Half of a fresh, homemade bagel with scrambled eggs and turkey bacon makes for a delicious breakfast. (Emily Hanson/Peninsula Daily News)

Half of a fresh, homemade bagel with scrambled eggs and turkey bacon makes for a delicious breakfast. (Emily Hanson/Peninsula Daily News)

THE COOKING HOBBYIST: Bagels are more difficult to make than they seem

I’M OVERLY COMPETITIVE in most areas of my life.

It has finally seeped into my kitchen.

Allow me to explain: A few weeks ago, my coworkers and I were discussing food, as we often do.

At the time, one man I work with said there is no such thing as a good bagel on the West Coast.

He’s from New Jersey, as is another coworker.

I also work with people originally from Massachusetts and New York as well as various other places.

I heard this bagel- hating comment and thought: “Challenge accepted.”

With very little effort, I found a recipe online for New York-style bagels. It was more than that, though. This recipe declared itself to be “The Real New York Bagel Recipe.”

I read through the instructions and ingredients provided by Crazy Christobal on Genius Kitchen.com at tinyurl.com/PDN-Bagels.

“That seems simple enough,” I thought to myself.

Famous last words.

Although the recipe only calls for five required ingredients and two additional ones for the cooking process, it easily had more steps to it than any recipe I’ve worked with previously, including when I roasted a turkey.

And then, of course, I put off buying the ingredients and baking the bagels until the last minute.

I’m a part-time procrastinator competing at the professional level.

When I finally went to buy the ingredients, I found myself searching for bread flour, which is different from all-purpose flour (otherwise known as the only flour I’ve ever bought on a regular basis). Apparently the two are made from different types of wheat and bread flour has more protein in it.

Having procured that, I found yeast (otherwise known as an ingredient I’ve never worked with).

The first few steps of this recipe are incredibly simple. You just combine bread flour with water and yeast and stir with a whisk until they’re well-blended. Then you let the mixture rest for a minimum of two hours.

Although this recipe has many steps, they are nearly all divided by periods of rest. Apparently dough gets as tired as I do in the kitchen.

The next set of steps are ones I found to be incredibly … icky.

There’s just no other words for rolling dough out on the counter and getting your fingers into the gooey mixture. I don’t have the best mixer in the world, so it wasn’t able to properly handle kneading the dough. The outside looked fine, but more flour needed to be incorporated into the inside, which is how I found myself squishing my fingers into a gooey mess on my counter.

I’m sure the look on my face was fairly priceless.

Once the dough is properly kneaded and rolled into 12 balls comes another, very welcome rest period. All I can say about kneading dough is that my shoulders muscles are accustomed to less work.

The next step is an easy one, though. It just requires shaping each ball of dough into the classic bagel shape with a hole in the middle. Then the dough rests again for a minimum of three hours or even overnight. I, of course, went with the overnight option.

The last two steps are the most fun and the most rewarding. I have no idea why, but I was quite amused with dropping the bagel-shaped dough into boiling water and watching it splash and roll along with each bubble.

Then baking the bagels — even in my untrustworthy oven — was quite simple. I took it in five-minute increments so I wouldn’t accidentally burn them.

Finally, with fresh-from-the-oven bagels in hand, I went to work and shared them with coworkers.

One New Jersey man said they had a great chew. The other New Jersey man gave me the best compliment I could expect from him: “You did a good job.”

And a third coworker kindly sent me a written review which included “Your excellent effort proves that it can be done even on the West Coast, and serves as a reminder not to be taken in by the lame, uniformly shaped so-called ‘bagels’ at grocery stores.”

The Real New York Bagel by Crazy Christobal on Genius Kitchen.com

Sponge

4 cups bread flour or 20 ounces bread flour

2½ cups water

1 teaspoon instant yeast

Dough

½ teaspoon instant yeast

3 3/4 cups bread flour or 18 ounces bread flour

2 3/4 teaspoons salt or 1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar (can use ½ tablespoon)

Additions

1 tablespoon baking soda

½ cup cornmeal (I used cornstarch)

In a medium/large bowl or pot, stir the sponge together with a whisk or wooden spoon. Make sure to get all dry materials mixed in well.

Cover with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for 2 or more hours.

After the sponge is bubbly with small holes at the top and about 2 hours have gone by, pour sponge into your mixing bowl.

Using a standing mixer, attach the dough hook and then add all ingredients listed for dough to the sponge. Flour can be added gradually as the mixer is going.

Knead with the dough hook for approximately 10 minutes or until dough looks smooth and is not too sticky. Dough should be quite stiff (add more flour if needed).

Turn out on counter and knead by hand for a few minutes. (More if your mixer couldn’t handle the kneading for very long). Make sure the dough does not stick to fingers to get to proper consistency.

Divide dough with a knife into 12 equal pieces and shope those pieces into balls. Cover to rest with plastic wrap for 20 minutes.

Shape each ball into a bagel by pushing your thumb(s) through the middle and then using your two index fingers in the hole, make fast circular motions, stretching the hole out a bit. Don’t worry if they are not perfect.

Place bagels on sheet pans or cookie sheets that have been sprayed with cooking spray oil. Leave an inch or so on all sides.

Let rise under plastic wrap for 20 minutes then place in refrigerator.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

Pull pans from fridge and get a large pot of water on to boil while you preheat the oven to 500 degrees and move racks to the top of the oven.

Add 1 tablespoon baking soda to the water (this increases the color depth and flavor of the bagel while baking).

When water is boiling, gently pull 2-3 bagels at a time and place them upside down in the water.

Boil for 30 seconds then flip over with a large slotted spoon or similar and repeat for other side.

Remove each bagel with spoon and slide off on to a large clean cotton cloth (flour sack type material not terry cloth) for draining.

Repeat with all other bagels.

Place parchment paper in your sheet pans or cookie sheets.

Spread corn meal evenly and lightly on parchment paper. Here, I used corn starch because I didn’t have cornmeal (I thought I did) and an internet search said the switch was OK when it’s just being used to keep things from sticking.

Place moist, warm bagels gently on corn meal. You can place them touching one another.

Turn oven down to 450 degrees as you place pan(s) in oven.

Bake for 5 minutes then turn pan around and switch pans on racks as necessary.

Bake for another 5 minutes turning as necessary and repeat this until all bagels are evenly deep golden brown. Total cooking time will be 20-25 minutes until all are evenly deep golden.

Remove from oven, let cool on pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before eating.

________

Emily Hanson is a copy editor/paginator for the Peninsula Daily News. She is also a beginning baker and clumsy cook. She can be reached at 360-452-2345 ext. 560-50 or [email protected] dailynews.com.

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