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“The bagel is a lonely roll to eat all by yourself because in order for the true taste to come out you need your family. One to cut the bagels, one to toast them, one to put on the cream cheese and the lox, one to put them on the table and one to supervise.” -Gertrude Berg (1899-1966)
Anybody who feels that it's blasphemous to even THINK about making bagels at home, outside New York, with dry yeast, or without high gluten flour and malt, might want to just sit this one out. I make these bagels almost every week, they freeze well, and everyone who's tasted them thinks they're great. Concerns over loss of flavour from the "sub-par" yeast and non-NYC water seem to get lost when we eat homemade bagels every day. For the record, I've never compared these to commercial bagels anyway- I think they're awesome just the way they are.
I almost always double this recipe. Even though the steps are easy, they are time consuming and I prefer to have a larger yield for my efforts. The bagels that you see pictured above are actually a bit lighter in colour than normal. If you'd prefer them darker, simply extend their time in the oven a bit.
For easy freezing and on-the-go toasting, slice the bagels in half when cooled, stack them back-to-front, place in a freezer bag, and store them in your freezer. Bagels will defrost and toast in your toaster on whatever setting you normally use- I swear.
If you have the time and the inclination, please give these a try. Not only do I think that you won't be sorry, I think you'll be thrilled with the results and hooked on coming up with your own combinations as well. Happy baking!
1 1/4 cups warm WATER
1 packet RAPID-RISE YEAST
1 1/2 tablespoons SUGAR
3 1/2 cups ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
1 1/2 teaspoons SALT
1 EGG plus 1 tablespoon WATER for egg wash (optional)
OLIVE OIL for brushing (optional)
KOSHER SALT for sprinkling (optional)
Pour the water into a large bowl, and add the packet of yeast and the sugar. Add the flour and mix well to form a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, adding additional flour as necessary, for about 10 minutes. You should have a firm and "springy" dough at this point.
Place the dough into a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 40 minutes.
Punch down the dough and form it into a log; cut the log into 8 pieces. In a large pot, bring 3 to 4 quarts of water to a boil, adding a tablespoon of salt to the water once it begins to bubble. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
In the meantime, you may form the bagels. Poke a thumb, dusted with flour, through the center of each piece of dough and stretch the hole with your fingers to make the traditional shape. Set aside on a lightly floured surface, and repeat the steps for the remaining pieces of dough. Cover the bagels with a cloth, to prevent the dough from drying, until the water is ready.
Drop the bagels into the boiling water, 2 or 3 at a time, and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove the bagels to a wire rack and drain briefly.
When all the bagels have been boiled, place them on baking sheets (1 inch apart), brush lightly with olive oil or an egg wash, and sprinkle with kosher salt to taste. Many other toppings are suitable as well, such as sesame seeds, sauteed minced onions or garlic, and poppy seeds. For a sweet option, add a tablespoon of sugar to the boiling water instead of salt, and dust the bagels with a cinnamon and sugar mixture after brushing with an egg wash.
Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes (time is based on baking in a convection oven; adjust accordingly to your needs). Remove from the baking sheets and cool on racks.