After making the sweet fougasse, I put my leftover poolish in the freezer, planning on using it for pizza dough. It took a surprisingly long time to defrost, so that didn't happen, but I ended up making bagels instead. I doubled the recipe in Crust & Crumb so I could take them in to eat at work for the next week or so, depending on how many get eaten at home.

I'd never frozen poolish before, and it was disturbingly fluid. I was also a bit worried by the fact that there were no air bubbles or foaming, as I'd read that yeast dies out in old poolish and makes it unstable for baking. But I went ahead with it anyway, because that's what I do (mostly out of sheer laziness) and it turned out well.

From what I've read online about making bagels, they would probably taste better with malt syrup instead of honey, and maybe with a higher gluten flour. A mix of high gluten and bread flour might be exciting. Still, even using honey in place of the malt syrup, you really can't go wrong with homemade bagels, but next time I think I'll plan ahead a bit and be more adventurous with my choice of toppings, and maybe even add some in the dough itself. This time, I topped the bagels with sea salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and caraway.

Kneading the stiff, stiff dough got me thinking about the difference between pretzels and bagels. Besides the ingredients (the pretzels I made contain butter, and sugar, not honey) I also found this interesting tidbit:

Homemade pretzels and soft pretzels are often made much the same way as bagels, by poaching them in boiling water before baking, the difference being that bagels are usually poached in salt water rather than water and baking soda.

Interesting, but I've never heard that before, and I certainly didn't follow those instructions in making either. I have heard about boiling pretzels in a weak lye solution, which is probably what the water and baking soda mentioned above is an attempt to duplicate. A longer boil makes pretzels and bagels chewier, and recipes tend to suggest less time in the water for pretzels. I like chewy breads though, and doubled the recommended boiling times for both.

I also learned an interesting new word while looking up information about European flours. "Panifiable" means 'ready to be made into bread' in Italian and French. I think I'm going to try to work that into my everyday vocabulary as much as possible. Only, in an American accent, it sounds a bit like something a cowboy might drawl. No idea what it might mean in that context though.

Bagel Recipe
Paraphrased from Crust & Crumb by Peter Reinhart

4 cups bread flour
4 cups cool water
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth.
Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature 3~5 hours, until bubbly.
Refrigerate overnight, covered.

1 cup poolish sponge
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons honey or malt syrup

1. Let the sponge sit at room temperature one hour to take the chill off.

2. Stir the yeast into the water and let sit three minutes.

3. Combine sponge, flour, salt, and honey in a large bowl, then add the water/yeast mixture.

4. Stir together, adding more water or flour, if neccessary. (I added a bit more water.)

5. Knead until dough passes the windowpane test, about 15~20 minutes by hand. Dough should be dense and fairly dry, smooth and stretchable.

6. Divide the dough into 6-14 pieces, depending on the size bagels you want. (I did 6, which gives you bagels about the size you'd get at a bagel shop.) Roll into balls, as if for dinner rolls, cover with plastic wrap and let sit 5 minutes at room temperature.
7. Line a pan with baking parchment and dust with cornmeal.

8. Form the bagels by sticking your thumb through each ball of dough and gently widening the hole by winding and stretching it. The hole should be about 1 1/2" wide for big bagels (or even bigger, since mine nearly closed up in the end).

9. Place the bagels on the sheets, cover with plastic wrap, let rise at room temperature 1 1/2 hours, then refrigerate overnight.

10. Remove the bagels from the fridge 30 minutes before baking. Bring a large pot of water to boil, preheat oven to 470*F.

11. Reduce heat on the water to keep it at a simmer. Gently drop the bagels in, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. They should sink to the bottom, then rise to the top. (I suspect I let mine rise too long, because they floated immemditately. Still tasted good though.)

12. Let bagels boil 1 minute on each side. While bagels are boiling, sprinkle the parchment sheets on the baking sheets with semolina or cornmeal and spray with oil.
13. Return the bagels to the sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through for even baking.

14. Let cool 30 minutes on a cooling rack before eating.

(The book has loads of tips and suggestions for better bagels and fun variations. I just don't like typing that much.)