I remember going to the St Lawrence Market on a school trip in high school, probably before seeing a show or something. Most of the details of the day are pretty foggy now, except for two things. The last thing I bought was a pair of wax lips, because who doesn’t love them:
The second last thing I bought was a fresh out of the oven boiled new york style bagel. It was one of the best things I’d ever eaten, straight out of the brown paper bag, no need for toasting, buttering, or spreading with cream cheese. It was just absolutely perfect exactly the way it was. The best bagel. I never found one that came even close to that St Lawrence Market bagel at any deli or bakery since, but that taste was still in my memory, and once I started making bread, bagels were high on my list.
I can’t even take credit for anything special here. I followed the flawless recipe perfected by Peter Reinhart in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. This is my go to bread making book, and the one that I’m slowly working my way through. So far I’m a master at this, the white bread loafs, cinnamon buns, and a few different types of crackers. It’s the only bread baking book I’ve bothered with so far too. Full of tons of useful pictures and straightforward descriptions. What I’m saying, is if you want to start making your own bread, start with this book.
They are a bit of work. You need to make and shape the bagels on one day, and then let them sit in the fridge over night before you boil and bake them. They are completely worth it though, as close to my memory of that perfect bagel as I’m ever going to get.
I took a few extra pictures this time around just for prepping them. Then forgot to continue taking them through the boiling process, so I’ll add them in next time. If you want to get straight to the recipe, just jump down to the bottom of the page.
After you’ve finished your dough, divide it into 4½ oz pieces. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you’ll make 13 evenly sized balls.
You shape the balls of dough just as you would a roll. If you haven’t done this before, don’t worry! Here’s a youtube video I made a few years ago showing you how to shape rolls. You cover these with a damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes.
After the balls have rested for 20 minutes, it’s time to shape them into bagels. This is the easiest way for me. Poke a hole in the center with your thumb.
Now, you actually use two hands for this part, but I didn’t trust the kids to leave the dough alone long enough to get the tri-pod. Hold the dough kind of like a steering wheel, and just rotate it around, gently pulling the center bigger (aiming for a 2½” diameter hole), and keeping the dough as even all the way around. This is easy, trust me, I had Anna and Oliver doing it and I didn’t need to fix them after.
Now’s the hard part. Loosely cover the oil sprayed trays of bagels with plastic wrap, spray the tops of the dough, and put them in the fridge overnight.
This would be where you’d see those photos of boiling the bagels in water with a little bit of baking soda (two minutes on each side, dusting the trays with cornmeal, and putting them into the oven. Like I said though: the hard part is waiting until the next day. Once I was ready to bake, I totally forgot about pictures.
Instead, how about some to make you drool?
Make this, at least once, even if you think that making your own bagels is just crazy when they go on sale for $1.99 at the grocery store. You won’t be thinking like that once you taste them.
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 4 cups bread flour
- 2½ cups water, room temperature
- ½ tsp instant yeast
- 3¾ cups bread flour
- 2¾ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp honey (or brown sugar)
- 1 tbsp baking soda
- cornmeal for dusting
- Optional - toppings of your choice, like sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt (personal favorite), rehydrated garlic or onions, or chopped fresh onions tossed in oil.
Make The Sponge
- Stir the yeast and flour into the bowl of your mixer (or just a large bowl). Add the water, stirring until it forms a smooth batter, like a pancake batter. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 2 hours. It will bubble a lot and almost double in size.
Make the Dough
- In the same bowl, stir the additional yeast into the sponge. Add 3 cups of the four, and all of the salt and honey (or brown sugar). Mix on low speed with the dough hook (or stir), until the dough forms a ball. Add the remaining ¾ cup flour to stiffen up the dough.
- Knead the dough in the mixer over medium speed with the dough hook for 6 minutes (or transfer to the counter and knead by hand for 10 minutes). The dough is perfect when it's somewhat stiff but still pliable and smooth. It shouldn't be tacky or sticky, and if it is, add additional flour 1 tbsp at a time until stiff and satiny. Alternately, If the dough is too dry and rips, add a few drops of water at a time and continue kneading.
- Immediately divide the dough into 4½ ounce pieces, 13 of them. Shape the pieces into rolls (See how to shape rolls here), cover with a damp towel, and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Line two sheet pans with silpat mats or parchment paper, and spray them lightly with an oil spray.
Shape the Bagels
- Shape the bagels by gently pressing your thumb through the center of the roll. Holding the bagel like a steering wheel, rotate the dough through your hands, gently stretching the hole to 2½" diameter, while keeping the dough even all the way around. Here's a quick video I found that shows you, but make your hole the 2½", this one's a bit too small.
- Place the bagels 2" apart on your baking sheets, spray the tops lightly with oil, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
- Tighten up the plastic wrap a bit at the edges and put them in the fridge overnight.
Bake The Bagels
- Preheat your oven to 500ºF, with two racks in the middle of the oven, and remove the trays from your fridge.
- Bring the widest pot of water you have to a boil. Add the baking soda, and get a large skimmer or slotted spoon ready.
- Add as many bagels to the pot as you can without them touching (only 2 or 3 at a time). Let them boil for 2 minutes on the first side. Flip them over and boil for 2 minutes on the second side (you can boil for 1 minute on each side if you want for a slightly softer crust, but I love that chewy bite two minutes gives).
- While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the baking sheets with cornmeal. Don't remove the spray oil still on the sheets.
- After the second side cooks, immediately lift from the water, let drip dry for a moment, then put back onto the now cornmeal lined baking sheet. If adding toppings, do now before the tops dry.
- Continue with the remaining bagels.
- Once all the bagels are done being boiled and topped, put both trays into the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pans top to bottom, and front to back.
- Reduce the oven to 450ºF and continue baking for 5 to 8 more minutes. 5 minutes will give you slightly golden and fully cooked bagels, and past that, the additional minutes are just darkening the colour for you. If you want to check by temperature, use an instant read thermometer. Bread is done at 190ºF.
- Remove the cooked bagels and let cool on a baking sheet for 10 minutes before eating.
Recipe adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart