Combat stress by baking bagels: A Sprinkle in Time

Posted by Katie Lane

When you are sitting up late at night writing a paper or studying for a test, do you ever dream about being a bread baker? I do.

I would happily go to sleep at 8 p.m. and wake up before the sun to head into my friendly, little bakery to start preparing fresh, delicious breads for my amazing local customers. Spending dark quiet mornings surrounded by rising dough and the smell of yeast…

What? You do not have that fantasy? Hmm…

You obviously have never made bagels.

I am telling you, the magical experience of creating your own homemade bagels is enough to make you want to put down your pen and put on an apron.

I have to say, as graduation inches — flies really — toward me, I am feeling more and more burned out by all the time spent on my computer, analyzing and fact checking and researching.

I have not baked in weeks., and I just want to get my hands covered in flour and heat up my oven.

There is something so grounding about the process of bread-making, and let me tell you, I am craving some solid ground right now. And while I do not have control over the type of security that might come with, say, a job prospect for the future, I do have control over my hands and the ingredients in my kitchen.

And really, if all it takes is a little kneading, shaping, boiling and baking to make me feel like I have got my feet on solid ground, I am a pretty lucky girl.

These bagels, well, they were just bagels. But I made them with my own two hands, and I will take pride in that, thank you very much.

For my farewell article to my beloved Skidmore readers, I am choosing to share with you something that brings me comfort in a stressful time. I hope that when your classes are over and your exams are finished, you can find a Saturday morning to give these a try.

Take your time. Get messy. Knead until your arms hurt. Be patient. Savor the taste. These are the things baking is really about.

For more adventures in baking, visit Katie's blog at asprinkleintime.wordpress.com.


Bagels

Ingredients:

Sponge:

1 teaspoon instant yeast

4 cups bread flour

2½ cups water

Dough:

½ teaspoon instant yeast

3¾ cups bread flour

2¾ teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons brown sugar

To Finish:

1 tablespoon baking soda for

the water

Cornmeal for dusting the pan

Toppings

Day 1: Stir the yeast into the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and stir until all ingredients are blended. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for two hours.

Remove the plastic wrap and stir the additional yeast into the sponge. Add three cups of the flour, the brown sugar, and the salt into the bowl and mix until all of the ingredients form a ball. You need to work in the additional 3/4 cups of flour to stiffen the dough, either while still mixing in the bowl or while kneading. The dough should be stiffer and drier than normal bread dough, but moist enough that all of the ingredients are well blended.

Pour the dough out of the bowl onto a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes.

Immediately after kneading, split the dough into a dozen small pieces around 4 ½ ounces each. Roll each piece into a ball and set it aside. When you have all 12 pieces made, cover them with a damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.

Shape the bagels by punching a hole in the middle and then widening it as evenly as possible. Place the shaped bagels on an oiled sheet pan, with an inch or so of space between one another and cover the pan with plastic. Let rise for about 20 minutes. Test if they are ready: the bagels should float within 10 seconds of being placed in a bowl of water.

Day 2: Preheat the oven to 500. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Adding one tablespoon of baking soda to the pot to alkalize the water is suggested to replicate traditional bagel shop flavor. I went ahead and did this, though I have no idea if it made any difference.

When the pot is boiling, drop a few of the bagels into the pot one at a time and let them boil for a minute. Use a large, slotted spoon or spatula to gently flip them over and boil them on the other side.

Before removing them from the pot, sprinkle corn meal onto the sheet pan. Remove them one at a time, set them back onto the sheet pan and top them right away, while they are still slightly moist. Repeat this process until all of the bagels have been boiled and topped.

Once they have, place the sheet pan into the preheated oven and bake for five minutes. Reduce the heat to 450 degrees, rotate the pan and bake for another five minutes until the bagels begin to brown.

Recipe adapted from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart

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