Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Bronx-Worthy Bagels



I've never been to New York, but Deb Perelman lives there, and if she says these are Bronx-worthy then I believe her. This is an adaptation of her recipe and it's one that you are either going to love or hate.You might even do both simultaneously. You'll love it because these are, hands-down, THE best bagels ever. Or, you'll hate it because to get the best bagels, you have to do some work.OR, you'll love AND hate it at the same time. LOVE, because once you've eaten these you won't want any other bagel near your mouth, AND HATE, because that means it's back to the kitchen and the dough making, the waiting, the kneading and shaping, and the boiling and baking all over again...You'll be torn, torn I tell you.

Bronx-Worthy Bagels
from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 16

For the Sponge:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached bread flour (I get bread flour from the baking aisle in the supermarket)
2 1/2 cups water, room temperature

For the Dough:
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon dark malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar ( I get malt syrup from the jams and topping aisle in the supermarket)

To Finish
1 tablespoon bi-carb soda

Cornmeal or semolina  for dusting

Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sea salt flakes, rehydrated dried minced onions.

Day One: 
Make the Sponge:
Stir the yeast into the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer . Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the kitchen bench.

Make the Dough:
In the same mixing bowl, add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Mix on low speed with the dough hook until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough. You can do all this without an electric mixer. It will take a bit more elbow grease, but you can excuse yourself from the gym for the day, as you'll have already done your work-out.

Knead the dough in the machine on low speed from about 6 minutes or transfer the dough to the kitchen bench and knead for at least 10 minutes . The dough should be firm and pretty stiff, but still pliable and smooth. If the dough seems too dry and rips when gently streched, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky. Bagel making breaks a few rules of regular bread making. You are aiming for a fairly dry stiff dough here. Normally with bread making, the wetter the better, but not on this occasion.

Immediately divide the dough into 100g pieces. I weighed them because I wanted them to all be the same size which means they will bake evenly (and because I have a little OCD). Form the pieces into rolls.

Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

Line 3 baking trays with baking paper and mist lightly with spray oil. Use as many trays as you need to fit the bagels on comfortably with about 3cm between them to allow for puffing up.

Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 4cm inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)

Place each of the shaped pieces 3cm apart on the trays. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each tray into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float. Return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

Day Two:
Bake the Bagels:
The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 250 degrees C with the rack set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, the wider the pot the better (I used a wok, ), and add the bi-carb soda and 2 tablespoons of malt syrup. Have a slotted spoon ready.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute flip them over and boil for another minute. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same baking paper-lined trays with cornmeal or semolina flour.  If you want to top the bagels with seeds etc, do so as soon as they come out of the water.

When all the bagels have been boiled, bake one tray at a time for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the tray. After the rotation, continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer. Mine were the perfect colour for us, at 10 minutes total baking time. Take the tray out of the oven and put the next one in. Repeat the baking process until you have a room full of golden, chewy, malty bagels. 

Let the bagels cool on wire racks for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

1 comment:

  1. These are so beautiful they would be hard for me to eat them.. or not. There is nothing quite as good as a NY style bagel. Nothing.. I'd believe Deb too. Can't wait to give this one a go!