Okay, so I have to apologize - I got caught up in this challenge and completely failed to document any of the things I've made so far. As my first bread (anadama) was an utter failure, and my second (Artos) was only so-so, I feared that none of my endeavors would end up being post-worthy.
These bagels are Good. As in, you can't buy anything close (at least in Seattle) kind of good. As in, I might open up a bagel cart and devote the rest of my life to making them good.
As part of the challenge, I wanted to tackle another area of baking that I'd always wondered about and semi-feared, which is cultivating wild yeast in a sourdough starter. It always seemed like something tricky and difficult. Turns out, not so much. A scale helps. All you really need is a portion of water and flour in equal parts (I kickstarted mine with part rye flour and part bread flour), keep it out on the counter, and feed every 12 hours. I followed directions from WildYeastBlog. Sure enough, within a few days I had a bubbly mass of yeasty little monsters, ready for breadmaking. I named him Bob.
Bob lives in my fridge when I'm not using him for delicious sourdough things. Under chill he only needs to be fed once a week or so. (I've decided yeast cultures are male, despite off-color jokes you could make to the contrary - they smell, and they fart alot)
I've modified the Peter Reinhart BBA challenge bagel recipe to incorporate Bob. Sorry for giving weight instead of volume, but seriously, buying a scale has changed the way I bake. No more measuring! Yay!
Salt and Poppy Bagels
35 oz starter with sourdough (about 200g of pure sourdough starter fed with equal parts bread flour and lukewarm water to equal 35oz, goosed with a teaspoon of active dry yeast and left to rise on the counter in a large bowl for at least an hour)
17 oz (3.75 cups roughly) bread flour
.7 oz (3 tsp) of salt (I use kosher)
.5 oz (1 tbsp) of honey
a pot of water
1 tbsp of baking soda
1 egg, beaten (egg wash)
poppyseeds and kosher salt
Once the sponge has gotten nice and bubbly (should take just over an hour), add the flour, salt and honey, and mix up until the ingredients form a ball. The dough will be very dry and shaggy at first - if you mix with wet hands you'll add just enough moisture to bring it all together. The product will be VERY stiff, as in probably break your stand mixer stiff - if you did use a stand mixer up til this point, I recommend switching to your hands.
transfer the dough to the counter and knead until the dough is satiny and pliable, but not sticky or tacky. add a few drops of water if it seems too dry (for example if it breaks easily when you stretch a piece between your fingers) or sprinkle on some flour if the dough is too sticky.
Once the dough is ready, devide into 4.5 oz pieces for large bagels, or 2.4 oz pieces for small ones.
Form the pieces into rolls and cover with a damp towel. Rest for 20 minutes (both of you!)
Line a pan with baking parchment or silpat, and spray with oil. Shape the bagels. I do this by sticking my thumb in the middle to make the hole, then working my way around with both hands to make a good "O" shape. You can also make a snake with the dough and wrap it around your fist, pinching the end to fasten.
place the shaped pieces on the pan, mist the tops of the bagels with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let them rise for another 20 minutes.
Next, it's time for the float test - fill a small bowl with water and put in one of the bagels. if it floats immediately, they're good to go. If the bagel sinks, more proofing is needed - try again every 10 to 20 minutes. Once your bagels pass the float test, pop the pan in the fridge until you're ready to boil and bake them. I suggest waiting at least overnight, but they should be okay in there for three days.
When you are ready to bake the bagels, set your oven to 500 degrees and get a pot of water boiling (the wider the pot, the better). Once the water is boiling, add 1 tbsp of baking soda. It will stop boiling for a moment. This is normal.
Working in batches, boil the bagels a minute on each side (you can extend the time to make the bagel more chewy, but I dont recommend too long). Once a bagel is out of the water bath, immediately brush on some egg wash and sprinkle the salt and poppyseed mixture over the top.
When all the bagels are boiled, bake for five minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees, lower the temperature to 450, and bake for another five to eight minutes or until the bagels are golden brown. Let them cool for 15 minutes at least. They are worth the wait!