Now that I finally feel like I’ve got the hang of making homemade bagels, I wonder what it was that intimidated me about them in the first place. They are not much more complicated than any other yeast bread recipe, and the result is so outstanding that I can’t ever eat store-bought bagels again. Recently I have been having fun playing around with different flavor variations. I have seen jalapeño cheddar bagels in lots of bagel shops and on various blogs, so when my jalapeño plant was overproducing, this was one of the first things that came to mind to help use them up.
I made a half batch of my usual bagel dough and mixed in 2 minced jalapeño peppers as well as some shredded cheddar cheese. We felt this let the jalapeño flavor come through without the bagel actually being spicy. Don’t get me wrong, I like spice, just not really for breakfast. If you are looking for more of a kick, I would use three or four peppers. One of these bagels topped with some cream cheese and homemade salsa made for a fabulous breakfast, and certainly something out of the ordinary.
Jalapeño Cheddar Bagels
For the sponge:
½ tsp. instant yeast
2 cups (9 oz.) bread flour
1¼ cups (10 oz.) water, at room temperature
For the dough:
¼ tsp. instant yeast
1¾ plus 2 tbsp. (8.5 oz.) bread flour
1¼ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. dark or light malt syrup, honey or brown sugar
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2-4 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1 tbsp. baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
Shredded cheddar cheese, for topping
1. To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 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.
2. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add about ¾ of the flour, salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining flour to stiffen the dough. In the last couple minutes of mixing, add the cheddar cheese and minced jalapeño. You may add a bit of extra flour at this point if necessary to account for any moisture added by the cheese and peppers.
3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all the ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test and 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 tacky or sticky, add more flour to achiever the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feels satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
4. Immediately divide the dough into equal sized, 4 ½-ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. Form the pieces into rolls. (Note: I have found that my personal ideal size for bagels is about 100 g of dough per bagel).
5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
6. Line two sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Proceed with shaping the bagels by pushing a hole through the center and stretching out the hole to 2 ½ inches in diameter.
7. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pan. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or 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). 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.
9. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), 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 or skimmer nearby.
10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute flip them over and boil 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-line sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you decided to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.) Top the boiled bagels with extra shredded cheese as desired.
11. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only 1 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 5 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.
Source: adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart