It's almost the end of the month and that usually can only mean one thing - it's time to join the Daring Bakers and our adventures in baking. This month it was the lovely Quellia of All Things Edible who was supposed to choose our challenge. As always we waited impatiently for the June's challenge to be posted on the Daring Baker's blog. After May's challenge I admit I was feeling invincible and was on such a high as I had conquered and tamed a few tough processes in every pastry chef's career. Then the hammer fell!
Quellia spilled the beans ... or should I say the bagels! She had chosen pure, honest, Jewish bagels, just as they are supposed to be made, as our challenge. My first thought: "UGH!! Yeast - all that kneading and rising!!" I am not a bread/dough maker - avoid it whenever I can and with the exception of pizza dough never wanted anything to do with yeast. But I am a Daring Baker, so I rolled up my sleeves and decided to take the challenge on.
I decided to do this early on in the month as I had the perfect occasion - my birthday! There would be many guinea pigs around for me to try this challenge on!
As with each challenge, we have to stick to the exact recipe given by the host and are allowed only a few modifications. The allowed modifications for the bagels were:
- Topping of our choice, savory recommended, for the outside of the bagels only. No added ingredients or flavours inside the bagels.
- Filling or spread of ou choice for the outside of the bagel. (i.e. flavoured cream cheese or peanut butter)
- Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergy or an ingredient is not available or cost prohibitive in our region.
Legend has it that the first bagel was created in 1683 when a baker in Vienna wanted to pay tribute the Polish King Jan III Sobieski for saving the people of Austria from Turkish invaders. Since the king was known to have a passion for riding, the baker made rolls in the shape of a stirrup, known in German as beugel. The roll soon became a hit throughout Eastern Europe.
In the 1880s as hundreds of immigrants of Eastern European Jews came to New York, they brought the bagel with them. They were widely sold throughout the city, with the vendors threading the hole-shaped bread onto dowels and hawked them on street corners. Then in 1907 the International Bagel Bakers Union was founded in New York City. The members of this group fiercely safeguarded the recipe for bagels. These were usually boiled or "kettled" in vats of boiling hot water before baking. Traditionally the bagel bakers worked in teams of four, two men making the dough and shaping the bagels, one boiling them and the fourth baking them.
After World War I, Meyer Thompson, the son of a bagel baker in Winnipeg, Canada experimented with several bagel baking machines in his workshop above the family bakery. None of the models he invented actually made it as they all had major flaws. However, in the 1960s his son, Daniel, picked up where his father left off and finally invented the Thompson Bagel Machine. This machine was capable of making 200 to 400 bagels an hour, causing the bagel to enter mainstream America with such popularity that within a few years bagel consumption in the US skyrocketed. Unfortunately the tradition of hand formed bagels virtually vanished as did the purity and simplicity of the roll. Bagels are now available with all kinds of flavors added to the dough and are frozen in large packs available in supermarkets around the world.
This probably makes the old members of the Bagel Bakers Union shudder in their graves. But here we are, a group of Daring Bakers who have decided to take bagel baking back to it's old tradition. No added flavors, no machines and 100% hand made.
More interesting resources:
Basic Bagel Recipe
600-800g (6-8 cups) bread (high-gluten) flour
30g (4 tablespoons) dry baking yeast
130g (6 tablespoons) light honey - you can also use granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups hot water
water to boil the bagel in
3-5 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar - I used the sugar as I was unable to get malt syrup
a couple handfuls of cornmeal
Large mixing bowl
Measuring cups and spoons
Wooden mixing spoon
Butter knife or baker's dough blade
Clean, dry surface for kneading
3 clean, dry kitchen towels
Warm, but not hot, place to set dough to rise
2 baking sheets
Step 1- Proof Yeast:
Pour three cups of hot water into the mixing bowl. The water should be hot, but not so hot that you can't bear to put your fingers in it for several seconds at a time. Add the sugar or honey and stir it with your fingers or with a wire whisk to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, and stir to dissolve.
Wait about ten minutes for the yeast to begin to revive and grow. Skipping this step could result in making bagels with dead yeast, which will result in hard and potentially dangerous bagels. The yeast is good if it begins to foam and exude a sweetish, slightly beery smell.
Step 2- Make Dough:
At this point, add about three cups of flour as well as the 2 tsp of salt to the water and yeast and begin mixing it in. Use your hands for this as you really get the perfect feel for the consistency of the dough. If you are not keen on using your hands then a wooden spoon will also work.
When you have incorporated the first three cups of flour, the dough should begin to become thickish. Add more flour, a half-cup or so at a time, and mix each addition thoroughly before adding more flour. As the dough gets thicker, add less and less flour at a time.
Step 3- Knead Dough:
Knead the dough in a big and shallow bowl or on a clean, dry, flat counter top. Sprinkle your work surface or bowl with a handful of flour, put your dough on top, and start kneading. Add bits of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, to the bowl or counter top. Keep kneading until the dough is nice and stiff. This may take 8 to 10 minutes. It will be quite elastic, but heavy and stiffer than a normal bread dough. It should not be too dry, however, it should still give and stretch easily without tearing.
Step 4- Let Dough Rise:
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with a clean and damp kitchen towel. Swish the dough around in the bowl to coat the whole ball of dough with a very thin film of oil. This will keep it from drying out.
Place the bowl with the dough in it in a dry, warm (but not hot) place, free from drafts. Allow it to rise until doubled in volume. Some people try to accelerate rising by putting the dough in the oven, where the pilot lights keeps the temperature slightly elevated. If you choose to do this, remember to leave the oven door open or it may become too hot and begin to kill the yeast and cook the dough. An ambient temperature of about 25 degrees C (80F) is ideal for rising dough.
Step 5- Prepare Water for Bagels:
While the dough is rising, fill the stockpot with water and set it on the heat to boil. When it reaches a rolling boil, add the sugar (or malt syrup) and reduce the heat so that the water just barely simmers; the surface of the water should hardly move.
Step 6- Form Bagels:
Once the dough has risen, turn it onto the work surface, punch it down, and divide immediately into as many chunks as you want to make bagels. With this recipe, I got 12 bagels. Begin forming the bagels. There are two schools of thought on this. One method of bagel formation involves shaping the dough into a rough sphere, then poking a hole through the middle with a finger and then pulling at the dough around the hole to make the bagel.
This is the hole-centric method. I used this method, as the dough is so easy to work with and allows you to shape and punch holes into the balls very easily. What I did was punch my thumb through the center of each roll and then rotated the dough, working it so that the bagel is as even in width as possible.
The dough-centric method involves making a long cylindrical "snake" of dough and wrapping it around your hand into a loop and mashing the ends together. This method seems to be a little trickier as care must be taken that the ends do not come undone when boiling the rolls so, that you have bagel loafs instead of rolls.
Remember not to give in to the temptation of using a doughnut or cookie cutter to shape the bagels. This will push them out of the realm of Jewish Bagel Authenticity.
Do not worry if the bagels are not perfectly shaped or symmetrical. This is normal. The diversity adds to the rustic look of the bagels and each bagel is unique.
Step 7- Pre-heat Oven:
Begin to preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400F).
Step 8- Half Proof and Boil Bagels:
Once the bagels are formed, let them rest for about 10 minutes. They will begin to rise slightly. Ideally, they will rise by about one-fourth volume. This technique is called "half-proofing" the dough. At the end of the half-proofing, drop two or three bagels into the simmering water, making sure not to overcrowd them in the pot.
The bagels should sink first, then gracefully float to the top of the simmering water. Mine did not sink very much, they floated. But it did not bother me at all as I was so happy I had managed to get so far without blowing it. Apparently if they are "floaters", the texture is more bready rather than bagely.
Let the bagel simmer for about three minutes, then turn them over with a skimmer or a slotted spoon. Simmer another three minutes, and then lift the bagels out of the water and set them on a clean kitchen towel that has been spread on the counter top for this purpose. The bagels should be pretty and shiny, thanks to the malt syrup or sugar in the boiling water.
Step 9- Bake Bagels:
Once all the bagels have been boiled, prepare the baking sheets by sprinkling them with cornmeal. Then arrange the bagels on the prepared baking sheets and put them in the oven. Let them bake for about 25 minutes, then remove from the oven, turn them over and put them back in the oven to finish baking for about ten minutes more. This will help to prevent flat-bottomed bagels. Something I forgot to do!
Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks. Do not attempt to cut them until they are cool. Hot bagels slice abominably and you'll end up with a wadded mass of bagel pulp. Don't do it.
My Bagel Toppings
Bagels can be topped with anything you like. Just remember that bagels are essentially a savory baked good, not a sweet one, and so things like fruit and sweet spices are really rather out of place. I made my bagels with two types of toppings. I used my muesli mix and some hazelnut slivers.
1 egg white
3 tablespoons water
Mix of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, soya kernels and pine nuts - this mix is what I usually make every weekend to add to my muesli/cornflakes during the week.
Finely sliced hazelnut slivers
After boiling but before baking, brush the bagels with a wash made of 1 egg white and 3 tablespoons ice water beaten together. Sprinkle the bagels with the toppings and then bake in the oven.
Allrecipes - Forming Bagels
This was the easiest dough to make and to work with. I never thought it would be so simple. It rose beautifully and fast.
I was expecting it all to be more complicated and also expecting a few things to go wrong along the way. I was worried about the yeast and then about forming them, then about boiling them. But it all went smoothly. Even the fact that the bagels did not sink when placed in the simmering water did not bother me too much. For this first time I was working for results. The next time I make these I will be working for perfection.
In the taste department they were not that bready as I expected them to be due to the floating issue. They tasted great. As I said, I made these on the Saturday of my birthday. We had a few sleep over guests and on Sunday I served them for breakfast. I toasted a few in the toaster and re-warmed others in the oven. They were brilliant and my guests loved being pampered with fresh baked goods for breakfast. They were eaten with jams and honey, however I made a great filling for the bagels which was devoured to the very last bite. That will be revealed in a separate post!
Would I make these again?
Yes, I would. I would not change anything here maybe cut the recipe in half for the three of us. Otherwise, this recipe is one that will be made often in my kitchen. Nothing like fresh homemade bagels. You know what? I will also be kneading with my hands the next time round too. No machine. There was something so therapeutical about kneading the dough. I was able to punch my frustration out. The bagels did not mind they still tasted fantastic. What I will do next time is to take more care by making sure I really get as much air out of the dough as possible to get them to really sink. Let's see how it work.
What did I learn from this challenge?
I do not need to be frightened of yeast. Nor do I need to dread kneading. This challenge provided an easy and workable method, taking my fears of yeast away. As I mentioned earlier, the results was a wonderful dough that rose beautifully and was always easy to work with. Now, I am dying to try several recipes I put aside and feel confident enough to master a few.
Am I still feeling invincible?
I thank Quellia for this brilliant challenge. For all those who want to see the results of the rest of the group head on over to Quellia's or to co-host, Freya's for a roundup of this months challenge. Alternatively, you can simply click your way through my Daring Bakers blogroll.
Hope you all enjoyed making bagels with us and I look forward to seeing you next month with a new challenge.
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