A long time ago, my friend Robin issued me a baking challenge – Bagels.
Now, I love bagels, and have been intrigued for a while about the process of making bagels. There’s something about the texture (which is always even better when the outside is crispy from being toasted. I was a little worried about the actual process of making bagels, since it requires both boiling and baking. When I made soft pretzels (which has a similar process), they turned out OK but fell apart. Part of what makes bagels so great is the shape, so I kept my fingers crossed. At the end of the day, these were PERFECT, and I look forward to making bagels again.
This recipe is from the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking cookbook, and was really easy to follow. The recipe makes a dozen large (4 to 4 1/2 in. diameter) bagels, but if you like a smaller bagel, it could make 16-20 depending on the size of the bagels.
A couple of quick notes on this recipe:
1. I didn’t have any russet potatoes, so I used three medium sized red-skin potatoes, peeled and cubed. You’re trying to get as much starch out of the potatoes as possible and in to the water.
2. It’s really important that you bring the eggs to room temperature. It enables them to whip up fluffier and helps the texture of the bagel. You can either let them sit out for 30 minutes OR put uncracked eggs in a bowl of warm water for exactly two minutes. I went with the slow method.
2 large russet potatoes, pealed and cubed
2 1/2 cups water
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, at room temperature
7 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus more for dusting as needed
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 large egg, beaten
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds for sprinking (if desired)
1. In a saucepan, combine potatoes and water, bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving the water. You won’t need the potatoes (unless you want to make mashed potatoes), so they can be discarded. You will have boiled away about 1/2 cup of the water.
2. Measure 2 cups of the potato water into the bowl of your mixer. Let cool to warm.
3. Once water is warm, dissolve the yeast and let stand until foamy. Add the oil and eggs and use a wire wisk to combine.
4. Whisk in 2 cups of the flour and the salt until smooth (about 2 minutes).
5. Place bowl on the mixer, attach dough hook, and mix in remaining flour, one cup at a time. Use just enough to form a soft dough (it may be less than the remaining 5 1/2 cups of flour).
6. Knead the dough on low speed until smooth and elastic for about 5 minutes.
7. Remove the dough from the bowl and form in to a ball.Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm draft-free spot for about an hour (until it doubles in bulk).
While the dough is rising, prepare your baking sheet(s) by spraying nonstick spray, then layer a sheet of parchment paper, then spraying the paper. Set aside.
8. Once dough has risen, punch it down and turn out on to a lightly floured surface. Cut into quarters with a sharp knife or bench scraper. Cut each quarter into three equal peices (four or five for smaller bagels).
9. Using your palms, roll each peice into a rope about 10 inches long (shorten a bit for smaller bagels). Using the heel of your hand, flatten one inch of one end of each rope.
10. Form each bagel by overlaping the flat edge of the rope over one inch of the round end. Pinch together firmly and set aside on a lightly flowered surface. Cover all bagels loosely with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 Degrees.
11. Fill a large wide pot three quarters of the way full of water and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil.
12. Using a slotted spoon, gently lower three bagesl at a time in to the water. Simmer for one minute and then turn over and simmer for one minute longer. Transfer bagels to the prepared pan, spacing them about 1 inch apart.
13. Once you have a full sheet pan of bagels, brush with the beaten egg and sprinke with seeds (if using). Bake until golden brown – about 25 – 30 minutes.