Sunday, November 11, 2007

Homemade Bagels

Sometime in the mid-Nineties, after I had been baking bread for a couple of years, I decided to try my hand at making bagels. The results were particularly satisfying, and the process was not as difficult as I had anticipated. At the end of Carleton's 2006 winter term, I had my beginning Latin class over for brunch and made bagels (served with cream cheese and lox). One of my students lived in Carleton's Dacie Moses House, and last year introduced homemade bagels, following my recipe, as a regular Saturday night treat. My bagels have also been served in the Dean's Office at Carleton and auctioned off at the First U.C.C. silent auction. After several years, the old bagel shop in Northfield is still standing empty. If you enjoy baking, and miss fresh bagels as much as I do, why not try making bagels at home?

Step One: In a large bowl, mix 2 cups warm water, 1 T yeast, 3 heaping T sugar, and 1 heaping T salt. Gradually stir in 4 cups of unbleached white flour. When the dough is thick enough, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead, adding more flour as needed to made a firm, non-sticky dough. Knead for about ten minutes, until firm, glossy, and resilient. Place in a oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel to rise, about one hour (until doubled in size).

Step Two: Set a large pot of water to boil; add 2 T sugar to the boiling water. Meanwhile, divide the dough into a dozen balls of equal size. Slightly flatten each ball, then push your thumb through the middle to create the center hole. Work your fingers into the hole and roll the dough evenly against your palm to create a ring with a central hole about an inch-and-a-half in diameter. Let the bagels rest, covered, for ten minutes. Meanwhile, butter two baking sheets and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal, and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Step Three: In batches of three or four, drop the bagels into the boiling water and let boil for three to four minutes. Remove each batch and let the bagels dry slightly on dish towels. When all of the bagels have been boiled and dried, arrange them on the baking sheets, six to a sheet. Glaze each bagel with a little egg white and water mixture, and sprinkle with your favorite toppings (I usually make some poppy seed, sesame seed, onion, and kosher salt bagels; the ones in the photograph above, baked this morning, are sesame seed). Bake for 25-30 minutes. You may want to turn the bagels over carefully after 15 minutes or so to ensure even browning. Make sure they don't burn! When the bagels are done, remove them from the oven and set them on a rack to cool.

If you need a cookbook in front of you to follow the recipe, this recipe is adapted from "Les Bagels de Jo Goldenberg" in Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads (1987), pages 556-558.

My next baking project is to learn how to make bialys. There's a recipe at the back of Mimi Sheraton's book The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World (2000), the story of the food writer's journey to Bialystok in Poland, and around the world, tracing the origins and diaspora of the bialy—a cousin of the bagel now available in its most famous form at Kossar's on Grand Street in New York.


kookiejar said...

Wow, Rob. You are multi-talented. I've never made bagels at home. Right now I'm trying to master the fine art of home made biscotti (and failing). I may have to switch projects. :)

Jim H. said...

A college friend moved to Haddon Hieghts, NJ years ago. Whenever we'd visit, one of the highlights was an early morning walk to the bagel shop for fresh bagels and coffee. I always thought bagels had to be made east of the Susquehana River and in the middle of the night to be any good.

Yours look delicious, however...

fabrile heart said...

Well I'll have to try that one out, won't I? :)

Martha J. said...

Thank you thank you thank you Rob- will try these in Denver and see what happens! Have you ever put on anchovy toppings? Just a thought--

Shan said...

Wow! Totally impressive!!! Maybe YOU'RE the one destined to fill that empty bagel-shop storefront?

New Poem: "Phrasebook"

My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .