Saturday, October 17, 2009


Update: My first attempt to make bagels failed. I didn't get very far--my yeast failed to froth up and I realized my mistake. I should have bought new yeast but I had a big container of yeast in my freezer that I've been waiting to use. However, I think I waited too long and it had expired. But I am going to try again next week!

Every now and then, I like to wind down by reading a true crime book. For some reason, I find them relaxing, probably because the criminal always gets caught and brought to justice in the end.

This last one I picked up, The Surgeon's Wife, is a pretty good read. What was interesting about this case was that the prosecution managed to get a guilty verdict on this guy based solely on circumstantial evidence. They never even found his wife's body, but they argued convincingly that he dumped her out of his private plane (flying was one of his many hobbies). If you read the book, there will be no doubt in your mind that he was guilty, but legally, it's almost impossible to prove murder without any forensic evidence.

Anyway, reading this book had the weird result of giving me the idea to bake bagels! The evil surgeon in the book is one of those high-achievers with very low social intelligence--so even though he was malevolently narcissistic at best, and a sociopath at worst, he was very intelligent and high-achieving in his career and with impressive hobbies such as speaking multiple languages, flying a plane, and gourmet cooking. He was known (among friends and neighbors) for his delicious homemade bagels.

It gave me the idea to try to make bagels this weekend. I don't think they're probably that difficult, just time-consuming (because the dough needs time to rise and all that). I'm going to try a Williams-Sonoma recipe, since I've had luck with their recipes in the past:

In a large bowl or mixer, combine 1 package quick-rise yeast (2 1.4 tsp) and 1/2 cup bread flour. Stir in 1 cup lukewarm milk and let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, beat in 1/4 cup corn oil, 1 tsp salt, an egg yolk (save the white) and 1 tablespoon sugar. Gradually beat in enough bread flour (2-3 cups) to make a stiff but workable dough.

Knead by hand or with a dough hook, adding flour as needed. Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes; knead by hook until the dough is not sticky and pulls cleanly from the bowl sides, 6-7 minutes. Form the dough into a bowl and place in a clean, greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 45-60 minutes.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and press flat. Roll into a log about 8 inches long and cut into 16 equal pieces. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. One at a time, form each piece into a ball, then flatten it into a round 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make a hole through the center of each round, then gently widen the hole to 1 inch in diameter. Place the rounds on the work surface, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a baking sheet.

In a pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Reduce head to low. Slip 3 bagels at a time into the simmering water. Poach, turning once, for 3 minutes on each side; reform the holes if necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the prepared sheet.

Lightly beat the egg white and brush over the bagels. Sprinkle with seeds (poppy or sesame) or coarse salt. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Makes 16 bagels.


  1. How did they come out? I've never made those. I don't deal with yeast very often.

  2. Oh, see my "update" at the top of the post...Yeah, yeast is tricky! I did have yeast problems and that's why I haven't successfully made them yet, but I plan to try again this week. I am determined to make them!

    Baking with yeast is daunting but I think it's the kind of thing where if you get used to it, it wouldn't seem so challenging anymore, and then it would open up a whole exciting world of bread.

  3. I do have a bread machine, inherited from my mom who used it a lot at first and then stopped. The idea is cool, but you end up with cylindrical bread, which is kind of annoying. But maybe I'll take it out again sometime. I do have some yeast in the pantry (the little envelopes of dry yeast that don't need to be refrigerated).

  4. Did you ever get a Kitchen-Aid Mixer? If you have one, the dough hook attachment works great for kneading bread. I don't think you really need a bread machine if you have that.