I don't know if you've heard, but it was really cold earlier this month. Cold enough that a good deal of things here in Chicago just shut down on one particular Monday, and I had no reason nor desire to leave my house. While I had no obligations that particular day, the "snow day" atmosphere of it all demanded a project. Homemade bagels certainly qualified. Then of course, I made them, instagrammed them, wrote about them, and let the post sit unpublished for 3 weeks. Typical.
I confess to a previous fear of working with yeast. Which, in respect, seems ridiculous. It's like I'm making a sourdough starter and trying to make the perfect loaf of bread: I just want to make risen baked goods. Pizza dough was my gateway, followed by simple bread rolls; bagels were perhaps an ambitious leap, what with the boiling and all–
–Ah yes, the boiling. I know dropping dough into boiling water seems really weird, but it's the secret to bagels' chewy exterior. The other secrets to this recipe? Time. Lots of time, doing nothing, waiting for the yeast to do its science-y magic. This is one of those recipes that has an active time a tiny fraction of the total time. Also, the potato. Potato has a tendency to make yeast breads very tender and forgiving, which is why I jumped on this recipe.
Oh, you're probably wondering how they turned out. Well, I was pretty damn pleased. These blow your average supermarket bagel out of the water. They're not wood-fired oven levels of greatness, but they do strike a nice balance between chewy exterior and tender interiors. The butter-caramelized sweet onion bits are way tastier than the classic dehyrated onion. My mom was particularly impressed, proclaiming them better than her favorite chain cafe bagels.
onion potato bagels
adapted from Food Network Magazine Jan/Feb 2014
1 medium Yukon gold potato (about 5 ounces), peeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the bowl
2 tablespoons honey
4 1/2 cups (20.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/4 ounce package of active dry yeast
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 large egg, beaten
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the potato until it pierces easily with a fork, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the water and mash until smooth. Allow to cool slightly. Save the water.
Stir the 1/4 cup olive oil and the honey into the mashed potato until well-combined. In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, stir together flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and the yeast. Add the potato mixture and 1 cup of the reserved potato cooking water. Turn on the mixer on medium speed, and knead with the dough hook for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, pulls away from the book, and bounces back when poked. If it seems really stiff, add a few more tablespoons of cooking water.
Remove the dough from the bowl, wipe out the bowl and coat it with a little olive oil. Put the dough back in the bowl, and cover with a damp cloth. Set aside in a warm place to rise, about 90 minutes to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
While the dough rises, cook the onion. Over low heat in a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook until soft and transparent but not yet brown, around 15-20 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and set aside.
When the dough is ready, punch it down and form it into a log. Cut it into 12 equal pieces, and shape the pieces into a ball. Place the dough balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment, cover with a damp towel, and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, shape the bagels. Use your fingers to punch out a 2-inch hole in the center, and place them back on the baking sheet. Cover, and allow to rise another 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring the potato water, or if there's not enough, a fresh pot of water, to boil. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.
After 20 minutes have past, use a slotted spoon or spatula to slowly submerge the bagels into boiling water, a few at a time. Boil 30 seconds before flipping to boil another 30 seconds. Remove the bagels and allow them to drain on a rack. When all the bagels have been boiled, place them back on the lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven. Brush the bagels with the beaten egg, then top with the glazed onions. Return to the oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool at least 20 minutes before serving.