Bagels for the Baking Inept

A little over a month ago I made a quiet resolution to myself to push my limits in the kitchen and branch out into new terrain. So for the past week I have been thinking about making bagels. Why bagels? Well, mostly because I really like bagels and Chris really likes bagels and we usually buy them from the grocery store. The grocery store bagels are pretty awful; they are dry, airy and have a slight metallic taste. I decided to make bagels partly because I wanted a decent bagel and partly because they are smaller than a loaf of bread and seem more manageable.

You don’t understand.
I am a complete and utter klutz when it comes to handling breadstuffs. As mentioned here previously, I have always believed that I don’t have the patience or determination to succeed as a baker. I give up easily. If I fail at something, I typically do not try it again. Yeast terrifies me. Success in baking depends on such a wide range of factors from making sure the dough is kneaded just enough, to ensuring it has proofed properly and diligently timing every step of the process. There are so many opportunities for things to go wrong and this very fact acts as a deterrent for me. I don’t want to spend hours working on something that might turn out like poop.

Now I can say I have done it. I have made bagels! I proved to myself that most of my fears were unprecedented. The great thing with bagels as opposed to bread is that they do not require a very long rising time, which means less time for error. Here’s how it’s done:

Bagels for the Baking Inept1 ½ cups warm water (110-115*F)
1 Tbsp rapid rise yeast (1 packet)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
3 ½ cups bread flour (unbleached)

1 egg white
Poppy seed
Caraway seed
Minced onion
Minced garlic

In a large mixing bowl, stir together water, yeast, sugar and one cup of flour. Let sit for 5mins to activate the yeast. Stir in oil, salt and the rest of the flour, conserving the ½ cup, to make a stiff dough. Add more flour if the dough is too soft and sticky.

Use the ½ cup of flour to lightly flour your hands and a flat surface. Knead the dough for about ten minutes until the dough is smooth. Cover the dough with a clean tea towel and set it aside in a warm place for about 15 minutes. This allows the dough to rest and begin rising.

Divide the dough into eight pieces and roll with your fingers to form 9-10 inch strips. Pinch ends together to form a ring. Place on a flat surface or baking sheet and cover with a towel for another 15mins.

While the dough is rising, bring a 6quart pot of salted water to a boil. Preheat oven to 450*F. Set a plate, lined with a tea towel to absorb the water, next to the stove. Tea towels are made from tightly woven cloth, so they are less likely to leave lint and fibers on your bagels. You can also use paper towels.
When bagels are ready, boil each (two or three at a time, depending on the size of the pot) for about 1 minute on each side, turning with tongs. This is an important step as it gives the bagels their characteristic chewiness.

Remove and place on baking sheet(s). Brush bagels with egg white and sprinkle with toppings.

Bake for 20-25 mins.

These bagels filled my tiny apartment with delicious baking smells and they did not disappoint. They are everything a bagel should be, chewy, dense, and perfect for toasting.

There is no metallic taste from shelf stabilizers and dough conditioners, just the pure flavors of the wheat, the yeast and the toppings. I made three plain, three sesame and two garlic for my first go. The sesame bagels were outstanding. I had no idea they would taste so completely different from store bought bagels.
The great thing is that this recipe is easily doubled and the extra bagels can be frozen to maintain freshness. A couple of hours on a Saturday can result in amazing bagels for two weeks.

I am now a convert to bagel baking. Lookout!


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