Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sundays with Sparky - Bagel of Mercy

My philosophy on life is "when there is trouble, put the kettle on."  When someone close to us has a baby, goes through a serious illness, or is otherwise in a crisis - or just plain happens to live next door, we make and deliver some comforting meals they can eat or freeze as needed - and Sparky, my little bagel, um, angel, of mercy, is glad to be able to help.

Not too long ago, we discovered this excellent recipe for homemade bagels.  Why make bagels at home?  Well, if you grew up without a Jewish community nearby, I can see where bagels might not seem like anything special, just another form of white bread.  I, on the other hand, was fortunate enough to grow up on the outskirts of Cincinnati's Roselawn neighborhood, which at the time boasted the one and only "Hot Bagels" factory, and its unequaled bagels (at least until I made my own.)  Their bagels were perfect:  a smooth, al dente crust which bent inwards when you tried to slice it with their impotent plastic knives, hearty and pleasantly chewy on the inside.  Hot Bagels was an innocuous-looking storefront in a somewhat worse-for-wear strip mall; they offered etherial bagels of all shapes and flavors.  And huge blocks of cream cheese.  Nothing else.  We lined up on Sundays after church with a throng of people of all shapes and flavors, all hoping to get one from the batch of bagels just leaving the oven.

With that pleasant memory driving me, fresh bagels are often on the top of my list to make for friends, for celebratory breakfasts, and whenever we want an excellent vehicle for lox and trimmings.  I mostly stick to the dough recipe as written (so I won't copy it here, just follow the link) but this time I successfully subbed 1 cup of the flour with 1 tbsp wheat gluten and 1 cup of whole-grain chapati flour (my new whole-wheat flour crush.)  I don't bother with the egg wash or toppings, these bagels don't really need them.

3 1/2 - 4 cups bread flour [or substitute AP flour + 2 tbsp vital wheat gluten, or sub half the flour for whole-wheat + 2 tbsp wheat gluten]
2 packages dry yeast
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 1/2 cups hot water (120-130 degrees)
3 quarts water
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
cornmeal for sprinkling on the baking sheet
So, Sparky and I started making the bagel dough - a fairly simple affair, really.  First, he measured out the dry ingredients, using 3 cups of flour and reserving the remainder, into the bowl of our mixer.  We put it into the machine with the dough hook and added the hot water and allowed it to knead for a bit.  I've always found the dough to be sticky, so we gradually added the extra flour until the dough became smooth, elastic, and beautiful.  Then, we just walked away from the whole thing for about 45 minutes.  (This is usually where I start the coffee; if you plan to do this for breakfast, measure your dry ingredients the night before - then you can let it knead as you fix your coffee, and sit down to morning news or the paper during the rise.  Can you tell I've done this once or twice?)  Once your time is up, bring a wide, deep pot of water to a boil and add the sugar.  Your dough should have doubled in volume by the time the water is ready.


My only other alteration to the recipe - I make mini-bagels, so my dough gets divided into a much more easily divisible 16.  You'll wind up with little blobs like this:





Then, you pull the outside of the dough over the top and pinch it together on the bottom a few times so that you wind up with a smooth ball.





Next, you simply poke a hole through the pinched-together part and then widen it by rolling your fingers through it.  By the time you've done all 16, the first 4 have risen enough to go into the water bath.  Don't worry if they are lumpy and misshapen - rising will hide many flaws, and besides, you can tell people they look 'rustic.'


Drop the bagels into the simmering pot of sugared water, about 4 at a time, for approximately 30 seconds on a side - mini bagels will not sink and rise again, so you'll have to turn them over: I often use chopsticks for this job.  The bagels are ready to turn over or be removed when they get puffy and don't feel raw when poked with a chopstick.



Put your boiled bagels on a greased (this is very important; the watery bagel runoff is like cement) cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal and into a 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes.  I don't mind my bagels being a little dome-shaped, so I don't turn them during baking, you may want to flip yours halfway through.  Bagels are done when they smell terrific and turn a deep, rich golden-brown.  Have mercy!



2 comments:

ejm said...

Good idea to make smaller bagels so there are more bagels rather than less with each recipe!

But what's this? No sesame and/or poppy seeds? ;-)

-Elizabeth

Michele Hays said...

Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth - yes, we are bagel purists at home, tend to go crazy with the toppings, though! (though often when we go out for them we get wild!)

I also like the 1/16 size - the bagels come out about the circumference of a 1-cup measure; and just over 100 calories, so I don't feel quite so guilty about eating them.

Nutritional info: http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/recipe/1661072/2

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