Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Asiago Cheese Bagels

I have to admit, one of my favorite places on Earth is Panera Bread. Everything there is delicious, especially the bagels. A little while ago I set out to recreate their Asiago Cheese Bagels, which I cannot get enough of. I've made them twice and I have noticed a difference between the ingredients and the final products. When made with a block of hand grated Asiago, the bagels were full of cheese lined nooks and crannies. The tops were bubbly and the bottoms crisp and buttery. On the other hand, the bagels made with pre-shredded Asiago cheese were full of the cheese flavor, but had a lackluster texture when compared with the first batch. The already small pieces of cheese did not stand up to the kneading and were broken up a little too much. I highly recommend buying a block of Asiago cheese and grating it yourself to attain the perfect Asiago Cheese Bagel. Be careful, once you make these it may ruin the Panera bagels for you.

Asiago Cheese Bagels

Adapted from Baking with Julia

Makes 8 to 10 bagels.

For the dough:
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast, or 1 packet
2 1/4 cups lukewarm water 80 to 90 degrees F)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
6 cups (approximately) bread flour
2/3 cup (5.3 oz) freshly grated Asiago cheese (Grated on the largest holes of a box grater, pre-grated/pre-shredded is not recommended)

For the water bath:
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the topping:
1 egg white mixed with
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup (4 oz) to 2/3 cup (5.3 oz) freshly grated Asiago cheese

Whisk yeast into 1/4 cup of the lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar and let rest until creamy and foamy.
While waiting for the yeast, mix together the remaining water and shortening so it can soften. Add yeast mixture, sugar, and salt.
Stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, add flour 1/2 cup at a time, stopping when the dough is soft, sticky, and very hard to stir.  Turn dough out onto a floured board and gently make an indentation in the top (be sure not to make a hole, just a sort of dough bowl) fill the indentation with the grated cheese and close up the hole around it. Knead for 5 to 6 minutes until smooth and springy.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for an hour, or until doubled in size.
After the dough has doubled in size, gently deflate and cover again with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight, if more convenient.
When ready to bake the bagels,  preheat oven to 500 degrees F, cover cookie sheets with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place a shallow roasting pan on the oven floor to preheat as well, this will be used to create steam while the bagels bake. Set a stockpot or dutch oven 1/2 filled with water on the stove to boil. When the water reaches a rapid boil, add sugar and baking soda.
In the meantime, divide the dough in half and return one half to the fridge. Divide the remaining half into 4 or 5 pieces, depending on how large you want the bagels to be. Working with one piece at a time, pull up the dough from the bottom to the top and tucking it in to form a tight round ball. Poke a hole in the middle of the dough ball, right from top to bottom, and gently stretch the dough until the hole has a 2 inch diameter. Let rest 15 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon or spatula lower the bagels into the boiling water. Do not crowd the bagels, two or three at a time is fine. Boil for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side then remove to prepared cookie sheets. Brush top and sides with egg and water mixture and sprinkle a tablespoon of  Asiago cheese on top of each.
Put 1/2 cup of ice water into a measuring cup. Put bagels into the oven on the bottom rack and toss the ice water into the roasting pan. Immediately close oven door and do not open for at least 5 minutes. Turn temperature down to 450 degrees and bake for 20 to 27 minutes. While this batch is baking, shape, rest, boil, glaze, and top the remaining bagels as you did with the first batch. The bagels should be golden brown and the cheese should be sizzling. After removing the finished bagels from the oven, return oven temperature to 500 degrees.  Bake the remaining bagels as before, adding new ice water to the roasting pan.
These bagels can be kept for up to a week in the refrigerator or up to a month in the freezer. I think they are best sliced and toasted with plain cream cheese on top. Enjoy!

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