By The Kitchen Prep
Bagels. So simple. So well-loved. So delicious.
As soon as I took a bite of one of these homemade bagels (fresh out of the oven, no less), I knew that I would never be able to eat another frozen bagel as long as I live (Ok, so I probably haven't eaten a frozen bagel since college, but still).
It completely boggles my mind that 5 ordinary ingredients that can be found in my pantry more often than not are responsible for these little beauties. It's all about technique with these because, really, there's nothing to 'em.
Now... that said, bagels (and yeast breads in general) aren't something you want to just make on a whim. They take a few hours and a lot of counter space. You will most likely curse at some point while you are making them. (Maybe twice.) You will also wonder why you began such a project when you have five million other things that you should be doing instead. But nevermind all that... the moment you smell them baking away in the oven you will know that you did the right thing.
Whether you use a little help from modern technology or decide to give these a go the good old fashioned way, they're definitely worth making at least once.
Serving Size: 10
3 ½ cup bread flour
2 packages active dry yeast
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1 ½ cup hot water (120-130 degrees)
3 qt water
1 ½ Tbsp barley malt syrup (or substitute sugar in the same amount)
1 egg white – beaten with 1 teaspoon water per white
Topping of choice, if any (coarse sea salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried onion, etc.)
Make the Dough: In a mixing bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer) measure 3 cups of the flour and stir in all the remaining dry ingredients. Pour in the hot water, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon (or with the flat paddle attachment of the electric mixer at low speed) and beat for about 2 minutes. Add the remaining half-cup of flour, a little at a time, stirring by hand. When the batter becomes thick and heavy, attach the mixer's dough hook (if using) or lift the dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface for kneading by hand.
Knead the dough: Knead the dough at medium low speed on the mixer – or by hand (using a push, turn and fold motion, energetically) for about 10 minutes – or until the dough is firm and solid when pinched with the fingers. Add flour as needed if the dough is sticky in your hands, or sticks to the sides of the mixing bowl (if using electric mixer).
First Rising: When dough is kneaded enough, place it in an oiled mixing bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature until it has doubled in volume – about 1 hour.
Prepare Water Bath: Near the end of this rising time, bring the 3 quarts of water to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the malt syrup or sugar; then, reduce the heat and leave the water just barely moving – at a slow simmer.
Shape the Bagels: When the dough has doubled in volume, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and punch it down with extended fingers to remove excess gas. Divide the dough into 10 pieces (each will weigh about 3-4 ounces). Shape each piece into a ball. Allow the balls to stand and relax for a few minutes – then flatten each one with the palm of your hand. With your thumb, press deep into the center of the bagel and tear the depression open with your fingers. Pull the hole open, pull it down over a finger and smooth the rough edges. It should look like a bagel! Form all of the bagels and place them on your work surface.
Second Rising: Cover the shaped bagels with wax paper or parchment paper. Leave them at room temperature just until the dough has risen slightly – about 10 minutes (this is called a "half proof").
Prepare Baking Sheet: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with shortening (or use a non-stick baking sheet, or line a baking sheet with "Silpat" or similar material) and sprinkle the baking sheet with cornmeal.
Water-bathe the Bagels: Into the gently simmering water prepared earlier, slip one bagel at a time (use a large skimmer, and gently lower them into the water). Simmer only 2 or 3 bagels at a time – do not crowd the pan. The bagels will sink and then rise again after a few seconds. Simmer gently for one minute, turning each bagel over once during that time. Lift each bagel out of the water with the skimmer, drain briefly on a towel, then place each bagel on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all bagels are simmered, drained and on the baking sheet.
Bake the Bagels: Brush each bagel lightly with the egg-white-water mixture first, then sprinkle the topping if desired – or leave unadorned, for water bagels. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. When the bagel tops are a light brown, turn them over to complete baking. This turning-over step will keep the bagels in a rounded shape, instead of their being flat on the bottom. When brown and shiny, remove the finished bagels from the oven. Place the bagels on a metal rack to cool.