Mountainside Water Bagels

#RecipeUpTop (details follow):

100% bread flour;
60% water;
10% vegetable oil;
2% salt;
1% active dry yeast

Combine ingredients and kneed until the dough passes the window-pane test. Let rise until doubled in size, then shape into bagels and proof for 20 minutes. Simmer in water laced with molasses for 2 minutes per side. Top with desired seasoning, and bake at 400F for 40 minutes.

The Details

We founded this life experiment on a web of principles that all seem to intersect with bagels. We wanted to decrease our cost of living, increase our self-sufficiency, learn some new skills, and hopefully live a little better as a result.

Bagels touch on all of these points. Supporting a bagel habit can get pricey, and even at that, buying them from the grocery store often yields super-dense and disappointing bread-bombs. But they are also mysterious and complicated enough to discourage many a would-be baker from even trying.

Well, I have a recipe that is made with basic things everyone should have lying around their kitchen or pantry: flour, water, salt, yeast, veg oil, and molasses. It can all be made same-day, or partially done in advance and finished in the morning. And, it’s endlessly adaptable once you have it down. (Bagel dogs?)

When I’m doing any kind of baking, I lock the measuring cups away and go purely on weight. The percentages I gave at the top are the ratio of the different ingredients to the overall weight of the flour. This allows for the recipe to be scaled up or down easily without worrying about volumetric measurements or fractions.

All of this will make sense shortly, I promise.

For this recipe, and by way of example, we’ll be using 1,000 grams of bread flour. Based on that, the other ingredients will be: 600 grams of water (60% of the weight of the flour); 100 grams of vegetable oil (10%); 20 grams of salt (2%); and 10 grams of yeast (1%).

Step one: Get all of the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and yeast) into a big mixing bowl, then pour over the water, then the oil:

The beauty of the kitchen scale, and how it works in this recipe, is I can add all of my ingredients directly into the bowl while keeping an eye on the readout. Add flour until it reads 1,000 grams, then zero out the scale, and add water until it says 600 grams, etc. My only caution here is to go slowly with the more dense ingredients, like water. If your scale readout has a lag-time, you may overshoot your target.

Step two: mix the dough to thoroughly combine, then kneed it. I’m using a stand mixer here at first, but this can easily be done by hand. You’ll feel the dough come together, and become elastic.

It’s starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Turned out onto a floured surface.

Even when I use the stand mixer, I always do a final kneed by hand, if only to get a feel for the dough and to help shape it for the first rise.

Step three: shape the dough into a ball, cover it with a towel, and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, approximately three (3) hours:

Step four: turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape it into two snakes:

You can see how the dough doesn’t bounce back from my fingerprints. This is a good sign of a proper rise.

Step five: This is where your first bit of decision-making comes in. How big do you want your bagels? We’re going to divide the dough here, and I’ll admit I actually do it somewhat unevenly on purpose. I kind of like having an end batch with some big ol’ chonkers well suited to lox and fresh tomato, but also some smaller snack-size. Regardless, go ahead and divide the dough:

Step six: roll ’em all into balls, and put them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or silicon baking mats:

Step seven: Shaping the bagels. Pick up one of your dough balls and pinch through it with your thumb and index finger, making a hole. Then, whirl the bagel around your finger and let the centrifugal force of the bagel’s own weight do the work. You don’t need to be gentile here. Also, you’re going to want to shoot to make the holes a lot larger than you think you’ll need, as they’ll shrink up during the cooking process:


Cover these with kitchen towels and let them sit for twenty (20) minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400F. You do not want to go to the next step until your oven is hot:

Step eight: Boil some water and add a little molasses. How much? Well, that’s up to you. Our next step is simmering these bagels in the water before heading to the oven. The molasses adds a little of that characteristic subtle sweetness we associate with a good bagel, and as you’ll recall, there’s zero sugar in the dough. Take a look at the photo below and see the color of the water. That’s what you’re going for.

Traditionally, malt syrup is used instead of molasses. But, well, molasses is cheap, and I have it around because I use it in lots of other things. If you really want to go the extra mile, go ahead and track down some malt syrup. Truth be told, I’ve even used a little brown sugar in a pinch, so don’t feel that you have to obsess over this.

Step nine: Simmer the bagels in batches for two minutes a side. OF NOTE: do not, do not, do not boil the living berjeebers out of them. One of the biggest failures in bagel-making is developing shriveled, wrinkly, deflated bagels. The causes for this, I’ve determined, are: (1) over-proofing the shaped bagels (meaning letting them sit too long between shaping and simmering); (2) boiling them too hard or too long; and (3) letting them sit on a cold counter top post-simmer (hence the importance of pre-heating the oven). Simmer away, gently:

Don’t overcrowd your pot because these are going to puff up

Evacuate your simmered bagels back to the cookie sheets, top with your desired seasoning (I’m partial to the “everything” shaker), and get them into the oven. I’ve had the best results with getting the simmered bagels into the hot oven, even while I’m still simmering the next batch, then adding those when they’re ready. If you really, really need to, you can cover them with a towel on the counter, but you may get some deflating/wrinkling.

Once they’re all in the oven, bake for forty (40) minutes, then remove to a rack to cool.

I left one plain to show the color you should be shooting for

Let them cool completely (or as much as your will power will allow) in order to make sure the internal crumb sets correctly. You’ll be rewarded with something that looks like this:

Light and fluffy, but still chewy.

And there you have it. Make a half batch. Make a double batch. Cover some with poppy seeds and others with dried onion. Smear them with cream cheese and fresh chives, or make the world’s best egg sandwich. Go nuts with your new bagel wizardry.

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