This weekend I made bagels. Not whole wheat bagels or spelt or some other altruistic grain disguised in bagel skin, but honest-to-goodness 100% white flour, quarter-pound bagels with extra gluten. I posted the photos of my happily boiling bagels to Facebook and within minutes I received the obvious question: “Can you make a gluten-free version?” The short answer is: “Yes, I’m quite certain I could find a recipe for a rice flour bagel out there.” But there’s also a much longer answer, which I’m about to unleash on you.
Let me start by saying that I am fairly certain that every food blogger has some type of extended, sordid history with food. Mine starts on a school bus in third grade. I was eating an unreasonably massive granny smith apple, when Daniel McQuiggan said to anyone in the back of the bus who would listen, “No wonder she’s so fat.” As you may have guessed, I did not get fat by eating too many large apples. I got fat by eating a pound of bocconcini di mozzarella as an after-school snack on a weekly basis.
I kept my cheese eating regimen up through my junior year of high school. But then a switch went off, I was done being fat. No more risotto, no more pan seared monkfish with brown butter sauce, no fried cauliflower, or macaroni and cheese. I counted every calorie. And since turnips and kale don’t come with a nutrition label, my diet consisted almost exclusively of frozen veggie burgers, Kashi Go Lean cereal, and diet soda. Eventually I transitioned back to “real food,” a rotation of lettuce, apples, and coffee with the occasional teaspoon of natural peanut butter topped with 5 chocolate chips in moments of weakness. This wonky diet will turn any normal person into a recluse, who eats alone like a ravenous animal and often drifts in and out of waking dreams about exceptionally fresh and crunchy vegetables.
I kept this up for years. And then life happened and I let it corrupt me. When a friend asked me out to lunch, I said yes and I ordered pizza and I ate it. When I made dinner for Matt, I had a serving (or two) myself. When a coworker brought flan to the office, dripping in caramel sauce, you better believe I ate that too. I relapsed a few times when “friends” convinced me to try Paleo, but I pulled through and recommitted myself to eating all the grain and dairy and delicious potatoes I wanted. And guess what? I got a little bit (okay, a decent chunk) of my fat back, donated the size 0s to Planet Aid, and built a bridge over the injustice of not being one of those “naturally thin” people.
I’m lucky. I don’t have any allergies or autoimmune disorders or digestion issues that choose my food for me, but I have many friends who do. I’m so glad that there are more and more restaurants and cook books and packaged foods that cater to every possible dietary restriction. I also have friends who have chosen to give up certain food groups, to closely monitor their portions or ratios, and I hope their diets bring them happiness and confidence and positive energy. Life is short, food is good, eat whatever the heck you want. I totally support your choices. But if you want a recipe for a gluten-free bagel, I’m just not your girl.
Bagels from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhar
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 1/2 cups water, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, or chopped onions that have been tossed in oil (optional)
1. Day one: To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.
2. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.
3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 71 degrees F. If the dough seems to dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
4. Immediately divide the dough into 4 1/2 ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. Form the pieces into rolls.
5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
6. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Proceed with one of the following shaping methods:
Method 1: Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter (half of this for a mini-bagel). The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)
Method 2: Roll out the dough into an 8-inch long rope. (This may require rolling part of the way and resting if the pieces are too elastic and snap back, in which case, allow them to rest for 3 minutes and then extend them again to bring to full length. Wrap the dough around the palm and back of your hand, between the thumb and forefinger, overlapping the ends by several inches. Press the overlapping ends on the counter with the palm of your hand, rocking back and forth to seal.
7. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans (Deb note: I got away with 1-inch space for the minis). Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
8. Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float. Return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.
9. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda (and optionally, a few tablespoons of barley syrup, see Note at the end). Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.
10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minutes flip them over rand boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side (Deb note: I used the 2 minute option). While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.) If you want to top (see note below) the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water. You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination.
11. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer. (Deb note: I actually baked them quite a bit longer, often almost five extra minutes. I judge by color, not internal temperature, in this case. I did not lower the oven temperature because I had multiple batches to bake.)
12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.
Cinnamon Raisin Bagels: For cinnamon raisin bagels, increase the yeast in the final dough to 1 teaspoon, and add 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon and 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar to the final dough. Rinse 2 cups of loosely packed raisins with warm water to wash off surface sugar, acid, and natural wild yeast. Add the raisins during the final 2 minutes of mixing. Proceed as directed, but do not top the bagels with any garnishes. When they come out of the oven and are still hot, you can brush the tops with melted butter and dip them in cinnamon sugar to create a cinnamon-sugar crust, if desired.