A new year.
It's off to a great start already and I have a feeling it's only going to get better.
And the discovery of some pretty fantastic homemade bagels could even be considered one of them. I mean, really. Who doesn't love a good bagel? Toasted and smothered in butter, or cream cheese, or as a sandwich, or topped with a fried egg, or...
In that case, let's talk bagels for a moment.
You know how a great bagel shop bakes bagels that are perfectly chewy with that distinct "bagel flavor"? And they're not bready at all, but just really, really good? Well, these are basically the kind you'd get at that real-deal bagel shop. They are crispy and tough on the outside with soft, chewy, and flavorful interiors.
This recipe is adapted from none other than The Amazing Bread man, also known as Peter Reinhart. This guy knows his stuff. If anyone out there's going to create an amazing bagel, it'll be Peter. For sure.
There are a few keys to really good bagels:
1. High-gluten flour - All-purpose flour has a protein content of about 9-12%, bread flour is about 12-13%, while high-gluten flour has about 14-15% protein content. High-gluten flour is harder for a home cook to find (but can be ordered online from King Arthur, if interested), so this recipe relies solely on bread flour, which makes for a fantastic bagel. Though, to amp up the protein content in mine and get closer to the protein levels in high-gluten flour, I add a little wheat gluten. This is not imperative, but if you have some, throw it on into the bowl. It'll only do good.
2. Barley malt syrup - This is the other ingredient that is distinct to bagels. It gives them that malty flavor and really isn't hard to find. Barley malt syrup is available in most supermarkets, so it's worth a look. If you can't find it, simply substitute an equal amount of honey.
3. Time - Long, slow fermentation releases all sorts of subtle flavors trapped in the flour and simply takes any and all breads to another level.
4. Poaching - Boiling the bagels before baking them pre-gelatinizes the outside of the bagel and works to also produce a chewy interior.
So. Basically, these bagels are a sure-fire way to get your year off to a great start. A new year filled with fresh bagels. Sounds pretty good to me.
Notes: Not surprisingly, although the original recipe calls for exclusively bread flour, I've used a bit of whole wheat flour. I also threw in a smudge of wheat gluten to amp up the chewy factor. The wheat gluten is not imperative, though helpful. As far as toppings go, garnish away as your heart desires. I've included a few ideas in the recipe as well as a variation for Cinnamon-Raisin bagels. And finally, you should probably double this recipe. Just sayin.
Adapted from Artisan Breads Every Day, by Peter Reinhart