If I were in one of those island scenarios, where you had to pick the one food you would eat for breakfast for the rest of your life, well, I really wouldn’t be able to do it. But, if I was asked to pick the one breakfast food I could take with me to the island, it would be bagels slathered high with neufchatel cheese. I don’t know what it is about bagels. Despite my incredible love for breakfast sandwiches, I don’t think I’d last much more than a week or two on greasy eggs, bacon, and cheese before I got seriously sick of eating them – or just seriously sick. It would be unfortunate to have a heart attack on a remote island. Pancakes and French toast are also delicious, but no matter how you stack ’em, they too are either greasy, very dense, or easy to get sick of when adorned with jams, butters, or maple syrup. Plus, I always think of them as a special breakfast; maybe they are special (a.k.a. infrequent) because of these qualities. And cereals? It would be fine if you wanted to be hungry on that island two hours later…and where are you going to get milk?
Meanwhile, bagels, particularly the ones procured from this recipe, embody a perfect balance between dry, hearty, nutty, and sometimes even sweet or crunchy. Even without oil, these bagels are never too difficult to get down, though small bites and a glass of water or juice on standby are recommended, particularly if you are sharing with smaller children (though frankly I wouldn’t waste them :)) If made with wheat flour, either in a 3:1 ratio with the white flour or otherwise, these bagels are even more flavorful; the complexity of the whole grain is deep and rich, definitely worth rolling around on your tongue a time or two.
What’s better is that these bagels won’t break your nutritional bank for the day. Since you are the creator, you can control portion and ingredients. The recipe below calls for oil, but I forgot the oil in the last batch, and frankly, it turns out to be pretty much unnecessary. There goes all the fat! They may be a teensy bit drier, but I honestly didn’t notice, and adding a little extra water seemed to go over well in preventing the bagels from cracking during cooking or rolling. These bagels are homemade, and are not like a “fluffy” bagged brand from the frozen food or bread aisle. This also means they are prone to going stale or get moldy; I recommend waiting until they cool completely and immediately sealing two at a time in sandwich bags with zippered seals to be placed in the refrigerator. I never freeze these because, well, they get eaten too quickly, but I’m sure they’d be fine in the freezer.
I recommend reading through all the directions and tips before beginning; it makes life ten times easier!
Homespun Wheat Bagels
3 cups wheat flour (I recommend King Arthur brand)
1 cup white flour
2 tsp. (1 small package) active yeast
2 tbs. sugar
1 tbs. canola oil
1 tsp. salt
1-2 cups warm water (this varies with the ratio of white:wheat flours you select and with each batch as well)
-If using active yeast, dissolve in 1 cup warm water with the sugar and let sit until you see activity (bubbles or foam). If there is no activity after 20-30 minutes, your yeast is dead, and you should try another package. If using instant yeast, you can technically skip the step, but I like to do it to make sure the yeast is live. This is particularly true if you stock up on yeast; you really should test it beforehand by adding warm water and sugar. Tip: Be sure not to scald the yeast by adding water that is too hot; as a general rule, between room temperature and body temperature is plenty warm enough for the “yeast feast.”
-Add flour, oil, and salt, and small amounts of water to the bowl, making sure the flour is well incorporated but the dough is still stiff and not sticky. The dough becomes sticky when too much water has been added, so add water slowly and throw in a little more flour if you go overboard. Tip: Mix with your hands; you get a better feel for what the dough is doing, and you tend not to add too much or not enough water if you can physically feel the dough with your fingers and palms. Plus, the experience is almost spiritual.
-Remove dough from the bowl and knead for about 10 minutes. The ingredients should be evenly distributed, and the dough should feel a bit softer and more workable when you’re done. A good way to knead dough is by pounding or rolling it out, then folding it in half twice so you have four “layers.” Pound that out flat again and keep folding.
-Divide the dough into 8 or 12 sections, roll them up into balls, and let sit on the counter for about 20 minutes to let the yeast keep working its magic.
-Roll the balls into “snakes” that are long enough to wrap all the way around the wide part of your hand, and meet the ends in your palm. Use your fingers to press the ends together firmly; reshape into smoother shape if you like. Tip: If your dough cracks a lot, is resistant to rolling, or the ends will not stick together, dip your fingers in a small cup of water to moisten and incorporate a little more water into the mix that way. Let sit 20 minutes (to get a bit more puffy) while you preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and bring a pot of water to boil.
-Boil each bagel for about a minute on each side, then dry off quickly with a paper towel and transfer to a lightly greased cookie sheet. Once you have cycled through the whole batch, place bagels in oven. Let bake for 20 total minutes: 10 minutes on each side. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing from the tray. These are excellent to enjoy immediately!
-Once they are completely cooled, transfer to airtight storage and keep in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life. Tip: Cut bagels with very sharp serrated knives only; they are very prone to breaking because they lack preservatives, corn syrups, etc. Be gentle! Sharp knives also give you control, and you’ll be less likely to slice your finger needlessly while cutting.
My favorite way to eat these bagels is with cream cheese and apple butter together, but you can use them for sandwiches and eggs in a basket, too! I had one last week with egg whites and turkey bacon for a slightly healthier but still indulgent breakfast.
Nutrition Info: 1 bagel in batch of 12
Fat: 1.7 g
Sodium: 200 mg
Carbs: 29 g
Fiber: 4.25 g
Sugars: less than 1 g
Protein: 5 g
Nutrition Info: 1 bagel in batch of 8
Fat: 2.5 g
Sodium: 300 mg
Carbs: 43.5 g
Fiber: 6.5 g
Sugars: 1 g
Protein: 7.5 g
If made, as I did by accident, without the oil, these bagels have no fat and far fewer calories…definitely something to consider, especially since they were still absolutely delicious.