Seanan Forbes missed New York City bagels so desperately that she spent weeks and pounds of flour developing a recipe to sate her craving. Read her story here.
For the dough
2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon light brown sugar (or honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, malt syrup)
1½ teaspoons sea salt
1½ cups warm water (approximately 105 degrees Fahrenheit)
¼ cup finely ground oatmeal
2 tablespoons of olive or sunflower oil (optional)
1 cup whole wheat flour 2 ½ cups white flour, plus more to add while kneading
For the water:
2 tablespoons malt syrup
2 tablespoons sea salt
1½ tablespoons baking soda
For the glaze:
2 tablespoons water
For the topping:
Your choice: kosher or coarse sea salt, smoked sea salt, garlic flakes, onion flakes, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, sea salt and cracked pepper. For “everything” bagels, mix poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sea salt, onion flakes, and garlic flakes.
For the tray:
Add warm water and brown sugar to a large bowl. Scatter yeast on top. Let stand for 10 minutes to proof the yeast.
Then, mix in oatmeal with yeast and water. Add sea salt and oil. If you have a mixer with a bread setting, then use that. If not, then use a wooden spoon.
Then add three cups of flour, one cup at a time. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes too stiff to stir. Continue to flour a bit at a time, mixing by hand, until the dough forms a ball.
Put the dough on a clean surface and knead, adding flour as needed, until the dough is firm, smooth, and springy — approximately 15 minutes. Put in an oiled bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover with a cloth, plastic wrap, or a plate. Plunk it in a warm place, covered, and let it rest for 90 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
Punch it down and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Divide dough into eight pieces. Roll each piece into ball between your hands until it is smooth. Flatten it slightly. Dip your forefinger in flour and poke a hole through each piece of dough. The hole should be the circumference of your finger. The dough will swell when it’s boiled, and you want each to retain that hole in the middle.
Let the raw bagels rest on a baking sheet for ten minutes while you heat water – as much as if you were going to boil a big pot of spaghetti.
Fill a large pot ¾ of the way with water. (You can heat it in a kettle first, to save time.) Turn the flame to high. Add sea salt and malt syrup to the water. Bring it to a full boil. Toss in baking soda.
Set the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit with a thick baking sheet in it, allowing the oven and the pan to heat.
Have your timer at hand. Drop the bagels in the boiling water, one at a time, leaving space for growing, so that they won’t crowd each other. Start the timer.
For most pots, leaving space means boiling three or four bagels at a time. Be patient and boil them in batches.
Allow the bagels to boil for two minutes. Turn them and let them boil for two minutes on the other side (in London three minutes is best, in New Jersey it’s 90 seconds, generally two minutes is a good time). Remove them, using a slotted spoon. Choose the nicer side of each bagel. That’s the one you want upward. Set the bagels on a cooling rack or a dish towel to drain. Reset the timer. Boil the next batch of bagels. Do this until all of the bagels have been boiled.
Mix egg and water for glazing the bagels.
Once the bagels are cool to the touch, brush them with the egg wash. You can use your fingers (Wash them before and after each egg wash.) or a pastry brush. You want a thin coating of egg wash on each bagel — just enough to add a glaze (for plain bagels) or hold the toppings to the bagels.
Sprinkle the egg-washed bagels with the toppings of your choice. For a generous topping, put the topping in a wide, shallow bowl, and dunk each egg-washed bagel into topping.
Take the heated pan out of the oven and sprinkle it with cornmeal. While it’s still hot, put the bagels on the tray. Put it on a rack high in the oven. Start the timer.
Dry the cooling rack or replace it with a dry one.
After 12 minutes, rotate the baking tray, so that the bagels that were near the oven door are at the back. After another 10 minutes, check the bagels. They should be brown, crisp-crusted and aromatic. Bread sounds hollow when it’s done. Rap the bottom of a bagel with your knuckles. It should sound as if you were knocking on an empty box. If they aren’t brown enough, then give them another few minutes in the heat.
Cool on a rack.
Professionals will tell you to let bread rest. I will tell you to eat at least one bagel while it’s hot. Butter is a thing of beauty. If you’re alone, allow yourself the pleasure of tearing open little pockets in the dough and slipping in butter. Hot thick crisp crust. Handpicked toppings. Hot dough. Butterfat. There goes the diet. It is one-hundred percent worthwhile.
Image Credit: Flickr/Barry Pousman