Moment of Reflection
These Stuffed Onion Bagels are based on the bagel recipe I was provided in culinary school at the International Culinary Center (ICC) in New York City. As much as I treasure this recipe, I even more treasure my time at ICC.
The chef instructors I had were top notch. I actually told one of them to her face that she is a goddess (she truly is!!!!) when she volunteered her own time to tutor me on my piping skills — which, admittedly, were atrocious.
Well, earlier this week ICC announced that the school is becoming a part of the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE), also in New York City. While I am thrilled that ICC will live on as part of ICE rather than just close up shop, it is emotional for all of us ICC grads.
I looked at both schools when deciding which to attend. Both had much to offer, and it was a tough decision. To be honest, I chose ICC for the simple reason that the admissions person I met with spent literally two hours with me, reviewing the curriculum, touring me around, talking about our respective loves for cheesecake. Those couple of hours truly foreshadowed what my experience at ICC would be: a homey feeling of supportive community.
The individuals who comprised my class are spectacular human beings. We learned so much from our chef instructors, but we also learned from each other. Those nine months of part-time school will always be one of the highlights of my life. (Even though I was simultaneously working full-time running my own law firm!) Don’t get me wrong, I am sure ICE grads feel the same way about their experience, but having taken recreational classes at ICE, I can say that there was just something in the air at ICC that made it so special. I hope the ICC community lives on eternally at ICE.
[Tissue wipe to eyes … because I’m emotional? Or is it from the onions? Hmmmm.]
Let’s Talk Onion Bagels
OK, so Stuffed Onion Bagels.
Last year, one of my dear friends (Hi Joyce!!!), requested onion bagels for her boys. I am constantly making cinnamon raisin and everything bagels (those are both my jam), so I had never really contemplated an onion bagel.
Onion bagels must super oniony. I added some onion powder to the dough, which gave it a subtle and nice onion flavor in every bite. I did not want the minced onion on top of the bagel to burn, so I soaked the minced onion in water first to rehydrate it. It made a delish onion bagel! (I have tried using fresh onion on top of the bagels, but it just does not work well, and you get a deeper onion flavor with rehydrated minced onion.)
Admittedly, I had not really considered the onion bagel since then until my clever sister-in-law (Hi Jenn!!!) recently told me she made onion bagels and stuffed them with cooked onion as done in my Onion Rolls. FUN!!!
So, that’s how this recipe came to be. And, guess what! It’s fabulous! Well, if you like onions…
What Makes a Bagel a True New York Bagel?
When making a New York bagel, I insist on including one critical ingredient: malt. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: A true New York bagel requires (yes, I said it: requires) malt, whether in syrup or powder form.
What is Malt?
Malt powder (or syrup) is a sweet derivative of roasted barley. In this recipe (and most bagel recipes), we use non-diastatic malt, which means that the malt was heated to the point of killing the enzymes contained in it. Diastatic malt therefore has active enzymes in it and is used in bread recipes to assist with rising and conditioning the dough. Non-diastatic malt, which is more commonly used in bagels, simply provides a touch of sweetness and deeper color in the bagels without affecting the rise or dough consistency.
In this recipe, the malt is therefore not a key ingredient in terms of the structure of the bagel. It is, however, a key ingredient in terms of flavor. There are recipes out there that use “substitutes” for malt such as molasses and brown sugar. Those bagels may come out good, but they are not (I repeat NOT!) true New York bagels.
Can I Use Substitutions?
Remember: a substitute is just that. It is a second-best replacement for an ideal ingredient. If you are going to take the time and energy to make something, don’t you want it to be the best? I do. So, if you are going to make these bagels, plan in advance and buy the non-diastatic malt powder. It is readily available at King Arthur Flour (where I buy it) and sometimes on Amazon. I prefer the powder to malt barley syrup because the powder is easier to work with and has a longer shelf life.
How to Make Stuffed Onion Bagels
This recipe comes together very easily with a mixer. I use a KitchenAid 5 Quart Professional. If you have a less powerful mixer like the KitchenAid Artisan, the dough may be too stiff and cause your motor to overheat and turn off at some point during the kneading process. If the motor sounds like it is overworking, I suggest turning it off and finish kneading by hand. It’s actually a good workout and is quite therapeutic!
As I said, these bagels are super simple to make:
Make Onion Filling
Toss onions with salt, pepper and olive oil in frying pan. Cook several minutes until translucent. Cool to room temp.
Mix Dough Ingredients
You can use active dry or instant yeast. Knead all ingredients except the salt. It will take a few minutes for the dough to come together. Resist the urge to add more water. If, after about 3 minutes, the dough has not come together stop the mixer to scrape the sides of the bowl. If, after another minute, it still is not coming together, add 1 tsp. of water. Unless you live in the dessert or it’s a particularly dry day, you should not need more water than that.
Knead and Add Salt
By about the 7 minute mark, slow down the mixer and start adding the salt. (Nerd alert: We wait to add the salt because salt, when first combined with yeast, can kill some of the yeast or slow the yeast development in the dough. Once the dough is formed, the yeast reacts much more kindly to the salt, and it actually helps the yeast develop.) Knead for about 5 more minutes.
Do the windowpane test to make sure the gluten in the dough is fully developed. (See photo below!)
Shape, Add Onion Filling, and Rest
Shape the bagels. For a video on how to shape them, see my Bagel Making video saved on my Instagram profile. The only part not covered in the video is adding the filling. Just place 2 tsp. worth of the cooked onion, fold the dough over it to enclose it, squeeze the rope of dough to force out any air, and roll to approximately eight inches. Rest 15 minutes. Shape into bagels. Cover in plastic wrap and pop them into the refrigerator. (See photos below on addicting the filling and shaping!)
This helps the flavor develop further while slowing down the fermentation process.
Boil and Bake
Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature, approximately 45-60 minutes. Meanwhile, add water to the minced onion to rehydrate it. Let it sit at least 30 minutes. Before boiling the bagels, strain the water from the minced onion. Then boil the bagels, sprinkle the rehydrated minced onion on top, and bake. Be careful not to linger too long after boiling before baking. It is best to get them into the oven within a few minutes after boiling.
About this Recipe
I have not included U.S. volume measurements for this recipe. Bread formulas are very precise. There is too much disparity when measuring 1 cup of flour. If you are going to make my bagels, I want you to end up with a desired result – not a rubbery, dense bagel. If you still need to buy a scale (shame, SHAME!), see my post on Weighing v. Measuring for some recommendations.
Following are some pics showing the process. For a video tutorial on how to make bagels, please visit the saved video in my Instagram profile.
Stuffed Onion Bagels
- 1 medium onion (peeled and diced)
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- A pinch of fresh black pepper
- 13 g. olive oil (1 tbsp.)
- 3 g. active dry yeast (See Note below if using instant yeast)
- 235 g. water
- 455 g. bread flour
- 25 g. sugar (divided)
- 20 g. non-diastatic malt powder (plus approximately 2 tbsp. for water bath)
- 10 g. salt
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- 1 tbsp. minced (dehydrated onion)
- Approximately 3 tbsp. water
- Onion Filling. Toss all ingredients in a medium frying pan. On a medium-low heat, cook onion mixture until onions are translucent and just begin to caramelize on the sides, 5-7 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature before making the dough.
- Dough. In a mixing bowl fitted with the dough hook, combine the yeast, water and approximately 1 tsp. of the sugar. Gently stir to hydrate the yeast. Allow to sit until foamy, 3-5 minutes. Add the bread flour, rest of the sugar, 20 g. malt powder and onion powder. (If using instant yeast, combine all ingredients except the salt and continue from here.) Knead on a medium-low speed for about 7 minutes. Then, with the mixer on a low speed, slowly add the salt. Once combined, increase the mixer to medium-low, and continue kneading an additional 3-5 minutes. The salt should be fully absorbed (you should not feel the salt when you touch the dough) and the dough should be very smooth.
- To make sure the gluten is fully developed, do a windowpane test. Take a small piece (approximately 1 tsp.) of dough and stretch it between your fingers. It should form a “window pane”, meaning it should get thin enough that it is translucent without it ripping. If it is not at that point yet, continue kneading in the machine at 1 minute intervals or knead by hand until it passes the test.
- Divide the dough into six equal portions, each approximately 122 g. (If you want your bagels to each be equal, weigh the full entire dough and divide the weight by 6 for the total number of bagels. Shape each one into a ball, covering each with plastic wrap. Taking one dough ball at a time, flatten the ball with your fingers into an oval/rectangle, approximately four inches by six inches, so that the long part of the oval/rectangle is horizontal in front of you. Place two teaspoons of the onions across the top third of the dough, from left to right. Fold over the top third onto itself, pressing down so that none of the onions are exposed. Make another fold over the remaining portion of the dough. Pinch the ends of the log together so the onions cannot come out. With both your hands, roll the dough into a rope, approximately 8-9 inches long. In between rolling, it is a good idea to squeeze the log to release any air bubbles within it. Cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough balls. Allow the six ropes to rest for 15 minutes.
- Attach the ends of each rope to form bagels. Place each bagel on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the tray, tightly covered in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator overnight.
- In the morning, remove the tray from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature, approximately 45-60 minutes.
- Approximately 30 minutes before you plan to boil the bagels, preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Place the dehydrated onion into a small bowl and pour enough water over it to cover it. Allow the dehydrated onion to sit in the water for at least 30 minutes. Strain the water from the minced onion. (If you do not have a fine mesh sieve, empty the wet, minced onion into a coffee filter or onto a paper towel. No need to squeeze or pat out the water. You want the minced onion to be wet, but you do not want the excess water it was soaking in.)
- Using a pot large enough to comfortably hold 2 or 3 bagels at a time, bring a pot of water with 2 tbsp. of non-diastatic malt powder to a boil. (I use a 4½ quart pot and fill it up approximately half way with water.) Place 2 or 3 bagels at a time into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Flip each bagel and boil for an additional 30 seconds. Using a strainer or a slotted spoon, remove each bagel from the water and place on the prepared baking tray. Cover each bagel with the re-hydrated onion. Repeat with the rest of the bagels.
- Bake the bagels for 16-20 minutes, until the tops are browned.
- If using instant yeast, reduce the amount to 2 g. (Approximately 25% of active dry yeast is dead and will not perform, whereas 100% of instant yeast is fully active. For this reason, it is best to reduce the amount of yeast if using instant. That said, if you prefer more bread-like bagels, stick with 3 g. of instant yeast.)
- Once baked and cooled, the bagels can be stored in the freezer for months. I recommend slicing them before freezing. To defrost, wrap each bagel individually in foil, place in cold oven, and turn oven on to 350°F. Within a few minutes of your oven reaching 350°F, your bagels should be defrosted and nicely warmed, begging for butter to be shmeared all over them.