After the success with crumpets (though I want to do some tweaking of griddle temperature and cooking time to improve the texture further), I decided to re-visit bagels. The girls loved crumpet sandwiches in their lunches and I thought that bagel sandwiches would also be great with the advantage that no-knead bagels are much easier to make than crumpets (in my opinion) despite the dual boil/bake cooking method.
I started with my own Homemade Bagels recipe, based on the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method. I and my in-laws had thought that the sourdough starter they've had for over 40 years was gone forever--ours had died a few years back and theirs got lost in the move they made to our neighborhood. That would have made it difficult for me to follow my original recipe. Thankfully, I mentioned this to my friend Melanie (featured in the original bagel post) and discovered that she had the starter! I'd completely forgotten that we'd gifted her some when Elspeth was a baby and it's still going strong. This stuff is robust! She gave us some and I charged it up enough to have some to give to my in-laws and I know they are absolutely delighted to have it back again. The moral of my story is twofold: starter is for sharing AND so are problems. Many times I've casually mentioned a problem to a friend, not thinking they could help, and suddenly the solution appeared.
Back to the bagel recipe, I'm having a love affair with spelt at the moment, so decided to use that for the bulk of my grain, along with hard red wheat for its higher protein. The first batch I made was delicious, but the dough was very sticky. Spelt absorbs water differently from regular wheat and as I was using a higher proportion of spelt to wheat, my dough was just a bit too wet. All I did was reduce the water to 2 1/4 cups instead of 2 1/2 cups and that was all it took.
This second batch was still well-hydrated, but it was easy to work with and the finished bagels came out beautifully--glossy on the top and slightly crusty with moist but not gummy interiors. I changed the cooking water to use only 2 TBSP of honey rather than 1/4 c. sugar and baking soda. I really should be using barley malt syrup or diastatic malt powder but my interest in authenticity doesn't stretch that far. Finally, I lowered the cooking temperature to 425F from 450F because ours is a convection oven and the first batch was a bit too crusty.
You can still make this recipe if you don't have a grain mill. Just use the same weight of pre-ground spelt and hard red wheat--the advantage of ingredients by weight over volume.
Yum! We are going away to a cabin in the San Juans after Easter and I'll make ahead a big batch to serve as our picnic lunches either stuffed with turkey, ham and cheese or peanut butter and jam. And now I have a new school lunch in the rotation, as well!
2 1/4 cups (18 fl oz) water
1 cup sourdough starter (the batter-like kind)
2 TBSP kosher or Maldon salt
1 1/2 TBSP sugar or honey or barley malt syrup
1 lb spelt
12 3/4 oz hard red wheat
5 quarts water (approx--I just fill our largest Dutch oven to within an inch of the top)
2 TBSP honey, barley malt syrup or baking soda
- You'll need a clean 6 qt container that is not absolutely airtight. I use a Rubbermaid 'Servin' Saver' 6 qt square container and have been very happy with it
- Put the water, starter, salt and sugar in the container and give it a mix
- Put the container on your scale and zero it out
- Add the spelt and wheat (I just grind the flour right into the container)
- Use a large wooden spoon to mix the flours into the water. You are not aiming to knead the dough and you should expect a pretty wet dough. After I mix as much as I can with the spoon, I went my hands and mix the dough with them until the flour is incorporated. Again, you're not kneading, you just don't want dry and wet patches
- Place the lid on the container loosely and put the dough in the fridge for a day or two (or three). Using the starter makes the rising take longer but the flavor is superb. You can speed things up slightly by leaving the dough out at room temperature for 8 hours.
- You know your dough is active when you see air bubbles in it and it has risen
- Set out a baking tray lined with Silpat or parchment for your dough lumps
- If you're going to bake your bagels right away, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F with a pizza stone set on the middle rack and a broiler tray on the shelf underneath
- Remove the dough container from fridge and sprinkle with all-purpose flour
- Weigh out as many 3 oz (or smaller) dough lumps for the number of bagels you wish to make. Because I want to try the boil-n-bake-later approach, I'd weigh out all of my dough and would expect about a dozen and a half bagels (always less than the authors say--maybe it's the starter)
- Working quickly, shape into a flattened ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you do this (that's nearly verbatim from the book but is still hard to explain until you've done it)
- Place on your lined baking tray and cover lightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes (I've let them sit for longer with no ill effects; in fact, I think a longer rise might be even better). Proceed to the boiling step
- Prepare another baking tray lined with a tea towel and sprinkled with flour
- If you are going to use the freeze-ahead method, you'll need a baking tray lined with Silpat or parchment
- If you are going to bake the bagels right away, you'll need to prepare a peel to get the bagels in the oven by sprinkling it with flour. I highly recommend the Super Peel; I don't think I could use a regular peel successfully. If you don't have a peel, take a baking tray and line it with Silpat or parchment and either put the whole tray in the oven or lift out the lining and put the lining directly on the baking stone. The latter works just fine and eliminates any issues with bagels sticking to the pizza stone, which happens from time to time
- Using a large Dutch oven (ours is 7+ quarts) or a stock pot, bring the water to a boil. The bagels do sink to the bottom of the pot and stick for a while until they float
- Once the water has boiled, lower heat to a simmer and add the honey, barley malt syrup or baking soda
- Now you'll form your bagels. I was surprised at how easy this was--the dough felt wonderfully silky and behaved well. Take each dough lump and use your thumbs to make a hole in the center. Work the dough around the outside so that it's evenly distributed around the hole. The hole needs to be 2-3 times the width of the bagel wall or it'll close up entirely during baking
- Drop the bagels gently in the water one at a time trying not to crowd them too much (I can do four at a time in my Dutch oven)
- Simmer for two minutes. Most times, the bagels will sink to the bottom and then float up before the two minutes is up. If they haven't, I gently prod them with a slotted spoon and ease them off the bottom of the pot
- Flip the bagels over and simmer for an additional minute. Test for doneness by using a slotted spoon to lift the bagel out. Several of mine have been really squashy so I've let them cook a bit longer. The surface will be gummy because of the water, but they should still feel firm to the touch. The bagels shouldn't be hard or anything, but you'll get the hang of it once you've handled a squashy one
- Remove the bagels to the tea towel sprinkled with flour to absorb some of the water
- Proceed either to the FREEZE FOR LATER or BAKING DIRECTIONS sections
Bagels are great eaten hot from the oven. These days I'm too lazy to bake them ad hoc and I'll freeze them baked and split, but you can give this freezer method a try if you wish
- Once your bagels have sat on their tea towel for a moment, line them up on your baking tray with Silpat, parchment or waxed paper. You're going to freeze the bagels on this tray first so that when you bag them, they won't stick together
- Put the tray in the freezer (we're lucky to have an outside freezer with lots of room. If you've got a small or full freezer, you'll have to improvise) and freeze until solid
- Transfer the bagels to a very thick freezer bag, or you could wrap them in foil and then bag them. They'll be susceptible to picking up odors/flavors from the freezer, so wrapping them well is key
- On the day you're ready to bake them or the night before, set the desired number of bagels onto a metal tray (this helps them to thaw faster) and leave until thawed. It may be possible to bake from frozen, but I suspect you'll have a better result if you thaw them fully first
- Once the bagels are thawed, proceed to BAKING DIRECTIONS
- Twenty minutes before you want to bake the bagels, preheat the oven to 425 degrees if you haven't already done so. You want the rack in the middle, preferably with a baking stone on it (hence the preheating for so long). A second rack should have a broiler tray or something that can hold water.
- Boil 1 cup of water or have really hot water from the tap and have it ready by the oven. I forgot this the second time and my bagels were fabulous, so don't stress out about this step
- Prepare your peel by sprinkling it with flour if you haven't already done so. If you don't have a peel or Super Peel, take a baking tray and line it with Silpat or baking parchment
- Place the freshly-boiled or thawed bagels on your prepared surface and sprinkle with the desired toppings
- Use peel to transfer the bagels onto the baking stone. Alternatively, put the whole tray in the oven or lift out the lining and put the lining directly on the baking stone
- Quickly add the boiling water to the broiler tray and close the oven
- Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the bagels are golden
- Eat immediately or cool and split them before freezing. They'll stay fresh in an air-tight container on the counter for about four days