RECIPE. Jan 1, 2010

Whole Wheat Bagels

As a new skier I become mildly terrified when teetering above a large downhill. I think “I can’t do this” or “I am going to die trying to conquer this hill”. Eventually, I take a deep breath and just fly down the mountain, heart beating, adrenaline rushing through my muscles until I stop at the bottom and proclaim “That wasn’t so bad”. What does this story have to do with cooking? Let me just tell you I felt the same way about yeast. This is an ingredient that is finicky, touchy and a little snide at times. It isn’t easy to please and a whole hours worth of work can easily be tossed due to it’s refusal to merely bubble.

I have avoided this hill of baked goods for months, consoling myself by mastering those recipes at which I excelled. Then the day came when I could no longer avoid the challenge.

I walked to our local bakery when first moving to Olympia and expected a great whole wheat bagel breakfast. To my dismay they did not carry whole wheat bagels and neither did the other bakeries. Grocery store brands were a very poor substitute and Trader Joes had not yet opened. I realized the day had come. I had to conquer the yeast hill. I frantically scoured the internet to find a recipe that didn’t make my anxiety shoot off the charts. Most took too much time and effort for little product. I stumbled upon one or two that appeared within my grasp. After several epic failures (four to be exact), I settled on just the right one, taken from I tried messing with different versions such as pure whole wheat flour and all white whole wheat and whole wheat bread flour. This recipe, however, appears to have all the combinations just right. As in skiing, if you are learning the foundations and hope to tackle the big challenges, just stick to a good recipe for success. When you are skilled enough to go down the mountain without your heart reaching panic, then maybe you are skilled enough to add this and that and still come out triumphant. For now, I’m just thrilled I managed to get this far and proclaim “That wasn’t so bad”.

Dissolve the yeast in the water (make sure water is 105-120 degrees before adding to mixture or yeast will not dissolve as well) and add the sugars. Add 1 cup of the Bread Flour and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, to give the yeast a chance to get going. Add all of the White Whole Wheat Flour, mixing well. Add the salt, then the rest of the Bread Flour, mixing in a cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. I have found that sometimes you do not need to add all the Bread Flour before the dough begins to pull away. It is more important to get the dough the correct consistency than to make sure every cup of Bread Flour is in the dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, adding more Bread Flour as necessary, until it’s smooth and satiny. As a result of the Bread Flour’s higher protein, you’ll want to knead it longer than you would dough made with all-purpose flour; make sure that the dough is really springy before you stop kneading it. Cover the dough with a damp towel, and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into 14 pieces and roll each piece into a rope 8 to 9 inches long and 3/4 inch wide. If you like smaller bagels then you can make more. I usually get 14-16 bagels from this recipe. Form each rope into a circle and join the ends, pressing well to seal. The hole in the middle of the circle should be about a donut hole size. Place the bagels on a tray that’s been dusted with cornmeal, cover them lightly with plastic wrap, and let them rise for 30 minutes. Secure the plastic wrap around the edges (you don’t want the bagels to dry out), and place the pan in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. I usually make the bagel dough and wrap them at night and bake them the following morning or night.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and let them rest at room temperature for 45 minutes. While they’re resting, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, and preheat the oven to 450°F. Beat the egg in a bowl.

Place a few bagels at a time in the pot and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until they’ve risen to the top. Remove them with a slotted spoon or flat strainer, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush them lightly with the beaten egg and place toppings such as cheese, sea salt, etc.

Bake the bagels for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they’re brown and their internal temperature registers 180°F on an instant-read thermometer. (If your oven is intensely hot at the bottom, nest a second baking pan underneath the first 10 minutes into the baking time. This will diffuse the heat, eliminating the problem of scorched bagel bottoms.) Remove the bagels from the oven, and cool them on racks.

Makes 14 amazing bagels or more if you like smaller bagels. I usually cut them in half while they are hot and freeze them for a perfect quick breakfast. Enjoy!