Flour Power: Bagels Revisited

We had the first major snow-storm of the season this weekend (it snowed only on Saturday and Sunday, and today the snow is all but washed away in the rain), so there was much opportunity to be cooped up in the house and spending time in the kitchen.

It is rather easy to satisfy my stomach but extremely hard to please my palate, especially when it comes to my own cooking. In other words, I don’t criticize as long as it is somewhat edible, and sometimes things are “nice” because it was actually amusing to me that I can actually make food. But praise – praise is more difficult to come by. I’ll admit these bagels are not really much food porn (but then again, nothing I ever bake is that wonderful looking), but they tasted good and authentic. I am not the greatest fan of my own baking, being so much of a recipe-straying beginner, but I will definitely make these again. They don’t look as cute as the mini-bagels I made before, but I’m just going to say that this is the artisanal look. (Actually, the truth of the matter was that I was hungry and wanted to make these in time for lunch, so I didn’t have much patience to round the dough and shape them into perfectly round circles).

Whole Wheat Bagels

I tweaked various steps in the protocol of my last bagel experiment – tweaks that at least I thought would result in better bagels. I used different flour. Different yeast. I made more regular-sized (but not big) bagels. I added a bit more sugar. I boiled them for a much shorter time, and in my Le Crueset dutch oven. (That last one should make no difference but I would call it scientific-superstition.) And was there ever a big difference. I attribute it most to the flour and the boiling time. I had come across this “Organic Whole Wheat Hi-Rise Flour” at Choices so I thought I would give it a try. It’s more fine than typical whole wheat flour; I’m guessing it’s probably just whole wheat bread flour:

Flour

I also used instant yeast this time instead of active dry. In fact, I changed my brand of yeast. I have used Bakipan’s Active Dry Yeast before, now I am using Fleischmann’s yeast. (It is interesting to note that the size of the Bakipan’s Active Dry yeast is somewhere between Fleischmann’s Active Dry and Instant yeast.) But even with the “Hi-Rise” flour and the instant yeast, I didn’t get a faster rising time or any higher a rise at the same ambient temperature, so I don’t know what’s going on. The flour didn’t seem to rise any different than regular whole wheat, though it tasted a bit less ‘wheaty’ to me.

The boiling time was shortened from 5 minutes total to about 2 minutes, about 1 minute per side. The result was a chewy crust that was not too thick, and a dense interior crumb that still retained a bit of softness. The consistency was just good. There was just a hint of sweetness to these, the right amount for me in a plain bagel. (I thought they tasted even better than the plain bagels from GC Bakery but that is probably just personal opinion! :-D)  The only thing I wasn’t super pleased with is the look. The color I can’t really change, but I should have made them more round and poofier looking.

Bagel Crumb

Whole Wheat Bagels
(makes 6-8 bagels)

Materials:
360g whole wheat bread flour (see notes above)
<1c warm water
1T Instant/ rapid rise yeast
1t salt
4t sugar
1 egg white, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt (optional)

Protocol:
1. Combine and mix all dry ingredients. Add in warm water gradually until a stiff dough is formed. Knead 6-8min.
2. Cover and let dough rise 1hr (my dough didn’t quite double at this point.)
3. Divide dough into 6-8 equal portions, and shape into balls. Punch a hole through the middle of each ball with a floured thumb, and rotate the dough around in your hand to shape it. Cover and let rise 30 minutes.
4. During the last 10 minutes or so, bring water to a boil w 1t salt in a large dutch oven. Lower the heat so water is gently simmering.
5. Preheat oven to 375F.
6. Slide 3-4 bagels into the simmering water (or whatever fits into your pot as long as it doesn’t get crowded). Boil about 1.5 minutes on 1 side, gently flip over and boil the other side for 1 more minute. Remove from water and dry on a towel.
7. Brush with egg wash (can also add toppings like sesame seeds at this point), and bake for 25 minutes or until the tops have turned golden.
8. Remove from heat and cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before eating.

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