Monday, February 16, 2009

Bothersome Bagels

For my very first post, I was hoping to have created something magnificent. Sadly, all I got was flat, goofy shaped bagels. Bagels have been something that I have wanted to try for a long time. I eat one for breakfast almost every morning and I find them to be an immensely satisfactory breakfast item. I was lucky enough to received Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" as a gift for Christmas this past year and have had fairly good success with his French Bread and his Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread. With both of them I had decent success. These bagels, however, were quite troublesome.

Unfortunately, this was a very busy weekend. I had to work and I had a co-worker's housewarming party as well as being assigned to bake two pies for my aunt's 50th birthday. For some reason, I then felt compelled to also make bagels. These bagels take two days to create. Normally that is what I love about baking bread. The creating of the dough and the beautiful swollen mass it becomes after proofing. I love kneading the dough and shaping the loaves and watching them become delicious treats. I love that really good bread takes a long time and immense patience. Homemade bread is a delectable reward for all of your efforts. However, with the craziness of the weekend, I failed to pay proper attention to my poor bagels and consequently, they were visually unsatisfying but they tasted good!

Here is the recipe I used adapted from Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice"

Sponge:
1 tsp (.11 oz) instant yeast
4 c. (18 oz) unbleached high gluten or bread flour (I only had bread flour so that is what I used)
2 1/2 c. (20 oz) room temperature water

Stir ingredients together until they form a batter. Cover and leave at room temp for about 2 hours or until the sponge becomes foamy and bubbly

Dough
1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
3 1/2 c. (17 oz) unbleached high gluten or bread flour
2 3/4 ( .7 oz) tsp salt
2 tsp (.33 oz) malt powder


First add the yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of flour, the salt, and malt. Stir slowly until the mixture forms a ball adding the additional flour to stiffen the dough. Knead the dough until developed. (about 10 minutes by hand and 6 minutes with a mixer)

Divide the dough into 4 1/2 oz pieces for regular bagels, cover and rest for 20 minutes.

Shape bagels (The cookbook shows two different methods for shaping the bagels. I chose one way by poking a hole through the middle of the dough ball and gently widening the hole. My husband chose the other method where you roll out the balls and shape them into ropes and then shape them into circles. Unfortunately for me, his bagels turned out to be prettier and much teasing about his "superior" shaping method ensued. Use whichever shaping method strikes your fancy.)

Place bagels on sheet pans covered in parchment. Cover and let rest for another 20 minutes. Your bagels are ready to be retarded when you place one in a bowl of water and it floats within 10 seconds. If it does not float, rest them until one does.

Cover and place over night in the refrigerator.

The next day boil the bagels for 2 minutes on each side. After boiling you can put toppings on and then bake for 5 minutes at 500 degrees and then lower the temp to 450 degrees for 5 minutes (longer if you want darker bagels)

Notes: Because I did not follow the cardinal rule of baking and read my recipe all of the way through first thing; I let the dough proof in the bowl for an hour before dividing the it into pieces. I believe it was this mistake that led to my flat bagels. When I went to boil them, they degassed quite a bit when I picked them up. The toppings I chose were sesame seeds, which worked wonderfully, and onion flakes, which shriveled up and burned. The onion flakes may have worked much better if they were incorporated into the dough. Next time I might also consider egg washing the tops before baking for a shiny look. Hopefully, better luck next time :)
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