Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sourdough Bagels

I am so excited about these bagels.  They are long gone now, so I need to make some more!  I think I will as soon as I move (which is in less than a week!)  They definitely require more space than I currently have in my kitchen.

To back up a bit, I decided to make the bagels when I went home last weekend.  I brought my sourdough starter with me.  I fed it its own weight in water and flour the night before traveling (a Wednesday), and left it out overnight.  Then I kept it refrigerated (or in a cooler) until Friday night.  Then I fed it again with equal weight water and flour.
(Side note - I've been enjoying doing it by weight.  It's easy, you don't need to measure anything.  And I like how precise it is.)  I left my parents with the excess, and told them they have to keep it going :)
I let it rise for a few hours at room temperature on Saturday, then shaped them and refrigerated for almost 24 hours.

I assume that everyone has a ridiculously stocked pantry, like I do.  I discovered that my parents didn't have any yeast!  I know the bagels use the sourdough starter, but the recipe I was using called for some yeast.  I had found some recipes that didn't use yeast, so I decided to follow their rising methods.  They also didn't have any dry milk.  I just replaced some of the water with skim milk, and it seemed to work fine.  Next time I'll use dry milk.  But I think I'll stick with using only starter, no yeast.  I still get such excitement from seeing things rise, when I haven't added any commercial leavening agents.

I know there are a lot of steps, but this is really so easy to make!  They turned out so well!  My mom actually said they tasted like New York style bagels.  I think the double feeding gave them a nice sourdough flavor.  I would love to make flavored bagels next time, maybe add some cheese or herbs in the actual dough.  Some recipes call for using a stand mixer to make the dough, but I wouldn't recommend it.  It takes a lot longer, and requires some muscle power, to mix it by hand, but that's better than running the risk of burning out your motor!  It's a really stiff dough.

My only problem - my bagels had such a funny shape!  I don't know if that had anything to do with using only sourdough.  They looked fine after boiling, but then when I baked them, they just expanded upward instead of widthwise.  They looked like really tall smushed bagels.  And the holes completely closed up.  I know that when you use a pizza stone, things really rise upwards.  But I put them on cooled cookie sheets, so I don't know why it happened.  Next time I'll make them really flat and wide before boiling, and see what happens.  And if anyone has advice, I'd be happy to hear it!

Recipe: Sourdough Bagels (adapted from Wild Yeast)
675 g bread flour (I used King Arthur)
18 g vital wheat gluten (bought at Whole Foods)
304 g ripe 100% hydration (fed equal parts by weight of water and ap flour) sourdough starter
308 g ice water (I replaced 58 g with cold skim milk)
2.5 g instant yeast (I didn't use)
2 tsp salt (I started to measure by weight, and then realized that there must have been a mistake in the original recipe, since 13.5 g of salt is a lot!)
18 g sugar
15 g extra-light malt power (bought at a beer brewing supply store)
47 g milk powder (I used the milk above instead)
Cornmeal or semolina

4 tsp kosher salt
4 tsp poppy seeds
4 tsp sesame seeds
4 tsp garlic flakes
4 tsp onion flakes

1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp extra-light malt powder

Combine the flour, starter, water, yeast (if using), salt, sugar, malt, and milk powder (if using) in a medium bowl.  Mix with a wooden spoon to combine.
Use your hands and knead until the dough is very smooth and strong, it could take at least 15 minutes.  In the first few minutes, it might feel like it needs some flour, so sprinkle some on.  But only add what is absolutely necessary.  It will eventually feel tacky, but not sticky.  The test to when you can stop kneading is the "windowpane test."  Take a small piece of dough, and stretch it until you can see through it when you hold it up to a light.  If it breaks, it needs to be kneaded more for gluten development.
When the dough is ready, form into a smooth ball.
Put the dough in a bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel.
If using yeast, let it rest for 10 minutes.  If only using the starter, let it rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled.
Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and dust them with semolina or cornmeal.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces ~100 grams each.  Form each piece into a tight ball, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
There are two methods of shaping the bagels.  The "true" method is to roll each piece of dough into a cylinder about 8-10 inches long without tapering the ends.  Wrap the cylinder around your hand, with the ends overlapping by about 2 inches in your palm.  Roll your palm on an unfloured counter to smash the ends together.  The easier way is to form the piece of dough into a smooth, tight ball.  Carefully poke a hole in the center by bringing your thumb and middle finger together.  Widen the hole to several inches - it will close up as it rests.  I did about half the first way, and half the second.  I didn't notice any major differences after cooking.
Place the bagels on the prepared cookie sheets and cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
When you take the bagels out of the refrigerator, test them to make sure they are ready to be boiled by placing one in a bowl of room temperature water.  It should float within a few seconds.  If it doesn't float, then pat it dry and let it sit out longer, re-checking every 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.  Add the baking soda and malt powder to the water once it is boiling.  Be prepared - it will foam up!  But it will subside once you add the first bagel.
Meanwhile, place a cooling rack on the counter with a dishtowel underneath it.  Mix together the topping ingredients and place on a small plate in a shallow layer.
Drop the bagels, up to three or four at a time (I did them one at a time), into the vigorously boiling water for 30 seconds - 1 minute.  If they float right away so the tops are not submerged initially, flip them over about halfway through the boil.
Remove the bagels from the water to the cooling rack with a slotted spatula.  Let them drain for about 30 seconds before pressing them, top down, into the seeds and replacing them back onto the cornmeal/semolina-dusted, parchment-lined cookie sheet.  (I didn't press them in the seeds, I just sprinkled the seeds on.  Pressing would have probably added more, so I'll do that next time.  And I would suggest spritzing with water or using an egg wash to get them to stick better.)
Turn the oven down to 400 F once the bagels are in.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Rotate the pan halfway through cooking.  (Don't be tempted to pull them out early.  I did, so I could toast them individually when eating, but then the insides were a little doughy.)
Cool on a wire rack.
(Baked on left, Unbaked on right.  See how tall they got!)

I enjoyed mine with cream cheese+lox or whitefish salad+tomatoes.


j. said...

I tried making pizza from scratch and it turned out like a brick. Since then i've always been intimidated by making my own dough from scratch. You're bagels look amazing, but I have no substantiated suggestions for the size problem except for starting with less dough (thank you capt. obvious...) Dude, if you ever think about trying to make NY's bialys - let me know.

Jen said...

Thanks for the suggestion J, but it wasn't the size actually that was the problem. They were pretty petite bagels. The problem was that they got tall instead of wide, so the baked and unbaked bagels were the same size in the end, but very different heights.