I was really excited for this challenge. Well, let me rephrase that. I was really excited to eat this challenge. I know bagels. I love bagels. This is more than I could say for the other two breads. I was not so much looking forward to making bagels, however. That seemed hard.
I prepared myself by ordering supplies from King Arthur Flour, including high-gluten flour and diastatic malt powder. I set to work making these a little earlier than I was planning, because I might be away this weekend, and I wanted to have bagels before then.
I made the starter: yeast, high-gluten flour, and water. Reinhart says that this will look like pancake batter. Mine did, except thicker than my usual pancake batter. Maybe a little more like cottage cheese.
I let it sit for two hours, and came back to find it bubbly. I did not actually try to deflate it by tapping it on the counter, since I figured that would happen when I stirred it up.
I added yeast and mixed it up. At this point, it was smooth and kind of reminded me of feeding my liquid starter, when it used to be liquid.
Then I added more flour, salt, and diastatic malt powder.
I was nervous about putting this on my stand mixer, but I wasn’t too enthusiastic about mixing and kneading it by hand, either, since the dough was so stiff. This is before I added the extra flour.
The Kitchen Aid got through mixing it together well, and I had it knead for a few minutes. Then, in what I guess is becoming my new trend, I took it out and hand-kneading for the last part. I think the proportions turned out perfect; I didn’t even need to flour the counter or add any additional flour or water. The dough smelled deliciously like pretzels, which I hoped was a good sign.
The dough didn’t stick and was easy to knead. I kneaded for a few minutes myself, and then tried the thermometer.
Does my dough have a fever? This is a little high, but my kitchen was warming up because I had the oven on. I got a windowpane no problem. This dough didn’t give me a lot of trouble at all, despite being so stiff.
I used my bench knife and scale to divide up the dough into 4.5 oz. pieces. They were this size, if you’re interested:
Note to self: it would be much easier to work with dough if I didn’t have such long nails. Really, the most annoying part of the bread challenge is dried dough under the fingernails. Should I sacrifice my nails for bread? I will have to think it over.
I started making rolls and realized I had nowhere to put them. So I put them on dinner plates.
You were supposed to cover them with wet towels, but I didn’t have any clean kitchen towels. I wetted and wrung out a Bounty paper towel. Butterflies for spring.
I needed to put them out of the kitchen to rise, since my kitchen was getting even hotter from the oven. So I put them in the hallway. On top of the extra G4s.
What, doesn’t every household have 4 computers for every human?
After 20 minutes, I took my rolls in to shape them. I used the poke your finger through the middle method, because it seemed like the most fun.
There is no way I could fit two half sheet pans in my refrigerator. So I put all 12 on one. Hopefully this wouldn’t cause too much of a problem.
I put the pan back on top of the G4s for another 20 minutes. This is what they looked like:
I did not notice at the time that they had gotten so much puffier. I always forget what the dough looks like to start with when I am trying to figure out if it has “doubled in size.” The photos are actually helping. Now I can look back at the last picture and see the difference.
Time for the water test, which my bagel passed with flying colors.
I covered the pan with plastic.
And put it in the fridge. See what I mean about having no room?
Fast forward to today. I put my cast iron dutch oven on the stove to boil, got out my skimmer, and preheated my oven. I added the baking soda when the water was boiling. My bagels were looking a little sad after their night in my fridge.
You see where the plastic stuck to the tops. Right about here I started wondering how I was going to do this. Do I put the boiled bagels back on to my sheet pan? Do I get a different sheet pan? I tried to pull out my other sheet pan from the drawer under my (preheating) oven. That’s when I burned myself. My first official BBA Challenge injury!
What I ended up doing is putting the boiled bagels on a few paper towels to give me a chance to put the next ones in the water. This dried them out a little, so I sprayed them with water after putting them back on the sheet pan, so my toppings would stick. All of them got kosher salt; three of them were just the salt, three I added sesame seeds to, three I added minced onions to, and three I added minced garlic to.
I dropped them into boil three at a time. At first not much happened.
But after a few seconds, it would start boiling like mad. This is after flipping, and you can see the difference in color from just one minute. I boiled them one minute per side.
Here is the sheet pan in the middle of the process. The boiled ones are in the foreground, unboiled in the background.
Soon I had a sheet pan full of bagels ready to bake. The boiling had made them slightly bigger, but they all still fit.
I timed them, and turned them, and timed them again. Here they are, all done.
People, I had to set my timer for the 15 minutes recommended cooling time so I didn’t tear into one right then. After 15 minutes, I cut one open.
I ate it. The whole thing, even though I had just eaten dinner. I didn’t put anything on it. It was warm, chewy on the outside, soft on the inside. Delicious. This is a great recipe. And looking back, I don’t think it was too complicated. You do have to prepare in advance, but the hardest part was finding room in my refrigerator for the sheet pan.
These bagels get five awesome stars. I hope Peter Reinhardt has some more wonderful recipes to come, but these are going to be hard to beat.