Friday, March 12, 2010

BAGELS - Bread Bakers Apprentice #3

OK, , the challenge continues. I will be trying new island recipes, and new ingredients when possible, but also I plan to continue my progression as a learning cook. I promised myself on New Year's Eve that I would be trying to learn more as a bread baker, and if possible to cook through the
"The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread
" book. I brought three cookbooks with me to my island adventure. The "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" book was one. It is now week three of my island adventure, and here is week three of my bread baking experience.

And what a great time to make these.  First, most of you know that I am a Kansas by choice (god help me), and a temporary resident of St Thomas by the love of a good woman.  But for a year of my life, I lived in the center of the world, New York City (and if you don't believe it is the center of the world, just ask someone who lives there).  I loved my time in the city.  I took advantage of most of the things that world had to offer.  Including a terrific bagel shop on the corner of 86th and 2nd... just 1/2 a block from my little studio apartment ($350 a month, sublet from a rent controlled friend away on a sabbatical).  Those bagels were unlike anything this Illinois corn raised hick had ever tasted, and I started my love affair with these goodies.  A Bagel and a schmear (dab of cream cheese) became a nearly daily habit. 

I have not seen many bagels here on the island.  Bread is very expensive ($6 for a "wonder Bread" loaf, I have seen $12 specialty loafs).  I saw a dozen of the prepackaged "made in the states" bag sell for $12, and i did see one for sale at a restaurant for breakfast with that famous NYC schmear sell for $9 (it was a pricey place for breakfast, so it really does not count as a sample of what a bagel costs).  So, to feed my addiction, remind me of another adventurous time in my life and with hopes of being able to recreate for the rest of my life these wonderful bundles of dough, I was thrilled to see bagels in the book!

BTW, 5 of my last 6 posts featured rum as an ingredient.  If anyone has a rum-bagel recipe, please pass it on.  In the mean time, except for the above picture with the pretty CRUZAN bottles as a backdrop, there is no more mention of rum for the rest of this post.

I never really understood the method for making a bagel, and honestly, i guess I just thought they were baked like any other bread.  In fact, NYC style bagels (my goal) should always be boiled for a couple minutes prior to baking.  Some are steamed (most of the ones bought in the stores frozen or prepackaged are steamed).  But, as I said, i was after "authentic" like i remembered.

So, i boiled mine, but I ma ahead of myself...

Here's what i did...

As with all of the formulas (author's word for recipes) in the book, it does take some time.  2 hours for a "sponge" to ferment and overnight in the fridge to allow the bagels to "retard".  Also, you can flavor your bagels.  I wanted to make a garlic.sea salt bagel and my wife prefers an Asiago Cheese bagel.  So I Had these items ready, as well as...

1 teaspoon instant Yeast
4 cups Bread Flour
2 1/2 cups room temp Water

These ingredients are combined to make the sponge.  In a LARGE bowl (more flour will be added later), mix until well combined and forms a thick pancake type batter.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temp for 2 hours, or until the sponge starts to bubble and gets foamy.  Actually, it took over 4 hours for mine to start to bubble.  But, I was on Island time, 2 hours, 4 hours, makes no difference to me man, just get mellow with the dough, all is groovy.

Then, to make the final dough, add...

1/2 teaspoon instant Yeast
3 cups Bread Flour
2 3/4 teaspoons Salt
1 tablespoon Honey (check the book for alternatives, you can use malt powder, malt syrup or brown sugar)

Stir till everything is well mixed and the ingredients form a ball.  Add additional flour until the ball stiffens up.

Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes.  the dough should be firm, stiffer than a French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth.  There should be no raw flour.  If the dough seems to dry and rips, add a few drops of water.  If the dough seems tacky and sticky, add a bit more flour.

Immediately divide the dough into 12 Approximately equal size balls of dough.  These will make standard sized bagels.  If you are making "treats", make 24 out of the same sized batch.

Cover the balls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for half an hour

line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.  Lightly spray with spray oil.  Shape the balls into bagel shapes.  I just took my thumb and made a hole in the ball, and then while my thumb is still holding the hole shape, flatten the ball a bit to form a biscuit with a hole look.

Place them on the baking pan a couple inches apart.  Spray lightly with the cooking oil, cover and let rest another 30 minutes.

And now we "retard" or stop the fermentation and rising of the dough.  Fancy name for putting the baking sheets in the fridge over night.  The cold stops the yeast from continuing doing what it does (much like a Kansas winter).

the following day, we are finally ready to eat bagels!  But first, cook em, and they do cook fast.

Get a large pan of water boiling.  Drop the bagels in (still cold from the fridge).  Don't crowd them, they will flout and try to not put in too many so they are all flouting freely without touching.  1 minute per side (longer if you want a chewy bagel).

Remove them from the water and return to the parchment lined pans.  Now is the time to add toppings.  You have all been to the bagel stores, add what you like.  But a little course cut sea salt and dried garlic flakes are my favorites.

Now, the final cook is to Bake in a preheated 500 degree oven for 5 minutes.  At the end of the 5 minutes, rotate the pans (if using two) from the different shelves, as well as turning the 180 degrees to dry to achieve even doneness.  Bake for an additional 5 minutes.  Or until the bagels achieve a light golden brown.

Let the bagels cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack.

And, in all humility... PERFECT!  I am so loving this book, and incredible collection and certainly belongs on every cook's shelf.  Add a schmear on the still warm bagel and you are in Yankee HEAVEN!.

The book is LARGE, lots of photos, and information.  Filled with dozens of recipes and easy to follow step by step directions.  And now Amazon is selling this for nearly half price (less than half if you want a used copy.  Folow the link  above and order TODAY!


  1. Wow! Stuff is expensive there! Luckily you can make your own better-than-bought bagels!

  2. You can save yourself a lot of money baking for yourself on that island! I cannot comprehend a $12 loaf of bread. Your bagels turned out great looking. What did you do for a schmear? You can make my rum raisin variety and get your rum fix.....

  3. They must not eat much bread there. Don't they know you can bake your own?? Very expensive! I am so impressed with your newly aquired bread making skills. Good for you!

  4. Wow bread is expensive! Your bagels look very good!

  5. Great jod..and I never would have boil bagels?? wow!

  6. Bagels hit big here about 10 years ago..I was having throat problems, and they tended to choke me while eating one!

  7. Do I see a business opportunity for MYOTG Bagels? A bargain at $8.75 each! ;)

  8. Those look great! I'm a New Yorker, so I clearly can't get away from the bagel. Hmm what's the bagel shop on the upper east you were referring to? My favorite spot is Brooklyn Bagel in Chelsea. I wrote a review here:

  9. I can't believe how expensive plain Wonder Bread is! (and how cheap your NYC rent was!) Your bagels look great!

  10. I have heard that bagels need to be boiled for a minute or three before baking, but I've never made them. I do make bread every day, and then I don't feel badly when it gets turned into bread crumbs or dog food, but at the price of store-bought, I'd be livid!

  11. as a bona fide New Yorker... I love bagels... no really LOVE bagels... will have to try making them sometime... can't get a decent bagel in south Georgia... I bring them down with me everytime I go to NY and freeze them... I once had a Captain (aka pilot) try to steal my bag of everything bagels... I almost had to bribe him to get my bag back

  12. Looks like good bagels from here and good how-to write up. Since my baker isn't a bagel fan, I doubt I can get her to try them.

  13. Bagels are my favorite bread! I clicked on your link and the cookbook is in my cart at Amazon. Since my husband bakes all of our bread, I think this will be a great cookbook for him. In fact he just left for the store to get yeast for our weekly bread.


  14. I'm so impressed you made your own bagels - they look fantastic! And definitely worth doing if they are that pricey!

  15. They look like a complete success!

  16. NYC - corner of the world? I'd say definitely. My favorite bagels are from Queens though. They have just the right amount of squish to them. These look like they might be a close second. I need to investigate the recipe in my copy of the BBA! They look fantastic.

  17. This was another one of my favorites from the book. I actually made it twice in the same week and for one batch I wrapped the dough around cooked smoked sausages and made bagel dogs. YUM!

    Your bagels look fabulous!

  18. I love bagels - can't imagine making them at home, but I made cheese and homemade pasta so I'm not sure why I couldn't at least try this. The book sounds like a bread lover's dream.

  19. These are TOTALLY AWESOME!! And so are you!

  20. Dave, isn't it so great to be able to make something that costs so much there? Maybe you can open a bagel shop and make tons of money while you are there :0)