I hope I always remember how, the morning after a hard night, I woke to look out the bathroom window and gasp. Powdered sugar falling from the sky. What initially looked, by all accounts, to be just another ordinary day, halted me right there in my bed hair and morning breath.
“Tim! It’s snowing!”
“I thought snow the wonder of the world. The snow-light filling the house with magic as the white flakes drifted down in windless silence, the splendour when the sun came out and hills and fields and trees sparkled under the arc of the blue sky, the thought of the things one did in the snow, tobogganing and snowballing and building a snowman; it was all ecstasy. And somewhere tucked away at the back of one’s mind was the knowledge that every crystal in the vast whiteness, though too small for the human eye to see, was fashioned like a flower or a star. How could snow not be the wonder of the world?” Elizabeth Goudge, The Joy of the Snow
Likewise, to remember:
All three of us outside, clad in our odd array of rain boots, scarves and baby sneakers, trails forming on the driveway, flakes stopping on long lashes, cheeks turning bright pink.
Later that night, the baby in bed, the two of us making what’s called a yeast levain, tossing together einkorn flour and water and a pinch of yeast.
And, Saturday: baking bagels, not my idea, a half-day project for which I’d had little hope but great reward. Turns out it is such a consolation to watch flour and water become bread, to bake something you’d never have wanted to try, to look at the homemade einkorn bagels before you and, as co-creators, think they are good.
Homemade Einkorn Bagels
Adapted lightly, mostly via directions, from Jovial Foods
The trick in finding homemade bagels to be magic more than hassle is to go into it expecting a long and arduous baking project. You’ll have to start the night before, and then you’ll need to be around a the whole morning to have bagels by lunch. So much time! Other people buy bagels at the store! Of course, I could also tell you the end reward will be worth it, that homemade bagels are as gasp-inducing as the year’s first snow, but: I’d rather you go into it like I did, expecting little, wondering why bother, so you can likewise see the results before your very own eyes.
for the 1 cup (250g) yeast levain
1 cup (120g) einkorn flour (all purpose or, 1 1/4 cups whole grain)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (130g) warm water, about 100°F
Pinch of active dry yeast
for the bagels
3/4 cup (177 g) warm water, at 100°F
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
4 1/2 cups (540 g) all-purpose einkorn flour
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Olive oil, for brushing the baking sheet
1 teaspoon baking soda
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, Italian herbs, etc.
1. The night before, make your yeast levain. (Rests 6 to 8 hours) Mix together warm water and a pinch of yeast in a medium-sized bowl, until yeast dissolves. Add in flour and stir until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic and leave it on the counter overnight or, six to eight hours.
2. In the morning, make your bagel dough. (Rests 2 to 3 hours) Your levain should have bubbles on the surface. Stir in an additional 1/4 teaspoon of yeast.
To the levain, add in water and maple syrup, and stir until combined.
In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.
Add the liquid levain mixture to the flour, and stir everything together with a stiff spatula as much as you can. Next, get your hands in there, pushing and pressing the dough together until it’s sort of a solid, craggy mass. Turn mixture out onto a clean work surface, and knead it by hand briefly until the dough starts to feel a little sticky. If you’re feeling discouraged, take heart: this is the hardest part.
Lightly oil the bowl that had had liquids in it, and place the ball of dough inside. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let proof for 2 to 3 hours in a warm place or, this time of year, the closest thing to warm you have.
3. Form the dough into bagels. (Rests 45 minutes) Brush a baking sheet lightly with olive oil. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface, and divide it evenly into 10 equal pieces (a bench scraper works great here). Roll the pieces into balls and then use your thumb to press up and through the middle, pressing the dough around the sides to create a bagel-looking sphere.
Place the shaped bagels on the prepared baking sheet and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Jovial also said to brush the plastic wrap with oil underneath, which I did by stretching out the plastic on the counter, brushing it with oil and then moving it up and oil-side-down onto the baking sheet.
Let rest 45 minutes. Meanwhile, put baking stone(s) (if you have them; if you don’t, use a baking sheet) in the oven and preheat the oven to 500°F.
4. Boil the bagels. (Rests 30 minutes, maybe) Use a large pot to bring 2 quarts of water to a barely boiling simmer on the stove. Add the baking soda. The mixture will foam up a little and then subside. At this point, increase the heat to bring the water to a rolling boil. Take one of your prepared bagels and drop it in the boiling water. It should float up to the surface Test a bagel by dropping it in the boiling water; it should float up to the surface pretty quickly. If it doesn’t, stop everything and let the bagels proof another 30 minutes.
If it does rise, go ahead and start boiling your bagels. Working in batches of three at a time, give them 45 seconds on one side and use a slotted spoon to flip them to the other side for 20 seconds more. Then use the same spoon to lift them out of the water and onto a cooling rack.
Let the bagels rest for about 2 minutes, and then press them into plates of whatever toppings you like.
5. Bake the bagels. (Takes 13ish minutes) Last step! Put the prepared and boiled bagels directly onto your heated baking stones. I found that using pot holders to move out the racks holding the baking stones made it easiest to put the bagels right on top, barehanded, without burning myself. Bake 13 minutes or until shiny and golden on top.
Let bagels cool for 10 to 15 minutes on cooling racks. Enjoy. Highly recommend cream cheese on top.