Just-Right Bagels

by Janice on March 25, 2009

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Sometimes, I swear I feel like Goldilocks.  And never more so than when I tried to find the perfect bagel recipe.  One recipe turned out too dense.  Another recipe turned out too bready.  Finally, I found the recipe that was just right.  I had to kick myself.  I found it on Smitten Kitchen.  Go figure.  A New Yorker and a bread baker (among other things, obviously).  Of course Deb had an amazing recipe for bagels!  But I didn’t look there first, or second.  However, if I had, I would have missed the gorgeous step-by-step photos and techniques on this site.  I am forever grateful to Kimberly for sharing what she learned at culinary school.  Unfortunately, the bagels I made from that recipe turned out too heavy and dense.  I had a blast making them, but I was so disappointed in their flavor and texture, and the fact that no one in my house would eat them.  Since I had never attempted bagels before, and I had a whole bag of Diastatic Malt Powder, I decided to try again.

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I’m somewhat amazed that I had never tried to make bagels before, considering that I truly dislike the bagels in the grocery store and at local bagel shops.  I can only chalk it up to the fact that we all went carb-avoiding crazy, and that I preferred to save my carbs for desserts and sweets, or good bread.  I think I was also under the misunderstanding that bagels are difficult to make.  Which they are not!  After all the sticky, wet bread dough I’ve been working with all these years, I found bagel dough to be a breeze.  It’s a stiff dough, and very forgiving, and worth every minute of work, once you find the right recipe.  You just need to spread the work out over at least two days, so the dough has time to develop flavor.

The next recipe I tried was this one from King Arthur Flour.  I found these too white-bread-like for my taste.  Pretty enough, and my family did eat each and every one, but they just weren’t the crispy crusty chewy bagels of my New York dreams.  However, on this try, I did perfect my bagel technique, and you can see that the shape is more traditional (smaller holes).  Perfectly edible, but not incredible.  This time, I used a larger pan for the boiling water bath, which made the process go faster (boiling more bagels at one time).  I know, I know, you’re thinking a boiling water bath, she must be crazy!  But it’s simpler than it sounds, and the end result is worth the effort.  (You simply drop the risen bagels in boiling water that has been enriched with malt for 2 minutes per side prior to draining and then baking.  It’s not much more difficult than boiling pasta, and I know you know how to do that!)

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On my third attempt to make bagels, I again searched the internet, and came up with this recipe.  (See the picture at the top of this post.)  I’ll consider it my reward for being patient and persistent.  Because it’s perfect.  I mean it.  I made half the recipe into mini-bagels and the rest into large bagels.  I made the recipe with regular bread flour, because my high-gluten flour is still on the way from King Arthur.  The exterior is so crispy and the interior so flavorful and chewy that my household doesn’t want me to “ruin” the bagels with toppings.  (But I’m pretty determined to try the cinnamon raisin variation in spite of them.)  The only thing I did differently from Deb’s posted recipe is that I added a couple of tablespoons of malt powder to the boiling water bath.  I boiled the bagels for 2 minutes on each side.   After the water bath, I drained the bagels on a cooling rack to ensure crispness, as Kimberly suggested.  I baked the bagels for an extra 5 minutes.  I used Kimberly’s technique for shaping the large bagels, and I just poked a hole in and stretched the mini-bagels.  Both ways worked just fine.  My dough was dry enough and too stiff to add in the last 1/2 cup of flour.  My KitchenAid mixer would not have been able to knead the dough if I’d added that much, and the dough would not have soaked up that flour.  (The moisture level in your flour and in your kitchen can affect bread dough, so trust your instincts.)  I’m not going to type out the whole recipe, since I’ve given you the link above, but it’s not because I don’t love you.  It’s because I love Alex for typing Peter Reinhart’s entire recipe (complete with notes from Deb).

Extremely Stiff Dough

Extremely Stiff Dough

After Resting, Prior to Shaping

After Resting, Prior to Shaping

After the Boiling Water Bath

After the Boiling Water Bath

Ready for the Cooling Rack

Ready for the Cooling Rack

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Breadies Unite For BBA Challenge « Round the Table
May 19, 2009 at 4:14 pm

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

soozan alan March 27, 2009 at 10:26 pm

wow! Can I come for breakfast?

twoskinnyjenkins May 20, 2009 at 1:37 am

These bagels are SO beautiful. I hope mine come out as nice! I think I’m going to have to start giving this bread away so that i can keep baking!

roundthetable May 20, 2009 at 8:11 pm

twoskinnyjenkins – thanks for the compliment! I seem to recall reading on your blog that you do triathalons – would seem to me that you could eat all the bread you want? I, however, walk the hills around here and run the flats, and it is not enough to keep up with this bread challenge! – Janice

Twoskinnyjenkins June 7, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Hey Janice,
Both my husband and i do triathlons and marathons, and i can probably pack away more bread than the average BBA challenger. Still, with only two of us in the house it is a struggle to eat all these breads. I suppose if i were clever, i would just scale the recipes down…
I’m looking forward to your brioche post!
-Twoskinnyjenkins

Michele Hays June 7, 2010 at 6:59 am

I keep seeing this overnight recipe around the internet; I found a less-than-two-hour recipe that makes terrific, chewy bagels and is based on the same principles – I think the real issue in getting the chew is making sure you have enough gluten in your dough, and kneading the dough (or letting the Kitchenaid knead it ;-) ) for a full ten minutes or more.

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