One of the worst culinary crimes of the last century is what industrialized bakeries have done to the bagel.
What was once fresh-baked, chewy, soft and dense (in a good way) has mutated into a moist, doughy mass shoved into plastic and left to languish on a super-store shelf for days, if not weeks.
No wonder people are going carb-free…This recipe from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice returns us to a world full of authentic, boiled bagels. They require a little rip of your teeth to get through the crust, and the soft bread inside is the perfect base for cream cheese, lox, a poached egg, or, my favourite, chunky peanut butter.
So, unless you live in Montreal or New York, or another city where bakery-baked bagels still exist for the masses, try a batch of these. Don’t let the long recipe intimidate you. Sure, it’s an overnight thing, but you can take the shaped and risen bagels out of the fridge and immediately boil and bake them for a fresh-baked breakfast without having to get up before the crack of dawn.
Chewy, soft and authentically delicious. If you can’t get good ones from a local baker, make your own.
Yield: 12 large or 16-18 smallish bagels
- All-Purpose Flour – 4 Cups
- Instant Yeast – 1 tsp
- Water, room temperature – 2½ Cups
- Instant Yeast – ½ tsp
- All-Purpose Flour – 3¾ Cups
- Kosher Salt – 2 ¾ tsp
- Brown Sugar – 1 Tble
- Baking Soda – 1 Tble
- Cornmeal for dusting
- Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, or chopped onions tossed in oil (optional)
Read the entire recipe through at least once and prepare your ingredients.
Make the sponge: Stir the flour and yeast together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the water, and mix together on low, with the paddle, until it forms a smooth, sticky pancake-like batter. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.
Assemble the dough: In the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and brown sugar. Mix on low speed, with the dough hook, until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.
Increase the speed to medium and knead for 6 minutes. The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
Immediately divide the dough: 4½ ounce pieces for large bagels, 3½ ounce pieces for smaller bagels. Roll the pieces into balls under your palm to tighten their surface tension. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for 20 minutes.
Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. To shape into bagels, poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2½“ in diameter for a large bagel or 2” for smaller ones. Stretch the dough as evenly as possible to avoid thick/thin spots.
Place the bagels 2” apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with spray oil and cover the sheets loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then place in the refrigerator overnight, or for up to 2 days.
When you are ready to bake the bagels, preheat the oven to 500 °F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large, wide pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.
Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit. After 1 minute, flip them over and boil for another minute. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal. Remove from the water and top with your choice of toppings as soon as they come out of the water.
When all the bagels are boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown.
Remove the pans from the oven and cool bagels on a rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.