This bagel recipe uses the sponge technique to give the bagels a better flavor and texture. It also helps the bagels to freeze and thaw better. This method takes 2 days due to the extended fermentation time and the time needed to retard the bagels in the refrigerator before baking, but it's definitely worth the extra effort to fit it in your schedule.
I've made bagels before using a different recipe and technique and I wasn't too impressed. However, I really like the method outlined in the Bread Baker's Apprentice. It's easy and the bagels taste great!
For a different type of bagel that uses a variation of this formula, check out Sourdough Bagels on My Mind.
- "According to folklore, bagels were invented in seventeenth-century Austria as a tribute to the wartime victories of King Jan of Poland, and were modeled after the stirrup of his saddle. They were a bread for the masses, popular also in Germany and Poland, but they were introduced into the United States by German and Polish Jewish immigrants, so we think of them as a Jewish bread. Now, because of the softer steamed versions, bagels have once again become a bread for the masses." -- Peter Reinhart The Bread Baker's Apprentice.
Let's get baking!
If you're following along with us, turn to page 115 in the Bread Baker's Apprentice to locate the recipe and list of ingredients. In this section, Peter Reinhart provides a very good commentary on different techniques for making bagels. I didn't realize how many different schools of thought there are for making bagels. I just know I like them.
I decided to make these bagels by hand, but you can use a stand mixer if you prefer.
Day 1: Making the Sponge
Stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture become very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.
Day 1: Making the dough
In the same mixing bowl, add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. I'm making the cinnamon raisin bagels so I added more yeast and cinnamon and sugar at this point.
Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. I didn't have any malt, so I used honey as the instructions suggested. The bagels turned out just fine but next time I would like to make them with the malt to see what difference it makes in the flavor. Stir until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.
Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes. The dough should be firm, but still pliable and smooth. All the ingredients should be hydrated. If the dough seems to dry, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
Day 1: Shaping the bagels
Divide the dough into 4 1/2-ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. I ended up with a baker's dozen since the raisins made them weigh a little more.
Form the pieces into rolls (see page 82 for detailed instructions on shaping into rolls).
Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil.
Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough.
Gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible.
Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
Day 1: Retarding the bagels in the refrigerator
You can check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the "float test". Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water.
My test bagel floated within 10 seconds. It was pretty cool!
Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the test bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.
Here's what the bagels look like after being in the refrigerator all night.
Day 2: Ready to bake the bagels
The following day (or when you're ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500 degrees with the two racks in the middle of the oven.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer ready. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as can comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds).
After 1 minute flip them over and boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side.
While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the oven. Since I'm making cinnamon raisin bagels, I won't be using any garnishes on the top.
When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation.
After rotating the pans, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown (or darker if you prefer). Remove the pans from the oven.
Let the bagels cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.
Thanks for joining us this week in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge.
Stay tuned for Day 4 of the Bread Baking Challenge:
Next time, we'll be making Brioche. Depending on which version you want to make, you'll need plenty of eggs and butter. I've made the middle-class brioche before and it was so rich, I'm going to try the Poor Man's Brioche this time.