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Making Bagels - My Journey

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ehanner's picture
ehanner

Making Bagels - My Journey

I have been working on learning to mix, shape, ferment properly, boil and bake Bagels. Everyone in our household and all of my friends and neighbors likes these delicious breads and are happy I have taken up with this obsession.I have migrated to using Hamelman's formula for home bakers which makes 12-120 gram bagels. It's a very simple ingredient list, adding only malt powder to the basic 4. When I am making a batch destined for my In-Laws, I swap whole milk for 20% of the water to make the crumb softer. There are lots of bagel recipes out there. I say, find your favorite multi grain recipe and mix it to 58-60 % hydration. I frequently make a 20% rye or WW mix which we love. That's what is shown below.

There are a lot of small nuggets of information in the text below. I have discovered there are many variables and "must do" bits of advice out there on this subject. I want to finally get to the bottom of this and find out what matters and what doesn't

My personal goal is to find an easy way to make delicious Bagels quickly in the morning. No complicated thinking at 5:30 AM please. It's a two day process, and the putsey stage is the evening before, mixing, kneading and shaping. The next morning, I get up, turn on the oven to 500F, turn on the stove to boil the water I drew the evening before. It takes 45 minutes to bring my stone up to 430F. So at 45 minutes I boil the first set of 3 bagels and prepare them for baking. I leave the sheet pans in the refrigerator until just before I'm ready to boil the dough in the water. No bench time to warm the dough. They usually float right off and I'm only using 1/2 teaspoon of IDY instead of the 3/4 tsp Hamelman calls for.

My first major discovery was that I could make at least as good of a dough by hand as I could by machine. It is far easier to work the flour and water together by hand than it is to try to use my DLX mixer fitted with the dough hook. The DLX isn't taxed by the job but at 58% hydration, the dough just doesn't wan t to be moved, once the gluten starts to form and become strong. I can stand there pushing and prying the strong dough into position so it will travel around the bowl and be forced between the bowl and hook. Honestly it's much easier to just combine the ingredients by hand in the bowl. A series of 3 stretch and folds at 20 minute intervals will produce a beautiful smooth dough and well developed gluten.

The next thing I wanted to understand is the whole shaping thing and if the requirement to refrigerate overnight is warranted. I am convinced that the slow extended fermenting in the refrigerator is a beneficial step in developing a better flavor. AND, if you shape your bagels right after mixing/fermenting briefly, they stick together and don't come unglued in the boiling water. As a sub set of shaping I get best results when using the dog bone shape and then grinding the ends together as shown in Ciril Hitz video on bagels The pre-shaping method Hitz demonstrates is beautiful. I had to watch it several times to fully appreciate the subtle aspects of his technique. He uses the Dog Bone roll out which I have found works perfectly if I remember to remove one finger and "grind" out the joint using 3 fingers. If you are at all perplexed about making bagels, do your self a favor and watch the Hirtz video.

The next decision is weather or not to use ice water after the boil as Hamelman suggests or to place the boiled circles on a rack to cool and dry briefly before seeding. Hamelman says to boil 1 minute each side, Hitz says 10 seconds. I like my results using a 1 minute per side. As for the ice water bath or not, I think Hitz method of a shorter boiling time followed by cooling/drying on a rack works fine and simplifies the production line on the stove top. I don't see any benefit of adding an ice water bath. It's just one more thing to mess with, adding ice after each batch.

I wanted to be a purist and use bagel boards. If I was using a rotating oven in a production setting, bagel boards would be the answer to drying out the bottoms and getting a well done product. After baking maybe 15 batches of bagels during the last few Months, most using my home made red wood boards. I can see a minor difference on the bottom but certainly nothing that would indicate the need to flip the bagels over after a few minutes. This process is risky for me and I frequently end up having one or more not turned  over properly and need to go in the back of the oven with tongs to fix my errors. It is way easier to seed the dough after the rack and place them on the parchment they proofed on in the cooler. The sheet pan slides in on top of the stone nicely. Yes, I have been steaming when I bake on a sheet pan. The wet webbing on the  boards negates the need for additional steam.

One other small thing I have found I can eliminate that makes the process a little cleaner is to skip the corn meal. I noticed Hitz places his seeded bagels on clean parchment where most other authors say to sprinkle cornmeal on the proofing sheet. I have been spraying a light coat of Pam on the parchment to make it easier to remove the cold dough from the paper, with out disfiguring the shape on the way to the hot water. The boiling water stays cleaner and there is no down side after baking. So again I find the Hitz method to be preferable.

The last big question is what to put in the water, if anything. I have tried a heaping Tablespoon of Baking Soda, Barley Malt Syrup, Honey, Molasses and Sorghum Syrup. Oh and also plain old water too. Hamelman says use enough Malted Barley to make a dark tea. That's about 2 tablespoons. Hitz says something similar or to use honey for a slightly sweet flavor on the crust.  Honestly, I can't taste any difference but it does smell nice when the barley is steaming in the pot. All of the add in ingredients smell great in the pot but not much of that good aroma is transferred to the bread product. So, if you feel like you have a pallet that is sophisticated enough to notice, go for it. But if you thought you had to wait for another day because you didn't have Malted Barley, don't bother waiting. The crusts MIGHT be a wee bit softer, less crispy if you use a syrup. Take a good hard look at the photo below of two bagels side by side. One was boiled in clean water, one was boiled in water with a large scoop of Baking Soda. Both have a soft sheen and are very close to the same color. Both boiled for 2 minutes total,  17 minutes @500F with steam for 4 minutes on a sheet pan.

I hope this lengthy write up is of interest to those of you who have hesitated in making Bagels. I know they seemed complicated from start to finish at first. I was sure if I did a few batches I could make uncomplicated the process and gather the proper equipment to be able to easily make authentic NY style water bagels.

Eric

Column 1 and 4 are boiled in water only. 2 and 3 had Baking Soda added.

Can you tell which bagel was boiled in water only and which had baking soda mixed in? I had expected the one with baking soda to be darker. If there is a color difference, I'd say the one on the left is slightly darker. That's the water only version.


The crumb structure is still more open than I would like. I have reduced the amount of yeast and I am lowering the DDT temp to try and control the activity. But, it looks pretty good now and has a nice chew. This is 80% All Trumps High Gluten flour and 20% fresh ground WW from Country Creations (Flourgirl51).


Baked on parchment on a sheet pan. Certainly not burned and just a nice crisp crust on the bottom.

 

 

Comments

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

While I've made bagels quite a few times and they're always good, yours look extra good. I bet the whole wheat is delicious. I've copied your excellent post and hope to give them a try this week.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks Weavershouse. I hope you find it helpful.

Eric

jcking's picture
jcking

Great write-up with a few hints that I will use. I've only done bagels once, ala Reinhart, and they came out okay. With your suggestions my next batch will surely improve. I've also taken your suggestion (on other posts) of hand mixing to heart; it has improved my baking results. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience and talent.

Keep rising,

Jim

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I hope you find something useful.

Eric

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

I'll make bagels : )  I certainly enjoyed reading and learning from your excellent post!  Just what I think would be 'my kind of bagel baking day, I would enjoy!  I'm certainly not a bagel eater..but when I do have one, for some reason I just have to have some sort of fruit in it...so I guess I'm definately not a bagel purist : )  but I really like yours and, have saved your post in my favorites!  I also wish I could find more uses for my mixers, but it's hard to beat the old hands and, I love CH video's/baking too!

Sylvia

ehanner's picture
ehanner

My wife was in town yesterday and was stopping at Trader Joe's. I had asked her to bring home some frozen blueberries for today's bake. Unfortunately they didn't have any frozen and that's the best way to incorporate them from my experience. Next time.

I agree, Hitz is masterful in so many ways. I marvel at his dough handling abilities. Something to aspire to.

Eric

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Oh, I bet those would have been tasty with the wheat!  Have you tried adding fresh blueberries?  I really perfer using fresh but, if they don't work?  I image the dough to be to firm for incorporating a fresh fruit..frozen would be great too!

 I love the flavor and using the dried tart cherries and cranberries.  Once I tasted my purchased frozen blueberries...I don't know if it was just the bag of small wild frozen blueberries..but they had no flavor compared to the ones...I freeze,... my own fresh now..I just rinse, dry and freeze fresh ones..delicious.  Frozen fruit keeps so well and for a long time.  That reminds me...I have some sliced fresh season peaches..I froze them, pie ready, in my pie pan..when frozen firm..remove them from the pie pan and placed into a plastic freezer bag...ready for my next pie day!

Sylvia

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Sylvia, I'm sure you are right about the home grown fruit tasting better. I add the frozen at the last fold and am careful not to crush it. The fresh we have around here is a short season so I've not tried freezing my own.

Audra has a brother that has blueberry bushes and she says she freezes gallons of them with no trouble for later use. We don't have much of a peach crop either. In Michigan they have great peaches.

Eric

lumos's picture
lumos

Great write-up, Eric.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

best wishes,

lumos

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thank you lumos.

Eric

Sjadad's picture
Sjadad

Thanks Eric. I've had success using Reinhart's formula and technique from BBA, but the shaping has always been an issue for me. I also wondered about the water add-ins. Unfortunately most non-home made bagels these days are mediocre at best, and just torus-shaped white bread at worst. Home made is the only reliable way to get a true, authentic bagel.

Sjadad

ehanner's picture
ehanner

PR's BBA recipe was my first attempt many years ago too. I think I could have saved myself a lot of trouble had the Hitz video been available. There are many recipes that incorporate oil in the dough which I don't care for. I like the little bit of a crispy crust from the basic 4 plus malt.

Eric

trailrunner's picture
trailrunner

with 100 % sourdough. I have used the formula on Wild Yeast a lot of times over the past months and posted pics. They are completely fool proof so no ice baths or worry about floating ...no problem with complete browning or too open crumb.  No stone needed and no steaming. They are chewy and delicious and you can't mess them up no matter if you boil 1 minute or 20 sec. ...I have done both. Give it a try...really ...so much easier . And shaping is a breeze. They come together with only a spritz of water at the joining point. I like the " flap" to show...it was pointed out to me that that was not " good". But it looks like a home made bagel ! 

Yours are gorgeous and I loved reading all that brought you to those lovely bagels. c

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I've made the sourdough version many times. It isn't any easier and SD introduces the variable of activity level.  I like the way the dough feels better but there is little flavor distinction between their yeasted cousins IMHO. I was doing a post to demystify and clarify the process for the greatest percentage of our population who use yeast as a riser. The picture you paint where nothing matters and everything is perfect, no matter how badly you cobble it up, sounds too easy for me. I prefer a challenge.

Eric

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Eric,
Thank you so much for this post so we can all benefit from your experience.
Your bagels are lovely and such a nice result with a hand mix!
:^) from breadsong

 

 

varda's picture
varda

I have used Hamelman a couple of times (and never anything else), and watched Hitz's shaping video which helped immensely.   I had never questioned things like the ice water bath, and now you've got me thinking, since that's a real pain.   I have even resorted to putting the bagels in the freezer right after the boil, since it's hard to use the ice water for multiple batches as they come out of the hot water.    Next time I make bagels I'll read your post over again.   -Varda

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I have great respect for Hamelman, Reinhart, Hitz, Mike Avery, Norm Berg/Stan Ginsberg and Secrets of a Jewish baker. There are differences between them all in method and technique. When I come across a conflict like this, I tend to question everything and sort it out on my own. Not having to fool with the ice water is a help to the process IMO. The old NY bagel shops didn't do that and the videos I have seen from the big bagel bakeries where they use boards don't either. The bagel boards introduce water/steam to the process and help to hold the seeds on. I'm all for easier without compromising quality.

Eric

proth5's picture
proth5

I always marvel at when I get to work with the big dogs of baking is their incredible hand skills - and their strongly held and sometimes completely opposite views on this or that.  Sounds like you are doing well on sorting things out.

Nice bagels.  I was just thinking that I should get back to some bagel making - and since the milling operation is getting back into full swing - I'll need to add some triticale :>)

BTW: I couldn't resist a toy - the folding proofer is on pre-order...

Pat

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Pat,

It's surprising how much I learn when I do the same a few times. I'm enjoying the bagels now more than ever. Congrats on the folding proofer. I think you will like it, especially when the temps get down. I hear from my BIL there 3 ski slopes open in CO already.

Eric

proth5's picture
proth5

Snow in the mountains (we did have, as I like to call it, "the last snow of summer" this year) and 80F in Denver.  This is why we love Colorado....

 

ww's picture
ww

Hi Eric,

Very nice-looking bagels. I've only ever used Hamelman's recipe and it worked fine so I'm sticking to it for now, although I must experiment with Lumos' ww ones and sourdough ones one day.

So hand-folding at intervals works huh? Who would have thought with such a hard dough. I took Hamelman's advice to really work the gluten in the mixer and I must say it came together in a cinch with high-protein flours but I must try the hand-folding too.

Like you, I ditched the ice water bath on my second attempt. I couldn't see what difference it made, and most of all, it's hard to keep a bowl of ice water very cold when you keep dumping boiling hot things into it, so the original purpose of the cold water would be nullified anyway. Also I place the bagels on dishcloths after fishing them out from the pot. I found that placing them on parchment just made everything very wet and messy. It's only a couple of minutes before I gather enough bagels to transfer into the oven on parchment. Has worked fine so far. I find that they are still pretty moist and sizzling when they hit the oven. There's quite a bit of steam generated.

Have ever tried freezing pre-baked bagels? I wonder if using Hamelman's formula, right after shaping, if I were to freeze them, then thaw them overnight in the fridge, they would not be over-fermented. I want to make bagels for different pp at different times, and as we all know, the only good bagel is a freshly made one ;))

I've used blackstrap molasses and honey and I prefer the former. Have you see txfarmer's beautiful lye bagels posted recently? Apparently that gives a slightly different taste as well, in addition to being a beautiful reddish brown.

lumos's picture
lumos

I may be wrong, but my 2 pence on the ice water.

My guess is that  that part of instruction was really for a commercial baker (but not a huge one with huge equipments)  who need to make much larger batches of bagels than us making 10-12 bagels at a time. It may make a difference if you're making a large numbers of bagels, having to boil them in several batches.  Dunking them in the icy water would stop them from over-proofed while waiting for a while for the rest of bagels to be boiled. 

Also I've read in one of bagel books I have that if you leave boiled bagels too long (like more than several minutes) you may end up with winkly skinned bagels, not smooth and shiny one we all like. Cooling the surface in icy water may help to prevent it, too.  A few of Japanese bread blogs/sites that mention about the effects of iced water say it would increase the chewiness of the crumb. But if that's true, I have a feeling it's also because cooling them after boiled will stop them from over-proofed making them more bread-y than bagel-y.

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

You might be right. But if you look at the Hitz video, he says to boil 10 seconds and place to cool on a wire rack. That is clearly a process aimed at the crust. A short boil then air dry and bake. Yes it would be harder for a commercial operation to prevent over proofing but in the videos I have seen they lift a dozen or so out of the water bath and dump them in a trough in front of the oven. There is always a water hose and they sometimes spray them down with cold water before being placed on the boards. For our purposes, I think a short time in the bath followed by a brief time on the rack to dry and cool some accomplishes the same thing, 3 at a time in my case.

Eric

lumos's picture
lumos

10 seconds is quite a short time for boiling, isn't it? It may not warm the dough enough to cause over-proofing. 

But, anyway, yes, I agree. I don't think ice water procedure is not an absolute necessity for making bagels at home in small scale.  I use a large, deep roasting pan for boiling that takes 6 bagels at a time, and put the boiled one on a tea towel to get rid of excess water, while I put another six in the boiling water. While they are boiling I put the first batch in the oven, adding the second batch when they are boiled, taking the first batch out of the oven first and then the second batch  a few minutes later.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Eric,

Lovely bagels!  And a helpful write-up, too.

A question: you mention that the water that will be used for boiling the bagels is drawn the night before, rather than the morning of, baking.  What does that contribute to the process or to the product?  

Paul

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Lol It's funny you picked up on that about the water. My well water comes out of the ground at45F so I let it warm on the stove overnight. When I arise at 5:30 or so, it has warmed to 65 +- and saves me the time and energy of heating cold water. I wish it was more interesting, I'm just weird like that. Lol

Eric

You must be about to draw the shades and lock the door.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I couldn't decide whether it was intended reduce chlorine content or serve some other purpose.  And now I know.  Thanks.

Paul 

Bread Buddy's picture
Bread Buddy

I would like to know if anyone has ever experimented with freezing bagels after the boiling stage then baking them up at a later time.  This would work very well for me (if the quality does not suffer) to have a few fresh bagels when I want them. 

If anyone has done this do you bake the bagels frozen or should they be thawed first?

 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I've never done that (freezing after boiling) but you can freeze the cooled baked bagels easily and reheat them in the toaster. Actually my daughter likes to slice them first and then put them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer.A couple minutes in the toaster and they are indistinguishable from fresh baked.

If you are determined to freeze them before baking, I would do so after proofing and passing the float test with one. You will have to thaw them before boiling regardless, either overnight in the fridge, slowly, which requires planning, or on the counter which will take a couple hours. For some reason, thawing in a microwave seems to toughen the bread in my experience. Hope this helps.

Eric

codruta's picture
codruta

Excellent write-up, Eric. I always thought Bagels are complicated, but you made me wanna try it. I've never eaten or made bagels before, so... I don't even know what to expect of it. But seing a lot of guys here excited about bagels, I start to think I might be missing something good.

Ciril makes it look easy, but I'm sure it's not. I don't have malt, unfortunatelly. But I intend to try them anyway. Thanx for the inspiration, Eric.

Codruta

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Codruta,

try swapping out some honey for the malt. Or find a beer brewer who will have some no doubt. They are delicious and they carry well. Good luck and if you have questions, please don't hesitate.

Eric

Cherry_Darling's picture
Cherry_Darling

Hi Ehanner

I was wondering if you could help with a question: to save morning time could I boil the bagel in the evening and ten let it rest overnight before just popping them in the oven in the morning?

Also the recipe I use says boil for 7 minutes each, which makes the bagels absolutely huge, though I am yet to find out how they taste. (They are in the oven now) 

Many thanks :o) 

 

CD

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Hello CD,

I wouldn't boil then the night before. The water will come to a boil as the oven is warming. I've never seen a 7 minute boil. If the dough is shaped the evening before and given a bench rest of an hour before refrigerating, you only need 45 seconds on each side or maybe a minute. That's just at a simmer too. Then apply seeds or topping and bake pronto. My favorite recipe for a yeast bagel is the one in Hamelman's Bread. I'm still mixing by hand and doing stretch and folds. Works every time. Let me know how yours work out.

Eric

Cherry_Darling's picture
Cherry_Darling

I dont know why this recipe says 7, but it turns the bread soggy and looking like its uncooked! Not doing that again :( Ill be surprised if my boyfriend eats from this batch. Ill have to try out the Hamelmans next time. 

Thanks Eric!