Bagels

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Dough Yield: About

    64

    bagels at 4 oz each

Appears in

Good Bagels are One of the Tastiest Baked Treats you could ask for. Repeat: good bagels. And while most people don’t often have access to really well-made bagels, when we have them, we tend to remember both the bagels and where we got them. Like most baked goods, bagels have a few needs in their production, and they require a little special equipment, but there is nothing out of the ordinary, and nothing that is cost prohibitive.

Most all the bagels sold today are extruded, that is, the dough is forced through tubes and mechanically cut to size. This process pumps out the bagels at high speed—thousands per hour—but is very strenuous for the dough. For a chewy bagel, one that takes a while to get through, hand forming and boiling, rather than extruding and steaming, give the best results.

Another change that has gradually permeated the bagel industry has been the increasing tendency to make bagels perceptibly sweet, and to flavor them so extravagantly that they barely seem to be a bread product any longer. You will notice that there is no sugar in the dough in this formula. This is typical of traditional bagels, which were offered only as plain, poppy, or sesame, and sometimes salt and onion. For those who can’t conceive of an unsweetened bagel, I would first urge that you try making bagels the old-fashioned way. If your tastes have become accustomed to today’s style of bagels, the addition of perhaps 2 to 3 percent sugar in the present formula would not negatively impact the flavor or handling characteristics of the dough. My thanks to Rick Coppedge, an excellent baker from New York, for his technical help with bagels.

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U.S. Metric Home Baker’s %
High-Gluten Flour 10 lb 5 kg 2 lb ( cups) 100%
Water 5.8 lb 2.9 kg 1 lb, 2.6 oz (2⅜ cups) 58%
Diastatic Malt Powder .05 lb .025 kg .2 oz (2 tsp) .5%
Salt .2 lb .1 kg .6 oz (1 T) 2%
Yeast .13 lb, fresh .065 kg, fresh .14 oz, instant dry (1⅜ tsp) 1.3 %
Malt Syrup*, a 3% solution for boiling (about 4 oz per gallon of water)
Toppings, Optional: Sesame Seeds, Poppy Seeds, Coarse Salt, Other seeds of your choosing
Total Yield 16.18 lb 8.09 kg 3 lb, 3.5 oz 161.8 %

* Honey can be substituted for the malt syrup.

Note: 20% of the overall flour can be pre-fermented in a pâte fermentée.

Method

  1. Mixing: Add all the ingredients except the malt syrup to the mixing bowl. In a spiral mixer, mix on first speed for 3 minutes in order to incorporate all the ingredients. Bagel dough is quite stiff. Depending on the flour’s absorption, slightly more water may need to be added, but be sure the dough remains quite stiff. In humid months, you may wish to hold back a small amount of water and add it only if the dough is too firm. Turn the mixer to second speed and mix for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. A stand mixer or planetary mixer will require 5 to 6 minutes on medium speed. The dough should be tough, strong, and well developed. Desired dough temperature: 76°F.
  2. Bulk Fermentation: 1 hour.
  3. Dividing and Shaping: Divide the dough into 4-ounce pieces that are more or less square. Flatten them one by one, and roll them up into tight cylinders. Roll each dough piece 10 to 11 inches long, with no taper at the ends (illustration A). Shape the dough into a bagel like the old-timers did: Wrap it around the broadest part of your hand. The ends should overlap slightly on your palm (B). Roll your hand back and forth on the bench in order to seal the 2 ends together (C). Place the finished bagels (D) on sheet pans that have been sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina. Refrigerate the bagels for at least 6 hours or overnight, covered with plastic.

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  4. Boiling: Prior to boiling the bagels, take the linen-covered bagel boards and submerge them in water —they will be placed directly onto the hearth of the oven or baking stone, and will last much longer if they are soaked beforehand.

    Bring a large kettle of water to the boil with the malt syrup or honey included. The malt syrup will slightly permeate the dough, and once in the oven the bagels will take on a rich color and a good shine. The boiling also reactivates the yeast, which is sluggish from its long refrigeration, and pre-gelatinizes the starch on the surface of the bagels, which contributes to their chewiness.

    When the water is boiling, take the bagels out from refrigeration. Put several into the kettle (keep the heat on, and add as many as can comfortably fit without lowering the temperature of the kettle too much), and leave for about 45 seconds. They will puff considerably and float.

    Remove the bagels from the water and place in the bowl of ice water (this step can be omitted if baking a batch that fits in one oven).

  5. Add the Optional Topping: Once the bagels have cooled for 2 or 3 minutes, place 4 or 5 onto the soaked boards. If you want seeded bagels, press one side into a tray of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or the seeds of your choice, then put them on the boards, seeded side down. For salted bagels, a light sprinkling of coarse salt is all that is needed.
  6. Baking: Bake the bagels at 500°F. Put the bagel boards into the oven, directly onto the hearth or preheated baking stone. After 3 or 4 minutes, when the tops of the bagels have begun to dry out, flip the boards so the bagels are now directly on the hearth or stone. Bake until golden, 15 to 18 minutes in all.

An Alternative Baking Method

Most bagel bakers agree that beginning the bake on the linen-lined boards brings the best results, and I concur with that opinion. Alternatively though, the bagels can be baked on sheet pans that have been sprinkled with semolina or coarse cornmeal with the good side up in hot oven. For this method, after boiling, place the bagels on cooling racks set above sheet pans, and let them drain for a couple of minutes before putting onto the baking pans. Seed as desired as in step 5, above. Bake time will be a little longer than if baking directly on the hearth, and if the bottoms darken too quickly, place a second sheet pan under the first; this will act as a heat buffer. Whichever method you choose for the bake, be sure some cream cheese is close by.

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