The bloggy baking club I’m in, The Half-Baked Beauties, is working its way through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I was excited to see that our next challenge was bagels. I love bagels! As I read about our challenge, I learned that two of the ingredients can be hard to find. In typical TMM fashion, I decided I MUST acquire the exact right ingredients so as to increase the odds of bagel-icious-ness.
The two tricky ingredients are unbleached high-gluten flour and malt powder. These can be found and ordered from the King Arthur Flour Company, but I wasn’t in the mood to wait or pay shipping. So I called around, consulted my local listserv, and eventually located the items locally. For my local friends, the place I found is called Healthway Natural Foods. They have multiple locations — I went to the Annandale store and found everything I needed. I bought “gluten wheat flour” from their bulk bin, but also saw they had “Organic Spring Wheat Sprouted Flour”, in a 2lb package, which I interpreted as the “unbleached hard spring wheat flour” option mentioned in the book. The also had both malt powder and malt syrup – I choose the powder.
For a quick cost comparison – the bulk flour was $4.25/lb and the packaged flour was $4.18/lb. The KA version is $2.32/lb but you have to buy 3 lbs, and factor in shipping. The malt powder I got was $8 for 24oz ($5.30/lb) and the KA version of non-diastic malt powder is $5.25/lb. If anyone wants some malt powder – I’m happy to share some of mine!
In other ingredient news, I noticed this recipe calls for instant yeast, but I only had active yeast. Luckily, I found this conversion rate on p. 60:
40 to 50% active dry yeast = 33% instant yeast
Assuming my math is good (and you know what they say about assumptions) I came up with 1.5 tsp active yeast for the sponge and .75 tsp active yeast for the dough. For the rest of my measurements, I found using a food scale really helpful (and I scoffed when hubby bought it… ) — it was quicker to measure out the dry goods on the scale than to scoop and level with measuring cups.
I made my sponge Friday morning, and then went out, letting it rise for about 4 hours. When I came home, I went to work on the dough. My Kitchen Aid had a hard time, it seemed, getting everything mixed well. At some point, I gave up on the mixer and went straight to kneading by hand. I worked it for about 15 minutes, doing some back reading in the cookbook while I worked. After I while, I decided it was suitably “satiny (?) and pliable but not tacky”. And lo and behold, I may have even passed the windowpane test. Maybe? What do you think?
On to Step 4. I divided my dough into 4.5oz pieces, once again, thanks to my handy food scale. I perfectly measured each one to 4.5 oz and my last remaining piece was 4.75oz, so I was pretty pleased with how my amounts worked out. Forming the balls was a bit tricky for me. I tried following the steps on p. 82 but wasn’t sure I was doing it right. Once I figured out to keep my hand cupped and not smash my ball, it went better.
Step 5 – the rolls were covered and rested for ~30 minutes. Step 6 was shaping the bagels. There were two ways to do it, so I did half one way, and the other half the other. Here’s what my bagels looked like after I shaped them by poking a hole in the middle:
And here’s what they looked like when I rolled them out and wrapped them:
The second option seemed to create taller, fatter bagels, and I think I preferred it. It really wasn’t much harder. Then I covered the bagels and let them rest again, ~40 minutes this time, then checked to see if my bagels were ready to be “retarded” by performing the “float test”.
Lo and behold, it floated the first time I tried. Yay me! I covered everything and stuck in the fridge for the night. I went to bed dreaming of bagels for breakfast :).
I woke up this morning and got the water boiling. I thought this part of the process was pretty fun. No need to fill your pot super full, just need to add enough water for bagels to float, allowing that some water may evaporate in the process. The baking soda makes everything fizzy and fun.
The book suggest boiling for one minute per side, and up to two minutes if you prefer chewier bagels. I did my first bagel for one minute each and decided it looked a little flat, so I did the rest of them at 1.5 min per side or slightly longer. For toppings, I did a few with sesame seeds and salt, some plain, and some with onion powder, and some with garlic salt. In hindsight, I think I was a little too generous with the salt and should have used less.
Here’s the bagels after cooking. The left sheet was the flatter bagels created using the “thumb poke” method of shaping and the right sheet (barely visible) was the fatter, rolled bagels.
Overall, there wasn’t a whole lot of difference in taste. I initially thought I liked the flatter bagels better, but everything tasted delish and I stopped paying attention to the nuances of each bagel.
I was not the only fan of the bagels. They got a thumbs up from all the family members. Son #1 gobbled his up.
And Son #2 had to be monitored because every time I turned around, he was up on the stool grabbing bagels off the counter.
Another HBB commented that this recipe was super messy. I am pleased to report that this was my least messy endeavor so far. Maybe I’m getting better? I’ve definitely gotten savvyier about how add my dry goods to the mix. This recipe was definitely was a lot of work, but the end result was yummy and I could see myself making them again (especially since I have approximately 94 tsp of malt powder left over).
To read about more adventures in bagel making (and other yeasty delights) head on over to the Half-Baked Beauties baking blog.