon to a tablespoon and half in the water gives the bagel outsides a nice glaze and slightly sweet, malty taste. So use the barley malt, but put it in your boiling water.
  • Tapering the ends of the dough is key to shaping a bagel that's even all the way around. Equally important is a vigorous rub and back and fourth on the counter to seal the ends. Otherwise, they can separate during boiling. The bagel still tastes good, but looks awful funny. And don't worry about one end of the bagels looking flat. They regain their shape during proofing and boiling.
So here's the recipe for cinnamon raisin bagels :

Mix four cups flour, two teaspoons yeast, one and half teaspoons salt, one and half teaspoons cinnamon, one tablespoon sugar, and about quarter to a half cup of raisins. Add a cup and half to three quarters of warm water and stir into a ball. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth, but not sticky. Cut into eight pieces, shape into balls and cover and proof for 15 to 20 minutes.

After proofing, roll the dough balls into ropes about two hand lengths long and tapered at the end. Wrap around three fingers and press the ends into the counter, briefly, but vigorously rocking back and fourth. Place on oiled baking tins (I put down tin foil). Cover and proof 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put a tablespoon to a tablespoon and half of barley malt into a pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Once the bagels have proofed, boil a minute on each side, return to tins and bake about 20 minutes.

I personally freeze them (they freeze very well) and take one out each morning for breakfast. Enjoy!

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