I’m only slowly becoming a decent cook, but I’m not a baker at all. I think cooking and baking are left-brain, right-brain things. Baking is for mathy-sciencey people, for people who can handle precision and attention to detail, for people who like following rules (you know, for NERDS!). Cooking is for us creative types, us loosey-goosey, hippie-dippy, just-wing-it liberal arts majors. I guess what I’m saying is that cooking is fun but baking is HARD.
I’m trying to expand my kitchen horizons, though, and though I may resist, that involves baking. I’ve made my fair share of cookies and pizza crusts, but these bagels were a whole new world. And I’m not gonna lie: they took FOR.EV.ER. Part of that was because I kneaded everything by hand (no stand mixer in this kitchen!), and part of it is that it really does take forever — two hours for the first rise, kneading the shhh out of it, shaping, retarding overnight in the fridge, boiling and finally baking — these are not a quick treat to whip up on a whim.
So now that I’ve absolutely convinced you never to make these bagels, I have to tell you that that would be a mistake. Because these were out of this world! Perfectly chewy crust with incredibly tender and flavorful interior — I’ve honestly never had a better bagel. It’s a solid thousand percent better than bagels you get from the grocery store, and several heads above Panera and Einstein Bros. bagels. I’m sure some New York bagel purists will disagree, but to me, these are perfection. Plus, they cross one thing off my Kitchen Bucket List!
JALAPENO CHEDDAR BAGELS (recipe from Brown Eyed Baker)
1 tsp instant yeast [see below for my modifications with active dry yeast]
4 cups (18 ounces) high-gluten or bread flour
2½ cups water, at room temperature
½ tsp instant yeast
3¾ cups (17 ounces) high-gluten or bread flour
2½ tsp salt
2 tsp malt powder OR 1 tbsp dark or light malt syrup, honey or brown sugar [I found malt syrup at Whole Foods but could not find malt powder]
8 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups minced jalapeño peppers, seeds and membranes removed (about 12 to 14 peppers, depending on size)
1 tbsp baking soda
Cornmeal for dusting
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1. To make sponge: stir yeast into flour in large mixing bowl. Add water, whisking or stirring only until it forms smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped.
2. To make dough: in same mixing bowl (or in bowl of electric mixer), add additional yeast and stir. Then add 3 cups flour and all the salt and malt powder (or malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar). Stir (or mix on low speed with dough hook) until ingredients form a ball, slowly working in remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen dough.
3. Transfer dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). Add cheese and jalapeños during last two minutes or so of kneading, and knead until evenly distributed [note: it took me much longer than 2 minutes to work all the jalapenos and cheese in to the dough]. The dough should be firm, but still pliable and smooth. If you have an instant-read digital thermometer, the dough should register 77 to 81 degrees F. If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems sticky or tacky, add more flour to achiever the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
4. Immediately divide dough into equal pieces, each weighing about 4½ ounces [I got 15 pieces]. Form pieces into rolls. Cover rolls with damp towel and allow them to rest for 20 minutes.
5. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Shape the bagels: Push a hole through the center of each roll with your thumb and stretch out the hole to 2½ inches in diameter, making sure that resulting ring has fairly even thickness all the way around.
6. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Mist bagels very lightly with the spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let pans sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
7. Check to see if bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test.” Fill 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 could vary, depending on ambient temperature and stiffness of dough.
8. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat oven to 500 with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.
9. Remove bagels from refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit [I did 3 a a time]. After 1 minute flip bagels over and boil another minute. While bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal [I recommend using more cornmeal than you think you need, as I had some problems with my bagels sticking to the pan]. Sprinkle the bagels with the shredded Cheddar cheese as soon as they come out of the water.
10. When all bagels have been boiled and topped, place pans on the two middle racks in the oven. Bake for about 8 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching racks and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation (if you are only baking one pan at a time, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees). After rotation, lower oven temperature to 450 and continue baking for about 8 minutes, or until bagels turn golden brown.
11. Remove pans from oven and let bagels cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.
These were so fantastic! I followed Brown Eyed Baker’s recipe very closely, with my notations up there in brackets. I used about half the jalapenos called for (no particular reason, I just wrote “jalapenos” on my grocery list rather than “a TON of jalapenos”). I tried to make them go further by chopping some up slightly coarser and mincing others incredibly finely, so they’d distribute throughout the dough more completely. It was moderately spicy with half the jalapenos, so I think these would actually be pretty spicy with the full amount.
Finally — I could not find instant yeast anywhere. Is instant yeast easy to find in other parts of the country? After unsuccessfully using “rapid rise” yeast and having to throw out my dough after step one because it failed to rise at all, I adapted the recipe to use active dry yeast. I proofed the first 1 tsp of yeast in 1/2 cup warm water, and then I used only 1 1/2 cups water (rather than 2 1/2 cups ) in step 1, adding the 1 tsp yeast along with the 1/2 cup water I proofed it in. When I added the 1/2 tsp yeast in step 2, I proofed it in another 1/2 cup warm water, and added the proofed yeast + water. So — I used only the 2 1/2 cups water called for, but I used 1 cup in proofing (1/2 cup each time). MATH! I had no problems with these modifications.