Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fresh Blueberry Bagels

     I told you earlier that I was going to make something else with fresh blueberries.  Remember?  I bet you weren't expecting blueberry bagels, were you?

     Anyways, bagels hold a special place in my heart.  I'm pretty much in love with all things bread, just to let you know.   But nothing can beat a fresh bagel.  Nothing.    

     The problem is that often times, the bagels you buy from the store aren't always fresh.  And sometimes they run out of your favorite type of bagel.  But what I told you that you can make your own bagels at home that are actually better than store-bought ones?  And that they require only a little effort to make?  Then all your troubles would be solved and you'll be able to reach fresh-bagel-heaven whenever you  want.  

     Now these bagels are something special.  They are the best blueberry bagels I have ever had.  They have a crisp bottom crust, chewy inside, and, of course, fresh blueberries.  I can never taste the blueberries in the bagels I buy from the grocery store, but here in this bagel, there's that perfect bite of blueberry which stuns your taste buds with its amazingness. That is how blueberry bagels are supposed to taste.  

     They were so worth staying up past midnight to make.

     That's right, I spent my night making bagels.  But don't worry, it's just because I didn't start them until around 9 in the evening.  And all I had to do for most of the time was wait for the dough to rise (while doing homework.)  If you're good at planning things ahead of time, you can make the dough up to two days beforehand and refrigerate it. Then you just have to give the bagels a quick boil, and  bake them for ten minutes. 

     If you're not familiar with the bagel making process, don't fear.  It's quite simple. 

     One or two days before you plan to bake them, start by making a sponge.  Stir together some yeast, water, and bread flour.  It's best to use instant yeast, but if you only have active dry yeast (like me), then just be sure to activate the yeast before you add it anywhere.  Let it sit in a couple of tablespoons of warm water with a pinch of sugar for five minutes.  

     After two hours of letting the sponge rise, add more flour, honey, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and more yeast. Stir it to form a ball, and then knead the dough until it passes the windowpane test.  In this test, you basically just stretch a ball of dough into a square.  If it doesn't rip, it means that the gluten's developed nicely and you can move on to the next step.

     Divide the dough into pieces.  I suggest using a scale for this.  I made 12 mini bagels, and each dough piece weighed about 2.7 oz.  You can make the bagels any size you want to.  Then, take 3-4 blueberries (double this for larger bagels) and stick them a ball of dough, rolling the dough ball to incorporate them. Repeat for the rest of the dough balls.  Don't worry if you crush some
berries.  Cover the balls with a damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.

     Now you shape the bagels.  My favorite way to do this is by taking a ball of dough, poking your thump in the middle to make a hole, and then widening the whole with your fingers to make a ring shape.  Make sure that the sides are evenly shapes, so you don't have any parts that are too thin or too thick.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and then lightly spray it.  Place the shaped bagels 1 inch apart (2 inches for larger bagels) on the baking sheet and lightly cover with plastic wrap.  You should spray the plastic wrap as well, to prevent it from sticking to the bagels.  Let the bagels sit for about half an hour.  Then transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator and keep it there overnight, or up to 2 days.  

     On the day you want to make the bagels, bring a wide pot of water to a boil.  Add some baking soda and brown sugar (to make the crust chewy and flavorful).  When the water is boiling, drop in a few bagels, as much as can comfortably fit. They should float within ten seconds, and you can help them float by lifting them with a spatula.  Boil them for 1 minute, then flip them over and boil them for another minute.  (If you want chewier bagels, go for 2 minutes per side.)  With a spatula, transfer the bagels to a wire rack to drain.  Repeat with the rest of the dough.  

     Sprinkle the same baking sheet with parchment paper with semolina flour or cornmeal.  Space the bagel dough rings one inch apart (two inches for larger bagels) on the baking sheet.  Bake at 500*F for five minutes.  Then turn the pan around 180 degrees, and lower the oven temperature to 450*F.  Bake for another 5-6 minutes, or until the bagels are light golden brown all over.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.  

     And there you go, fresh bagels!  I ate them plain, but you can also slice them and spread some butter, honey, cream cheese, or nutella on top.  

     This may seem like a lot of work, but most of the time you just wait for the dough rise.  Also, the process gets easier with experience.  And it's totally worth it, trust me!


Fresh Blueberry Bagels

makes 12 mini, 8 regular, or 6 large bagels
adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (which is a very good book, by the way)


(**A note on the ingredients:  I used what I had on hand (bread flour and honey) and the results were wonderful.  If you want really high-class, bakery-like bagels, you can put in the effort of finding high gluten flour (instead of bread flour) and barley malt syrup/ powder (use 1-1/2 tsp tbs malt syrup or 1 tsp malt powder instead of honey).  Also, if you use bread flour, I would suggest adding a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten, which you can find in the baking aisle to improve the texture of the bagel a bit.  1-1/2 tsp brown sugar can also be used in place of the honey.**)

For the sponge:
1/2 tsp instant or active dry yeast (activate any active dry yeast in warm water with sugar before using)
2 cups bread flour
1-1/4 cups room temperature water

For the rest of the dough:
1/2 tsp instant or active dry yeast
1-3/4 to 2 cups bread flour
1-3/8 tsp salt
1 tbs ground cinnamon
2 tbs granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp honey
1/3 cup fresh blueberries

For Boiling:
1 tbs baking soda
1 heaping tbs brown sugar


  1. Make the sponge. One or two days before you are planning to bake the bagels, stir together the yeast, flour, and water for the sponge. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.  It should be bubbly.
  2. Make the dough. Add the yeast, 1-1/2 cups of the flour, salt, cinnamon, sugar, and honey to the sponge.  Stir to form a dough.  Slowly add the rest of the flour to make a firm dough.  Transfer to a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and stiff, but still soft.  It should pass the windowpane test which means that you can stretch a ball of it into a translucent square without the dough breaking.  Add more flour if necessary.  Then, divide the dough into equally sized pieces and roll a few blueberries into each dough ball until incorporated.  Don't worry if some berries burst. Cover dough with a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Shape the dough.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with cooking spray. Take a ball of dough and poke your thumb into the center.  Widen the hole with your fingers while forming a nice, even ring shape.  Place the rings 1-2" apart on the baking sheet.  Spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray and lightly cover the dough.  Let rest for 20 minutes at room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator.  Refrigerate overnight, or up to 2 days.
  4. Boil the bagel dough.  Preheat oven to 500*F (for next step.) Bring a large, wide pot of water to a boil.  Stir in the baking soda and brown sugar.  Gently lower some bagels into the water, as many as can fit comfortably.  They should float on the surface, and you can help them float by lifting them with a spatula.  Boil each dough piece for one minute, then flip over and boil for another minute. (You can also boil them for 2 minutes per side if you want a chewier bagel).  Lift the bagels from the water with a spatula and transfer to a wire rack.  Repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Bake the bagels. Sprinkle the parchment lined baking sheet with cornmeal or semolina flour. Place the bagel dough 1-2" apart (2 inches for larger bagels).  Bake in preheated oven on the middle rack for 5 minutes.  Rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees and lower the oven temperature to 450*F.  Bake bagels for another 5-6 minutes, until golden brown all over.  Transfer bagels to a cooling rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
  6. Enjoy.


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