And boy was it a challenge for me. Quellia set the challenge for us to make Bagels this month. Bagels. Something that, prior to this challenge, I have never even TASTED, let alone tried to make from scratch. They aren't really that big here in Australia, in fact I don't think I have ever seen them to purchase, although my boyfriend Chris tells me otherwise. Despite the minor inconvenience of never having tried bagels before (so how can I really know if mine turned out 'right'? maybe that is a good thing!) I took the challenge in my stride.
If anyone still doesn't know what the Daring Bakers Challenge entails, each month one of our members sets us a challenge recipe and we all try our best to follow it exactly as written. This month our recipe came from a Jewish food website, quite fitting for a bagel recipe really.
Each month there are a few creative adaptions allowed, for the bagels, we were allowed to play around with the toppings and also what we put inside them. I must say my creative streak wasn't particularly strong on the day I made these, it must have been overtaken by the 'oh my god I don't really know what these are supposed to look or taste like' streak. I made them with 4 different toppings, but when it comes to what went inside most of them only saw butter or honey because this is all I had the energy left for.
My bagels were a little on the pale side compared to many I have seen in other Daring Bakers' pictures. I am having issues with this oven at the moment, we are renting, which is really annoying because I just get used to one oven and then our lease is up and I have to get used to another one all over again. This is probably the second worst oven I have ever have to work with, the worst being in a house that I lived in for just 6 months as it was about to be demolished. Enough said. The current oven takes ages to heat up and seems to need longer than most recipes to cook anything. Anyway, I digress.
I only made a half batch as I wasn't quite sure if our family of bagel 'virgins' would like them enough to be able to get through 15 bagels. Unfortunately, I still ended up with 14 bagels! This is because I read a lot of comments from other Daring Bakers that the recipe made gigantic bagels, so I made mine smaller. They ended up having a diameter of about 10cm, I don't really know how big they are normally. Luckily they went down well and I only had to throw out 2 of them which started going mouldy. Apparently I could have frozen them, but I didn't think of that at the time, I was too busy eating them.
In the end, these bagels were pretty good. I'm not a big fan of them though, I prefer the soft pretzels I made a few weeks ago. Maybe I just need to try these again, I mean it was my first try. I might make them again (in the distant future) and have them with the traditional cream cheese. In the meantime, here is the recipe for the half batch, because quite frankly, I think a half batch is enough for most people. If you have a large family, or really love bagels then feel free to double the recipe and have enough to feed an army.
Real Honest Jewish Purest Bagels (Makes 14)
Pour 1 1/2C hot water (just tap hot, not boiling) into a large mixing bowl and stir in 3Tbsp light honey or sugar (I used Manuka honey). Once this is dissolved, sprinkle 2Tbsp dry yeast over the water and stir in to dissolve as well. Set this aside for 10 minutes to activate the yeast, it should become frothy. In the meantime, scrub your hands and under your fingernails and take off any rings, watches or bracelets you have on as you will be using your hands to mix and knead the dough.
Add in 1 1/2C bread (high gluten) flour & 1tsp salt and start mixing it in with your hand (just one, keep the other one clean to add in more flour). Add in another 1/2C bread flour and mix in well. Repeat with another 2C bread flour, adding less each time until you have a dough that you can start to knead on the benchtop. You will need around 4C of bread flour in total. Knead the dough until it is elastic, it will be heavier and stiffer than a regular bread dough, but it shouldn't tear easily when stretched.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, roll the dough in the bowl so it is covered in a film of oil and cover the bowl with a damp teatowel. Put the bowl in a warm place until the dough has double in volume. This shouldn't take very long, about as long as it will take you to bring a large pot of water to the boil. Which you should do now, because you will need it soon to boil the bagels in. If you have 2 large pots, get them both going. Add 2Tbsp malt syrup or sugar (I used plain sugar as I could only find a HUGE tin of malt syrup that cost $8. I am cheap and I couldn't see what else I would use it for) to each pot to make the bagels nice and shiny. While you're at it, preheat your oven to 200C.
Once the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and punch it down. Punch it down hard, get as much air as you can out of it. Divide the dough into 14 roughly equally sized pieces. To form bagel shapes you can either poke a hole in the middle or make a snake and try to join the ends. I didn't find the latter method to be very successful at all, the end would not join back together. I suggest you shape a ball and poke a hole in the middle with a couple of fingers, then stretch the bagel out so the hole is pretty big, because it will disappear as they rise again.
Let them rise for another 10 minutes so they rise by about a quarter again. Turn the pots down to a lower heat so they are just barely simmering and drop bagels in, about 3 at a time. They should sink to the bottom and then float up gracefully. Not mine, they were all floaters except for one. If they don't sink then your bagels will taste breadier than they should. I don't really know as I haven't tasted them before, but mine were still chewy like others have described. Simmer them for 3 minutes, then turn them over and simmer for another 3 minutes, remove from the water and drain on some clean teatowels.
Sprinkle a couple of baking trays with a handful of polenta/cornmeal and place bagels on top. Brush bagels with a mixture of 1 egg white & 3Tbsp cold water, sprinkle with your choice of topping (I used poppy seeds, polenta, garlic seasoning and mixed herbs). Bake for 25 minutes, then turn them over and put them back in for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool and slice.
You can check out the rest of the Daring Baker's Bagel posts by following the links to everyone's blogs in my sidebar.
Why Should I Eat That?
Well, I am not trying to stretch it to saying these are healthy for you. They probably aren't as bad for you as you would think. They are quite low in fat and sodium, so limit yourself to a couple on a weekend and you shouldn't feel too guilty.
I have compiled nutritional information for these out of my own curiosity. The following doesn't include any toppings (mostly because I didn't weigh how much I used, which makes it hard to include) or anything you spread on them, so keep this in mind. I also stuck to the ingredients that I used, where there is an alternative listed in the recipe, these are not included.
Nutritional Information: (per bagel)
Energy 738.4kJ, Protein 4.7g, Fat (Total) 0.4g (Saturated) 0.1g, Carbohydrate (Total) 38.3g (Sugars) 5.3g, Dietary Fibre 2.4g, Sodium 168.1mg, Calcium 13.6mg, Potassium 717.3mg.