Along with my affinity for latkes for breakfast as a child, there was my (and my Mom’s) beloved bagel – the other breakfast item I could never deny and always wanted more of. Mom’s favorite was always sesame and we enjoyed the bread with any and every accoutrement – the traditional lox, capers, and cream cheese, peanut butter, eggs and ham, and even stir-fry. Oddly enough, I have fond memories of my mother cooking asparagus and beef stir-fry and the two of us sandwiching the filling between sesame bagels – the sauce deliciously absorbed by the dense, doughy bread.
Growing up on Long Island and in NYC, dense, chewy bagels were always a street corner away. Years later when my family moved to Northern California, our luck ran out and New York bagels were nowhere to be found. I believe my Mom had her sisters mail bagels from time to time. And each time we flew East, Mom’s carryon was sure to contain a dozen bagels for the ride home.
On the West Coast, the bagel (as we had known it) was soon forgotten on our breakfast table. It wasn’t until college that I resumed my bagel-eating habit, courtesy of Einstein’s bagels. Softer and more airy, these weren’t the bagels I was accustomed to. But FHE turned me on to non-traditional flavors such as chocolate chip, blueberry, and asiage cheese – flavors I’d never seen growing up.
Today I came across an article about homemade bagels – about their deliciousness and ease of preparation. Didn’t take much to convince me to try at home. Nearly as easy as making a loaf of bread, the only difference in making bagels is the two-step cooking process: boiling and baking. These may not duplicate my childhood bagel – they are, afterall, of the “soft” variety – but the dough is delicious and once you try a homemade version, no supermarket variety will compare.
Homemade Bagels, adapted from Baking Bites
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 3/4 cups water, warm (100-110F)
4 cups bread flour (not all purpose)
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp oil
1 egg, for egg wash
- In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) combine yeast, sugar and water. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in flour and salt. Mix dough thoroughly until it comes together in a large ball, pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add an additional tablespoon of flour or water, if needed.
If kneading by hand, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until very smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If using a stand mixer, knead dough with the dough hook until elastic, about 8 minutes on a low speed. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil and preheat the oven to 400F.
- When dough has risen, turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces (first quarters, then thirds). Shape each piece into a tight ball, pinching the corners together at the bottom of the piece of dough. When all the balls are shaped, let the dough rest for 30 minutes covered with a clean dish towel.
- Once dough balls have rested, the bagel shape can be formed. Using your fingers, poke a hole through the center of each dough ball. Stretch out the dough into a ring with your fingers and be sure to make the hole a little larger than you want the finished bagel to have, as it will shrink slightly while the bagel is expanding during the baking process. Let bagels rest for about 10 minutes.
- Working four at a time, drop the bagels carefully into the boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes on the first side, then flip and boil for an additional minute. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer bagels to a clean towel to drain for a moment, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining bagels.
- Brush boiled bagels with lightly beaten egg and bake for 20-24 minutes, until golden brown. If you wish to add toppings (sesame, poppy, garlic, onion), dip the wet bagels (from boiled water) into the topping.
- Cool completely on a wire rack.
- Slice and toast to serve.
Makes 6 sandwich-sized bagels or 12 smaller ones.
Note: To make flavored bagels, you can mix in dried blueberries, chocolate chips, or cranberries. I topped half our batch with asiago and gruyere cheeses.