01 November 2012
It's a dark, gray, overcast day here in Tbilisi. And, frankly speaking, the day has not started out very well. So, I'm spending a bit of quality time in my kitchen-- up to my elbows in yeasty dough. I've followed the recipe perfectly and double risen the dough. Now, I'm on to forming the bagels-- something that wasn't easy the first fifteen times I tried to do it. But, now, close to fifty batches of homemade bagels into my life and I've gotten much better at producing a full circle. My favorite part of baking bagels isn't the kneading or the rising or even the scent wafting from the bowl as it's covered with a dish towel. No. My favorite part of bagel baking happens in a vat of boiling water. First, you mix the dough, then you let it rise and then you form the bagels. Then, comes the magic that is unique to a bagel-- the point in which you slide each of them into a boiling vat of water and create their soft, flexible interiors. That is my favorite part. It's the step that separates regular bread from a bagel.
adapted from the (brilliant) cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Hertzberg and Francois
3 cups of lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons honey
6 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
For boiling, you will need a HUGE pot of boiling water, with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda added.
In a large mixing bowl, proof the yeast in the warm water for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and knead well. Transfer a smooth ball of dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let sit for at least two hours. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and have the pot of water boiling (with added sugar and baking soda). Add a baking sheet to the bottom rack of the oven and fill with water-- this will create steam and lead to a chewier bagel texture.
Take a piece of the dough, form into a ball and with your thumb, punch a hole in the middle. Roll your hands around the middle in order to smooth. Set on a lightly oiled baking sheet and let rise for 30 minutes. Transfer the bagels in small batches to the boiling water. Boil on each side for 5-7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, place back on oiled baking sheet (with a bit of space between the boiled bagels) and place in the oven. Cook until lightly golden, turning once. Approximately 10 minutes per side.
Cool (after eating a few warm from the oven!) and slice. Place into air tight containers and freeze. They'll reheat or toast beautifully straight out of the freezer for weeks to come (if they last that long...).