Thank you to Heather from Hezzi D’s Books and Cooks for hosting this month’s Bread Bakers’ Challenge! Please visit all the other intrepid bakers’ posts as well. You’ll find the whole list at the bottom of this post.
Are You Really a Pastry Chef?
Some folks may wonder if I really am a pastry chef. I mean, I know a guy who changed his name to Xandar Awesome. Legally. And anyone who would do that can’t really be all that awesome, so folks can call themselves whatever they want. After working 16 years as a special education teacher–heck, I even have a Master’s degree in behavioral and emotional handicaps–I attended culinary school for patisserie and baking, and both during school and then after graduation, I worked in fine dining restaurants as pastry cook first and eventually as pastry chef. So yes, even though I no longer work in a professional kitchen, I have worked as a pastry chef. I’m legit, if kind of messy.
Before those pastry chef jobs though, there were two others in food service.
I worked as a baker in a start-up bakery/breakfast place. Honestly, I don’t even remember the name of the bakery. It was in a strip mall towards the north end of International Drive in Orlando. Farther south are attractions and dinner event places (Medieval Times, etc) galore. Up north, strips malls and more strip malls. This was the non-tourist end of “I Drive.” Frozen bagels baked fresh every morning, triple chocolate brownie mix on the shelves, an enormous revolving deck oven like a Ferris Wheel in hell, a spiral mixer so big you could sit in the bowl.
I was given free rein to bake pretty much whatever I wanted for pastries, so that was cool. Puff pastry pinwheels with different jam fillings, huge chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies and chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips, big ass eclairs stuffed to bursting with pastry cream and slathered in ganache, cinnamon rolls as big as your head. And little sugar-crusted cinnamon roll balls made from the odd scraps of dough, re-kneaded with the filling in it and shaped into golf ball-sized rounds. No waste, thank you.
I will forever associate that job with the song Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani. I swear I heard that song at least twice a day every day I worked there.
One day I showed up for work at 6 am, and the owner met me at the door to say he was closing up shop and moving back to California from Whence He Came. That is sometimes how it goes in the restaurant business.
Job Two, An Ode to Panera
They handed me a hat, made me buy khakis and black polo shirts, and I worked the register on the pastry side of a super busy Panera in the swanky part of west Orlando in the mornings before wolfing down a Frontega Chicken Sandwich, changing into my chef whites in the restroom and heading off to class just ten minutes down the road.
At 6:30 every weekday morning, I was met with an endless stream of bleary-eyed and ravenous commuters in dire need of a latte and an orange scone. I learned to work that register like nobody’s business. I knew where everything was on every screen and I could ring folks up lightning-fast. Until they’d change the screens.
Pretty much everything at Panera is made at a local-ish Panera commissary then delivered to the stores for final baking. Night bakers would come in and bake off tray upon tray of chewy baguettes, bread bowls for soup, focaccia, sourdough. all the different cookies and Danish, and hundreds of bagels. The soups arrived in huge food safe silicone bladders to be plunged into super hot water baths for heating before being poured into the homey cauldrons out front. Managers were in charge of donning heavy duty, bicep-high gloves to pull the bladders out. Once, one of the managers reached down too far and scalding hot water breached the top of his glove. He was out of commission for a few weeks with second degree burns.
Panera is no place for the faint of heart.
But the bagels. Huge. Maybe softer than a New York bagel, but size counts. The most popular bagels we sold–by a long shot–were asiago cheese bagels. Shredded cheese in the dough. Shredded cheese baked to golden perfection on top of each bagel. Sometimes we’d pull them off the trays and little shelves of cheese would jut out from the bottom. Those were real winners, those cheese shelf bagels.
So, as an ode to my time working at Panera Bread, I give you Asiago Cheese Bagels.
Since I had never made bagels before, I wanted to stick with a trusted recipe. I generally like to find a few inspiration recipes and then do my own thing, using the recipes as a jumping off point. But this time, I stuck pretty close to the script. And the script was these asiago bagels from Brown Eyed Baker. Michelle’s recipe is based on a Peter Reinhart recipe, and as far as I’m concerned, bread doesn’t get too much more legit than that. He even assisted her in adapting his basic recipe to an asiago version via email. And that’s more than enough for me. He literally wrote the how-to of bagels.
The only things I did differently than the original recipe is that I used dry malt powder from the brewing store rather than malt syrup. Malt syrup is super, super sticky and thick and messy, and malt powder is…not. The flavor is the same though, so that’s what I went with. You may notice that I made up the amount of water missing from the syrup in the total amount of water in the recipe.
The other thing I changed was to dice the cheese for mixing in the dough in about 3/16″-1/4″ dice rather than shredding it. I wanted wee pockets of melty-cheesy goodness. It was more of a pain to incorporate the wee cubes of cheese into the stiff dough, but I think it was worth it. The flavor will be the same if you shred it though, so do what you feel led to do.
I also did an experiment, mainly because I was hungry and didn’t want to wait until the next day to enjoy bagels. I split the recipe in two and allowed half the bagels a 5-hour rest in the fridge after shaping and the other half a 15-hour rest. The results? The two batches look almost identical, but the bagels that were allowed a longer rest in the fridge had more chew, definitely. I wouldn’t sneak either batch to the dog or anything (if I had a dog), but given the choice in the future, I’ll go with the overnight rise. If you like a more…pillowy?…bagel, 5 hours in the refrigerator is more than sufficient.
The original recipe called for the addition of 17 oz of bread flour to the sponge. I stopped at 15 oz because I could just tell that if I kept going I’d end up with Spackle. I’m writing the recipe with the exact measurements I used, but know that you may have to fudge just a bit either way depending on the humidity and such at your house.
Here’s how to make them.
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast (you can also use instant which is what the original recipe calls for)
- 18 oz bread flour (I used King Arthur)
- 20.3 oz filtered water at room temperature (it is very cold in my kitchen right now, so I heated my water to about 80F)
- all of the sponge
- ½ teaspoon active dry yeast (or instant. See above)
- 15 oz bread flour
- 2½ teaspoons kosher salt (yes, you need this much. Don't skimp on the salt)
- 2 teaspoons dry malt powder or 1 Tablespoon malt syrup (or honey or dark corn syrup)
- 6 oz asiago cheese cut into small dice (or shredded)
- wide pot of water
- 1 Tablespoon baking soda
- cornmeal or semolina for dusting (I used cornmeal)
- 5 oz asiago cheese, shredded
- Combine the yeast, flour and water in a large bowl. Stir well to combine completely. It will be the consistency of a thick batter.
- Cover and let rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours, or until it has more than doubled in bulk and is very, very bubbly. It should be so bubbly that it collapses if you give the side of the bowl a whack. How long it takes to achieve this will depend on the temperature in your kitchen, but it will probably take at least 2 hours.
- Combine the sponge and the rest of the ingredients except the cheese in the bowl of your heavy duty stand mixer. (Unless you're making the dough by hand, do not try this with anything but a powerful stand mixer. My poor old 5 quart KitchenAid became alarmingly hot during kneading and threatened to die. The motor even momentarily would stop turning the dough hook. This dough is Serious.)
- Mix on low speed until all the flour is incorporated and then turn the mixer up to medium-low speed and knead for 6-8 minutes. The dough will be firm yet supple. At the end of kneading, it should be very smooth and very extensible and not at all sticky.
- Give it the windowpane test to make sure the gluten is good and developed.
- Knead in the cheese by hand. This might take awhile, but just go for it.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Mine scaled out at 4.75-4.8oz each.
- Form each into a smooth ball and let rest, covered for 20-40 minutes. (20 minutes for a warmer kitchen. 40 for a cooler kitchen. My kitchen is currently about 65F during the day)
- After the rest, shape the bagels. This is how I recommend doing it. Poke your pointer finger into the very center of the top of one of your smooth balls of dough. Poke it all the way through and then have your other pointer finger join the first one. Pull your fingers apart and rotate them, gently stretching the dough as you go. I stretched mine out so my fingers were probably 4" apart.
- Place the proto-bagel on a sprayed baking sheet. Sort of press it down a little so the underside of the ring flips out to become the edges of the bagel and the top side of the ring sort of flips in to become the inside center of the bagel. My shaped dough sort of naturally wanted to do this, so when I saw what it was doing, I helped it along. It worked out quite nicely.
- Put six bagels on one tray and six on another.
- Lightly spray the tops of the bagels with cooking spray, cover them with plastic wrap and let them sit for 20-30 minutes (again, depending on the temperature of your kitchen).
- You don't want to see any more rising, but you'll know they're ready for a rest in the fridge when they float in a dish of water. Just test one. If it sinks, give it a few more minutes of rest time (but do dry that guy off with a paper towel) If it floats, it's a witch. No. If it floats, it won't be like lead when you bake it. So once your tester guy floats, dry him off, re-spray and then put all the bagels in the fridge for a nice, long rest.
- Refrigerate the bagels for at least five hours and preferably longer--my 15 hour bagels were fantastic. I might even see how delicious 24-hour bagels are sometime soon.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 500F with a rack in the center of the oven. I recommend you bake one tray of bagels at a time.
- Heat the water to a boil and add the baking soda.
- Pull one tray of bagels out of the fridge and leave the other in there.
- Prepare a tray for baking by lining with parchment and sprinkling fairly lightly with corn meal or semolina.
- Boil the bagels, two at a time, for about 1 minute, flipping them after about 30 seconds. I started with the top side up, then flipped so the top side was down. I fished the bagels out of the water with a skimmer, let them drain for a couple of seconds and then flipped them over onto the cornmeal-dusted pan so the top side was up again. Tada!
- Right after boiling, liberally sprinkle the top of each bagel with some of the shredded cheese.
- Once all six bagels are boiled and topped, bake for 8 minutes at 500F.
- Turn the pan 180 degrees and bake another 8 minutes. The original recipe calls for turning the oven down to 450F for the second 8 minutes. I did one tray that way and the other I left at 500F the entire time. I preferred the darker top crust of the second batch, but you can do yours either way and get great results.
- Cool the bagels on the baking sheet for at least fifteen minutes before slicing and serving. I prefer to let them cool all the way so the structure has a chance to completely firm up before slicing and toasting.
- Boil and bake the second tray the same way as the first.
- To keep them very fresh, cool them completely, slice them (or not), and then store them in heavy-duty zip-top bags in the freezer. They thaw in about 25 seconds in the microwave.
And even though I preferred the 15-hour bagels to their 5-hour friends, I had no problem enjoying both kinds! And look how beautifully they toast too. So good.
Please Check Out All the Bagels from #BreadBakers This Month!
I’m really looking forward to catching all these bagel recipes tomorrow when we post. Hooray bagels!
- Asiago Cheese Bagels by Jenni at Pastry Chef Online
- Basic Bagels by Caro at En la Cocina de Caro
- Basic Bagels with Blueberries from Holly at A Baker’s House
- Blueberry Bagels by Sophie at Sweet Cinnamon Honey
- Chocolate Chip Bagels by Cindy at Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Classic New York Water Bagels by Karen at Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Cornmeal Bagels by Renee at Magnolia Days
- Easy Homemade Bagels by Wendy at A Day in the Life on a Farm
- Homemade Truffle Salt Bagels by Tara at Noshing With The Nolands
- Honey Multigrain Bagels by Laura at Baking in Pyjamas
- Jalapeño and Cheddar Bagels by Stacy at Food Lust People Love
- Montreal Bagels by Robin at A Shaggy Dough Story
- Orange Ginger Bagels by Rocio at Kids & Chic
- Parmesan Garlic Bagels by Heather at Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Simit (Turkish Bagels) by Adam at Bakers and Best
- Sour Dough Bagels from Veronica at My Catholic Kitchen
- Whole Wheat Oat Bagels by Kelly at Passion Kneaded
If you’re a blogger and would like to join in the Bread Bakers’ fun, email Stacy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so much for spending time with me and all the Bread Bakers today.
What’s your favorite kind of bagel? And what’s your favorite thing to top a bagel with?
Can’t wait to hear your responses. Have a lovely day.