Thursday, March 24, 2011

Poor Man's Bagels

This has been a very flour-oriented week, I apologise. If it helps, I've used 2kg of flour in the last week, so thats why. Everything I wanted to make happened to have flour! But I kind of retract that apology because these bagels are incredible.

(I believe its pronounced "baggel")

I've called these poor man's bagels because I didn't have any of the fancy, "essential" ingredients like high gluten flour or malt powder/syrup. If you've ever made bread, chances are you already have everything to make these. When I say "flour", I mean plain flour/all-purpose flour. Don't shy away from the recipe because you have to boil them then cook them - heaven forbid!! - its not too difficult (just time-consuming) and the dough is really nice to work with.

Makes 8
Total time commitment: 3 hours on day one (2 hours resting then 20 minutes resting), 45 minutes on day 2. Note that day 2 can be the day after - three days after day 1. Bear with me, it'll make sense.
Recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, posted on Smitten Kitchen

1 tsp instant yeast
4 cups flour
2 1/2 cups room-temperature water
1/2 tsp instant yeast
3 3/4 cups flour
2 3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey or brown sugar
Toppings you would like to use, like sesame/poppy seeds

Day One
1. Collect all your ingredients from section one. These will form the "sponge". Mix the yeast into the flour, and for the love of goodness, make sure your bowl is big enough to not spill flour everywhere. Add the water and stir until it forms a mixture not unlike pancake batter. Cover with cling wrap and leave for two hours.

2. Is the mixture foamy and bubbly? If you tap the bowl on the counter, it should knock the mixture down. If that isn't happening, wander off for another ten minutes and check again.

3. Good! Now we're onto the dough. Collect up your ingredients from section two. Add the extra yeast and stir it in. Add three cups of flour, the salt and honey, and stir it in. Slowly add in the next 3/4 cup of flour to stiffen the dough.

4. Transfer the dough to your work surface and knead. Don't flour the surface as you don't want "raw" flour into the mixture, and the dough shouldn't be tacky. If it is, add a little flour. Make sure it passes the windowpane test. If its too dry to windowpane nicely (can you use windowpane as a verb?), add a few drops of water to the dough and continue kneading. You should knead for around 10 minutes by hand, or 5 minutes by machine.

5. Divide the dough into your bagels! I made 125g bagels if I recall correctly, and they were big enough to fill me up in the morning. Don't worry about making them bagel-shaped right now, just get them into rolls. Cover with a damp cloth and leave for 20 minutes.

6. Line two trays with baking paper, and then add a little olive oil to the baking paper (if you have spray oil, use that. Don't omit this step - I thought I could just use baking paper without oil and ended up with some bits of baking paper on my bagel). Now you get to make your bagel holes! All you need to do is stick your thumb into the middle of the bagel and wriggle it around a bit to form a hole in the centre.

7. Place the bagels 5cm(ish) apart on the trays. Cover them lightly with olive oil (again, a spray one would do well, but I put some on my hands and brushed them. We're all class on this blog), cover with plastic wrap and leave to sit for another 20 minutes.

8. Here's the fun bit! Fill up a bowl with water and drop a bagel in there. If it floats within 10 seconds, you are golden. Pat your little soldier bagel dry and put the bagels in the fridge overnight, your job now is done. If it doesn't, leave the bagels out for another 10 minutes and try again. Note that when I say "leave your bagels in the fridge overnight", this can be anywhere from overnight to two days.

Day Two (or three or four)
1.  Preheat the oven to 230C, with two racks set in the middle of the oven. Boil some water in a large pot.

2. Remove the bagels from the fridge and gently drop them in the water. Keep your baking paper, we'll use it again to cook them and be nice to the environment. Perhaps give it another light misting of olive oil, though. The bagels should be floating, which means you'll need to flip them after a minute or two (two minutes gives you chewier bagels). Once they're all boiled and back on the tray, pop them in the oven for five minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees so they cook evenly. Check back in another five minutes, but I let mine cook for 15 minutes overall to give them a nice, golden, bagel-y colour.

3. Remove the bagels from the tray immediately (or you'll get their little bottoms stuck) and cool on a wire rack. Yum!

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