I’ve baked a lot of bread, but bagels always seemed so intimidating to me. So, I never attempted them before three weeks ago. This is the story of my third batch, and I think these bagels came out exactly as I was hoping for. Tracy seems pleased!
I started my research with the undisputed world’s best bagels in mind: New York City bagels.
I’ve spent some time in Manhattan, and I can tell you for sure – there is no better bagel than a NYC bagel. I’ve always heard it’s the water. I don’t have NYC water, but I thought I’d give bagels a shot anyway to see how close I could come.
I want to give credit where it is due (Sophisticated Gourmet), and this is the recipe I started with three weeks ago. I was pretty impressed with the result: a batch of completely passable (if not great) bagels. That’s no reflection on the recipe, by the way. This was my first try, and I’m sure I made mistakes. But this recipe erased my fear of the process. Yes, there are a lot of steps, but they are all easy. If I can do it, so can you!
With a successful first try, I decided I needed more information. I researched techniques and recipes for creating an “authentic” NYC bagels. I discovered a lot. Bagel boards; malt syrup; techniques for forming the bagel.
The result of that research is presented here. I achieved my personal goal: creating a bagel at home that was crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, evenly browned, and as close to a NYC bagel as I could get.
Here’s how I did it!
- 3 ½ cups (1 ¼ pounds) King Arthur Bread Flour, plus a little for flouring the counter
- 1 ½ cup water (1/2 cup for the yeast/sugar mix, then 1 cup to pour into your food processor)
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoon salt (1 ½ teaspoon for the flour, 1 teaspoon for your bagel bath)
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- Cuisinart Food Processor (7 cup model) (optional, but makes it easier when used) – the one pictured below in the Amazon link is just like ours. We’ve had it forever and it works GREAT
- Bagel Boards (see description at the end of the recipe) (optional)
- Parchment paper
- Big pot for boiling bagels
- Baking sheet (cookie sheet)
- Food scale
- Damp towel to cover bagels
1. Using ½ cup lukewarm water, add yeast and then sugar to a small bowl. Let stand at least 5 minutes.
2. In a separate large bowl, add salt to flour and mix these ingredients dry.
3. Put flour and salt mix into your Cuisinart and lock into the running position. Slowly add the yeast/sugar mix and then the rest of the water (the 1 cup). You may need a little more or less water. What you want is to add just enough so that the dough does not stick to the side of the hopper as it kneads. Process in the Cuisinart for up two 2 minutes. You can skip the machine and mix and knead by hand if you want to.
4. Flour your counter and plop the dough out. Knead by hand for 5 minutes. (Most recipes call for 10 minutes of hand kneading, but I find using the Cuisinart means you can cut the kneading time in half.) The flour from the counter will get incorporated into the dough. You want to end up with a firm, elastic dough. It should bounce back quickly when you poke it.
5. Lightly oil a bowl (I use a silicone BBQ brush) and the round of dough you just kneaded.
6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and start soaking your bagel boards in plain water if you’re using them. (More at the bottom of this post about bagel boards. They are an optional part of this process.)
7. Cover your dough with a damp towel and let rise for 1 hour. After 1 hour, punch down and let sit for another 10 minutes.
8. Fill a large pot water; this is your bagel bath. Add salt and molasses. Bring to a boil on your stove. (Many recipes I found called for Malt syrup instead of molasses; but I couldn’t find any malt syrup. I saw recipes that used honey, or molasses in place of malt syrup. I had molasses, so I used that.)
9. After the 10 minutes is up, separate your dough into eight 4-ounce pieces. I do weigh mine to ensure they are all uniform.
10. There are several methods for creating the bagel. You can search on YouTube for making homemade bagels, and see what appeals to you.
This is my favorite: roll a piece of dough out onto an UN-FLOURED counter into a long snake. Put your knuckles in the middle of the snake palm side up. Wrap the ends around your palm, and then roll the seam together onto the counter. You will have a bagel ring around your hand. Lay the bagel onto a cutting board covered with parchment paper. Repeat for the remaining 7 pieces, and cover all with a damp towel.
11. Let them sit for about 10 minutes.
12. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle some corn meal on. Lay in your bagel boards if you are using them.
13. It’s time to give your bagels a bath. When the water is at a steady boil, use a strainer ladle to lower bagels into the water. They will hit bottom and then immediately float on top. I can do 4 at a time in my pot.
14. Boil bagels up to 1 minute per side. You will probably need to experiment with timing here to see what works best for you.
These strainers are a kitchen must. I use them constantly. Perfect for putting the bagels into the water and for taking them out!
15. Lay bagels bottom side up onto your bagel boards.
If you are not using bagel boards, lay boiled bagels bottom side down on your parchment lined baking sheet.
16. On a middle rack, slide your baking sheet with bagel boards into the oven, and bake for about 4 minutes. Then flip bagels off the boards onto your parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden.
If you don’t use bagel boards, just bake bagels for 15-20 or until golden on the parchment-lined sheet. You do not need to flip them.
17. When bagels are done, cool on a wire rack and then enjoy!
I discovered bagel boards while searching for bagel-making techniques on YouTube. A bagel board is a 3 ½ X 12-14 inch long cedar board covered in a couple layers of burlap.
You soak the burlap boards in plain water while your dough is rising. The idea is that in order to have a nice, uniform crust you want to pop your bagels into the oven upside down for about 4 minutes, and then flip them off the bagel boards to complete baking right side up. The soaked burlap prevents the top of the bagel from baking while the bottom gets crispy. This should result in a very evenly cooked bagel. I think it’s a totally optional step, but I will do this again. Click here to see how I made my bagel boards.
- The Cuisinart food processor is optional. If you want to mix and knead your dough by hand, that’s fine. I did the first time.
- The bagel boards are also optional. I’m not sure how big a difference they made. My first batches were done without the bagel boards.
- Including dough rise time, this recipe takes me about 3 hours to make. Don’t let that stop you. For at least an hour and twenty minutes, all you are doing is letting dough rise. I’m usually drinking coffee and talking with Tracy while it rises, so I don’t mind the time.
- Experiment. This is how I made this batch of bagels. I’m sure there will be other tweaks as I continue to refine the process. Have fun and see what works for you.
So, Bagels Anyone?
Have you tried your hand at making homemade bagels? How did it go? What other items are you baking?