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Making Bagels

Ok, so I spend a lot of time reading food blogs. I mean a lot of time because cooking and knowing about how to use different kinds of food is my passion. Recently I have been hearing all about this book called, The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart which has been inspiring professional chefs and home cooks to get back into the art of bread making. Making homemade bread is becoming a lost art and he is trying to preserve it by teaching others how to make fine quality loaves of bread with the recipes in his book. Therefore many of the cooks in the food blogs that I have been reading are creating personal challenges to bake every kind of bread in the book from cover to cover. What a challenge! Since it is the new year and since I also love to make homemade bread, I figured why not. I will join the revolution of making a new kind of bread each week from scratch. Not only do I get to have my house smell fabulous every weekend, but also I am contributing to healthier eating habits for my family. Since I do not own this book yet, I have modified the directions of the challenge for myself and have to research and find a new recipe each week. But it works for me and definitely for my husband!

A few weeks ago it was garlic crusted herb bread, last week it was pita bread and pizza dough, and yesterday it was bagels. Maybe you are thinking bagels are not really the same as a loaf of homemade bread. Yes, you are right. They are not a loaf of bread, but making bagels from scratch in a kitchen the size of mine is an incredible task. Besides bagels are in the bread aka "carb" family. I spent many years in a previous life, also called high school, working at a bagel bakery so I have always had a particular fondness and love for bagels. Making bagels quickly brought back memories of arriving at the bagel shop at the wee hours of the morning setting off alarms letting the whole town know that the baker arrived to work late and other stories of a similar nature.

I found a great recipe by John Lee that guided me in my quest. The recipe can be found here: I prepared my ingredients and cleared off my countertop. Since the recipe itself was quite simple and not very time consuming, I was excited to begin my task. In about 2 minutes flat, I had the ingredients in a bowl, mixed together and the contents overturned onto a floured surface to knead. It took about 10 minutes or so to knead the dough to a nice smooth, elastic consistency, but since this has become almost a habit, I didn't mind. The next step was to divide the dough into eight ball-like portions and set those aside for about 20 minutes. While the dough rested, I prepared my toppings. Since I became what some may call a "bagel snob" after working at Bruegger's Bagels, I don't do plain bagels or plain of anything I might add. I looked in my cabinet to see what I could gather. I quickly set to work preparing four plates of toppings because I would make two of each kind. I decided upon sesame seeds, cinnamon and sugar, dried onion, and the best of all-the "everything bagel," which was mixture of roasted garlic, sesame, dried onion, and salt.

After allowing an ample amount of time to rise, I came back to my dough for the trickiest step of all-getting a ball of dough into a circle with a whole in the middle. I thought about some skills that I learned years ago when playing with Playdough was the cool thing to do. I rolled the dough into a snake and then wrapped the snake into a circle, trying to fuse the ends to make a circle. This part was a little harder than I thought because bread dough is not as pliable as Playdough. Once I was satisfied I left them to rise again for another 20 minutes. Meanwhile, I prepared a pot of boiling water that would serve as a "water bath" for the bagels which would help to later make the outside nice and crispy, but the inside fluffy and soft. The bagels were ready. I dunked them in the water, two at a time, for about a minute before rotating them for another minute. After removing them, I let them dry for a few minutes before coating the top with seeds. Once they were all ready to go, I put them into the oven to bake for about 10 minutes on each side.

It was a matter of seconds before the aroma of roasted garlic filled my kitchen. I paced back and forth for our breakfast to be finished. Now the hardest part was going to be the wait between the time they finished cooking and the cooling time, which according to the directions was very important. Since I am not the most patient of species, I saved my cream cheese run for this time. I bolted out the door, forgetting all of my cold weather necessities, and headed to the grocery store. Once I got back I barely had my shoes off before my knife was slicing through the middle of an "everything" bagel, and smearing it with cream cheese. Each bagel was golden brown on the top, but chewy and delicious inside. I would have to say that this mission was successfully accomplished to the point that I will never buy a store bought bagel again.

Homemade Bagel Recipe
Recipe by John Lee
Makes 8 bagels

4 cups bread flour
1 Tbls sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt
1 Tbls vegetable oil
2 tsps instant yeast
1-1/4- 1-1/2 cups of warm water

1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. You don't have to worry about soaking the yeast when you use instant yeast (most yeast sold these days is instant yeast). The dough should feel stiff, but add the extra water if it's really stiff, or you can't get all the dry flour incorporated.
Plop the dough down onto the counter, and knead for about ten minutes, or until the dough is uniform and smooth.
2. Cut the dough into 8 equal sized balls, and let rest for 10-20 minutes.
3. Pre heat your oven to 425.
4. Now, take each of the dough balls and using two hands, roll it into a little snake on the counter. When the snake is longer than the width of your two hands, wrap it around your dominant roiling hand. The dough rope should be wrapped so the overlapping ends are together at your palm, near the start of your fingers. Now take the two overlapping ends, and use your palm to squish/roll these two ends together. Once the dough is fused, you should have a perfectly circular bagel-to-be! This is the only part of the process that can take a little practice before your bagels will look really professional. Don't get discouraged if they don't look perfect, it just takes practice!
5. Let your bagels rest on the counter for about 20 minutes, and meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil, and grease a large baking tray lightly. You can just rub a splash of vegetable oil and rub it around.
6. After the 20 minute wait, your bagels will start to look puffy, and it's time to get them boiling! Add them as many at a time as you can to your boiling water without crowding them. Boil for about a minute, turn them over, and boil for another minute. Take them out a let dry for a minute and then place them on your oiled baking tray. Repeat until all the bagels are boiled.
7. Add the tray to the oven, and after 10 minutes, flip the bagels over, bake for another ten minutes; and they're done!
8. Let them cool for at least 20 minutes, get the cream cheese ready, and feast on what's got to be one of the best weekend brunch treats possible!
9. You can add any toppings you like to these. To make sesame, onions, poppy seed, caraway etc. etc. bagels just have a dry plate ready with the seed or spice topping spread out on it. After the bagels have come out of the boiling water, place them face down onto the seeds, and then place the seed side up onto the baking tray. Bake and flip as for plain bagels.

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