Learn. Choose. Change.

I pledge to learn the true cost, to people and the planet, of what I eat, wear, drive, use and do every day. I choose to consume justly and to increasingly change my habits.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Just Bake: Weekly Bagels

Last week, when talking about reducing the amount of plastic that comes into our home, I mentioned I make bagels from scratch every week instead of using store bought bagels packaged in plastic.  There were a few comments and requests about that process and recipe, and it seems appropriate to write a post it.
First off, the back story has nothing to do with plastic.  Two years ago, my kids decided they like having bagel sandwiches in their packed lunches for school.  What goes on the bagels varies, but they'd rather have it on bagels than bread.  Our grocery store does not carry organic bagels, and I don't leave the island frequently enough to buy a weekly supply of organic bagels somewhere else.  For a little while, our local organic bakery was making a custom order for us, but sometimes they would forget, or would comment on how labor intensive making bagels can be.  Also, that was an expensive option.  So, I decided to look up recipes and to try it for myself.  It turned out to be pretty easy (I'm not sure what they were complaining about at the bakery) and is part of our weekly routine.
I am probably closing in on my hundredth batch of bagels (I don't always make them during the summer) and have tweaked and merged recipes to come up with the most reliable results week after week.  The ingredients are:
          5 1/2 cups of flour
          2 1/4 tsp. yeast (or 1 package)
          1 Tbsp. salt
          2 1/3 cups of hot water
          1/3 cup of honey or sugar
Mix together the dry ingredients first.  In the beginning I used to heat up the water a bit in the microwave, but now I just use the hottest water I can get from our tap (ours runs about blank degrees - our youngest is nine, so we don't have to be as careful anymore).  After you add the water you can add the honey or sugar.  Knead the dough for five minutes.  It should be pretty smooth and elastic and just the tiniest bit wet when it is ready.  Let the dough rest as a ball for ten minutes.  Divide the ball into pieces (12 for regular size bagels/18 for minis).  Roll each piece into a snake and then shape into a circle and pinch the ends together.  Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and cover with plastic (I cut up a bag from all of the packaging I save to reuse).  
At this point you are going to proof the dough in your refrigerator for about eight hours.  I make and shape our dough on Sunday night and then boil and bake them Monday morning before school.  You could also make your dough in the morning and bake them in the evening.  Pull your dough out of the fridge and boil a pot of water.  Also, set your oven to 450 degrees.  Drop your bagels a few at a time into the boiling water and cover with the lid.  They should float right away.  If they sink, be sure to move them off the bottom of the pot so they don't get stuck to it.  Boil them for two or three minutes on one side and then flip to the other for another two or three minutes.  Remove and set on a cooling rack.  (If you are adding toppings like poppy or sesame seeds, you would press your bagels into a bowl of them now).  
After the last set of bagels have been boiled, transfer all of the bagels back to the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Put them in the oven to bake for ten minutes.  I also throw and handful of ice cubes into the bottom of the oven when I first put them in.  Flip all of the bagels and bake for another ten minutes.  Your bagels will be a nice, shiny golden brown when you pull them out.
Like I said, the original decision had nothing to do with plastic, but now I see, in order to avoid bringing more plastic into our home each week, we will have to make more of our staples from scratch. I am probably going to tackle yogurt or cream cheese next month and would love any tried and true tips on that.

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