I love a good bagel, don’t you? Since I couldn’t find good bagels in Europe, I began making my own several years ago. One day my husband asked me, “Why do you put that hole in the middle of bagels?” Good question? It always seemed a bit more of a challenge spreading cream cheese on them and avoiding that hole in the center. I started experimenting with making them without a hole and we found we liked them much better!
If you’re a traditionalist and aren’t sure if you could even eat a bagel without a hole in the center, never fear, I’ll show you how to make them either way!
I love cooking from scratch because of the variety of things I can make with a few basic ingredients. Here’s all you need to make bagels: water, yeast, salt, sugar, and flour. That’s it! Have you got those in your kitchen? You could bake some bagels up today…or tomorrow…or any day! I doubled the original recipe for bagels given to me by my friend, Mike Greenhoe. The way I figure it, if I’m going to get my stand mixer dirty, mess up the kitchen, and turn on the oven, I’m going to go ahead and make enough bagels to make it worth it. They freeze well…so I make a dozen at a time.
Let’s start with the dough. I begin by sprinkling the yeast over some warm water and as soon as it begins to foam up a bit–confirming that the yeast is alive and growing–I pour it into my stand mixer. (You can do the mixing and kneading by hand–and just skip lifting weights today–or even in your food processor if it is a heavy-duty, gear-driven one. But I prefer a stand mixer.)
Next I add the sugar and salt…
…and mix to dissolve. Then I add the flour…
I’m going to add a total of about six cups of flour…so I start by adding about three cups and mixing it well for 3-4 minutes to incorporate some air. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m always looking for ways to add more nutrition to recipes, so I used one cup of freshly ground whole wheat flour. (I’ve made these with all whole wheat flour and found the texture to be somewhat pasty…so I’ve pretty much stayed with just adding a cup or two of whole wheat.)
Then I add the remaining flour, one cup at a time, until the dough forms a ball. At this point I set the timer for ten minutes and let the machine continue kneading. This increases the gluten, giving it a better consistency.
If I don’t need to use my stand mixer to make something else, I just remove the dough hook, rub a little oil on the top of the dough–so it doesn’t dry out–and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap. But today I wanted to make some cookies in the mixer…so I transferred the dough to a plastic bowl and covered it with the lid…setting it near my kitchen window where it’s warm and sunny. I let it rise until double, about 1 1/2 or 2 hours.
Once it’s risen, I punch down the dough to collapse the air out of it and then begin to shape the bagels. When I first began making bagels, I pinched off what I considered to be reasonable-size pieces and shaped them…and I found that all my bagels were different sizes. I generously gave all the bigger bagels to Larry (usually) but I tried to figure out ways to make them more consistent in size.. Here’s what seems to work:
- Shape the entire mixture into a log and cut in half; then cut each half into six pieces for a total of 12 pretty-equal-size pieces.
- Pinch off pieces of dough and weigh them on your kitchen scale. I have found this is easiest for me and aim for 100-110 grams per piece.
…use your thumb and forefinger to pinch off a ball of dough……and weigh it. Pretty simple.
Now we’ll shape each ball of dough. This is when you need to decide if you want traditional or non-traditional bagels. Do you want a hole in your bagel or do you want to have a nice even surface to spread your cream cheese on?
If you want a hole, roll each piece into a rope. Eight to ten inches is a good length.
Now just bring the ends together, and pinch the circle closed. If the dough is a bit dry, the ends won’t stick and you’ll want to dampen the ends with a bit of water.
For a smooth-surfaced (non-traditional) bagel, you just form the piece of dough into a disk, as you might shape a hamburger bun. I scouted around my kitchen looking for something to help me keep the size and shape uniform, and found this 4-inch lid of a can which is the perfect size to press the dough into. Of course you don’t have to press it into anything…you can just form a ball and press it out flat.
I tap the dough out of the lid…
…and set the bagels on a cloth-lined baking sheet to rise.
They need to rise for about 20-30 minutes. I find that by the time I’ve finished shaping all of them, there’s not much of a wait until they’re ready to cook. How long you let them rise depends primarily on how warm it is in your kitchen and how active your yeast is. Look for them to be about double in size; a somewhat subjective decision.
Meanwhile, I’ve set a pan of water on the stove to boil. I add a few tablespoons of sugar to the water.
This little bit of sugar doesn’t make them sweet bagels–you can still make a ham and cheese sandwich on your bagel–but the sugar lightly coats the bagels, helping them to caramelize while baking…but that’s coming later.
Once the water is at a rolling boil, I lift up each bagel and slip it into the boiling water. I do this by hand, but you can also use a wide slotted spoon or spatula.
I can fit three bagels in at a time…don’t crowd them as they need some room to float around. I boil them for about 1-2 minutes on this side…
…and then use a slotted spoon and a fork to flip them over. Now they need to boil 1-2 minutes on the second side.
I lift them out of the boiling water and set them on the same towel-lined baking sheet to dry out a bit.
Once they’ve all been boiled, I place them all on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake them at 350° F (180° C) for 20-30 minutes. Halfway through the baking time, I flip them over so they brown on both sides.
Since I can’t fit all the bagels on one baking sheet, I also switch the pans top to bottom halfway through the cooking time. Bake them until both sides are nicely browned. (Remember that sugar in the water? Helps to caramelize them.) Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. If left on a baking sheet they will “sweat” and get sort of mushy on that side.
Since they don’t have any preservatives, they won’t stay fresh more than a day or so. I usually just cut them in half and freeze them immediately, except for the one I’m going to have right now!
- 2 C. (250 ml) warm water
- 1 T. dry yeast
- 3 tsp. salt
- 4 T. (1/4 C.) sugar
- Approximately 6 C. (800 g) bread flour (can be part whole wheat)
- Sprinkle yeast over the warm water and set aside until it begins to foam, 5-10 minutes.
- Pour the liquid into a large bowl and add the salt and sugar. Mix to dissolve.
- Add half of the flour and beat well to incorporate air. Continue adding remaining flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. If using a Kitchen Aid, knead for about ten minutes. If kneading by hand, knead for ten minutes or until mixture is smooth and elastic.
- Cover and let rise until double, about two hours. If covering with a cloth, be sure to rub the top of the dough with oil so it doesn’t dry out.
- Punch down dough and pinch off pieces to form bagels. You can choose how large you want them; I usually weigh each piece to have it be around 100-110 g so they are uniform in size. Shape them in one of two ways: 1) Rolling each piece into a rope and pinching the ends together for a traditional bagel shape 2) Pressing the piece into a flat disk. To make them more uniform in size I press them into a 4-inch jar or can lid but this isn’t necessary. Set the bagels on a cloth covered baking sheet to rise for 20-30 minutes. By the time I’m done shaping the whole batch, I only have to wait about ten minutes before beginning the next step.
- Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Add 3 T. of sugar. Slip the bagels into the boiling water, being sure they aren’t crowded. Allow to boil 1 minute before flipping them over to boil about 1 minute on the other side. Remove with a slotting spoon let drain on a rack or towel.
- Place the boiled bagels on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350° F (180° C) for 20-30 minutes. Turn them over halfway through the baking time to ensure browning on both sides. You may also need to switch the pans top to bottom unless you have a convection oven.
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