Many people love bagels, but few have ever learned how to make them at home. This is truly tragic, because there is nothing like a freshly boiled-then-baked bagel. Perhaps you’ve had a taste of this perfection if you’ve ever been the first customer on line in a NYC bagel shop, but even that experience won’t give you the inimitable sense of pride that comes from making your own.
Once the dough has been boiled, finishing up your bagels on the Baking Steel allows for the perfect New York bagel texture: slightly crispy-chewy on the outside, and soft and tender on the inside. The recipe starts a day before you actually get to eat the bagels; pre-fermenting the dough overnight gives you a head start on flavor, adding a yeasty aroma which differentiates these bagels from rounds of white bread. First boiling, then baking the bagels gives them an assertive but not overpowering density. Your cream cheese will be honored to grace them.
Makes 8 large plain bagels
Recipe from Baking With Steel
500 grams (3 ½ cups) bread flour
12 grams (1 ½ tablespoons) sugar
1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast
16 grams (1 tablespoon) fine sea salt
300 grams (1 1/4 cup) water, 105 degrees F
2 Tbsp Baking Soda
2 Tbsp Honey (sugar, molasses, malt, etc)- OPTIONAL
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the water. Mix with a wooden spoon to just combine, then knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured countertop or cutting board for about 5 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.
Put the dough in bowl and cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 24 hours at room temperature, or until the dough has just about doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F for 45-60 minutes with your Baking Steel inside.
Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Form dough into balls.
Coat a finger in flour, and poke a hole into the center of each dough ball, gently stretching the hole with your fingers to form a traditional bagel shape.
After shaping the dough rounds and placing them on a piece of parchment paper, cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water (feel free to add a little honey) to a boil with sweetener and baking soda. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to lower the bagels into the water. Boil for about 1 minute; the bagels will rise in the water and may bob on top. Using the slotted spoon, remove the bagels, tap to remove excess water, and transfer to a piece of parchment paper or directly onto a sheet tray that has been lightly dusted with semolina flour. If you’d like to add seeds or toppings to your bagels, now is the time: right after boiling is when they will be “stickiest” and best able to hold onto them.
Either place your parchment onto a sheet tray and place on your Baking Steel, or use a pizza peel to launch the parchment sheet directly onto your Steel.
Bake for 14-18 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, or until golden brown. Remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cool completely and make sure you have some soft cream cheese around. Store in an airtight container for 3-5 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
Extra credit: Why do we boil bagels? For it to truly be a bagel, it must be boiled before it is baked. A brief boiling (typically less than a minute) quickly forms a gel-like barrier on the outside of your bagel (just look after boiling; they’re gummy in texture). Once baked, this “gel” sets into the signature chewy, dense texture you expect from a bagel.
Some types of bagels, especially commercially produced varieties, are steamed instead of boiled to streamline the process. The texture is comparable, though not quite the same as a boiled bagel. But if they forgo the boiling process entirely? It might be a tasty ring of bread, but that's all. It's not a bagel.