Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bagels - I can't believe I made these at home!

We took a quick 2 day break earlier this week, just went away and did absolutely 'nothing' which felt soooo good. I did carry some food and some ingredients and cooked more food but other than that we just stayed put and enjoyed each other's company. Coming back home on Wednesday, it has been back to work for BH, back to school work for DD and for me just getting ready for next week. Since I wont be home during the days from next week, I had great plans to make a lot of book marked recipes and store away the pictures for future posts but even the best laid plans are known to flop, so in reality, I didn't cook much. Well, I did cook but stuff that is already on the blog and not very many new dishes. Not to worry, there is no drought for draft posts lying in my folders :-).

But I did manage to make these bagels and what a stupendous success they turned out to be. Ever since, I upgraded my home PC to a new one with Windows 8.1, I have some feeder applications on my desktop and one of them has Bing recipes, these are recipes that get pinned from various sources and keep flashing all the time. I don't click unless something catches my eye as in a great picture or a recipe I have been interested in. A month or so back, there was a gorgeous picture of a Bagel and the title said "Home made, complete guide to making bagels" (or something close to it since I am not able to find that exact posting again, I know I should have book marked it :-(). I wanted to make them immediately but there were other things going on and somehow my bagel making got pushed to a back seat. This week I went back to search and just could not find that recipe though tens of other recipes for home made bagels came up. I remembered the picture and some details from that post. I searched with all key words I could remember and finally hit the actual recipe here though the intro paragraph and pictures weren't there. One read of the steps and everything came back to me screaming that it was 'the recipe'.
Now, If I do not explain a bagel, it would be an injustice. In the very basic definition, it is a type of bread but differs from regular bread in shape and texture. There are 2 ways of making a bagel, the traditional chewy bagels are poached in water before baking and the more contemporary softer bagels are steamed before baking which gives them their very unique texture. Coming from India, I had neither heard about or seen a bagel until I landed here and very quickly realized that it is a greatly admired breakfast bread and I have seen people standing in line turning a simple bagel into a full meal with stuffing in between the 2 slices. Bagels are also a wonderful tool to motivate your team at work. Just stop by at Panera Bread on the way to work a day after a big release or on completion of a project, pick up a couple of dozens of assorted flavors of bagels and you will realize that your team is (almost) willing to forgive you for all the long hours they hold you responsible for and you might even be the most popular project manager for a while (these titles have expiry dates but enjoy while it lasts :-)). While BH is kind of indifferent to the lure of bagels, DD & I are pretty strong fans albeit with totally different tastes in the flavor. The plain Jane daughter goes for (what else but) a plain bagel, slathered with cream cheese while mom reaches out to the sesame seed topped bagel, no cheese but lightly toasted. If we get the bagels home, one common thing both of us enjoy is to sprinkle a generous helping of home made chutney pudi on top, why not?? Crispy and chewy at the same time, this is one breakfast I enjoy especially if I am travelling.

There are good bagel places here in the US, Panera bread being one of them, then there are specialty bakeries like Einstein bagels or New York Bagels and if you have a large family, you can get double packed, fresh baked bagels from Costco too. So, when you get the bagels easily most of the times, why make it at home? Well, while I cannot explain the urge to create these goodies at home, all I can say is this recipe is not difficult and you will be very pleasantly blown away by the results. Since I started blogging 2+ years back, I have gone out of my comfort zones to try new recipes, while some become instant hits, on some other recipes, my family begs/threatens/stages a walk out when they go wrong :-). Creating these dishes at home is first and foremost to achieve that personal satisfaction and I definitely got there with this bagel recipe.
As I cook more and more at home from scratch, it kind of makes eating out an exception and I do want to be wary of that since eating out is not just about the food, it is about family time, the ambiance and the total package. So, we have a pact at home and if my family doesn't want me to try something at home, they will tell me immediately (like the Papa John's garlic sauce - both DD & BH shook their heads wildly and forbid me from ever making it at home :-)) and I abide by it. So, since bagel is DD's favorite, I did ask her if I could make the bagels at home, she probably saw my eagerness to conquer this recipe and also thought that it would be a disaster and told me to go ahead.

Armed with the promise of a delicious bagel (I somehow had a gut feel about this recipe), I made them on Thursday and then again today as they sold out like hot cakes.

One bite and DD says, "Dude, these are seriously delicious". Mom is called dude in 2 scenarios in our home, one when she is extremely annoyed with me & my nagging (which happens quite often) or when she is extremely happy with me (which happens not so often) and I tend to believe it is the second scenario in this case and that makes my day completely. A week well spent and I am all charged to start anew tomorrow :-)
The recipe looks tedious below with many steps but here is the summary - make the dough, let it rise, shape them, poach them in water and bake. Simple? The steps give the details so you can make the most awesome bagels at home just like I did. Go ahead and give it a try. The original recipe calls for 1 Tbsp of barley malt syrup but I couldn't find it in stores close by and decided to make do with just the honey. BTW, I have Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice book and have just started reading it, it has a lot more formula and science as it is meant to be and he explains bagel making with a sponge, I might try it some day, will let you all know.

I do want to say Thanks to BH for all the wonderful photography on this one, the mundane ones are mine but he arranged, adjusted light and took these great clicks that perfectly complement the gorgeous bagels. So I did go overboard on the number of pictures here :-)
What do you need to make Bagels? 
Makes 6 big bagels
3 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp honey
1 cup warm water
1 Tsp quick rise or instant or bread machine yeast
1.5 Tsp kosher salt/1 Tsp regular salt
1/2 Tsp oil
1/4 Tsp finely ground pepper
1 Tsp baking soda
6-8 cups of water
1 Tsp corn meal or upma rava/sooji/cream of wheat
grated cheese
Sauteed onions
Poppy seeds
a large stock pot to boil water
1 or 2 baking sheets
How do you make Bagels? 
  • Mix water, honey and salt in a bowl. 
  • In a separate large bowl, mix flour and yeast together. 
  • Add the liquids slowly to the flour bowl and bring it together. This is a fairly stiff dough. 
  • Once everything comes together, pour it out on a working surface and knead for about 15 minutes until the dough becomes soft and slightly tacky. This is not a sticky dough at all.  
Before rise
After 1.5 hour rise
  • Smear a couple of drops of oil around the surface of the bowl, place the dough in the bowl, cover with a cling wrap and set aside in a warm place for an hour until it doubles in size.
  • Take the risen dough on to the working surface, punch it down and divide into 6 pieces (or 10 if you like mini bagels)
  • Keeping the pieces covered in a wet towel, take one at a time and smooth it into a ball - here is a trick to do it, take the dough piece in hand and start pulling the edges towards the center and pinch them together. Then put the seam side down and roll the ball to make the surface smooth. Since this is a stiff dough, it tends to be difficult to make a ball easily and this trick works well. 
  • Once it is smooth, take your thumb and poke a hole in the center of the ball and keeping the finger in the hole, keep rotating the ball to make the hole bigger. Make sure you pull and work the dough uniformly around the circle so there are no thin and thick walls. 
  • Keep the shaped bagels covered with a damp cloth and let it rest for 15-20 minutes, they do not need to double in size but will become fluffy. 
  • In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to boil on high heat, once it starts boiling, simmer and add the baking soda and mix. 
  • Prepare a baking sheet by sprinkling a thin layer of corn meal or upma rava. 
  • Take the shaped bagel one by one and drop the top side down into the boiling water. Do 2 or 3 at a time depending on the space in the stock pot, they need space to move around. 
As soon as you drop them in water

After turning over - see change in texture on top surface
  • Once you drop the bagels in, they sink first for a few seconds before they come up, set the timer to 1 minute and let the bagel poach for a minute before turning it over. Let it stay for a minute on the other side. Take it out with a slotted spoon and lay it with an inch of space on the prepared baking sheet. 
  • If you want to top them, this is the time to do it. I topped one of the bagels with sesame seeds & poppy seeds and let the remaining 5 plain as DD loves them so. An egg wash helps to hold the toppings better but my sesame seeds stuck well without it. 
  • Pre heat oven to 425F and bake the bagels for about 20 minutes, turning the baking sheet once at 10 minutes to bake evenly. 
  • Take them out, let them rest for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack before slicing and enjoying the delicious home made bagels. 
  • If you prefer chewy bagels, poach them for up to 2 minutes on each side. 
  • If you like to let your dough slow rise, once it is kneaded, cover and refrigerate over night. Next day, take it out an hour before and let it come back to room temperature before you shape the bagels.
  • Powdered pepper gives a wonderful though faint splash of flavor in the bagel, it is optional but I recommend it highly. 
  • Bagels are generally sliced in the middle into 2 concentric halves and in the simplest (and kid friendly) form are slathered with cream cheese but you can use them as sandwich bread and put layers in between the 2 halves. 
  • If you are a regular baker and have not made bagels yet, be prepared to accept that this is a fairly stiff dough. If you have a stand mixer or a processor in the kitchen, make use of it to knead the dough. 
What can go wrong and how to prevent it? 
  • Consistency of dough - this is as much science as it is an art and depends on the quality of the flour and the way you measure it out in cups. I scoop the flour into the cup and level the top off without stuffing it. If you are baking in large scale using cutting edge equipment and measuring your ounces and grams, then it is a different story. If you are a home baker like me and lean heavily on eye ball measurements and feel of the dough, here is a tip. Add the liquids slowly as you mix the dough together. I cannot emphasize enough that this is a stiff dough and for a reason, if the dough becomes soft, it will not stand a chance against the boiling water. 
  • Flour - Peter Reinhart recommends using a high gluten flour for that quintessential chewy bagel but also warns that it is not easily available unless you are willing to go beg for a few pounds from a friendly local bakery. I have been eating bagels for the last 15 years or so and I believe this recipe yields very close to the good quality store bought ones. Use high protein bread flour and not AP flour
  • Uniformity of bagels - this is more an aesthetic concern than anything else, however if you like a half dozen bagels looking as if they came out of Panera Bread kitchen, make sure you roll the dough into a uniform log and cut equal sized pieces for individual bagels. 
  • A bagel with a hole or not :-) - traditionally, we have all been conditioned to associate a bagel with a wide whole in the center. This dough will spring back as it rests, poaches and bakes and if you haven't made the hole wide enough, it might just decide to sew up and close, so pull the dough out uniformly and make a big whole while shaping them.


Kaveri Venkatesh said...

Whenever kids have a break from the school, I too decide on cooking and clicking for the blog and keep some recipes in the draft..but it always remains a thought..never works out :(
Perfectly made your detailed explanation

Swathi iyer said...

Delicious bagels, I love them very much with cream cheese.

NamsVeni Pothas said...

wonderful recipe. congrats Sattvaa for the beautiful pictures.

Kannada Cuisine said...

Seriously gal (dude)! u rock ...I cannot imagine making Bagels at home :)

Priya Suresh said...

Am trying to keep myself active by coming back to blogging,missed many of your posts and thanks for ur constant support Nagashree,truly i appreciate it.

Bagel is just prefect as much as like the professional, looks absolutely fantastic.