Really good bagels are hard to find outside of major East Coast cities. So we decided to tackle making our own, starting with Alex Baldinger and Becky Krystal’s recipe published about a year ago in the Washington Post.
There are only a couple of ingredients you need: King Arthur Bread Flour (available at most supermarkets) and barley malt syrup (which you may have to order). It is this malt syrup that gives bagels their characteristic flavor, so don’t leave it out. Both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carry it, however.
The third major ingredient is rapid rise yeast, not the conventional yeast you may have in your cupboard. And it is important that you proof the yeast before using, as age and mishandling may have more or less killed it. Our first package (Bob’s), purchased at Stop and Shop did not foam up at all, nor did the packet we had in our cupboard, dated May, 2017. We bought some new Fleischman’s Rapid Rise to make these bagels.
The overall procedure is pretty simple: mix up the dough, let it rest and roll it into bagels and let them rest in the refrigerator overnight. Boil them and add toppings. Then bake them on a piece of baking parchment on a baking stone in a 450° F oven.
- 1 packet rapid rise yeast
- 1 pinch of sugar
- 337 g warm water at 80° F (this is just under 1 ½ cups)
- 623 g bread flour (a little under 4 cups)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tb plus 1 tsp barley malt syrup
- 3 Tb cornmeal for dusting the chilling platter
- Mix the yeast, water and sugar and let it stand until it begins to foam. If it doesn’t foam in 5-10 minutes, get new yeast.
- Add the flour, salt and malt syrup to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
- Add the yeast mixture and mix slowly for about 4 minutes, and then at medium speed for about 7 more minutes, until the dough has gathered into a smooth ball.
- Sprinkle a small baking sheet with corn meal.
- Divide the dough into 8 balls. The WP recipe suggested 4-oz balls, and that made 8 4 -oz balls and one 3-oz ball. So, by simple math, if you make each ball 4.38 oz, you should get 8 dough balls.
- Place the balls on the cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 5 minutes.
- Roll each ball between your hands into an 11-inch tube, avoiding letting the ends taper.
- Fasten the ends together using a bit of water to press them together.
- Cover the incipient bagels with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator overnight, for 12-18 hours.
- In the morning, put the baking stone (pizza stone) in the oven and preheat it to 450°F. Let it heat up for 30-60 minutes.
- Meanwhile, put a large pan of water on the stove, and boil the bagels, 2-3 at a time for about 30 seconds. Drain them on a rack, and roll them in any toppings you like: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, Kosher salt, minced garlic or minced onion. An “everything” bagel has all these ingredients, plus caraway seeds. Put each topping on a plate and roll the bagel in it.
- Place 3 or 4 bagels on a sheet of baking parchment, on a baking peel or the bottom of a baking sheet, and slide them onto the baking stone.
- Bake 12-18 minutes. We baked ours for 14, and while they were delicious we might try adding 2 more minutes next time, as the interiors were a bit softer than we prefer. However, toasting them solved that.
The end result of this project is some of the best bagels we’ve ever made. Our only complaint is how expensive the toppings are at the supermarket, about $5 each. We’d order them in bulk next time. We tried a salt bagel using Diamond Kosher salt, and finding the crystals rather small, we also tried a jar of sea salt, where the crystals were probably too big. We’ll look for salt with a somewhat smaller crystal size next time.
Not only was making these bagels fun for us, it would make a great project for kids as well.