October 16th is World Bread Day. To celebrate the occasion, our colleague Hannah Kaminsky fulfilled a long-time goal: making homemade bagels.
She finally found a recipe that overcame a barrier:
“Traditional recipes call for lye, which is threatening enough to send me straight to the bakery, rather than the kitchen,” says Hannah.
But then, a revelation: “I joined forces with Chef Philip Gelb and lucked into one of his bagel baking classes.”
“Baking soda stands in for the caustic lye, reducing the risk of severe bodily harm right off the bat. Believe it or not, the rest is fairly standard procedure: a vigorous mixing, resting and rising, shaping and baking are all that separate you from savory satisfaction.
“Bagels can take shape either by punching out the centers with a quick jab of the fingers, or rolled into snakes and connected at the ends. Personally, I prefer to poke out the middles, as there’s less danger of them coming undone in the bubbling water bath.
“Purists will argue about what makes for the best bagels, but this much I know is true:
“Nothing beats the ones coming out of your own oven, hot and fresh, just barley cool enough to slice. Such beauty needs no further toasting to perfect, just a thick schmear of hummus or cream cheese.”
Hannah’s favorite bagel topping: everything.
Advice from Chef Gelb and Hannah: The bagels are best served within 15 minutes of emerging from the oven. Plan for an amazing brunch! But first:
The history of bagels.
Ingredients For 12 Bagels
1. COMBINE the yeast, 1 tablespoon of malt and the warm water in a large bowl. Let the yeast proof until the surface becomes foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the salt. Add the whole wheat flour and 2 cups of the all-purpose flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until incorporated.
2. PLACE the dough on a sturdy, clean surface and slowly work in the rest of the all-purpose flour. Knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
 Using fingers to poke a hole in the bagel (all photos courtesy Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog).
 Hannah’s well-deserved reward: a hummus and vegetable sandwich for lunch.
3. COAT the dough with olive oil, place in a bowl and cover tightly with a clean dish towel. Let it rise until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1 hour; though time may vary greatly due to temperature and altitude. After the dough has doubled…
4. KNEAD it lightly for 1 minute. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts. Roll each piece into a log and then fold it into a circle, firmly pressing the seam together. Place each bagel on a lightly floured surface, cover with a clean towel, and let rise until doubled; about 1 hour. Meanwhile…
5. PREHEAT the oven to 500°F and place a baking stone inside, if you have one. Otherwise, the bagels can be baked on a standard sheet pan.
6. BRING 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot; add the baking soda along with the remaining 3 tablespoons of malt. The baking soda is necessary to properly texture and brown the bagels. After the bagels finish their second rise…
7. BOIL each bagel for 1 minute on each side, keeping the water at a consistent, rapid boil. Now your bagels are ready to bake.
8. TOP them with any or all of the seasonings your heart desires, patting them gently into the top to make sure they adhere. Transfer the bagels carefully to the baking stone or sheet pan, and bake for about 15 minutes.
Chef Philip Gelb is the founder of Sound & Savor, a catering/personal chef business in the San Francisco Bay area.
In addition to catering and cooking classes, he hosts a very popular twice-monthly series of dinner/concerts that pair cuisine with the music of world-renowned musicians.
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