Saturday, May 28, 2011

West-coast Bagels

Similar to a half-batch of these guys. (Someday I will find a copy of Peter Reinhardt's Bread Baker's Apprentice in a used book store and I won't have to link to other people's blogs for his recipes anymore; that day has not yet come. And yes I do want that book instead of Artisan Breads Every Day.)

If I hadn't started making these on a Friday night after getting home from the bar at 10:30, I would have done the whole sponge bit. Sadly, the result was softer and breadier (ie more west-coast) than my bagel experiment last summer (which was really quite east-coast). Next time I'll try the sponge and see if that fixes it.

in the evening, with at least 1-1.5 hr remaining before bedtime:

1 T yeast
4 cups bread flour
3 T gluten
1 1/4 cups warm water
1.5 t salt
1 T barley malt syrup

parchment, spray grease, semolina, baking sheet, garbage bag, twisty tie

Put everything in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Dump onto an unfloured surface and knead for 10 minutes, incorporating any stray floury bits as you go. As with any relatively firm dough, a good kneading technique is to use pushing and tossing type motions with the heels of your hands to move the dough around the surface, instead of say poking at it with your knuckles from different sides while keeping the dough mostly in the same place. The extra gluten will make the dough start feeling moist on the outside more quickly than usual (this is also what will make it chewy later), and the dough will start out stiff but soften up over the course of the kneading without becoming at all tacky. Cover with a cloth and let sit on the surface for 20 minutes.

Get out a baking sheet, line it with parchment, spray with spray grease, and sprinkle lightly with semolina. Move things around in your fridge to make sure you have enough room for one baking sheet; if you happen to have room for two, prepare a second baking sheet the same way. Cut the dough into 8 pieces, gently tuck the ends under so they don't dry out, and cover the not-yet-shaped dough pieces with a cloth.

With each piece of dough on a still-unfloured surface, roll out into a rope that's about twice as long as your hand is wide, with slightly tapered ends and a slightly thicker middle. If the dough is sliding instead of rolling, sprinkle a few drops of water on your surface to make the surface of the dough just a tiny bit sticky. Place one hand, palm up, over the center of the rope, and fold both ends over your palm using the other hand. Give the ends a little squeeze to stick them together, then turn your hand over and roll the ends together between your fingers and the surface (sprinkling more water as needed). Continue to roll around the rest of the bagel, attempting to achieve a constant thickness but kind of failing. Place on the baking sheet, remembering that you will probably be trying to fit on 7 more bagels in a few minutes.

Repeat with the rest of the bagels, cover them with the cloth, and let rest for 20-30 minutes. When they start to get puffy, remove the cloth. Spray the inside of a garbage bag with spray grease, slide the baking sheet inside, make as airtight as you can with the twisty tie, and put in the fridge overnight.

in the morning:

1 tablespoon baking soda in several inches of boiling water in a wide pot

Get up and take the bagels out of the fridge. Set them on the counter and untie the twisty tie so they can get some warm air circulating around them. Go back to bed for 45 minutes, then preheat the oven to 500F and start boiling the water. Prepare a second baking sheet by lining with parchment, spraying with spray grease, and sprinkling with semolina.

When the water is ready, transfer two bagels into the pot (or as many as comfortably fit) with a slotted spoon/lifter; they should float immediately. Boil for 30 sec - 1 min on each side and enjoy watching them get all puffy and weirdly spongy-looking. Lift out of the water, let the excess water drain off for a couple seconds, then set on the fresh baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bagels, filling up the new baking sheet with the first 4 bagels to make room on the old baking sheet for the last 4 bagels.

Now would be the time to add some toppings, but I didn't. Now is also about when the oven should alert you that it's preheated--stick the two baking sheets on the middle two racks of the oven. Turn the heat down to 450F and bake for 12 minutes until very golden and crispy on top, switching racks halfway through. Cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes then eat for breakfast with jam and cream cheese, or for lunch with cream cheese, roasted beets, and cucumber.

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