Each month one of my new favorite food blogs, Love and Olive Oil, proposes a kitchen challenge. If you haven't checked out their blog before, I highly recommend you do! It's written by a husband and wife, and their recipes are awesome. I only wish I would have discovered it earlier. Ever since I started using Bloglovin I've been able to keep up with my favorite blogs and find new ones a lot more easily. I know tons of people use sites and services like this already, but I'm new to the party. Just in case you are, too, Bloglovin is a site where you can just read all your favorite sites (like mine!) in one place, and they even have an iPhone/iPad app. It's just great.
Anyway, the Love and Olive Oil kitchen challenge for this month is homemade bagels. I've never played along before, but making bagels seemed like a great idea. The ingredients are easily accessible and very affordable, and bagels are definitely delicious. What really sparked my interest, though, was realizing that I had never worked with yeast before. What kind of cook hasn't played around with making their own bread dough? I just had to do it.
So how did I do? Pretty good! I do have a few notes and thoughts on how to improve my process for the next time, but the bagels were awesome! Yes, it's really easy to go to the store and buy bagels, and unlike bagel purists I am totally fine with freezer bagels, but it was really satisfying (and fun!) to make my own. I went the simple route and made half of my bagels plain and the other half salt (I love salt bagels), but I'd definitely like to play around in the future and make "everything" bagels, Asiago cheese bagels, maybe even cinnamon raisin bagels.
We ate the bagels straight out of the oven (good), split, toasted, and spread with cream cheese (better), and as massive bagel breakfast sandwiches (best). All credit for the sandwich goes to my husband, who fancies himself a connoisseur of sandwiches.
(Makes 16 medium-sized bagels)
4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
3 cups of warm water
7 cups of bread flour, plus extra for kneading
4 teaspoons of salt
Toppings and an egg wash, optional
1. In 1 cup of the warm water, pour in the sugar and yeast. Do not stir. Let it sit for five minutes, and then stir the yeast and sugar mixture, until it all dissolves in the water.
2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast and sugar mixture.
3. Pour half of the remaining warm water into the well. Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed. You want to result in a moist and firm dough after you have mixed it.
4. On a floured countertop, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Try working in as much flour as possible to form a firm and stiff dough.
5. Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
6. Carefully divide the dough into 16 pieces and shape each piece into a round.
7. Coat a finger in flour, and gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the ring to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Repeat the same step with the remaining dough.
8. After shaping the dough rounds and placing them on the cookie sheet, cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425ºF.
9. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to lower the bagels into the water. Boil just 2 or 3 at a time. Leave them in for about 4 minutes total, flipping them over halfway through. Remove them to a lightly oiled baking sheet.
10. If you want to use toppings on your bagels (salt, cheese, etc.), do so after they've boiled. Just use an egg wash to get the toppings to stick before putting the bagels into the oven.
- I went wild with the size of my bagels. For me, this recipe actually yielded 12 bagels. Don't do it. They were just slightly too big this way. The taste wasn't affected, but they were a little harder to handle, took longer to cook, etc.
- I used regular all-purpose flour. There's a reason why bread flour or high gluten flour is called for. I'm no Alton Brown, but this the extra gluten is important for achieving that distinctive bagel chewiness. So, yes, you could use regular bread flour, because my bagels were very good, but if you're super into bagels you might be able to notice a slight texture difference.
- I did not have success shaping my bagels nicely. I sent a photo when they were done to my dear friend Elina, who so eloquently replied that they "look yummy, just not shapely". They were "rustic" for sure. Maybe it's because I've never worked with bread dough before, maybe the dough just needed to proof longer, who knows. They were on the ugly side as they headed in to the boil, I guess I just assumed they would puff up and even out. Oh well. Better luck next time!