The weather lately has been very January-middle-of-winterish. No sun. Spots of rain. Dark days. One day without sun in January in St. Louis is like a month of sunless days. Not that I thought it possible, but I think I'm actually getting "paler".
Bagels baking in oven equals instant "happy". This is why being a Yankee at heart has helped me persevere during winter. Dr. Thyme and I both harbor the same grudge against the winter backdrop. We run in the misery-loves-company circle. Though I must say, he being of Irish descent (full of the blarney) does make him much more of a "glass-is-half-full" sort of spirit against my own "the-hell-it-is" mindset. I am wired differently is all. Again, it's the northener in me. It's the indifference in me. He seems to take these days with a grain of salt and manages nicely through it all and I love him for that.
Meantime, I pour through recipes in my collection of cookbooks looking for even the slightest glimmer of hope for the next Great. Baking. Experience. For the therapy baking experience. After all, I have a new "baking center" in the kitchen. I need only place myself in front of the the shelf of flour jars to be inspired, right?
Enter: The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. One of my favorite baking books by far (though I would love it more if she were to release a Whole Grain Bread Bible). Being from the school of, "I like to read before I bake anything" works well with Rose's recipes. Strategy and timing are also important when tackling a four page recipe. Which then leads me hunting down the post-it notes so I can label each step of the dough making process to time everything just right so the next "mixing" or "shaping" process is not somehow missed. My fridge takes on this mad scientist look. Covered plastic containers of all shapes and sizes, different colored post-its on them, different noted dates and times crammed here and there. But. . . I like "processes".
For Rose's bagel process, you make a sponge first--a wet mixture of a pancake-batter-like consistency, topped with the dry dough mixture. Sprinkle the dry over the sponge, place in fridge overnight--the wet mixture will bubble through the dry--this is a good thing. She says to allow the sponge/dough to sit at room temperature for an hour before placing in fridge overnight, but because I usually end up making my dough the hour before my head hits the pillow in the evening, it is fine to just mix both, and place in the fridge right away. Next day, mix your sponge and dough together in the mixer. Time for second rise. I used her HALF recipe (five bagels vs. ten) because my KitchenAid blender will only handle five cups of flour--then place in fridge for one more night. (You don't need another night, I just prefer this to proceeding with the final rise on the second day. The dough, to me, tastes better on the third day.) So. . . third morning, I remove the dough from the fridge and begin the shaping, rising and boiling process. One other thing worth noting--Rose instructs to add ground pepper to the dough. Not a ton. And certainly not enough to cause the dough to take on a "peppery" flavor. I did a double take when I read this. But I completely trust her. And glad I did. The pepper adds this mysterious quality to the dough. I can't explain it. But just follow the instruction on this and don't skip it. Finally, the shaping and. . . hand-meeting-dough--which elicits a big smile and, at least for a moment, puts me in a happy place.
Rose's bagels are sublime. I've made Peter Reinhart's bagels. If my memory serves me, I would have to say, Rose's bagels, so far, are my personal favorite. They aren't dense. They bake up crisp and chewy--light and airy--if a bagel can be called "light and airy". They make for the best toast ever. They are just gorgeous. They are like nothing you'll ever find in a bakery. A perfect winter pick-me-up. (Especially now.) In the photo above, I went with Rose's suggestion to roll a piece of the dough out and fold the dough over on itself like so. Pinch the ends so they won't come apart when you boil the bagel. The other option for shaping the bagel instructs you to make a round ball of dough, then stick your finger through the middle. I prefer the roll-and-pinch method. It's a personal choice. (Though I found a few of my "pinched" bagels did come apart--it was an easy fix. Just re-pinch the ends before baking.)
Ready for boiling.
Bagels boiling in water with added molasses and baking soda give the bagel a beautiful amber color once they've finished baking.
I was happy while I involved myself with Rose's bagels in the middle of January. I highly recommend Rose's, The Bread Bible. It's worth every penny. Or check your local library for a copy. I searched for a link to her recipe if you felt inclinded to try your hand at bagel making (and I'd rather promote her book and recipe vs. just sharing a link or typing my own version out). After much searching, however, I did come across a rather good discussion thread at bread-bakers.com where a kind baker took the best of both worlds and shared his own bagel recipe: a Reinhart and Levy combination bagel recipe. You will need to halve the recipe listed in the thread (as I had to do with Rose's recipe--another reason to get the book, she offers the exact quantity bagel recipe to accomodate a five-cup stand mixer for making five bagels vs. ten). The discussion thread on bagel making is here. I found a lot of helpful tips here as well. Hope this inspires you to get bagel making. Here's to some sunny January days. . . soon!