There’s something immensely satisfying about making your own bread and rolls. Watching the yeast in action is magical. In addition, the aroma of bread baking is amazing. Finally, the taste of homemade bread or rolls is incredible. If you can make your own bread, then you can make bagels!
Why? Because the dough for bagels is basically the same as bread dough. Several things, however, distinguish bagels from bread or rolls. First, the basic dough tends to be a bit stiffer than that for bread or rolls. Second, traditional bagels are round with a hole in the center, like a doughnut. Finally, bagels are boiled in a sweetened water for several minutes before they are baked. The boiling is critical because it gives bagels their traditional crust and chew.
Through the years, I’ve discovered that there are two secrets to producing perfect bread every time. First, I always, always, always weigh all of the ingredients. The main reason is that the weight of flour which is the main component of bread, differs depending on the type of flour, the level of humidity in the air, and most importantly, the way that the flour is measured. For example, 1 cup of all purpose or bread flour in a King Arthur recipe weighs 4.25 ounces or 120 grams. In a Julia Child recipe, 1 cup of flour weighs 5 ounces or 142 grams. One cup of flour measured in a measuring cup can weigh up to 6 ounces or 170 grams. With all of that variability, it’s questionable that one could ever produce a consistent product without weighing the ingredients!
Second, I always use a bread machine to do most of the work. I’m lazy and have no interest in spending 10 to 15 minutes kneading the dough by hand. Also, I don’t keep my stand mixer on the kitchen counter, so it’s a pain to lug it out for any reason! Finally, the bread machine produces the perfect environment for the first rise.
Ingredients for New York Style Bagels:
Since this was my first time making bagels, I decided to stick with basic plain bagels using the recipe on the King Arthur site as a starting point. I used the following ingredients: water, salt, barley malt syrup, bread flour, and instant yeast.
Making the Dough:
I let my bread machine do most of the work. What this means is that I added all of the dough ingredients to the pan of the bread machine, and selected the dough cycle. How hard is that? When the dough cycle finished, I had perfectly risen dough.
I dumped the dough onto a floured piece of wax paper. They’re two different ways that you can form the bagels. One way is to form a rope of dough and create a circle from it. The other is to form a ball of dough, and punch a hole in the middle. I tried the first method with little success. However, I found that the second method worked great!
I cut the dough into 8 pieces that were roughly 3.5 ounces each. Then, I formed each piece into a ball, and placed it on the floured wax paper. When all of the balls were formed, I covered them with a piece of plastic wrap so that they could rise slightly for 30 minutes.
While the dough was rising, I prepared the water bath. I added some barley malt syrup and sugar to some water in a Dutch oven, and heated the water to a gentle boil. Then, I lined two baking sheets with lightly greased parchment paper.
After 30 minutes, I used my floured index finger to poke a hole in the center of one of the dough balls. Then, I twirled the dough on my finger until the hole was about an inch in diameter. I returned the dough to the floured surface and repeated the process with the other dough balls.
Then, I carefully dropped two of the bagels into the boiling water, and let them cook for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, I flipped the bagels and let the other side cook for an additional 2 minutes. This is actually a critical step. Then, I removed the bagels from the boiling water with a slotted strainer and placed them on the prepared baking sheets.
I repeated this with the remaining bagels. Then, I popped the boiled bagels into the preheated 425° F oven for about 25 minutes. After about 15 minutes, I turned the bagels and let them continue to cook until they were golden brown. I removed the bagels from the oven, and placed them on a wire rack to cool completely.
Since I’m not a bagel eater, I asked Susan to pass judgment on them. She said that they were perfect – just like the ones that she remembered eating in New York! Yum!