Jalapeño Cheddar Bagels

I am happy to report that yesterday’s reunion festivities were quite enjoyable, and I never felt awkward or left out, not even once.  As soon as we arrived on campus, we checked in at registration, then went to see one of Luke’s old teachers who lives on campus with his wife and children.

They are lovely people, and we had gotten together with them last year, so it was great to catch up.  The next part was the one I dreaded, the dinner with 5th Year Reunion Class.  I have been to enough Wesleyan reunions (thanks Dad) to know how these things go, so I tried to settle in and act natural.

Totally pulled it off.  Luke’s former classmates were happy to meet me, and quite surprised to learn that we’re getting married in three months.  I had many great conversations with people I had just met, and enjoyed myself very much.  After the dinner, we went with some of Luke’s closer mates to a hookah bar in New Haven.  We didn’t get home until midnight or so, hence the lateness of this post (my bad).

All in all, it was a good time, and I’m looking forward to today.

Ok, on to these awesome bagels.  I myself cannot vouch for their deliciousness, but Luke says they are phenomenal.  I can’t handle spicy food, so I made these for Luke as part of his birthday present.

I used Peter Reinhart’s method, and even though the process takes two days, it was totally worth it.  I’m going to use this method from now on whenever I make bagels.  I can’t wait to try out new flavors, but if you like this combo, these homemade bagels will really knock your socks off!

Jalapeño Cheddar Bagels

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Makes about 14-16 bagels, depending on size

For the sponge:
1 tsp instant yeast
4 cups (18 ounces) bread flour (you really should use bread flour)
2½ cups water, room temperature

For the dough:
½ tsp instant yeast
3¾ cups (17 ounces) bread flour
2½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp honey
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups minced jalapeño peppers, seeds and membranes removed

To Finish:
1 Tbsp baking soda
cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.

To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl, add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and honey. Stir until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining ¾ cup flour to stiffen the dough.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead for at least 10 minutes.  Add the cheese and jalapeños during the last two minutes or so of kneading, and knead until evenly distributed. The dough should be firm, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all the ingredients should be hydrated. If you have an instant-read digital thermometer, the dough should register 77 to 81 degrees F. If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems sticky or tacky, add more flour to achiever the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

Immediately divide the dough into equal pieces (each piece should weigh approximately 4½ ounces). Form the pieces into rolls.

Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for 20 minutes.

Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment or silicone mats and mist lightly with baking spray. Proceed with shaping the bagels: Push a hole through the center of the roll with your thumb and stretch out the hole to 2½ inches in diameter, making sure that the resulting ring has a fairly even thickness all the way around.

Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pan. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute flip them over and boil another minute. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. Sprinkle the bagels with the shredded Cheddar cheese as soon as they come out of the water.

When all the bagels have been boiled and topped, place the pans on the two middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 8 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are only baking one pan at a time, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 8 minutes, or until the bagels turn golden brown.

Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.  Long process, but worth it!!!

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