Bagels are one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast. It is not the healthiest breakfast option, but it is a little easier to eat in the car on the way to work than oatmeal is! In my never-ending quest to eliminate processed foods from my diet, I knew I needed to add a bagel recipe to my repertoire. I started off with blueberry bagels, since they are one of my favorites. This recipe produces the perfect bagel, chewy on the outside, and soft on the inside. I used dried blueberries to avoid turning the dough blue from the juice, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand. While these bagels take a little work to make, don’t let that scare you away, they are worth the work! They are really a 2 day process, so I would suggest making these on a lazy weekend. I loaded my freezer with bagels so I always have them on hand when the craving hits!
Yields: 12 bagels
For the Sponge:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups (18 ounces) high-gluten or bread flour
2½ cups water, at room temperature
For the Dough:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3¾ cups (17 ounces) high-gluten or bread flour
2¾ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey or brown sugar
1½ cups dried blueberries, rinsed
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
To start by making the sponge, stir together the yeast and flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.
To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Add 3 cups of the flour, all of the salt and the malt and stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball. As you stir, slowly work in the remaining ¾ cup flour to stiffen the dough.
Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). Add the dried blueberries during the final 2 minutes of kneading. The dough should be firm, but still pliable and smooth. If the dough seems too dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
Immediately divide the dough into 12 pieces. Form the pieces into rolls. If you have a kitchen scale, each piece of dough should weigh approximately 4.5 ounces.
Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and mist lightly with spray oil. To shape the bagels, poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2½ inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots).
Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Lightly spray plastic wrap with cooking spray and loosely cover the bagels. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.
The following day, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.
Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute flip them over and boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.)
When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.
Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.
*Freezer Friendly Tip* – Freeze bagels individually on a baking sheet, then store in a ziplock freezer bag in the freezer for up to 6 months.