This week in baking: Everything Bagels

The DC metro area is an amazing place to eat. There are incredible restaurants, street vendors, and markets in dozens of great neighborhoods throughout DC, VA, and maybe MD. However, it is nearly impossible to find a good bagel in this town. You’d think, with our proximity to New York and the sheer number of northern ex-pats living here, that someone would make a killing with NY-style bagels. But aside from one little shop in upper NW that takes me 30 minutes to drive to (and at least an hour on Metro)… there’s nothing. So I decided this weekend to try my hand at the very delicious Everything Bagel.

This recipe is sort of based on Peter Reinhart’s, with a few improvisations. It’s very important to note that this recipe takes two days! I waited until Sunday to start, and in my excitement, plowed ahead without really reading. Oops. Luckily this was a three-day weekend.

This recipe makes 6 bagels (maybe 8, if you make them a bit smaller).

What you’ll need…

…for the dough:

  • 1 tablespoon barley malt syrup (I’m told you can substitute honey)
  • 1 teaspoon active instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine-grained salt, or 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour

…for the poaching liquid

  • 2 – 3 quarts water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons barley malt syrup (or honey)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine-grained salt, or 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

…for the delicious outside flavoring:

  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic (if dried, rehydrated)
  • 1/4 cup dried minced onions (rehydrated)
  • 1 egg white and a bit of water, for an optional egg wash

Note: I just tossed in the things that I personally like on my everything bagel – make whatever you’d like! But know you’ll need at least a cup of material to coat both sides of 6 bagels.

 Tools for the job:

  • one medium-sized mixing bowl
  • one larger, deep bowl (or pot)
  • a baking sheet
  • parchment paper
  • a large pot for poaching
  • a bit of oil for the sheet surface
  • a brush for the oil (and the optional egg wash)
  • a big slotted spoon (or other bagel-conveying device)
  • tools to stir and measure with, of course

What do to on Day 1:

First, you need to make the dough. Pour the warm water into a biggish bowl (saving your biggest bowl for the rising, which will happen in about 10 minutes). To the warm water, add the malt syrup, yeast, and salt. Stir it up until everything’s dissolved. Add the bread flour, and mix (I did this by hand, and it took 2-3 minutes with a big spoon. Those of you with fancy mixers and dough hooks can adjust accordingly).

The dough should form a stiff ball, and the flour should be totally hydrated (so, no powder should be left). If it isn’t, stir in a little more water. Once you’ve got a ball, let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Come back, and move the dough to a very lightly floured surface, and knead it for about 3 minutes. The dough should be stiff, but bounce a bit when you stick your thumb into it, and it should not stick to your thumb when you do that. If it’s too sticky, knead in a little more flour.

Place the dough in a deep, clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a tight layer of plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise at room temperature for 1 hour. I admit that my kitchen was freezing when I did this, so I turned the “warmer” part of my stovetop on Low, and put it on top of that to help it along.

— — — Go do something awesome for an hour — — —

Get a baking sheet ready to take the bagels: Line a sheet with parchment paper, and very lightly oil it. Now you’re ready to shape your bagels! Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces (remember, you can make 8 smaller bagels if you want, but you might need an extra baking sheet). Roll each piece between your hands until you have a thick rope (much like when making pretzels, only these are fatter). Dip your fingers in some water and use it to blend the ends of the rope together into a circle. The hole in the middle should be about 2 inches wide.

Put these nicely-formed proto-bagels onto the lightly oiled parchment paper, and give their tops a light brushing of oil as well. Wrap the whole sheet in plastic wrap, and stick them in the fridge to proof overnight.

— — — Go do something awesome, and then get a good night’s sleep — — — 

Good morning! It’s Day 2! Are you ready for bagels? Well, first you need to pull the sheet out of the fridge, unwrap them, and let them hang out for an hour. This would be a good time to make some Bloody Marys, and to make sure you’ve got cream cheese on hand.

You could also get your outside flavorings together, if you’re not making plain bagels. Just add all that stuff I listed (or from your own list) to a low, shallow bowl, and mix with a spoon. If you’re using dried minced garlic or onion, you’ll noticed I said to rehydrate them – just soak the 1/4 cup of dried stuff in water, covered with plastic wrap, for at least a half hour. Then squeeze out excess water with a paper towel before you add it to your flavoring mix.

If you’re making non-vegan bagels, and/or you want your seeds to stick on a little bit better, now’s the time to prepare an quick egg white wash – just whisk and egg white and a tablespoon of water together, and set aside.

You should also get a fresh baking sheet ready. Line a sheet with parchment paper, and lightly oil it (just as you did yesterday). Remember, if you’re making 8 bagels, you’ll likely need two sheets.

Once a full hour has passed, preheat your oven to 500F, and get your poaching liquid together. Take a large pot and fill it with 2-3 quarts of water (basically enough to give you 4 inches depth of water). Bring it to a boil, then add the malt syrup, baking soda (this causes a fun reaction!), and salt. Stir them a bit, then bring the liquid down to a simmer.

Place the bagels (I did 3 at a time) into the poaching liquid. After 10-15 seconds, they should float to the top! Once floating, let them kick it for a minute, then using a slotted spoon, flip them over and let them kick it for another minute. Take them out (with the spoon) and set them down.

Now, if you’re making the JW-Favorite Everything Bagel, this is when you want to get your seed mixture onto the bagel. Brush your egg wash onto both sides of the bagel (if you want – you could just use the water-based poaching liquid to stick the seeds on, like H&H does). Swish your bagel around in the low bowl of seedy flavoring, flipping to get them on both sides. Once your happy with your flavor-level, place the bagel onto the lightly oiled parchment-lined baking sheet.

When all your bagels are on the sheet and ready to go, place them in the oven and turn the heat down to 450F. Bake for 15-18 minutes, depending on your oven. They’re done when they have a nice golden-brown crust. Note: If you have an extra baking sheet, I highly recommend baking these with that second sheet underneath your bagel sheet – this sort of buffers the heat, and helps the bottoms cook more evenly. 

Pull the bagels out when they’re done, and give them about 10 minutes on a cooling rack before you cut into them (they’ll be steamy!) Serve with your favorite accoutrements, and ENJOY.

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