Asiago Cheese Bagels

So, I hate big franchise-type coffee houses. I hate their smoke-free, bright interiors with decor that’s supposed to look artsy and free. I hate their yuppie clientel and the hours of operation that result from appealing to the rush-hour crowd. I hate the two chairs by a fake fireplace surrounded by tens of regular old tables and hard chairs — like those chairs are supposed to make it feel like your living room or something. I hate the fact that they still employ the same free-spirited workers as a non-chain coffee house, only because those people have no other coffeeshops in which they can work.

I’d patronize a unique, single-location coffeeshop over that any day. Give me one with bar hours, not commuter hours — it should open at 9 and close at 2, at least on the weekends. The people that are up before that can go to Starbucks or whatever. And bring in some real furniture: lots of chairs, couches, coffee tables.

Any coffeeshop worth going to needs to have an old staircase leading to a second floor, and it needs to have a outdoor balcony — with little tables and chairs out there. The lighting inside needs to be turned down to almost nothing. Bring in some lamps, so the people who want to read can sit by them.

There’s no coffeeshop near our house. There are places to buy coffee, but no coffeeshops — not even the big chain type. So occasionally we drive to the Panera Bread that’s about 4 miles from here, and we get regular coffee and a couple of their asiago cheese bagels. They are good, and they are worth the drive, but you can’t drive fifteen minutes every time you want a damn bagel.
So today I’m making asiago cheese bagels. Here’s my version of an Asiago Cheese Bagel Recipe. It’s basically a plain bagel with some cheese mixed in.

– 2 packets active dry yeast
– 3 tablespoons white sugar
– 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
– 5-1/2 cups flour (unbleached wheat flour is best, but all-purpose is okay)
– 8 ounces asiago cheese (one wedge-shaped chunk), divided
– 1 egg white

In a large bowl or mixer bowl, combine the yeast with two cups of warm water. Let stand until the yeast is dissolved.

Stir in the sugar, salt and flour. Kneed about 10 minutes.

With a knife, chop about half of the cheese into small chunks. Kneed these chunks into the bread dough. Cover and let the dough rise.

While dough is rising, finely shred the remaining cheese. If you like sharp, tasty cheese, this is the time to sample some.

Divide dough into 12 balls. If you want bagel-shaped bagels, punch a 1″ hole in the center of each ball and smooth the bagel around that. If you want a Panera-style asiago cheese bagel, just flatten the ball slightly.

Pour about an inch of water into a large skillet and bring to a boil. Three at a time, slip the bagels into the water. Simmer about three minutes, then flip. Simmer two minutes more, then flip again and simmer one minute. Repeat for the remaining bagels. Bagels should be slightly puffy. Blot bagels with a paper towel and place them on baking sheets lightly covered with non-stick spray.

Beat egg white with a tablespoon of water. Brush over bagels. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of bagels and press down so the cheese bakes into the top of the bagels.

Bake at 350F 30 minutes or until browned. Remove from sheets and cool on racks.

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