Saturday, February 14, 2009

Poppyseed Bagels

I've always had dual feelings about Valentine's Day. On one hand, it's a totally made-up holiday that's been Hallmark-ed out of all reason and proportion, with bad chocolates and roses at $10/stem (last night, we saw a man buying a ginormous red heart balloon with TINKERBELL on it... oh, honey, no, just no). Also, I hate people telling me what to do, so the idea of a "mandated romance" day revolts all of my higher sensibilities.

On the other hand, I LOVE VALENTINE'S DAY! I've always loved it and always will. What can I say, I'm a sucker for hugs, kisses and "I love you"s. If you stop and think about it, it's actually pretty awesome to have a day dedicated to telling your family, friends and significant other that you love them -- just because. Sure, you should tell them this the other 364 days of the year too, but I really enjoy the extra reminder. I always have a smile on my face on this day.

Once upon a time, long before I met A., I was scared of falling in love. It seemed like such a strange, alien experience to put so much of yourself into someone else's not so gentle hands. It sounded kind of wacky and I didn't think I was ever going to take the plunge. Then... well, I met A., and like a second later, I was jumping off the cliff without the safety harness. Geez. What was that saying about "the harder they fall"?

That's kind of how I felt about yeast (smooth transition, eh?). Like love, the whole process sounded kind of wacky, and in my almost 30 years, I've avoided yeast and yeast breads like the plague. I decided that for Valentine's Day, it was time to change all that, to break through my inhibitions, to boldly go, etc etc, you get the idea. Guess what? IT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME.

I made bagels because I've had a lot of bad bread, but I've almost never had a bad bagel, so with warped logic, I figured it was something even I couldn't mess up. Plus, I'm Jewish, bagels are (sort of) Jewish... Ok, there was a lot of prayer involved. After I made them, I was mystified about my (now previous) fear of yeast - it was so easy! And so delicious! Why haven't I done this before? And more importantly, when can I do this again? The bagels were exactly how I wanted them to be - plump with soft, pillowy insides and a bit of a crunch on the crust. I sprinkled them with poppy seeds, but next time... oh, next time... I see sun-dried tomatoes and onions, and maybe even my personal dream - cinnamon raisin. The recipe comes from Ari's blog Baking and Books, so head over there and read all her wonderful tips for complete bagel mastery.

Poppy Seed Bagels
Reprinted with permission from Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Recipes for 125 Breads from Around the World, by George Greenstein.
(makes 12 bagels)

2 cups warm water
1 heaping teaspoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar (I used sugar)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 to 8 cups bread flour (all-purpose worked for me)
1 tablespoon salt
Poppy seeds for topping

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and allow a few minutes to soften. Add 2 tablespoons of the malt syrup or sugar, the oil, 6 cups of the flour, and the salt. Mix thoroughly until the dough forms up and comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead, adding small amounts of flour 1/4 cup at a time as necessary. Bagel dough should be stiff. Work in as much extra flour as you can comfortably knead. The dough will soften slightly as the gluten develops. Knead until smooth and elastic (12 to 15 minutes).

Rising: Roll the dough into a ball, place in a large oiled bowl (grease the bowl with 1 tsp of oil), and turn to coat. Cover loosely with saran wrap and let rise fully in a warm, dark place (I put mine in a 100F oven to proof because it was freezing in my house), until an impression made with your finger remains and does not sink into the dough. About 1 hour. (Mine rose for 1 1/2 hours).

Shaping: Punch down, cut into thirds, and roll each piece into a rope between your palms. Cut each rope into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope 2 inches longer than the width of your hand. Flip the rope around your fingers to form a ring, with the ends overlapping about 1/2 inch. Seal the ends by rolling your palms on the work surface. If the dough slides and resists rolling, dab on a drop of water with your fingers. Evenly space the bagels on 2 nonstick baking pans or very lightly oiled baking sheets (Greenstein applies a thin film of oil with his fingers, I used parchment paper instead). Cover and let stand until puffy, 10 to 20 minutes.

Boiling: Bagels are boiled before they are baked. While they are proofing, fill a 4-quart pan two-thirds full with water, add the 1 remaining tablespoon of malt syrup or sugar, and bring to a boil. Ready your toppings.

Carefully lower 2 or 3 bagels at a time into the boiling water and wait until they rise to the top. If they float, cook for about 1 minute on each side, turning once. If they have proofed too long, they will float instead of sinking, but this won’t affect the final product.

Carefully lift out each bagel with a slotted spoon or skimmer. Drain momentarily, then evenly space 6 bagels on each baking sheet and sprinkle with toppings. You may prefer to leave some plain. Save about 3 cups of the boiling water, see below.

Baking: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Bake with steam by placing an oven safe dish half-filled with the reserved water on the bottom rack of the oven. Place the baking sheets on the middle or top rack, then bake, turning once when the tops begin to brown, until well browned on both sides. About 15 to 20 minutes.

To make these bagels with a stand mixer: In the mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and allow a few minutes to soften. add 2 tablespoons of the malt syrup or sugar, the oil, 6 cups of the flour, and the salt. Using the flat attachment pulse with the on/off switch until the flour is incorporated enough that it won’t be thrown out of the bowl, then mix at first speed until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. More flour can be added 1/4 cup at a time.

Remove the flat attachment, scrape down the sides of the bowl and attach the dough hook. Run at first speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 12 to 15 minutes. Bagel dough should be stiff. Add flour cautiously, and do not exceed the capacity of the machine. Because the dough is so stiff, it is especially important not to leave the mixer running while unattended. The dough will soften slightly as the gluten develops. Proceed as instructed in the rising, shaping, boiling and baking sections above.


Chef Chuck said...

Those Bagel's look great !!

Ash said...

those bagel's look awesome. Only the other day I was pondering weather to make some! Now I just might have to!
Great pic's too!

pepsakoy said...


The Food Librarian said...

These look sooo fantastic! I could eat a full dozen!

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

This is so great. You did really good.

Irene said...

Thanks, guys! These bagels were fun to make. Why was I so afraid of yeast???

Peg said...

I love Poppyseed Bagels. Yours look fantastic!
I'm glad you decided to try yeast breads. Making bread products is one of my favorite things to do...the smell, the feel of the dough, the flavor, the variety.

When I was a preschool teacher, I had the children make dinner rolls for their "Thanksgiving Feast." They liked to pretend the rolls were loaves and would cut them into slices. Then they buttered them with their homemade butter. The project not only looked & tasted good, but taught them all kinds of life skills.

I hope my students remember that day and still make bread!

Anonymous said...

The bagels look great, and I bet they taste even better. Having said that, only a person SO far removed from New York City would go into the tremendous trouble of actually making them. And even then they won't taste the same, without the sweet New York watah. :D)


Irene said...

We bear it as best as we can, F! ;) (The 60F weather and sunshine in the middle of February helps). Really, though, you're right - NYC bagels are the absolute best.

Irene said...

Peg - that's a lovely story. I'm sure your students remember!

ChichaJo said...

These bagels look perfect! I even like the photos of the gorgeous!

Arundathi said...

beautiful photos! and the bagels look and sound perfect. i've made bagels but am always searching for new recipes. thanks. am going to try this.

SYD said...

Those bagels were great! They needed a bit more salt but otherwise, I couldn't get ENOUGH!

Admin said...

Wow, these bagels look really good. In fact, they look as if they came from a good NYC bakery! I have bookmarked this page to try the recipe sometime soon. Thanks, Irene.

Ethan said...

I'm a sucker for homemade bagels. Being from a New York Jewish family I have definitlely had plenty of bagels that did not live up to standards. Almost anything outside of NY or LA (sorry, never been to Montreal) is usually round bread and not a bagel in my book. I have been very happy with Hammelman's recipe for bagels. I think it yields the most authentic ones. But I may have to give your recipe a try, these look beautiful.