Friday, February 5, 2010

Beijing Bagel Making

"Operation: Bageltopia"
People say that everything tastes better when you make it yourself. I don't agree. Not EVERYTHING tastes better. Trust me - I've made some god-awful meals, just ask anyone who ate my "Israeli Coffee Chicken". I've also made some pretty amazing meals, so I guess I should say "roughly half of things taste better when you make them yourself".

Enter Bagels. I'm never one to shy away from a cooking challenge, and while it probably isn't fair to call bagels a cooking challenge, I was excited when I got an email from my friend Jared with the subject line "Operation: Bageltopia". Here our adventure begins. Our surprisingly simple and satisfyingly delicious adventure begins.

Excepting garnishes and flavoring, here's what you need:

500 g flour
260 ml tepid water
12 g instant yeast
1 tbsp honey
12 g of salt
20 g soft butter

Caramel Water (for cooking bagels):
300 g sugar
3 L water

I'm not going to get too in depth with the process but here is a quick summary:
Step 1: Mix flour, water, yeast, and honey in a bowl.
Step 2: Knead the dough.
Step 3: Add the butter and the salt and keep kneading until the mixture becomes a smooth, elastic dough.
Step 4: Prove the dough. Cover it and let it rise for 40 minutes at room temperature.
Step 5: Make into bagels. Start with 3 inch diameter balls of dough, pull a hole in the center until the hole is about an inch/inch and a half in diameter.
Step 6: Prove once more for 35 minutes. It must not be allowed to overprove and get too large!
Step 7: Make the caramel water. Place the saucepan onto a medium to high heat. Then add sugar and allow it to melt, add the water, bring to boil.
Step 8: Preheat the oven 200ºC (400ºF).
Step 9: Poach the bagels quickly for 1 minute on each side. Remove and put on baking tray.
Step 10: Season the bagels (poppy, sesame, etc)
Step 11: Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.
Step 12: Serve

There were five of us making the bagels, including a seasoned bagel-making pro (HEY JOEL), so our two batches provided each of us with two bagels, with two left over to tease and tempt everyone else.

The multiple proving periods make the process take a bit of time, but its well worth it. Our oven was a large toaster oven (true ovens are hard to come by in all but the highest end apartment), so we had to bake in shifts - which made the waiting a lot harder.
making bagels in beijingThis weekend we're attempting to make 24 bagels for Chinese New Year (春节 - ChunJie)and will likely enlist multiple toaster ovens to speed the process. I'll fill you in with details and pictures soon.