Sunday, March 24, 2013

Whole Grain Bagels

With our steady supply of locally grown flours from our Lonesome Whistle Farm CSA, I’ve been experimenting with baking whole grain breads. I’ve attempted a number of versions of a whole grain sandwich loaf, which have all been delicious, but dense affairs hovering below the rim of the loaf pan, and I’ll need to keep tinkering before I share a recipe here. I'm pleased to report more success with another beloved bread product, the bagel. 

I was inspired by this evangelical speech about bread making by Peter Reinhart and my sister-in-law’s reports of bagel success. I'd also finally procured Reinhart's book on baking whole grain bread from the library that describes his “epoxy method” in which he makes two components of the dough a day in advance and combined them together on baking day. The first component is the soaker (right), which contains whole grain flours moistened and left at room temperature to allow enzymes in the grains to break down the complex polysaccharides, releasing sugars and developing flavor. I made our soaker with a combination of Lonesome Whistle Farm's red fife and rye flours. The second component is the biga or poolish (left), which contains a small amount of yeast which is allowed to ferment slowly in the refrigerator, also developing flavors. For this I used Lonesome Whistle's Stephen’s white, a soft white whole grain flour. 

The next day, we cut up the components and combined them with more yeast and Stephens white flour. This might have been easier if I had a mixer, but squishing together dough pieces was quite an appealing job for the kids. 

To form the bagels, we opted for rolling out snakes turned into bracelets, which Reinhart claimed is the professional option as compared to hollowing out circles, but I’m sure either method would work well. 

The most fun was boiling the bagels, watching them bob in their alkaline bath. And after baking in a hot oven, the final flavors of the dough were deliciously complex. The whole recipe only made six bagels, which seemed like a small yield for such a big undertaking, but they are really best eaten the same day. I recommend this as a fun project for spring break. 

Multigrain Bagels 

2/3 cup (85 g) whole wheat flour [I used red fife]
1 cup (142 g) any combination of cooked and uncooked grains, or use 1 ¾ cup (227 g) whole wheat flour [I used a combination of red fife and rye]
½ tsp (4 g) salt
2 Tbsp (35.5 g) barley malt syrup or honey
½ cup (142 g) water

Mix all the ingredients together for 1 minute, let rest 5 minutes, mix again for 1 minute.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temp for 12 to 24 hours. 

1 ¾ cup (142 g) whole wheat flour [I used Stephen's white]
¼ tsp (1 g) instant yeast
½ cup (142 g) water

Mix all the biga ingredients together, knead for 2 minutes (use wet hands), let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead again for 1 minute.
Transfer to a clean bowl, cover and refrigerate from 8 hr to 3 days.

About 2 hours before mixing the final dough, remobe biga from the fridge.

Final dough
2 ¼ tsp (7 g) instant yeast
2 Tbsp (28.5 g) water
5/8 tsp (5 g) salt
7 Tbsp (56.5 g) whole wheat flour [I used Stephen's white]
poppy or sesame seeds
2 tsp baking soda

1. Chop the biga and soaker into 12 pieces each. Dissolve the yeast in the water, add the pre-dough pieces, and the salt and mix vigorously. Add the flour and knead 2 minutes. Flour a surface and knead the dough on the surface for 4 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes. Knead again for 1 minute. Form into a ball and place in a clean, oiled bowl, rolling to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temp for 45 to 60 minutes until 1 ½ times its original size. 

2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and dust with cornmeal. Divide the dough into six pieces and shape into bagels: roll into a snake and then wrap around. Place on the prepared baking sheet and cover loosely with a cloth towel. You can also refrigerate for 24 hours, covered with plastic wrap.

3. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Set a wide pot with 4 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add 2 tsp baking soda (watch out the water will foam). Lower the heat to a steady simmer.

4. Within 20 or 30 minutes of shaping, the bagels should be ready to boil. Test one: it should float within 30 seconds. If ready, boil 2 to 4 at a time, turning gently after 30 seconds so that they boil for a total of 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove t the baking sheet. Cover with seed topping. 

5. Place the pan in the oven, lower the heat to 450 degrees, and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

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