Guess what? It’s not really as hard as it sounds! I’ve done it a few times, so I feel like I can now give advice on how to make better-than-store-bought bagels.
First, you need a good recipe. The one I use came from a bread baking group I belong to on facebook, but there are many similar recipes online. Here’s the one I use:
2 1/2 cups warm water
6 T white sugar
2 t salt
4 t olive oil
2 T active dry yeast
8-9 cups flour (I use a mix of AP and freshly milled hard red wheat)
a stock pot full of boiling water
salt or sugar for the water to flavor the exterior of the bagels
The first step with any yeast recipe is to proof the yeast. Use a bit of the sugar and warm water, stir the yeast in, and wait a few minutes to see if the yeast activates and bubbles up. If so, you’re good to go. While the yeast proofs, pour the rest of the warm water into your mixing bowl and soak any freshly ground flour in it. If you’re using store-bought flour, skip this step.
Add the sugar, salt, oil, and half of the flour to the water. Mix it up good, then add the yeast mixture. Your dough will be a sticky, goopy mess at this point. Start adding the rest of the flour, kneading well as you go. Your finished dough will be slightly sticky and fairly stiff. Don’t worry about the stiffness because that will go away after the rise.
Put your dough into an oiled rising bowl, cover with a wet tea towel, and set in a warm place for about 40 minutes. De-gas the dough, then allow to rise a second time.
Once the dough has risen a second time, de-gas it on the counter and cut it in half repeatedly until you have 32 equally-sized bits. Roll each bit on an un-floured wooden surface until you have a rope about a foot long. Put the two ends together and pinch along the seam to seal it. Set each bagel onto a lightly floured surface. This is important. If you don’t flour it enough, the dough will stick when you go to pick it up for the next step, and you will lose your beautiful shapes.
See the white towel there? That’s what I mean by a wet tea towel. I think some people call them flour sack towels. They are a must have for any serious baker. When wet, they don’t stick to dough. They also provide a moist environment for the baked goods to rise in.
Anyway, once you have all of your bagels shaped, put that wet tea towel lightly over all of them and let them rise for about 20 minutes. While they are rising, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and get a stock pot of water boiling with either salt or sugar depending on the flavor you want to impart to your finished bagels. When the bagels have risen, use your floured fingers to gently pick them up and slide them into the boiling water. I do 3-4 bagels at a time. Boil them for 30 seconds on each side.
Place the boiled bagels onto a pan lined with parchment paper or silpat. This is the time when you sprinkle on toppings if desired. My favorite is a mixture of onion powder, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and garlic powder. You could also sprinkle some cinnamon-sugar on top for a sweeter bagel. This batch I made all plain because my kids are picky. When the pan is full, put it in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the bagels have browned slightly.
When they’re done, take them out and immediately toss them onto an unprepared counter top to cool. I love our butcher block island for this. They’ll cool quickly.
Once they’re cooled, enjoy! But be careful – these are some tasty nomnoms. Eating the entire batch isn’t out of the realm of possibility. You’ve been warned. If you have extras after you’re done gorging, you can either freeze them in ziplocs or put them in a bag on the counter for a couple days.
That’s it for today’s post! Have fun making your own bagels!