Bagels!

For years, bagels have eluded me.  Not in the eating department.  Trust me, I've consumed my fair share.  But in the creating thereof, oh yeah.  Forget it.  They were tough, they were soggy, they were dense, they were in everything a bagel shouldn't be. And then, oh glorious day, I found the recipe.  It came from Peter Reinhart, who's work I generally love.  Anyone who spends a year of their life eating and writing about pizza is worthy of great respect, in my book.   But I digress...

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This is the recipe I used, kind of.  My little kitchen is slowly collecting some of the basics, and I didn't have barley malt syrup (whatever that is) or honey.  So sugar was substituted, and to make up for it a bit of the white flour became whole wheat.  They were fabulous, and I don't say that just because I made them myself.  I say that because Micah ate them, and enjoyed them, and did you read that part about the whole wheat flour?  He doesn't usually go for that sort of thing.  Which leaves me to wonder if my husband is longsuffering, or if I'm really that sneaky.

The process for this is really quite standard, and traditional, but for some reason it just works better than any other recipe I have every tried.  Blessings on Peter Reinhart's head, even if his TED talk is really weird. Then again, which TED talks aren't weird?  But again, I digress.

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Bagels may be a bit of a  lengthy process, but since a lot of it is just rising time, they really aren't too intense.  Fear not, though the directions be as long as Rapunzel's hair, yea wilt thou find it simple if thou wilt persevere.  Just be aware that you do have to let them rise over night after shaping and before boiling, so no deciding to make these for breakfast the morning you need them.  I've never tried skipping that rise, because I always, always follow the rules.

Ha. HA. HAHAHA.

Here's my version of the recipe.  Bon Appetit!

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2 1/2 unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 teaspoons salt, divided

3/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1 tablespoon barley malt syrup (or honey)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon baking soda

Toppings as desired

1. In a large bowl mix the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, the yeast, sugar and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water until the ingredients form a stiff, coarse ball of dough. Add more water or flour to reach the correct consistency. Let the dough rest 5 minutes.

2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until the dough feels stiff yet supple, with a satiny, slightly tacky feel, 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough seems too soft or too tacky, sprinkle over just enough flour as needed.  The window pane test is a good way to know if the dough is correct.  Kneading is also a great way to work out any anger issues you may have and save the loads of money you would pay a therapist.  You're welcome.

3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to several hours. Keep in mind that the bagels must be shaped before proofing overnight.

4. When ready to shape the bagels, line a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Or well floured waxed paper.  Whatever floats your boat, dunks your oreo, or is in your pantry at the moment.

5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 6 to 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a loose, round ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface or between your own two hands.

6. Using your hands and a fair amount of pressure, roll each dough ball into a "rope" 8 to 10 inches long. (Moisten the work surface with a damp paper towel, if necessary, to get the necessary bite or friction). Slightly taper the rope at the ends so that they are thinner than the middle. Place one end of the dough between your thumb and forefinger and wrap it around your hand until the ends overlap in your palm; they should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together and then press the joined ends into the work surface, rolling them back and forth a few times until they are completely sealed.

7. Remove the dough from your hand and squeeze as necessary to even out the thickness so that there is a 2-inch hole in the center. Place the bagel on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the other pieces. Lightly wipe the bagels with oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

8. Fill a large stockpot with 3 quarts of water (be sure the water is at least 4 inches deep), cover with a lid, and slowly bring the water to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on.

9. Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven to 500 degrees.  If you bake with a baking stone (I do! I do! I do!), then pop it in at this point to heat it with the oven.

11. Gently lift each bagel and drop it into the simmering water. Add as many as will comfortably fit in the pot. After 30 seconds-1 minute, use a slotted spoon to flip each bagel over. Poach for another 30 seconds. Using the slotted spoon, remove each bagel and return it to the lined baking sheet. Continue until all the bagels have been boiled. If desired, add the toppings at this point, except for cinnamon sugar (see note below).

12. Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the heat to 425 degrees. Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the sheet (if using two sheets, also switch their positions). Check the underside of the bagels. If they are getting too dark, place another sheet under the baking sheet (i.e., double-pan it). Bake until the bagels are golden brown, an additional 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the bagels to a rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Note: If using cinnamon sugar (1 part cinnamon to 5 parts granulated sugar), immediately brush the top of each hot bagel with melted butter and then generously sprinkle with the mixture so that it is coated. It will form a nice cinnamon crust as it cools.