Makes 6 – 8 bagels
1 Tbsp barley malt syrup, honey, or rice syrup, or 1 tsp diastatic malt powder
1 tsp instant yeast
1-1/2 tsp salt, or 2-1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 Cup plus 2 Tbsp lukewarm water (about 95°F)
3-1/2 Cups unbleached bread flour
2 to 3 quarts water
1-1/2 Tbsp barley malt syrup or honey (optional)
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt, or 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
Top your bagels with any combination of the following garnishes:
To make the dough, combine the malt syrup (or honey, etc), instant yeast, and salt in a glass measuring cup with the lukewarm water. Stir lightly to dissolve sweet syrup into the warm water.
Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl before pouring in the syrup-yeast mixture. We recommend you use a heavy stand mixer if you have one: use the dough hook to mix, on the lowest speed, for 3 minutes (if you are mixing the dough by hand, a large, long-handled wooden spoon is the preferred tool to use; use your strong mixing arm and stir for at least 3 minutes), until the ingredients are well blended.
At this point, the dough should form a stiff, coarse ball, and the flour should be fully hydrated; if it doesn’t feel right, stir in a little more water. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
Using your stand mixer? Resume mixing with the dough hook, on the lowest mixer speed, for another 3 minutes (or transfer your hand-mixed dough to a lightly-floured work surface, where you’ll knead by hand for about 3 minutes). This round of kneading (by mixer or hand) smooths out the dough and helps to develop the gluten. Now the dough should be stiff-yet-supple, with a satiny, barely tacky feel. If the dough seems too soft or feels too sticky, mix or knead in a little more flour.
Lightly oil another mixing-size bowl. Gather together the batch of dough, and shape into a neat ball before transferring dough to the oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set in a draft-free spot, allowing dough to rise, at room temperature, for at least one hour.
Shape the bagels. After dough has risen for an hour, prepare a baking sheet. Line the pan with a either sheet of parchment paper or a silicone mat, and mist the parchment or silpat with a light spritz of vegetable/olive oil spray.
Divide the risen dough into 6 to 8 equal pieces. (A typical bagel is about 4 oz before baking, but you can make them smaller. Six bagels will fit neatly on a single sheet pan.) Roll each piece of dough into a loose ball on a clean dry (flourless) work-surface.
Make the bagel one of two ways: One: Poke a hole through the center of the dough-ball to create a doughnut shape. Holding the “doughnut” with both thumbs in the hole, rotate the dough around with your hands, stretching it to create a hole that eventually grows to about 2 inches in diameter.
Two (how professional bagel makers do it): Use both hands and roll the ball into a “snake” about 8 inches long on a clean, dry (flourless) work surface. Taper the rope slightly at each end and moisten the last inch or so of the ends of the dough “snake.” Place one end of the dough in the palm of your hand and wrap it once around your hand, making a circle, going between your thumb and forefinger. The ends of the dough should overlap by about 2 inches in your palm. Squeeze the overlapping ends together by closing your hand, then press the seam down onto the work surface sealing the ends together. Remove the dough from your hand, squeezing it to an even thickness, creating a hole in the middle that is about 2 inches in diameter.
Place each shaped bagel on the prepared sheet pan, then mist or brush with a little more vegetable or olive oil. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or up to 2 days).
Make ahead: You can also raise the full batch of dough in the oiled bowl overnight. Shape the bagels the day you want to make them, 60 to 90 min before boiling and baking them, or as soon as they pass the float test.
Baking day: Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 60 – 90 min before you plan to bake them, allowing them to warm to near room temperature. If you plan to top them with dried onion or garlic, begin to rehydrate those ingredients.
Immediately check whether the bagels are ready for baking, using the “float test”: Put one of the bagels in a small bowl of cold water. If the uncooked bagel sinks and doesn’t float back to the surface, pluck it from the water and shake off the droplets. Return it to the baking sheet, waiting another 15min before testing it again. When one bagel passes the float test, assume that all are ready to be boiled. If they pass the float test before you are ready to boil and bake, return the baking sheet to the refrigerator so the dough doesn’t over-proof.
About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500°F and prepare the bagel garnishes (seeds, onions, garlic, and so on), if you are using them.
Make the bagel-poaching liquid by filling a large dutch oven or pot with 2 – 3 quarts of water. The water in the pan should be at least 4 inches deep. Cover the pan, bring water to a boil on the stove over high heat, then lower the burner to maintain a simmer. Stir in the malt syrup, baking soda, and salt.
Using a wok skimming utensil or heatproof slotted spoon, gently lower each bagel into the simmering poaching liquid, adding as many as will comfortably fit at once in the pot. The bagels should all float back up to the surface of the poaching liquid within 15 seconds. After 1 minute, use the slotted spoon to turn each bagel over. Poach for another 30 to 60 seconds, and use the slotted spoon to transfer it back to the oiled baking sheet, domed side up.
Generously sprinkle top of bagel with your preferred topping (except for cinnamon sugar! do that after baking) immediately when the bagels come out of the poaching water. You can top the bagels with any combination of the following garnishes: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt, or rehydrated dried onions or garlic. (Soak dried onions or garlic in water to cover for at least 1 hour before applying.) The toppings adhere to the bagel best if the top of each bagel is first brushed with an egg white wash (1 egg white whisked together with 1 Tbsp water). If using coarse or flavored salt as a garnish, remember that a little goes a long way.
When you have poached all the bagels and sprinkled them with a favorite topping, place the full baking sheet to the 500°F oven, then lower the temperature to 450°F.
Bake bagels for 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and check the bottoms of the bagels. If bagels appear over-browned, slip a cookie sheet under the baking sheet. (Doubling up like this will insulate the first baking sheet.) Cook for another 8 – 12 minutes, until the bagels’ exteriors look golden brown.
Remove baking sheet from oven. Transfer bagels to a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving.
Adapted from Epicurious.