For full disclosure though I will admit that I goofed - big time. I misread the original recipe and used active dry yeast instead of instant yeast and panicked when the sponge didn't foam up as Deb had indicated that it would... and when, as a result of the less than foamy sponge, the flour was nearly impossible to incorporate. Once I discovered my error I thought about scrapping the whole batch and starting over again in the morning once I had purchased the correct kind of yeast, but I didn't, I persevered. The result? Cinnamon Raisin Bagels that rival any I've ever had from a bakery - even fresh from the oven.
Don't be intimidated! They may seem scary but I promise they are fairly simple so long as you read the directions and take deep breaths you'll be fine.
Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
From Smitten Kitchen
This is either a one day project that will begin in the morning and end in the evening or something you can start after dinner and cook in the morning when you wake up (as I did - and let me say, there is nothing like a fresh bagel in the morning).
Yield: 12 super large, 16 regularly large or 24 "miniature" bagels
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 1/2 cups water, room temperature
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar, or honey
1 - 2 cups loosely packed raisins, rinsed with warm water to remove surface sugar, acid, and natural wild yeast (I used what I had left in the box, which was about a cup and a half I think, but if you dislike raisins you can use less)
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
1. Day one: To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a large (approx. 4-quart) mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (Deb likened it to a pancake batter, I found it to be quite thick, more like biscuits). 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. (As I noted above, mine didn't achieve this, for obvious reasons but next time, when I make it with the correct kind of yeast I'll make sure it does. Mine just expanded to twice the size.)
2. 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, cinnamon, sugar, salt and brown sugar. Stir (my dough was dry so I ended up using my hands to knead it together in the bowl, wetting my hands a bit when nothing was coming together) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough, as needed. In the last two minutes of mixing, add the raisins. This may mean you need to add a bit more flour if the raisins are still a little wet.
3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes. The dough should be firm, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all ingredients should be hydrated. If the dough seems too dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
4. Immediately divide the dough into 12 (4 1/2 ounce) pieces for super sized bagels, 16 (3.375 ounce) regular-sized bagels, or 24 (2.25 ounce) perfectly smaller bagels. Form the pieces into rolls. If you don't have a kitchen scale the 2.25 ounce balls were approximately the size of golf balls.
5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
6. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter for a supersized bagel, two inches for a large one or just slightly more than one inch for a miniature. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)
7. Place each of the shaped pieces two inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
8. 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). Mine floated immediately but, if the bagel does not float, never fear! 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.
9. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels, see head notes), preheat the oven to 500°F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon nearby.
10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit, I fit seven (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute, flip them over and boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour.
11. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on two middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately five minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only one pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450°F and continue baking for about 4 and a half minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.
12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving. They are delicious with cream cheese, toasted, or just on their own!