When I was growing up, New York City bagels were a “thing.” You just couldn’t get anything even approximating one once you left the boundaries of the city. People continue to act like they’re still a thing, but by now Noah’s and Einstein’s and similar chains have made their way across the country, and while they’re not anywhere near as good as an H&H Bagel straight out of the oven (I used to live a couple of blocks from the factory and walk over for a fresh bagel with cream cheese and lox on cold mornings, and oh my godddd), they’re certainly acceptable. Even delicious.
But still: not the same. And since I don’t have a solid bagel place anywhere within a twenty-minute driving range, I just don’t really eat them very much anymore. This is obviously a shame.
Then my friend Alisa told me that she makes her own bagels. I mean…who does that? That is an insane thing to do. (I actually consider any bread-making an insane thing to do, since – as you may recall – I am oh, so very bad at it.) So she said she’d show me how she does it, and now…well, ok, I’m not going to make these myself, because I am wayyyyy too lazy and impatient for a recipe that involves yeast and waiting. But anytime someone wants to make them for me, I’ll be right there, cream cheese in hand.
(OK fine, I kind of want to do this on Christmas morning.)
HOMEMADE BAGELS (recipe adapted from Sophisticated Gourmet
What You Need:
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ cups warm water (you may need ± ¼ cup more)
- 3 ½ cups bread flour or high-gluten flour, plus extra for kneading
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Seasoning
What You Do:
1. In ½ cup of the warm water, pour in the sugar and yeast. Do not stir. Let it sit for five minutes, and then stir the yeast and sugar mixture, until it all dissolves in the water.
2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle, and pour in the yeast and sugar mixture.
3. Pour 1/3 cup of the remaining warm water into the well. Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed. Depending on where you live, you may need to add anywhere from a couple tablespoons to about ¼ cup of water. You want a moist and firm dough after you have mixed it.
4. On a floured countertop, knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Try working in as much flour as possible to form a firm and stiff dough.
5. Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
6. Carefully divide the dough into 8 pieces (I used a scale to be extra precise, but it’s not necessary). Shape each piece into a round. Now, take a dough ball, and press it gently against the countertop (or whatever work surface you’re using) moving your hand and the ball in a circular motion pulling the dough into itself while reducing the pressure on top of the dough slightly until a perfect dough ball forms. Repeat with 7 other dough rounds.
7. Coat a finger in flour, and gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the ring to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Repeat the same step with the remaining dough.
8. After shaping the dough rounds and placing them on the cookie sheet, cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425ºF.
9. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to lower the bagels into the water. Boil as many as you are comfortable with boiling. Once the bagels are in, it shouldn’t take too long for them to float to the top (a couple seconds). Let them sit there for 1 minute, and them flip them over to boil for another minute. Extend the boiling times to 2 minutes each, if you’d prefer a chewier bagel (results will give you a more New York Style bagel with this option).
10. If you want to top your bagels with stuff, prepare an egg wash and brush over the tops before adding whatever you like (Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel seasoning, pictured above, is highly recommended).
11. Once all the bagels have boiled (and have been topped with your choice of toppings), transfer them to a lightly oiled baking sheet.
12. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.
13. Cool on a wire rack, if you can stand to wait that long (I think a fresh bagel is worth a slightly burned mouth, personally).