Bagels from Scratch
Last week I handed SE overlord Ed Levine a bag of bagels. "Ed, you're Bagel Maven Numero Uno up in this joint. Try these [left], I need your honest opinion."
Munch, munch, munch.
"Damn! These are pretty good. Where are they from?"
"Casa de Kubs, dude. Casa de Kubs."
"Um, that would be my house."
"Really!? Impressive, Mr. Kuban!"
If you would like a quick visual overview on making SE-Overlord-worthy bagels, follow along to the next slide.
Let's Get Started
Apart from the malt syrup (which you use later in the bagel-boiling water), you probably already have all you need to make bagels in your pantry: flour, sugar, salt, yeast. You can mix it all together by hand or in a stand mixer or food processor, which is what I used. (The food processor really does make short work of it.)
Rise and Shine
Once you have the dough mixed, you just set it in a large bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and let it rise until doubled in bulk, about 50 minutes.
About 15 minutes before the end of the rise, put 6 quarts of water on to boil in a large pot, and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the malt syrup. The syrup gives the bagels some color and helps with that signature shine.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and flatten to 1/2-inch thick.
Rollin' in Dough
Divide the dough into 10 equal portions, and ball it. I use the "rope-and-loop" method to shape my bagels, but you can also do a "stretch and poke." There's really no "right" way; just do what's comfortable. (The Fresh Loaf has a pretty good discussion on the differences.)
Roll each ball into a "rope" about 7 inches long and about 1 inch thick.
Loop that rope around the back of your hand, overlapping the tails, and roll it on your work surface to crimp.
Note: *I* loop my rope around 3 of my fingers instead of my whole hand, because I like a bagel with a smaller hole. Try different configurations to see what you like most. My wife, for example, serving as a hand model here, has small enough hands that she could probably wrap the rope around completely and still have a pretty tight little bagel.
After shaping, let the bagels rise again for about 10 minutes. Your water should be boiling by this point.
IMHO, if your round bread product with a hole in it is not boiled before baking, it is not a bagel. Boiling "sets" the crust so the bagels don't expand too much while baking. This does two things:
- It creates a nice chewy exterior (the longer you boil them, the thicker and chewier the crust will be)
- It results in a denser crumb—because the bagel can't expand as much while baking
Boil 30 seconds on each side, then remove bagels to a clean kitchen towel with a skimmer.
I love to top my bagels. First brush on an egg wash so your sesame seeds, poppy seeds—whatever—will stick.
Now, here's a trick I learned from Martha Stewart Living magazine. (It was for decorating cookies, but, whatever. It works here, too.) Place a cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet, line up your bagels to be topped, and shake on the stuff. When you're done, you can harvest the topping bits that didn't stick. Obviously, that means you should work with only one topping at a time — unless your goal is to end up with a mixture of toppings for an everything bagel.
Well, that's pretty much that. Arrange on a baking sheet, and into the oven!
And, wow, you really stuck that out. Here's your reward: The recipe, right this way! »