Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bagels, bagels, bagels!

After moving to the IE (Inland Empire),  I began my typical food and coffee exploration in the area.  I know there is so much left uncovered and it will take years and the insider scoop from friends to find all of the gems.  At the first level of excavation here in Riverside, the pastry and coffee department were kind of lacking.  I mean, I know I am a self-proclaimed coffee and pastry snob, but you know it's bad when you choose to go to Starbuck's instead of the local coffee shop.  Sad, sad times.  We have basically been in a coffee depression since we left Boston.  In the last 9 years we've always been within walking distance access to a fabulous cappuccino.  That was very, very bad for my finances.  So the good news is without a good coffee shop I don't spend as much money.  We've been living here for 7 months in this coffee dysphoria...until just last week when we made the most magnificent discovery.  So grateful that the mass email from UCR didn't suffer the fate of the delete button.  With a top ten list of the best coffee in town, we found our match made in coffee heaven!  Lift Coffee Roasters, our new home away from home.  We sat there smiling as we sipped our cappuccinos, gazed at the palm trees and enjoyed our new hipster haven.  Bonus: it's right across from Trader Joe's, so I can grab a coffee, buy some beans and do some grocery shopping. 

And now onto the original inspiration for this post: bagels!  Oh my goodness I love homemade bagels so much!  It always seemed so mysterious and difficult.  Turns out, it is easy and fun!  As I mentioned, the pastry department here is sad.  I  walked into, and promptly out of, a bagel place here after I took one look at them.  Pale, speckled with dried-up jalepenos, and a sad bagel or two lying in each metal basket :( After a conversation with a friend here who had come to the same bagel conclusions as me, we realized that we had each independently decided we were going to try to make them on our own.  Since we were on the same track (and have 3 kids under the age of 3 between us) we decided to work on it together.  She made the dough and we played around with the hand rolling and shaping.  Our first batch out of the oven was a success!  Topped with the classics including sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced onion, fleur de sel with herbs de provence and an everything mix. So yummy!  Around this same time I thought I might connect with a fellow foodie and bagel-creator extraordinaire in Boston  (see the Hangry Foodasaurus' cousin, bagelsaurus).  Mary gave me some fantastic suggestions on where to begin and between all of her suggestions and three online recipes I am well on my way to making awesome homemade bagels.  I think I've experimented 4 or 5 times now and my new favorite is the cinnamon raisin bagel.  

Don't be intimidated by the bagel process--it is actually quite simple!  Just give yourself enough time for overnight proofing.

The process described below was a combination of recipes and suggestions.  Thanks to the bagelsaurus for all of her suggestions!  At her recommendation, I start by looking at this blog called kludgy mom where she uses the Mark Bittman's (How to Cook Everything) bagel recipe.  The original attempt with my friend was done with this recipe  I like it because it gives an oven temperature and few other details.  Finally, I am frustrated that I can't find the original post, but the way I get the cinnamon raisin toppings into the bagel was from another blog...If I find it again, I'll link to it.

I always start the dough in the evening but start at least 3 hours before you want to go to bed.  

Like I said, I am influenced by many different sources, but this is what I've been doing. 

In a large bowl place:

-3 and 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
-2 teaspoons salt
-1 teaspoon instant yeast
-2 tablespoons malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses or sugar (I've exclusively used molasses but I want to branch out eventually)

Mix it all together by hand with a wooden spoon and then add:

-1 1/4 cups of room temp water and mix by hand until the dough becomes a well-defined ball, slightly sticky and easy to handle. 

- If the dough is too dry, add water 1 tbsp at a time.  For me it's usually not dry enough so I add a little more flour.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for a minute or two longer by hand, adding as much flour as necessary to make a smooth, tough, very elastic dough.

-Dump the lump of dough into a large bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise for about 2 hours at room temperature.  

-Deflate dough ball and let it rest covered on a floured surface at least 10 min.  **if you are doing cinnamon raisin see instructions below.  If not, continue to cut dough ball into 8 equal pieces.  Roll into bun-like balls and poke a hole in the center with finger and work into bagel shape.  Place all 8 bagels on a parchment-lined (I am into my silicone liner right now) baking sheet keeping them covered and lightly floured the whole time you work.

-Pop tray of covered and shaped bagels into fridge overnight.  

-In morning, remove from fridge and let them return to room temperature.  

Assorted toppings
-Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.  Boil a large pot of water with about 1/2 cup or so of honey (optional).  Have a cooling rack nearby and the toppings (if using) ready on small plates.  

-Do not crowd bagels as you drop one at a time into boiling water.  I can fit 4 in a go.  They should float right away.  Cook one minute per side, carefully flipping them with a slotted spoon.  Scoop out of water and place on cooling rack.  Continue with the other bagels. Once they are cool enough to be handled and they are still a little wet, dip them into desired toppings.  

-Place bagels on baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes or until nicely browned.  Remove and cool on wire rack.  
From first bagel attempt with friend

-Serve hot with your favorite cream cheese, butter and jam or just as is because they are so amazing!

 -Bagels keep 1-2 days.

**For cinnamon raisin, take the dough ball and flatten it out with a rolling pin.  Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and raisins.  Roll the pizza-like creation up like a tube.  Then continue with cutting and shaping.