Recipe for Bagels
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I spent quite a bit of time scouring the 'net for a good bagel recipe, without an awful lot of luck. I wanted that "traditional" kind of bagel -- crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside. Most of what I found online made bagels that either gave me all the crustiness I wanted, with a dry interior, or a nice, moist, chewy inside with not much crunch to the crust.
Then, my wife bought me a copy of The Best Recipe, from the folks at America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated. After trying several other recipes in that book, all of which turned out quite well, I tried my hand at their bagel recipe. The dough was incredibly stiff, with my big beefy KitchenAid stand mixer groaning to knead it. Forming the bagels was a workout for me, too. After proofing the dough overnight, it didn't look as if the bagels had risen at all, but, to my surprise, they puffed up both when being boiled and a bit more in the oven. They were, quite possibly, the nicest-looking bagels I'd ever seen.
Unfortunately, I thought the insides were a little dry.
So, I took what I had learned from their cookbook, and fiddled with the numbers a bit...
...and ended up with this recipe. While these bagels aren't quite as perfect-looking as the ones from The Best Recipe (the bottoms are a touch more, well, flat,) they had just the texture and flavor I was looking for. I usually make 'em plain, but occasionally I'll make a batch of everything bagels, especially if I plan on making sandwiches with them. These are great fresh out of the oven, with just a little butter. The batch makes a dozen good sized bagels.
Supermarket bagels just don't cut it any more.
Directions - Night Before
Combine all the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer (see notes below.) Put on your dough hook, and mix at the lowest speed until well combined, then trickle in the water. Continue at low until dough comes together, perhaps 2 or 3 minutes, then increase to your mixer's kneading speed and allow the mixer to knead for 10 minutes. The dough should not stick to the sides of the bowl, and when done, will be very elastic, firm, and only slightly tacky to the touch.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 4 or 5 minutes.
Using a dough knife, separate the dough into 12 roughly equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball by rolling it between cupped hands, and when mostly smooth, poke one finger through the ball, and as if you were rolling an elastic band on two fingers, stretch the dough into a circle. Try to get the center hole at least 1 1/2 inches wide, keeping the rest the same thickness all the way around. Place formed bagels on baking sheets dusted with corn meal, cover with plastic wrap and a towel, and proof in the refrigerator overnight, 12-18 hours.
Directions - Baking Day
Remove the bagels from the refrigerator. Bring a gallon of water plus 1 tbl. barley malt syrup (or sugar) to a boil in a wide pan, and preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. They may not appear to have risen; this is fine. If the holes have closed up, be sure to gently stretch them back out again. Working 2 or 3 at a time, boil the bagels until they puff slightly and float, about a minute per side. Remove from the boiling water with a slotted spoon or skimmer and place on a cooling rack to drain.
Dust the baking sheets with corn meal again, and place the bagels back on them. If you want everything bagels, now's the time. Make a wash by whisking the egg white and water together, and brush that onto the bagels. Mix the other topping ingredients together and sprinkle onto the bagels, pressing lightly to ensure a good bond. Be sure to leave room between the bagels on the baking sheets, as they will continue to puff up in the oven.
Bake the bagels for 18 to 20 minutes, turning the baking sheets once during baking. When you first put the bagels in, and when turning the sheets, throw a few ice cubes mixed with a few tablespoons of water on the floor of the oven-- the steam will help keep the outside crusty. Remove from the oven when the bagels turn reddish-brown, and cool on racks.
Like The Best Recipe does, I only recommend making this recipe with a stand mixer or with a fairly strong bread machine for kneading. The dough is very stiff as the gluten develops - so much so that my KitchenAid Professional mixer grunts a bit when working it. Developing the gluten as well by hand would be quite a chore. Doubling the recipe in a single batch would be nearly impossible without some monster Hobart 20-quart mixer.
I also recommend using the highest-protein flour you can find, as it makes the bagels as chewy as possible. When I can find it, I use King Arthur Flour's "Sir Lancelot" high-protein flour, but the "Special Bread Flour" from the same company works pretty well, too. If you can't find barley malt syrup, you can substitute sugar, but you'll need to increase the water to 2 1/3 c.
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