Bagels bring such yummy memories to my mind. Next to making my own, the best bagel I’ve ever put in my mouth was from a little hole in the wall deli in New York City in December of 2001. It was a surprise birthday trip for my husband and was our first ever trip to the Big Apple. Our search for breakfast on the first morning had us wanting to try everything so we purchased the most perfectly toasted bagel smeared with the most generous amount of cream cheese I had ever seen. We also purchased other items which apparently weren’t that good because to this day I can’t tell you what else we ate except for that bagel. Eating that bagel brought out the most selfish traits known to man and the next morning we purchased two bagels so I didn’t have to share. 🙂
People think making bagels at home is hard but it’s really not difficult at all. Not any harder than making a loaf of bread and actually a bit faster than a traditional loaf. In fact, bagels are a traditional Sabbath bread because they can be made quickly once Sabbath ends on Saturday evening.
My mom, Sue Becker, has taught several bagel making classes and did some fun and interesting research on the history of bagels. Here are a few of the facts she discovered as well as the link to her video class on bagel making. Click here for the “Better Bagels” class by Sue Becker of Bread Beckers.
The first printed use of the word “bagel” came in the form of a public edict in Krakow, Poland. The edict decreed that all women, upon giving birth to a child, were to be given the gift of a bagel. I will fully admit to craving carbs after having each of my children so this sounds like a wonderful edict to me!
Fast forward just a bit to 1907 when the International Bagel Bakers Union (now disbanded) was founded in NYC. The art of bagel making was pretty top secret and this union permitted only the sons of members to apprentice.
Fast forward just a bit more to 1927 when Polish baker Harry Linder founded the first bagel factory outside NYC in New Haven, CT. This was the nation’s 1st frozen bagel factory and first factory to put bagels in supermarkets, making bagels available to the masses.
Okay, now on to my favorite bagel recipe. I’ve been playing around with a new sponging/mixing method for my dough and felt it would be perfect for this recipe. I was soooo right! Sponging is not a new method for developing the gluten in the dough but it is a perfect method if you live in a high moisture atmosphere. If you grind your own grains, this method also helps when you are dealing with a wheat that has a lower than desired protein %. The reason this method helps in this area is because there is a chemical reaction that occurs when the flour and water come together. If you let it sit long enough, the gluten will actually develop on its own. This is why “no knead” recipes work. You can of course use my normal mixing instructions (found in my post My Favorite Yeast Bread Recipe), but like I said, this method really does result in a great texture that was perfect for these bagels. Enjoy!
My Favorite Bagel Recipe
1 1/2 cups hot water
2 Tbsp. yeast
1 Tbsp. gluten
4 – 4 1/2 cups bread flour*
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp. salt
a bit of oil (this will be for use while forming the bagels)
For Boiling and Baking The Bagels:
1 gallon water
3-5 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar
a few handfuls of corn meal (optional, if using a non stick baking dish, the cornmeal is not needed)
Bagel Toppings Suggestions:
Egg white wash – 1 egg white + 3 Tbsp. ice water, beaten slightly
2 Tbsp. dehydrated garlic flakes
2 Tbsp. dehydrated onion flakes
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
*Whole Wheat Options: I would hard red or hard white wheat. Spelt and Kamut flour may also be used. If you use Spelt, you may need to increase the flour to 5 1/2 cups. Everything else will be one for one.
Yields: 12, 3 oz Bagels
Position the stainless steel bowl on the Ankarsrum base and insert the roller and scraper into the bowl. Start with the roller all the way up against the side of the bowl. Add the warm/hot (not boiling) water, gluten, 2 cups of the flour and the yeast into the bowl and turn the machine on the lowest speed (speed knob set to 12 o’clock). Mix until just combined. Remove the roller and scraper from the bowl and place white bowl cover onto the stainless steel bowl. Allow to “sponge” (rest) for about 10 minutes. Once time is up, remove the white lid and insert roller and scraper back into place. You will notice the dough has increased in size and has a very “spongy” look about it.
Now, add the honey and salt, turning the machine on the lowest speed. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour turning the speed up to a low/medium (speed knob set to about 3 o’clock). Dough will come together to form a ball much more quickly than normal. This is totally normal. Remember, the gluten has already been developing for 10 minutes during the sponging phase. Adjust the roller far enough away from the side of the bowl to ensure that the arm does not knock too harshly as the dough passes behind it. Set timer for 4-5 minutes. Once finished kneading, remove the roller and scraper and place the bowl cover on the stainless steel bowl. Allow to rest/rise for 20 minutes.
Turn dough out on a lightly oiled board or rolling mat. Divide into 12 equal balls of dough. I love having a kitchen scale for these type jobs. Also, don’t forget the little spatula that comes with the Ankarsrum is a great dough divider.
There are two popular methods for shaping your dough. The first (and most fun in my opinion) has you form a ball of dough, insert your thumb through the middle of the ball and then swing the dough around your thumb causing the center hold to stretch out. Don’t worry about how different each one looks. Unique is good! This is also a great method for kids. Who doesn’t enjoy playing with their food?
The other method has you roll one dough ball out into a rope. Wrap the rope around your hand pinching the ends together and then rolling it together on your board or mat, sealing it together.
Preheat oven to 400º. Allow bagels to rest for 15 minutes. While the bagels rest, prepare your pot of water for boiling the bagels. Be sure to use a wide opening pot. You want to be able to easily insert and remove the bagels and you also want them to have plenty of room to boil. Bring the water to a rolling boil and add the honey. Reduce heat to a slight simmer. You want the water to be just barely simmering. You may also use raw agave nectar in place of the honey. This really doesn’t add any sweetness to the bagel, this is what gives it a shiny surface.
Lay a non fibrous kitchen towel (a tea towel is perfect) next to your pot of water. Once bagels are finished resting, drop them one at a time into the simmer pot of water. Remember, don’t crowd them. I find that 3 or 4 fit best in a large pot of water. I like to insert them into the water with the pretty side facing down first. Allow to simmer for 1 minute, then gently flip them over and allow to simmer for 1 more minute. A slotted spoon and a kitchen timer are a necessity! Gently remove each bagel, laying them on your kitchen towel to dry slightly and continue with your next batch until all the bagels have simmered.
Gently brush each bagel with the egg wash and top as desired. Gently transfer each bagel to a non stick cookie sheet. If you don’t have a non stick pan, I recommend dusting your pan with a handful of corn meal. This adds texture (and could be used even on the non stick pan) and helps the bagels not stick to your pan. Bake for 25 minutes until bagels are a beautiful golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack or on a dry towel. DO NOT attempt to cut them until they are cool…hot bagels do not slice well and you’ll end up with a wadded mass of bagel pulp. Don’t do it! Of course, nothing is stopping you from ripping into one, bite by bite! 🙂
Once cooled, use a serrated knife or bagel cutter to slice bagels in half. They are ready for toasting if desired and topped however you like. My favorite is still cream cheese but the sky is the limit. Enjoy!!