Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chewy, Amazing, Addicting, 100% SOURDOUGH BAGELS

It's the little things that amaze me.  Seemingly trivial things that for all I know, nobody pays attention to but me.  Take for instance bagel dough smelling like bagels (...actual bagels!).  Whodathunkit?  Maybe it's due to the fact that I've never successfully made bagels from scratch before.  Although, I've actually only ever tried one time before.  With a no-knead dough that was entirely too wet to be destined for the title "bagel".  This was before I read something that would forever change the way I looked at the science of bagel-making.  That would be an article from Susan of Wild Yeast comprised of opinions that were 100% hers...and bagels that were 100% sourdough.  Is it possible for opinions that are 100% somebody else's to be 100% mine, as well?  Because employing her (fabulously) sassy opinions and (absolutely) amazing instructions produced THE BEST BAGELS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.  No really.  The.  Best.

While I recommend that you go over and read them for yourself, I am going to mention a few points that were KEY in helping me finally "get" how bagels were made.  First off, the dough shouldn't be too wet and it should be STRONG!  Susan likened it to a new tire...and by that I pictured a new inner tube...and went for that feeling.  It totally worked.  Also, she insists that the rope method is the only way to form bagels.  I agree, this makes a beautiful, hand-crafted bagel...no poke method for me.  Go check out what else Susan says about making perfect bagels...chewy and amazing and 100% sourdough.  Hmmmm, does this make me sound like a stalker?
100% Sourdough Bagels
recipe from Wild Yeast 
yield: 8 bagels

    349 grams high-gluten flour (or 339 g flour plus 10 g vital wheat gluten)
    121 grams cold water
    28 grams milk powder
    16.4 grams  brown sugar (use non-diastatic malt powder if you have it instead or barley malt syrup)
    10.1 grams (1 2/3 teaspoons) salt
    301 grams active 100%-hydration sourdough starter
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    1 Tbs. baking soda for boiling

    Whisk the flour, malt (or brown sugar), milk powder, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the starter and water to this mixture.  Mix on low speed to combine.  Continue to mix until the dough is very smooth and very strong...and seems almost rubbery.  This took ~6 minutes in my mixer...but it could vary a bit in yours.

    Turn the dough out onto an unfloured counter and work a few turns by hand. Form the dough into a smooth ball; the surface should feel satiny and tight.

    Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.

    Divide the dough into 8 pieces of (~100 g each). Form each piece into a ball. Cover and let rest for another 10 minutes.

    Line a sheet tray with parchment or a silpat, then dust it generously with semolina.

shaping/forming:
One by one, roll each ball into a long, thick cylinder that is ~8"-10" long.  Keep the width even throughout (don't taper the ends)I've decided that I like making mine a bit longer, ~10"-12".  My hands are probably bigger.

Wrap the length around your hand and overlap the ends by ~2".  Roll this section on the counter to meld the ends together a bit.  (A helpful note from Susan: if dough is a little dry, give it a quick spritz of water with a fine spray bottle before shaping...this will help it roll easier and help the ends stick together).  I didn't need to do that this time, but each batch is different.
Place the bagels on the prepared sheet trays and cover with plastic wrap. If your bagel had a seem on it, make sure that seem is on bottom. Proof for about 4 hours at warm room temperature, until the bagels look and feel a bit puffy.
When 4 hours is up, transfer the whole tray to the refrigerator for 4–8 hours.

Preheat oven to 425° F.  Put a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil

Place a clean dishtowel on your work surface and place a wire rack on top of it.  Remove bagels from refrigerator (see photo 1).  Lightly dust the semolina from the bottoms and place them on the rack (see photo 2).

When the water boils vigorously, add the baking soda. 

Gently lower a few bagels at a time into the boiling water.  Cook for 20 seconds (by which time they should be floating).  If they float immediately, be sure to turn them after 10 seconds so both sides get the full benefit of the boiling water.
Lift them out with a strainer or slotted spatula and place back on wire rack.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Let them sit on the rack for at least 30 seconds (see photo 3) before placing them back on the semolina-dusted, lined sheet tray.

Once they are all back on the tray (see photo 4), slide them into the oven.  Once the oven door is shut, lower heat to 400° F.  Bake until golden, ~24-26 minutes...opening the oven door very briefly half way through to vent any built-up steam.
Put that wire rack back to use by cooling the bagels on it.
Oh yes, and my little source of amazement happened at the specific step where the bagels were lifted from the boiling water and left to sit for 30 seconds before transferring back to the baking sheet (ie...right around photo 3 up there).  I leaned over so that my nose was directly over the damp dough...and inhaled deeply...and almost teared up.  It smelled like freshly baked bagels.  I don't why this was so pivotal or even surprising to me.  But like I said, it's the little things.
Okay, since I scheduled this post a few days ahead of time, I have already made these bagels again.  I am addicted.  I wanted to reiterate their perfection.  I'm in love with how chewy they are.  If you take a big bite (or a small one, for that matter), then pull it back and look at it, you'll see the bagel "springing" back up.  Plus, the beauty of the "sour".  Ahhhh.  I'm in love.  Oh.  And you wanna know how to make them even more amazing?  Shmear them with cultured cream cheese and then top that with mango butter.   'Scuse me...the toaster is calling my name.

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