Sunday, October 16, 2011

My husband is the worst baker. Ever.

The rainy, dreary Erie weather has returned with a vengeance over this past weekend. We were so spoiled by the beautiful sunny skies of last weekend that being cooped indoors gazing out at the windy, wet mess is especially painful. After performing a few mandatory chores around the house, Paul and I decided to make something together in the kitchen. We actually enjoy cooking together, although Paul tends to prefer grilling or smoking some type of animal carcass whereas I love to bake. However, on this particular day, Paul agreed to help me make some bagels.

Although Paul is eager to help, I am always a bit apprehensive. Whenever I entrust a project or a task to Paul, something usually goes awry. This is not entirely his fault - he cannot help that he has the attention span of a chipmunk. He starts out strong, but eventually becomes distracted by whatever shiny object may be nearby and then forgets what exactly he had been working on in the first place. For example, a few months ago, I caught a horrible flu bug that confined me to my bed unable to lift my head without feeling as if I was being tossed about on a sailboat in the middle of a violent storm. Paul came upstairs and generously informed me that he did not expect me to make dinner that night.

Gee thanks, sweetheart. What a treat.

He then proceeded to ask me what I would like to eat that evening. I told him a can of Campbell's or just a bowl of chicken broth was all I could see myself stomaching. Paul immediately grabbed his coat and headed out to Wegmans to pick up a can of soup for me. When our valiant hero returned no less than 90 minutes later, he had a grocery bag filled with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, some Bit-O-Honeys, and a pint of ice cream but no soup. You see, he became distracted by all the junk food that I normally do not keep in the house and became excited about his own dinner possibilities while forgetting the reason he had gone to store in the first place. It's a disease.

Either way, I am always a little nervous when he offers to help around the kitchen. Although he is pretty good at cooking meat.

Making the bagels went very smoothly at first. We mixed up the starter and waited the required 2 hours. Then we set out to make the rest of the dough. We stirred in the yeast and added the flour, honey, and salt. Paul then switched the mixer the highest setting.

Suddenly a mushroom cloud of white erupted from the mixing bowl, covering the counter, the KitchenAid, the floors, the front of my sweatshirt. Even poor Matthew, who had just awoken from a nap and was sitting up at the counter drinking hot chocolate, was suddenly covered with a dusting of flour. This was the state of our kitchen after the incident:

Paul has since been banned from the kitchen. He might be invited back when I need help with Christmas cookies. Sometimes I wonder if he plans this.

Paul just read what I typed so far and asked why I have to make him sound like such a buffoon. I just tell it like it is.

Despite the initial mishap, the bagels turned out wonderful. The recipe is long, but most of the time is inactive. Honestly, we spent more time cleaning up after Paul's flour catastrophe than we did on the bagels themselves. We enjoyed boiling and baking these after coming home from church on Sunday morning and it was a wonderful breakfast treat.

Matthew made a mean latte as a perfect accompaniment.

We like the bagels plain, but you can most certainly get creative and mix whatever fruit, nuts, or spices your heart desires into the dough. You can also sprinkle the boiled bagels with dehydrated onion, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic salt, or cinnamon sugar.

Definitely give these a try! They are a fun project!

Peter Reinhart's Bagels
from the Bread Baker's Apprentice

Note: This is a 2-day process, requiring an overnight refrigeration period before the boiling and baking of the shaped bagels.

For the starter:
4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 1/2 cups water, at room temperature

For the dough:
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon honey

For the water bath:
1 tablespoon baking soda

First, make the starter. Whisk together the flour and the yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer (the larger professional series stand mixers work especially well for this recipe). Mix in the water with a wooden spoon just until you get a smooth, wet dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very bubbly and swells to about double its size. The mixture will probably collapse when the bowl is tapped on the counter top.

Next, make the bagel dough. Sprinkle the remaining yeast over the sponge and stir with the dough hook attachment of your mixer. Add the salt, three cups of flour, and the honey and continue to carefully knead the mixture until a ball of dough is formed. If necessary, gradually add in the remaining 3/4 cup flour, one tablespoon as a time (I did not need to add any extra flour, but you may find it necessary). Continue to knead the dough about 6-10 more minutes, or until a firm, smooth dough forms. The dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky.

With your hands, knead the dough into a ball and immediately divide it into 16 even pieces. Form the pieces into balls and cover with a damp towel. Let rest about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line two sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.

After the 20 minute rest, take each ball of dough and carefully poke a hole into the center of it. Using your thumbs, gently pull and stretch the hole to about 1 1/2-2 inches in diameter. When finished, place the shaped bagels onto the prepared baking sheet, being sure to space them about 2 inches apart. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough. Once finished, spray the top of the shaped bagels and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rest 20 minutes.

After the 20 minute rest, it is time to check the bagels to see if they are ready for to be retarded in the refrigerator. Take a medium bowl full of water and drop one of the bagels into the bowl. If it floats within 10 seconds, immediately take the tester bagel out, pat it dry, place it back on the baking sheet, and immediately cover the baking sheets tightly and transfer the bagels to the refrigerator to rest overnight. If the tester bagel did not float after 10 seconds, return to the baking sheet (after patting it dry, of course) and let the bagels rise an additional 5-10 minutes before repeating the test.

Let the bagels hang out in the fridge overnight.

When ready to bake in the morning, bring a large pot of water to boil. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Once the water is boiling, add the tablespoon of baking soda.

Working with only one pan of dough at a time, drop as many bagels as can comfortably fit into the water bath using a wide, slotted spoon. Let boil 1-2 minutes per side. Boil for 2 minutes if you like extra-chewy bagels (we do!). When finished, transfer the boiled bagels to a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bagels. Once all the bagels have been boiled, transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pan. Continue baking for an additional 5-7 minutes, or until the bagels have browned to your liking. Immediately remove the pan from the oven and transfer the baked bagels to a wire rack to cool.

Repeat the boiling and baking process with the remaining sheet of bagels from the fridge.

Enjoy toasted or as is with a good smear of cream cheese!!


  1. You have inspired me with this post. I have been terrified to try making bagels because they seemed like they would be too complicated, but now, I'm making plans to try making our own. I'll let you know how it turns out.

  2. I cannot wait to try these. I will have to do it after my stove-top is fixed (it cracked over the weekend - I am a bit apprehensive to anything that requires the stove top).

    PS Let Paul make the Candy Cane Crisps at Christmas...he was especially good at those when we lived at home.

  3. Tell Paul I know he is not a buffoon....but it does make for a good story.