After a year away and two not-entirely-satisfactory batches, (scroll down on this page to see them) I'm returning to making bagels. The recipe I'm using this time is from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. There doesn't seem to be anything distinctively Reinhartian about it, though, so far as I can see. His schtick is soaking whole grains overnight to soften the hull-shards and this recipe doesn't contain any whole grains. I thought that, with this cookbook, he had joined no-knead and/or keep-dough-in-the-refrigerator-indefinitely crowds, but I don't see any sign of that here.
This recipe isn't particularly different from the last version I made. The only major distinction is a night in the refrigerator, but that's nearly always a good idea when baking bread. I do like that it measures the ingredients by weight for more precision. I want to do more of that in my baking. To add a little more distinctiveness, I thought I'd try the looped rope method of shaping the bagels instead of the poke-a-hole-through method I used last time.
Also, I doubled the recipe since bagels freeze well and are handy to have around.
2 Tablespoons barley malt syrup
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 Tablespoon fine kosher salt
510 grams (a bit over 2 cups) lukewarm water
908 grams (around 7 cups) bread flour
2-3 quarts water
1 1/2 Tablespoons barley malt syrup
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine kosher salt
dehydrated onion or garlic, rehydrated
coarse sea salt
1. Mix the malt syrup, yeast and salt in the water. Let sit while you measure out the flour. Mix into the flour until the dough forms a stiff, slightly shaggy ball. There should be just barely enough moisture for the flour. Let rest 5 minutes then knead for 3 minutes until gluten forms and the dough smoothes out. Add a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Place dough in a clean oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour.
2. Dump dough out onto an unfloured surface and cut into pieces. I decided I wanted modestly-sized, but not mini-, bagels so I partitioned out 16 3 ounce pieces of dough.
3. Cover two baking sheets with sheets of parchment paper. Lightly oil the paper. Clear space in your refrigerator for the sheets to fit.
4. Roll each piece of dough out into a rope about 10 inches long with a little taper at each end. Hold the rope by one end, whip it around over your fist and catch the other end so the dough loop snugly encloses your hand. Roll the overlapping ends against your work surface with your palm until they're well fused (I didn't do the best job of this). Place each formed bagel on a baking sheet not worrying about leaving too much space around them as they're not going to be rising yet. When you've laid out all your bagels, lightly oil their tops, cover with plastic wrap, put in the refrigerator and wait a day.
5. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 60 to 90 minutes before you want to start baking. After 60 minutes check if the bagels are ready by gently dropping one into a bowl of water. If it floats, they're ready. If your poaching liquid isn't ready yet, put the bagels in the refrigerator until it is. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring the poaching water to a boil in a large pot or dutch oven, lower heat to bring down to a simmer and add the malt syrup, baking soda and salt.
6. Gently add the bagels to the poaching liquid in batches. Don't overcrowd as they'll be expanding. Poach for 1 minute, flip them over and poach for 1 more. Remove from the liquid, dunk in your prefered the toppings (domed side down), and return to the parchment sheets with a little more space this time.
7. Put the bagels in the oven and turn the heat down to 450 degrees. Bake for 8 minutes, rotate and revolve the baking sheets, and bake for 8 to 12 minutes more until golden brown and a bit crisp.
Cool for at least a half hour before serving.
During cooling I noticed that these bagels have the appropriate distinctive malty smell. Funny how it's instantly recognizable as malty now but I never pegged it before even when I used malt previously. There's a touch of malt in the flavor and I think there's a little depth from the overnight in the fridge too. These taste just about right.
But really, the texture of a bagel is the important thing. The crust has a slight snap to it, like a good hot dog. That's perfect, but it never lasts. You only get that when the bagels are fresh from the oven.
The insides are chewy but not overly dense. There are uneven holes inside which means I didn't get out all the air bubbles I should have. That's not too bad, but the uneven holes through their centers are less appealing; the rope method is harder than it looks.
Aesthetically, not fabulous, but the flavor and texture is dead on. I'm quite happy with the results and will need some good reason to stray from this recipe from now on.
Report from tomorrow: the bagels went stale remarkably quickly. Luckily I put most into the freezer immediately so they should be OK. I might add a bit of whole wheat and/or rye next time to improve their shelf life.