cinnamon raisin bagels
Ah, the fresh bagel. Even a bad bagel can't be that bad if it's fresh. Well, I don't know, but there's something about the hot out-of-the-oven effect that's pretty hard to deny. Even though I've tried my hand at bagels before and started out with a fancier flavor, on my second attempt I decided to go with a classic that I've always loved: cinnamon raisin. Even though an everything bagel has my heart with the salty-garlicy-seedy texture, there's something about a warm, cinnamon raisin bagel that speaks to my soul.
Now, bagels are an all-day project. Cancel your plans, hunker down, get used to the heat of the oven, because bagel-baking is a serious business that's more than worth the effort and the wait. You want to begin by making your sponge, which consists of:
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 cups bread (or strong) flour, a higher gluten version of all-purpose
2 1/2 cups room temperature water
In the bowl of a stand mixed (without yet employing the mixer itself), hand-whisk your yeast into the 4 cups of flour and then add your water (definitely be sure it's neither hot nor cold, as this will affect your very temperamental yeast and the rise quality). Whisk together to form what will look like a thick, sticky pancake batter. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in a dark place for 2 hours. (I like to do my rising processes in the oven, where it's slightly warm which helps promote the dough to rise.) After 2 hours this mixture should be foamy and about doubled in size.
Attach your bowl to the mixer this time and now it's time to prepare your dough. For this, you will need:
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 3/4 cups bread (or strong) flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cups loosely packed raisins, well rinsed
Using the dough hook attachment, add your second teaspoon of yeast to your sponge mixture and stir. Add three cups of your additional bread flour, your cinnamon, sugar, salt and brown sugar and stir on a low speed until the dough starts to form a ball. (It will still be pretty loose and sticky at this stage.) Slowly work in your remaining 3/4 cup of flour until the dough ball comes together more completely. Continue stirring and add your raisins. The raisins may reintroduce some stickiness back into the dough and if that's the case, add a bit more flour until the consistency is elastic but not sticky. Allow the mixer to run on low for about 6-8 minutes or until the dough is properly kneaded.
Transfer your dough onto a well-floured surface (definitely flour your hands, too, as the dough will be very dough and pliable AKA FUN). Using a floured dough cutter, divide your dough into 16 even pieces (or you can do 12 if you're into monster bagels, as we all should be). Arrange side by side (but no touching), cover with a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
While you're pacing around anxiously, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and mist with cooking spray. Now it's time to make these dough balls look like actual bagels. While there's no right or wrong way to do this (I don't think), the easiest is to pinch through the center of each ball with your thumb, making a small dent and gently expanding that hole by rotating to the right (or left, if you're left-handed). It sounds hard until you get through the first few; after that, you're a bagel-forming champ. As you form each one, place them on your prepped baking sheets. Tightly cover each prepared tray with plastic wrap (lightly grease the side that's touching the bagels with some nonstick spray) and let sit at room temperature for another 20 minutes. After, place in the refrigerator for three hours or up to overnight. (THREE HOURS IT IS, PEOPLE -- by now, I was seriously ready for a bagel.)
After these three hours have passed (during which it's best to leave the kitchen or the apartment entirely to distract yourself), preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Get a large (and preferably wide) pot of water boiling. Once the water has begun to boil, add 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Drop your bagels in (about 2-4 at a time, depending on the wideness of your pot) and boil at 1 minute per side. Place removed bagels back on a well-greased parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all bagels have been boiled.
Transfer your baking sheets (probably one at a time is best) to the oven and bake for 5 minutes. After the first 5, rotate your baking sheet 180-degrees and bake for another 5 or until golden brown on top. Remove and repeat until all your bagels are baked.
The kitchen will smell INSANE. These are so good that they don't even need any sort of topping or schmear (I know, bagel blasphemy), but seriously. I mean you probably can/should use some cream cheese like every good New Jersey girl does. All I'm saying is, if you didn't, they would still be amazing. They also freeze like magic for those busy mornings when you want a breakfast that's fast and delicious and not cereal out of the box. Just pop in the toaster and it's just like they came out of then oven all over again.