I've been on a baking kick lately. That's how I roll -- doing activities in fits and spurts. Maybe it's because of the weather (still wintery) or maybe it's because I'm supposed to be working on a proposal right now and I'm doing everything else but.
So yesterday I made bagels. While bagels have in recent years earned a villainous reputation for being high carb/high calorie, these delicious ringed treats are in a baked good class of their own -- chewy, sometimes crisp, on the outside, and all spongy and doughy on the inside. Toasted or not, topped with butter or cream cheese or just plain, fresh-out-of-the-oven bagels are worthy of an occasional indulgence.
They're also fun and relatively easy to make, especially when you employ the bread machine to make the dough.
The ingredients for my simplest bagel recipe are:
• 1 cup water
• 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
• 1 1/2 tsp salt
• 3 cups bread flour
• 2 tsp active dry yeast
In my breadmaker it takes about 30 minutes to mix the dough followed by a one hour rise cycle, which is useful for times (like yesterday) when I wasn't paying attention to when the mix cycle had ended and I'd wandered off and gotten immersed in some other form of procrastination (cleaning the barn, making potting soil -- anything but the dreaded proposal).
When I finally pulled the dough out it had that lovely soft-as-a-baby's-bum texture, all springy and puffy and alive.
Careful not to handle the dough too much, I gently stretched it into a longish loaf -- not as long as a baguette, but not as plump and stout as a regular loaf. Like a jelly roll.
From there I scored and cut the dough into 12 roughly similar-shaped sections. With each piece I gently massaged the dough back into a circular shape (as the cutting tends to flatten it a bit) while pressing a hole through the centre with my thumbs. (A photo here would have been useful but I always seem to be covered in sticky dough and flour at this stage with no little hands around to man the camera.)
After doing this with each piece, I placed the uncooked bagels on a greased tray covered with a clean dishcloth and then placed the tray in a warm spot to rise. (Near the woodstove works well.)
While the bagels were rising, I filled my stockpot halfway with water and about 2 tbsp of sugar and brought it to a rolling boil. When the bagels were ready, I dropped three at a time into the boiling water, simmering for three minutes, turning each bagel once.
I then fished the bagels out with a slotted spoon and placed them on a greased cookie sheet. Then I (or one of my helpers, who had since come home from school) painted each bagel with a beaten egg and sprinkled it with our favourite toppings, either poppy seeds, sesame seeds and onion flakes (our version of the "everything" bagel), or just plain poppy seed.
The last step is to bake at 400°F/204°C for 20 minutes for crispy bagels, less for chewier bagels.
The only bother with making bagels (besides the calories) is that they don't last long around here. That and I still have my dreaded proposal to finish...