Okay, it’s Valentines Day– we get it. Everywhere you look there are chocolates and cakes shaped like hearts. Everyone on facebook has changed their profile picture to a shot of them and their beloved embracing, kissing or canoodling. Don’t get me wrong, I love love, but having a “day of love” feels pretty contrived to me. Plus, I worked in the floral industry for seven wonderful years, and I know that there is nothing, NOTHING in this world that will turn you off of Valentine’s Day like the dread of de-thorning 2000 roses, and then hastily wrapping and arranging dozen after dozen for dazed, slightly panicked-looking men, shopping for their wives, girlfriends, mothers and mistresses at the LAST MINUTE. Okay, I know I am the Valentine’s Grinch. Oh well.
How about some Bagels?!
Nothing says love like a chewy, doughy bagel, smothered with your favorite spread.
Now you may have noticed that I love making bread. But for some time, I have been wary of experimenting with bagel-making because the whole boiling and then baking ordeal seemed daunting somehow. But then my friends Ryan and Kate started a blog a couple months ago, and one of the very first things they made: bagels. Now I don’t often let my competitive side get the better of me (okay maybe that’s not true…), but I was like “What?! Bagels? You guys have been blogging for five minutes and you make bagels?” From that moment I knew doing a bagel post would be on my mind until its fruition…and really, what’s a little healthy competition between friends. Try theirs, try mine, and let us know what worked for you.
Egg Bagels, adpated from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 1/2 cups water
2 packages (5 tsp) active dry yeast
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs at room temp
7 1/2 cups flour (I used 4 cups all purpose and about 3 1/2 cups of whole wheat)
1 1/2 Tbs salt (yes, Tablespoons)
1 large egg, beaten (for brushing the bagels)
Sesame or poppy seeds for sprinkling (optional)
In a saucepan, combine the potatoes and water, bring to a boil and cook until fork tender ~10 minutes. Drain, reserving the water for the water for the dough (the potatoes can be refrigerated for another use)
Measure 2 cups of the potato water into a large bowl and let cool to room warm ~ 100 F. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and eggs and use a wire whisk to combine. Whisk in 2 cups of the flour (if you are using both AP and whole wheat, begin with the AP) and the salt and mix with a wooden spoon or on a stand mixer, with the dough hook, for about 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining flour about 1 cup at a time, until a soft cough forms. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5-7 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed.
Form the dough into a ball and transfer it a lightly oiled bowl. Turn the dough over to coat it in the oil and cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough and turn it onto a very lightly floured work surface once more. Cut it into quarters and cut each quarter into 3 equal pieces (it helps to use a kitchen scale for this, but as long as your pieces are more or less the same size they will bake evenly). Using your palms, roll each piece into a 10-inch long rope (keep the dough you are not working with, lightly covered). Using the heel of your hand, flatten the end of each rope. Form each bagel by overlapping the flat end of the rope over 1-inch of the round end. Pinch together firmly- otherwise the ends will separate while bagels boil.
As the bagels are formed, set them aside on a lightly floured surface. Cover the bagels loosely with a kitchen towel and let them rest until they are slightly puffy ~15 minutes.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat to 425 F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Lightly brush the parchment with oil or spray with cooking spray.
Fill a large, wide (use the widest you have) pot 3/4 full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Using a large slotted spoon, gently lower 3 bagels into the water. Do not crowd them or they will become misshapen. Simmer 1 minute then turn over and simmer 1 minute longer. Transfer the bagels to the prepared pan, spacing them 1-inch apart. Repeat until all bagels are boiled. (I used 2 half-sheet pans with 6 bagels per pan).
Brush bagels with the beaten egg and sprinkle with seeds if using. Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes, Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.