Everyone has their ideal idea of a bagel. Some like a soft crust with a doughy interior and others like a thick crust with a chewy, dense interior, sometimes referred to as the water bagel. And others like them both ways! Typically, water bagels are boiled and soft bagels are steamed. If made well, both techniques can yield incredible tasting bagels. For a long time, I was an advocate of the water bagel, never missing the chance to visit Zabars and H&H when in NYC, since Allentown is basically devoid of adequate bagels.
But…then I discovered The College Corner Café in Lancaster, PA. Now these bagels are not the crusty, chewy water bagel kind, but are soft, a little doughy and chewy, and very light! They were most definitely the best bagels I’d ever tasted, to which all of my college friends can attest to! : ) I was first introduced to these mouth-watering delicacies at F&M’s (my college’s) first bagel breakfast my freshman year, in which our dorm provided free bagels from the College Corner Café (nicknamed the “bagel shop” by F&M students) at 8:30am sharp every Wednesday morning. This was most definitely a major highlight of my week and made me far more awake for my 9am intro to psychology class.
One day, I decided to sample every type of cream cheese (also made at the bagel shop and provided at our bagel breakfasts) by painting my two halves with every flavor on the table. One strip next to another, totaling 10 strips, 5 on each half, and 10 types of cream cheese, from vegetable all the way to maple walnut! They resembled little edible color wheels! I’m sure you can imagine the many confused stares I got, especially at 8:30 in the morning when no one really cared about anything except snatching their bagel (and then probably going back to bed) and maybe a cup of coffee if they had class. But I really didn’t care what they thought. It was a lot easier than spreading the whole bagel with one cream cheese that I might ultimately hate, destroying my breakfast for the day. After that morning, I decided that plain and strawberry cream cheese were my favorites : )
Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as ambitious to sample every type of bagel, so I mainly stuck to plain and whole wheat (which in my opinion resembled more of a multi-grain). However, junior year, I decided to try the blueberry bagel because the raving reviews I’d been hearing, making me very tempted, even though I’d had negative experiences with blueberry bagels in the past. Well that was definitely worth it because it became my new favorite type of bagel! Made with fresh blueberries, this bagel was authentic, soft, chewy and very flavorful! You can imagine how excited I was one day when I saw the flavor of the week: cranberry orange, another bagel made with fresh fruit! From then on, I made weekly trips to the bagel shop and switched off between my two favorites, plain and blueberry, and of course the occasional cranberry orange.
Anyway, although I would love to have the bagel shop’s recipe, I decided Peter Reinhart’s would most likely not disappoint. Now his bagel is the chewy New York water bagel type, but instead of being dense and extremely filling, these are more on the airy side, which to me at least is much more satisfying to the stomach.
The only time I had made bagels in the past was when I was about nine with my mom. The only recollection I have of that experience is boiling the bagels, the best part of course! So I decided it was time to give it another shot. The fact that you did most of the work the day before, and then boiled and baked the bagels the next morning made Mr. Reinhart’s recipe even more appealing!
Definitely give these bagels a try, especially if you love those New York water bagels! It’s really no harder than making bread! Also, although malt syrup/powder is incredibly challenging to find, hunt it down, because it’s what makes these bagels extremely authentic! (I found malt syrup at Whole Foods Market.)
This dough is also quite tough because of the large amount of bread flour, so I would definitely recommend a stand-up mixer if you have one on hand.
Yield: 1 dozen large or 24 mini bagels
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 1/2 cups water, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder OR 1 tablespoon malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
Toppings such as: seeds, salt, onion, or garlic (optional)
1. To make the sponge: Stir the yeast into the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and stir until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (resembling pancake batter). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for two hours or until mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when bowl is tapped on countertop.
2. To make the dough: In the same bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer, stir the additional yeast into the sponge. Add 3 cups of the flour, the malt powder or syrup and the salt into the bowl and mix (or mix on low speed with dough hook) until all of the ingredients form a ball. As you mix, slowly add in the additional 3/4 cup of flour to stiffen the dough. The dough will be very stiff and dry, but should be moist enough so that all ingredients can be evenly incorporated throughout.
3. Transfer dough to counter and knead for about 10 minutes (or 6 minutes if using the dough hook). When done, dough should register 77 to 81 degrees. If it seems too dry, add a few drops of water, and if too sticky, add a bit more flour. Immediately divide the dough into a 12 small pieces around 4 1/2 ounces each for standard large bagels. Roll each piece into a ball; when finished, cover them with a damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.
4. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and mist lightly with cooking spray. Next, you will need to shape the bagels. Put your thumb through the center of each ball of dough and then rotate, until the bagel is even in width all around. The bagel should be about 2 ½ inches in diameter.
5. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Then midst the bagels very lightly with cooking spray and cover the sheets loosely with plastic wrap. Then let the bagels rise at room temperature for about 20 minutes. You will know if they are ready for the next step if you drop one in a bowl of cool water and it floats back to the top in under ten seconds. If this test succeeds, pat the tester bagel dry, place the plastic wrap back on top and put in refrigerator overnight. (If you don’t want to bake them the next day, you can do so the day after, but don’t wait any longer). If the tester bagel doesn’t float to the top within 10 seconds, let them rest longer, checking back every 10-20 minutes to test another one.
6. The following day: Preheat oven to 500 degrees with two racks set in middle of oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.
7. Remove bagels from fridge and gently drop them into 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. If you like very chewy bagels, you can boil 2 minutes per side. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle parchment paper with cornmeal or flour. If topping the bagels, do so immediately after they come out of water.
8. When all bagels have been boiled, place pans in oven and bake for about 5 minutes, then rotate pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180 degree rotation. Then lower oven temperature to 450 degrees and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until bagels turn light golden brown.
9. Remove from oven and let bagels cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.
10. Eat and ENJOY!!
From Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice