I know that shortly after everyone’s New Years resolutions have been made might not be the best time to post a carbohydrate bomb… but seriously, you guys, homemade bagels are really, really good. As a bagel lover but not a bagel connoisseur, I’ve had a lot of mediocre, dry, even whole-wheat (sacrilege?) bagels. But these are seriously good, and I might never be able to go back. Satisfyingly chewy and dense without being heavy. I made 24 of them in a week (ostensibly to test recipes), and between myself and a few friends, we had no trouble polishing them all off in a timely fashion.
They are a little bit time-consuming, but I think they are worth it — and pretty fun to make. I’ll actually go through two methods — one that requires an overnight rise, and one that gets you from start to eating bagels in a day. I didn’t think there was a demonstrable difference in quality, honestly, but the overnight rise might be convenient if you want to eat the bagels fresh-baked for breakfast.
And, toppings! I went a little Asian with a few of mine and topped a couple with furikake, a Japanese seasoning blend with sesame seeds and dried nori, and this specific gomasio by Spice Child, which is traditionally just salted, toasted sesame seeds, but they add some curry seasoning, too. I liked them both a lot, but I also just like bagels a lot. Among the more traditional toppings were sesame seeds, dried minced onion, cheese, and plain salt.
Bagels (Same day)
Adapted from Serious Eats
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 or 2 tablespoons of baking soda
any desired toppings
Get the yeast started by dissolving it in the warm water. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
While the yeast is going, mix together bread flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
Add the water and mix until a shaggy dough is formed. Knead on a floured, flat surface by hand until the dough is smooth and stretchy, at least 10 minutes.
Transfer dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in size — for me this was about 90 minutes.
When the dough is ready, prepare a baking sheet for the bagels by lining a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat and oiling it lightly.
Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. One at a time, roll each portion of dough into a snake, about 1 inch thick, but leaving the ends slightly tapered. Wrap the dough around four fingers, overlapping the ends in your palm, then roll against a flat surface to seal the two ends.
Set the bagels on a lined baking sheet, cover with wet paper towels, and let rise for another hour or so, or until one passes the “float test.” To administer the float test, fill a bowl with water (cold is fine), then carefully set a bagel into the bowl. If it floats, it’s ready.
Once the bagels are ready, preheat the oven to 400°F. Fill a large pot with enough water so that the bagels could easily be submerged. Bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the baking soda to the pot. It will bubble, so please be careful.
Prepare another baking sheet for the bagels. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat, and oil it lightly.
Carefully transfer bagels to the boiling water — as many as can fit in one layer. Let them boil for 1 minute, then flip them, and let them boil for another minute on the other side. Transfer the boiled bagels to the prepared baking sheet with a slotted spoon. Repeat until all bagels are done.
Toppings that can go on now — any kind of seed, furikake, sea salt, minced dried onion that has been soaked for a few hours, cheese.
Toppings that should go on mid-bake later — anything sugary or otherwise easily burned.
Place the baking sheet in your preheated oven and bake until the bagels are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Rotate the racks in the middle of baking for more even browning.
Other Bagels (multiple day)
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
1/2 teaspoon yeast
2 cups bread flour
1 3/4 cups warm water
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 3/4 cup bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon baking soda
any desired toppings
First, make the sponge. Stir the yeast into the flour, then add the water and stir until it forms a smooth, sticky, thick batter. Cover the bowl and let it sit for about 2 hours, or until the mixture has doubled in volume and become very bubbly.
Then, make the dough. Add the additional yeast, then stir it in. Add the flour and salt, and honey. Stir until a messy ball is formed. Knead by hand on a floured, flat surface until the dough is smooth and sticky, for at least 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Cover them with a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
While you are waiting, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat and oil it lightly.
Roll each piece, one by one, into a snake, but keep the ends tapered. Wrap the snake around four fingers, overlapping the ends in your palm. Roll against a flat surface to seal the ends together.
Place the bagels onto the baking sheet, cover with a damp paper towel, and let them sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, administer the “float test” by carefully placing a bagel into a large bowl of water and seeing if it floats. If it floats, it’s ready to rest in the refrigerator. If it doesn’t, wait an additional 20 minutes and repeat.
Once a bagel passes the float test, carefully place the baking sheet, covered with damp paper towels, into the refrigerator and let sit overnight.
The next day, remove the bagels from the refrigerator. Ideally, let the bagels sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. When the water has come to a boil, add the baking soda.
Prepare another baking sheet for the bagels by lining a sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat, then lightly oiling it.
Carefully place the bagels in the boiling water, adding as many as will fit in one layer. Boil for one minute, then flip and let them boil for another minute on the other side. Carefully remove the bagels from the water using a slotted spoon and place on the prepared sheet.
Top the bagels with desired toppings. I used sesame seeds, sea salt, furikake, rehydrated dried minced onions, and cheese. (If you want to top with anything sugary, wait until the last few minutes of baking to do so to avoid burning.)
Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until dark golden brown. Rotate pan in the middle of baking time.