Perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, bagels are versatile and satisfying. Today I actually may have gone past “satisfying” and be on the road to “sick”, because I just can’t stop at one, especially when they’re warm and tender. Well, the inside should be tender; the outside must be very chewy.
I love them toasted in the morning, with a fruit and cream cheese spread. I love them for lunch, piled with turkey breast, tomato, cream cheese and avocado. I love to turn them into little mini-pizzas for dinner. I haven’t come up with a bagel dessert yet, but just give me a moment…
The best bagels take time – preferably with an overnight rest in the refrigerator before being boiled and baked the next morning – but the recipe I am giving you is an easy one and can be completed in a couple of hours. It’s a tough dough and can withstand a little abuse, so you won’t have to hurry, or worry about keeping things chilled, or try not to “overwork” it.
If you are a bagel virgin, you might want to make them plain the first time, just to get the hang of it. Next time (and there WILL be a next time) you can add goodies to the dough: raisins, cinnamon, cheese, onions – whatever you like. The plain bagels can be topped with sesame seeds, cheese, poppy seeds, garlic, or onions, or brushed with an egg wash to make them shiny. They can also be left “au naturale,” which would be my bagel of choice.
Without further ado, I present:
Makes 12 large bagels.
1 package active-dry yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher)
4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon baking soda (for boiling the bagels)
- In a large bowl, gently stir together the yeast, granulated sugar, and warm water. Let sit until bubbly (about 4-5 minutes.)
- Stir in the brown sugar, salt, and 2 cups of the bread flour. Mix well. If you’re using a stand mixer, switch to your dough hook. Add the remaining bread flour slowly, mixing well. This will be a very stiff dough, but you don’t want it too dry OR too sticky, so feel free to adjust the amount of flour or add a little more water if necessary to get a nice, elastic dough.
- If you are working by hand, put the dough on a floured board and knead for 7-8 minutes. If you are using your mixer to knead, allow it to knead for 5-6 minutes.
- Place the dough in a well-oiled large bowl, turn the dough to coat with oil, cover with a dishtowel, and allow it to rise for approximately an hour–or until doubled.
- After the rise time, punch the dough down and separate it into 12 equal pieces. Take each piece and make it into a ball. It’s hard to explain, but I keep tucking the messy parts under, and kind of “scooch” the ball across the surface of the counter (don’t you hate it when I use these technical terms?) to make it as smooth as possible on the top. You can roll it around like clay, too…whatever works for you. The goal is to get 12 smooth balls that are at least close to the same size! Don’t worry if it takes a while and the first few balls look like they might be growing; that won’t hurt a thing.
- Oil or grease two cookie sheets. Lightly coat one sheet with cornmeal. (Keep the cornmeal out – you’ll need it eventually for the other cookie sheet.)
- Ready? Flour your thumbs. Uh huh, that’s what I said. Poke one thumb right through the middle of a dough ball, put your other thumb through the hole from the other side, and…twiddle your thumbs so they’re going around each other, stretching out the bagel hole. Now stretch the bagel gently to make the dough as even as possible all the way around. Make the hole big– at least an inch and a half across–because when the bagel bakes it will puff up and most of the hole will disappear.
- Place each bagel on the cookie sheet without the cornmeal. Cover with a dishtowel and allow the bagels to rest for 10 minutes. In the meantime:
- Heat the oven to 450 F.
- Fill a large stockpot more than halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the baking soda.
- Drop a few bagels in at a time, making sure they have plenty of room to bob around. I can comfortably cook 4 at a time in my stockpot. Let them cook for about a minute and a half on one side, then flip them over to cook on the other side for another minute and a half.
- Using a slotted spoon or a “spider” (see picture), place each bagel gently on the cornmeal covered cookie sheet.
If you are adding any toppings (sesame seeds, cheese, poppy seeds, etc.) sprinkle them on while the bagel is still wet. If you decide to skip the toppings and want a shiny appearance on your bagels instead, brush them with an egg wash (one egg and a teaspoon of water, mixed well) at this time. You will put 6 bagels on each sheet, so when the first cookie sheet is filled, sprinkle cornmeal on the other cookie sheet as the bagels disappear into the pot of boiling water and space becomes available.
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes, turning the pan once halfway through the bake time. They should be a nice light golden color when ready. Cool on a rack.
Well, I refuse to cook dinner tonight because I’m stuffed from “sampling” bagels. Hey, it’s an occupational hazard. Not sure that’s going to fly with the spousal unit; (who is pathetically eating a slice of cheese right now because he “HAS to eat SOMEthing”) but I say…let him eat bagels!