Although Mr. B and I call New England home, I grew up in a galaxy far, far away called New Jersey. Although I love me some lobster, cream pie, cod and baked beans, the Jersey girl in me will never stop loving those two foods of my old stomping grounds: pizza and bagels. I am, admittedly, a pizza and bagel snob, and I have yet to find either of these things done as well in Boston as I can find them in NJ.
Today's post is not about pizza. That's for another day. Today, we talk about bagels. In high school, I would eat one every day for lunch. These days, I truthfully only eat them when I go back to Sussex County to see my family. Sometimes I crave that starchy, doughy, chewy deliciousness that is a true New York/New Jersey style bagel. The good news is that bagels are easy enough to make at home.
So roll up your sleeves and join me in the kitchen. Let's make bagels!
6-8 cups bread (high-gluten) flour
4 tablespoons dry baking yeast
6 tablespoons granulated white sugar
4 teaspoons salt
3 cups hot water
a bit of canola oil
1 gallon water
3-5 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar
a few handfuls of cornmeal
1. Pour three cups of hot water into the mixing bowl. The water should be hot, but not so hot that you can't bear to put your fingers in it for several seconds at a time.
2. Add the sugar and stir it with a whisk to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, and stir to dissolve.
Wait about ten minutes for the yeast to begin to revive and grow. This is known as "proofing" the yeast, which simply means that you're checking to make sure your yeast is active. If you skip this step, you won't know if you are using dead yeast, which could be potentially disastrous. You're good to go when the yeast begins to foam and release a sweet aroma. My husband accurately observed that it smelled like beer. Yum.
3. Add three cups of flour and the salt to the water and yeast and mix.
4. When you have incorporated the first 3 cups of flour, the dough should begin to thicken. Add more flour a half-cup at a time, and mix each addition thoroughly before adding more. As the dough gets thicker, add less and less flour at a time.
5. Once the mixture resembles dough more than it does batter, turn out your dough on a floured work surface and start kneading. Feel free to add small bits of flour to prevent sticking to your hands or the work surface. You want to knead the dough until it is nice and stiff, not as sticky, but still elastic. It should give and stretch without tearing.
6. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, rub your oiled fingers over the surface of the dough, and cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel. The oil and towel will keep the dough from drying out. Place the bowl in a dry, warm place. Allow it to rise until doubled in volume.
...and after! Poof!
7. While the dough is rising, fill a stockpot with about a gallon of water and set it to boil. When it reaches a boil, add the malt syrup and reduce the heat so that the water just barely simmers. Also, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
8. Once the dough has risen, turn it onto your work surface, punch it down, and divide immediately into 16 pieces.
To form the bagel, you should shape the dough into a round sphere with your hands. Poke a hole in the center of the blob. Smooth out the edges and fashion it into a bagel!
9. Once the bagels are formed, lay them out on a towel and let them sit for another 10-20 minutes. They should rise about another quarter size.
10. Time to boil your bagels! Boiling bagels before baking gives them their characteristic texture. This is the part that grocery stores and manufacturers skimp out on. Drop the bagels into the simmering water one by one. Since you don't want to crowd them, only boil a couple at a time. The bagels should sink first, then float to the top of the simmering water. Let the bagel simmer for three minutes, then turn them over with a slotted spoon. Simmer another three minutes, and then remove them out of the water and set them on a clean kitchen towel.
11. Toppings: If you intend to add toppings, do that now. You can use finely minced onion, poppy or sesame seeds, minced garlic, caraway seeds, or coarse salt. It's wise to add the toppings before you put them on the baking sheet so the runaways don't burn. If your toppings aren't sticking to the bagels well, brush the bagels with an egg wash (1 beaten egg + water) before sprinkling the toppings.
12. Sprinkle your baking sheets with some cornmeal. Then arrange the bagels on the baking sheets and put them in the oven. Let them bake for about 25 minutes, then flip, and bake another 10 minutes.
13. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes before attempting to slice.
We feasted on ours with cream cheese, capers, and smoked salmon. You could also eat them with honey, butter, or your favorite fruit jam. Enjoy!
While I couldn't have been more pleased with the way mine came out, you can see in the photos that my bagels were not as large, or "poofy", as deli bagels should be. The texture inside was perfect, but they lacked some height. This was likely because when I set them out to rise for a second time, they were not in an ideally warm place. My kitchen was rather chilly, and they didn't rise a full quarter size before I boiled them. You should aim to rise the bagels at about 80 degrees F.