Week 4: The Long Rise

This week I’ve been thinking from time to time about the changes I should make to the current bagel recipe. I did tell Son Two, the Great Lover of Cheese, that I would top this week’s bagels with cheese, but that was before I remembered he would not be with me this weekend. It would make more sense to make the bagels cheesy next weekend; that would also give him a chance to help select the cheese or cheeses we would use.

So, what do I want to change, and why? I think that the basic flavor should stay the same — hints of honey and wheat. I don’t want to change that or to add any flavors that might clash with that.

What I really want to do is make sure the dough has a very good rise and that the bagels really look their best before they get into the boiling water (though I now, just-this-moment am wondering what would happen if I added some honey to the boil water, or gave the bagels a honey glaze before they went into the oven; would it make them sweeter or would they burn?).

I could also start the yeast before I added the flour and other dry ingredients to the bread machine, though that goes against the bread machine maker’s recommendations.

I think I may just make the honey-water warmer, add a bit of sugar to the recipe (as extra food for the yeast), and make sure that I let the dough rise as much as it can.

Changes to last week’s recipe
So much for thoughtful contemplation (or informed speculation). Here’s what I really changed. I increased the water by 1/4 cup, then added 1/4 cup of honey and heated the solution as I had been doing in the microwave. This week I was curious as to what temperature “feels like warm enough” actually was, so I dipped my instant-read digital thermometer in, and it topped off at about 110°F. Then I decided to go ahead and try adding the yeast to the honey-water separately from the other dry ingredients. So, into the pan went the honey-water and yeast; after about three minutes I added a mixture of whole wheat flour, unbleached white flour, wheat gluten, sea salt, and sugar (all stirred together).

I didn’t write this down at the time, but I think that last week I used the BAGEL DOUGH cycle. This week I looked to see if there were any special notes in this cookbook’s bagels-and-rolls chapter. There weren’t, but the author did suggest using the bread machine’s RISE setting, and my DOUGH setting seems to be what is meant by that. So, DOUGH it is. (But you and I both know it’s really going to be bagels.)

The grinding noises that rocked the house last week during bagel-time happened again last Wednesday when I was making a loaf of Applesauce Oat Bread. I don’t remember them being as loud on Thursday night when I made dough for challah loaves. Today they don’t seem as bad, either.

While the dough mixes, rests, and rises for the first time, I can write about last week’s reading. My first bagel book arrived, but so far I have only finished the introduction and the first chapter. It’s a small hardcover book not much bigger than a bagel, but last week I started a math course, had all my kids at the house for an extra night, and banged up my wrist and took the time to get x rays and confirm that it wasn’t broken (because that would be bad). As it turns out, I have only a bad bruise (the technical term is “soft-tissue contusion”) and it doesn’t even hurt when I write. So while I’m not getting back to knitting yet, the wrist injury hasn’t made me change my activities very much; it was no problem to braid the challah on Thursday night. But taking the time to go to Urgent Care, fix extra dinners, and supervise more homework did leave me a little less time for reading.

I’ve also been running around this weekend and actually being social, which takes more emotional energy than I usually possess. But so far everything has gone well, and I haven’t needed to retreat to the blanket fort with three books and a bottle of wine. (Yet.) So maybe things are looking up, socially.

Anyway, the bagel book has only seven chapters, so I should be able to finish it and report back on it by the middle of next week. I can write about something else the middle of this week — any suggestions?

2:40pm
With one hour left on the dough cycle, I preheated the oven to get the kitchen warmed up a little and make it a better environment for a second rise. (Maybe I should let the dough rise more before I shape the bagels, and making the shaping-boiling-baking process a quicker one.)

3:10pm
With half an hour to go on the first rise, the oven is preheated and the water is in the boiling-pan. I might start heating that up now; it’s a large pan and holds a lot of water. I bought it specifically for boiling six bagels at once.

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3:35pm
The bread machine hath beeped! And the dough has risen over the top of the bread machine pan! I “punched it down” and rolled it into six balls — instead of eight; thinking on the fly here — and covered them to rise for another 30 minutes. The dough felt really pliant and was not sticky, thought I did put a dusting of white flour on the large ball of dough before before I started to work it.

Before second rise.

After second rise.

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4:14pm
Bagels are in the oven. They did get a very good second rise, and I punched them down before I shaped them. One bagel lost its circular shape after it hit the simmering water, so I fished it out with a nylon spatula and tried my best to quickly reshape it before throwing it back in. [Note to my brother: I didn’t literally throw it in.] Now I’m not sure which one it was, which may mean that it worked. Did you notice that I said simmering water and not boiling water? That’s right, I didn’t properly time the heating up of the water. I kept the bagels in the simmering water until they looked like they’d spent “enough” time there.

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4:40pm
Now bagels are out of the oven. I hope they’ve baked for long enough. Anyway, they are cooling on the wire rack and I have to leave soon for an appointment in Madison, which is a long drive away for me. It will be darkening as I go, and certainly dark when I return home and start working on this blog post (waves enthusiastically to future self [present self waves back {somewhat uselessly} at past self]). Since I won’t be at home to try a test bagel, I think I’ll let one stow away in the van for a road-trip nosh.

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10:30pm
The bagel did look more bagel-like, and was certainly edible and tasty, but it was really too fluffy and spongy when compared to a store bagel. I really do want to re-create that iconic texture as much as possible. Next week I might dial back the yeast amount as well as the second rising time to make a tougher dough, one that will stand up better to the bagel guillotine. But I think this week’s products might be something that other people would recognize as bagels. Onward!

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