Sometimes you are needed.
Sometimes you are needy.
And sometimes, you just knead.
For a displaced New Yorker living in the South, there are many things to enjoy. Beautiful weather, mild winters, lower cost of living to name a few.
However, there are many things to miss. The fast pace, endless things to do and yes, the food. Now since the Metro-Charlotte area is pretty much teeming with us, ahem, Yankees, you can get just about anything you had up North down here. My friend Jerry Simonetti, owner of Simonetti’s Pizza in Belmont (and fellow Bayshore native) makes a pie that brings me right back home. There’s a few Italian markets scattered around the greater metro area. And yes, there is a real deal bagel shop about 30 minutes from my house.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have, on many occasion, put on makeup, got in the car, drove 30 minutes, waited in line, bought my dozen (plus a tub of scallion cream cheese, my fave), got back in the car, drove 30 minutes home and sat down to breakfast at, well, lunch time. It’s just that there are some (read: most) days that I don’t want to have to go through all of that just to have a bagel. If I had my way, bagels would grow on the gigantic tree outside my house and all I’d have to do is go outside and decide whether I want salt or everything. (I bet my neighbor would love this bagel tree idea too. The ginormous tree has literally thousands of leaves which litter her yard every fall..much to her chagrin)
Of course, bagels do not grow on trees, and I hate getting up and going at the butt-crack of dawn on a weekend just to score breakfast before noon, so I had to come up with a viable alternative.
Make ’em yourself, woman.
Yep. That’s what struck me at, oh, I don’t know, 6:00am a couple of Saturdays ago. For some unknown reason, I jumped out of my peaceful slumber with bagels on the brain. And yes, I promised the recipe back then…I know, I know, I’m a slacker… But hey, I would rather think of it as the research and development phase of this recipe wherein you, the reader, get a perfect recipe and skip the, um, trial and and error part. So I present, for your, dining pleasure…
2 TBS active dry yeast
3 TBS granulated sugar
2 cups very warm water (about 110 degrees F)
2 tsps Kosher salt
About 3 Cups High Gluten Bread Flour
About 3 cups Semolina Flour
(**note** If you can’t find Semolina flour, you can use all Bread flour or sub out the Semolina for Whole Wheat)
Egg white/water for egg wash
Toppings (sesame seeds, kosher salt, poppy seeds, toasted onions and/or garlic etc)
In the bowl of your stand mixer (If you have one. If not, a large bowl will do nicely) add the yeast and sugar and water and mix until dissolved. (If you’re using the mixer, you can use the paddle attachment. If not, a wooden spoon or spatula will do the trick) Cover and let sit for 5-7 minutes, or until the mixture gets foamy, like a good beer. Add the salt and start the mixer on low. Slowly add the flour, one cup at a time. If you are using two different types of flour, start with the Bread Flour and alternate a cup at a time. When you’ve added about 4 cups of flour, the mixture should start to look like a very wet, sticky dough. Remove the paddle attachment and fit the mixer with the bread hook. Continue to add flour, until the dough is sort of stiff and smooth. Moist, but not sticky. Remove from mixer and knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes. Again, the dough should feel moist and supple, just not sticky. It’s at this point that I should point out that you don’t want to add too much flour! You don’t want your dough to be dry or, yep, you guessed it, your bagels will also be dry. And no one likes a sad, dry little bagel. (Well, except my dogs, but well, they’ll eat anything, the little scroungers..) Now, if you’re not using a mixer for the bulk of the mixing/kneading duties, I’m sorry. Just kidding. You’ll just have to mix in the flour and knead by hand.
So now, you want to get a large bowl. If you’re wondering how large we’re talking, remember that this small blob of dough you’ve just created will rise and get at least double in bulk by the time it’s all said and done, so you want to make sure it’s got room to grow. Drizzle a bit of oil in the bowl, and roll the dough ball in the oil to coat. Cover with a clean cloth and place in a warm, dry place to rise. It should take about an hour until it doubles in bulk.
When the dough has risen, punch it down. Yep, that dough you’ve worked so hard to raise now gets the crap beaten out of it. But don’t worry, it’ll puff up again. Take the beaten dough and knead/roll it into a long log-about 3-ish feet. Using a sharp knife or scraper, cut the log in half. Then cut each piece in half, and then each of those pieces in half. You’ll end up with 16 mini dough balls. These will produce a nice sized bagel, roughly the diameter of a large orange. If you want the extra jumbo size bagels. cut the dough into 12 pieces. Whatever floats your boat. Take each dough ball and work the dough, tucking it under itself to form a smooth rounded and semi flat shape. Using your fingers, break a hole in the middle and gently pull and smooth it out to form the bagel shape. Repeat till all the bagels are formed. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes only!
The second rise time is extremely important and must be followed to a “t”. If you let the bagels rise too much the second time, then they will deflate in the water bath and in the oven. Trust me on this. No longer than 15 minutes.
While the bagels are rising, add 3 TBS of granulated sugar and about 6 quarts of water into an 8 quart pot and boil on high heat.
Now, to prepare the pans..Coat 2 large baking sheets with about 2 TBS of veggie oil (for each sheet) then liberally sprinkle corn meal over the oil (about 2-3 TBS for each sheet) Set aside.
After the bagels have risen (how long?…yep 15 minutes!) it’s time to take a dip! Add the bagels to the boiling water bath, 3-4 at a time, depending on the size of the bagels. You don’t want them touching each other because they will rise a bit in the water bath. Ok, here’s important time #2…Let bagels boil for about 25-30 seconds, then flip and boil for another 25-30 seconds. Do not let the bagels boil for longer than 1 minute! Scoop them up gently and place them on the cookie sheets.
Now it’s time for toppings! Brush each bagel with some of the egg wash (egg whites and water-about a tablespoon of water for each egg white-one is more than enough for a single batch-and beat till frothy). Top with whatever you like and then pop them in the pre-heated over (at 425 degrees F) for about 30 minutes. Racks should be set to the middle two placements. Usually about 1/2 way through, I’ll reverse the sheet’s placements, so that they will brown evenly.
Another little trick I like to do is to fill a small baking dish about 1/2 way with water and set it on the very lowest rack while the bagels are baking. This helps to keep the moisture level up in the oven and gives the bagels a wonderful crust, too!
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy with butter, cream cheese-whatever you like!
Ok, yes, it may actually take less time to drive somewhere and buy the damn things. But doing it my way has a couple of advantages. First, the gratification that comes when you take your first bite of a freshly baked bagel that you’ve created yourself is, quite frankly, second to none. Second, if you do it my way, you save on gas money, don’t have to put make up on and get to stay in your jammies for a little while longer on a Saturday morning. It’s a no brainer if you ask me.
I hope you are inspired to try these babies out. They really are delish, super easy and a whole lotta fun to make (I’m thinking if you have kids, this would be a great activity to try with them!) and hey, if you spritz a little water on your face, followed by a dusting of flour and put on your best “Oh, I slaved over a hot oven to bake these for you” expression, In addition to the “ooohhs” and “aaahhs” you’re bound to get, I bet you even won’t have to clean up the dishes.
In other news, the webisodes are coming along very nicely and we are planning a viewing party in mid May, with the webisodes starting to air right after the premier. Stay tuned for more details. I’m also still working on that “Hunger Games” inspired Lamb and Dried Plum stew for both the blog and a webisode (you can bet I’ll be sporting a braid and a bow and arrow for that one-hee hee!)
I hope you guys are enjoying the gorgeous spring weather and I’ll be back soon with more fun stuff from the front lines of modern domesticity…
Until next time…Have fun-and be fearless!