A few years ago, I got into a bread baking kick where I wanted to bake ALL THE BREADS. There’s something therapeutic about kneading dough and watching very basic ingredients transform into loaves of deliciousness. (Needless to say, I could never be gluten-free.) Although most bread recipes take quite a bit of time (this one included), a lot of that is simply waiting. And waiting is probably the hardest part!
I love making individual-sized breads and rolls, so bagels have been on my to-bake list for awhile. I’m happy to report they were a resounding success — my husband says they were the best bagels he’s ever tasted! Crisp exterior with just the right amount of salt and a wonderful chew — perfect with a schmear of cream cheese. The original recipe for these New York style bagels is from one of my favorite bread experts: Peter Reinhart. His Bread Baker’s Apprentice is one of my favorite cookbooks and showed me it was possible to good bread in a home oven. While there is a recipe for bagels in BBA, I chose to use a version from Epicurious because it made a smaller batch and the process was a little streamlined.
As with all Peter Reinhart recipes, there are a lot of detailed instructions; and you’ll definitely want to read the recipe through to the end a couple times to get a feel for the process. However, it really isn’t too difficult — if you’ve made soft pretzels before, you’ll find bagel-making very similar.
- I’ve edited the recipe to reflect the methods and timeline I used. Consult the original for other options.
- The original recipe in BBA suggests high gluten flour as ideal for bagels. I couldn’t find it easily so I just used bread flour. The bagels were satisfyingly chewy, though I do want to try high gluten sometime.
- The original recipe says the yield is 6-8 bagels. I like mine smaller so I made 12, and they were still pretty good-sized.
- The original doesn’t call for an egg wash, but after reading comments online I decided to use one to ensure the toppings would stick well.
New York Style Bagels
Adapted from Peter Reinhart via Epicurious | Makes 6 large or 12 small bagels
- 1 tablespoon (0.75 oz / 21 g) barley malt syrup, honey, or rice syrup, or 1 teaspoon (0.25 oz / 7 g) diastatic malt powder
- 1 teaspoon (0.11 oz / 3 g) instant yeast (Note: I used a heaping tsp of active dry, and it worked fine)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (0.37 oz / 10.5 g) salt, or 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 oz / 255 g) lukewarm water (about 95°F or 35°C)
- 3 1/2 cups (16 oz / 454 g) unbleached bread flour
- 2 to 3 quarts (64 to 96 oz / 181 to 272 g) water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (1 oz / 28.5 g) barley malt syrup or honey (optional)
- 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz / 14 g) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (0.25 oz / 7 g) salt, or 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Any mixture of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried onion flakes, dried garlic flakes, and coarse salt
- To make the dough, stir the malt syrup, yeast, and salt into the lukewarm water. Place the flour into a mixing bowl and pour in the malt syrup mixture. If using a mixer, use the dough hook and mix on the lowest speed for 3 minutes. If mixing by hand, use a large, sturdy spoon and stir for about 3 minutes, until well blended. The dough should form a stiff, coarse ball, and the flour should be fully hydrated; if it isn’t, stir in a little more water. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
- Resume mixing with the dough hook on the lowest speed for another 3 minutes or transfer to a very lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for about 3 minutes to smooth out the dough and develop the gluten. The dough should be stiff yet supple, with a satiny, barely tacky feel. If the dough seems too soft or overly tacky, mix or knead in a little more flour.
- Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator 60 to 90 minutes before you plan to bake the bagels. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone mat, then misting it with spray oil. Divide the dough into 6 to 12 equal pieces. (A typical bagel is about 4 ounces or 113 grams before baking, but you can make them smaller [I made 12]. If you make more than 6 bagels, you may need to prepare 2 sheet pans.) Form each piece into a loose ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand. (Don’t use any flour on the work surface. If the dough slides around and won’t ball up, wipe the surface with a damp paper towel and try again; the slight bit of moisture will provide enough traction for the dough to form into a ball.)
- Use both hands (and a fair amount of pressure) to roll the ball into a rope about 8 inches long on a clean, dry work surface. (Again, wipe the surface with a damp towel, if necessary, to create sufficient friction on the work surface.) Taper the rope slightly at each end and moisten the last inch or so of the ends. Place one end of the dough in the palm of your hand and wrap the rope around your hand to complete the circle, going between your thumb and forefinger and then all the way around. The ends should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together by closing your hand, then press the seam into the work surface, rolling it back and forth a few times to seal. Remove the dough from your hand, squeezing it to even out the thickness if need be and creating a hole of about 2 inches in diameter.
- After 1 hour, check whether the bagels are ready for baking using the “float test”: Place one of the bagels in a small bowl of cold water. If it sinks and doesn’t float back to the surface, shake it off, return it to the pan, and wait for another 15 to 20 minutes, then test it again. When one bagel passes the float test, they’re all ready to be boiled. If they pass the float test before you are ready to boil and bake them, return them to the refrigerator so they don’t overproof. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C) and gather and prepare your garnishes (egg wash, seeds, onions, garlic, and so on).
- To make the poaching liquid, fill a pot with 2 to 3 quarts of water, making sure the water is at least 4 inches deep. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain at a simmer. Stir in the malt syrup, baking soda, and salt.
- Gently lower each bagel into the simmering poaching liquid, adding as many as will comfortably fit in the pot. They should all float to the surface within 15 seconds. After 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to turn each bagel over. Poach for another 30 to 60 seconds, then use the slotted spoon to transfer it back to the pan, domed side up. (It’s important that the parchment paper be lightly oiled, or the paper will glue itself to the dough as the bagels bake.) Brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle on a generous amount of whatever toppings you like as soon as the bagels come out of the water.
- Transfer the pan of bagels to the oven, then lower the oven heat to 450°F (232°C).
- Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and check the underside of the bagels. If they’re getting too dark, place another pan under the baking sheet. (Doubling the pan will insulate the first baking sheet.) Bake for another 8 to 12 minutes, until the bagels are a golden brown.
- Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving.