A long time ago I owned a bread machine. With that machine I made my husband (then boyfriend) batches of everything bagels on a bi-weekly basis. It was so easy to dump all of the ingredients in, leave the machine unattended for 3-1/2 hours, then boil and bake the bagel dough until golden brown. Well, three years ago we bought a house. A very small house with a kitchen that lacks any kind of storage space, especially space for a clunky bread machine. So, three years ago Brian stopped getting homemade bagels for breakfast and instead made do with bagels from the local shop, sliced then frozen then thawed when desired. And, for three years he’s been asking me to start making homemade bagels again.
I agreed to get rid of the bread machine not only because we had zero space for it, but also because I thought it would be a way to force myself to learn how to bake yeast breads from scratch. It seemed like a great idea since I already loved to bake cookies and muffins and quick breads – Brian even bought me a beautiful book to help in my endeavors. Unfortunately, the arrival of that book in our house coincided with my first semester of graduate school, which means that nary a loaf nor bagel was baked as I studied the affect of wind on structures and built teeny, tiny models of buildings at all hours of the night. Although I’ve been out of school for a full year now, I’ve just recently begun tackling yeast breads. And two weeks ago, much to Brian’s delight, I tackled bagels.
It really wasn’t a difficult task, making bagels from scratch, especially with Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice as my tutor. Yes it was handy to have the bread machine take care of all of the mixing and kneading and resting and kneading again, without my having to keep an eye on a clock. However, with a little forethought and a a stand mixer (I’m sure you could make these with a handheld mixer and a lot of elbow grease, but I’m not that brave) the bagels can be started Saturday evening and baked up just in time for Sunday morning breakfast. And they are delicious – so much better than the bread machine bagels of our past. The overnight fermentation process adds a great flavor that you just can’t match in 3-1/2 hours.
Now, I’m not from New York or Philadelphia or any other city whose residents claim that they have the *best* bagel. I didn’t grow up eating bagels every week so don’t have the kind of nostalgia associated with them that so many other people have. I don’t claim to have had the best bagel of my life when I was growing up in such-and-such city, and certainly haven’t spent my life trying to find one that compares. So, while I can’t personally claim that this bagel will match the bagel of your past, I do trust Peter Reinhart when he claims that this is a bagel for the ages.
This recipe produces a bagel with a chewy exterior, soft interior and endless possibilities for toppings. I froze ours in gallon-size bags once they had cooled, and simply microwaved them for 30 seconds before slicing and toasting when we were ready to eat them. The flavor and texture were still perfect.
Before typing out the [rather lengthy] recipe, I did a quick search to see if I could find a link online. Luckily, Smitten Kitchen came through. For Peter Reinhart’s bagel recipe, from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, click here.