As any true bagel enthusiast knows, store-bought simply can’t compare to a freshly baked, New York-style bagel. And while they may seem intimidating to make on your own, rest assured, a great bagel is relatively simple to make and uses just a few pantry ingredients. Though they require 2 days from start to finish, the hands-on involvement is minimal, making them a great weekend baking project. This easy-to-follow recipe yields a dense bagel with a nice level of chew, and a fantastic outer crust. The real secret to producing a NYC deli-quality bagel is boiling them in a baking soda solution prior to baking in the oven; doing so is what creates their signature texture and flavor, and aids in the browning process by increasing the surface PH on of the dough. These bagels will blister slightly because of the overnight proofing (which also yields a more intensely flavorful bagel); to reduce the size of the blisters, make sure your water is at a rolling boil before you drop the raw bagels in. Boil longer for a chewier bagel, but do keep in mind that the longer you boil, the less they will rise in the oven. Barley malt syrup and vital wheat gluten can both be found at grocery stores such as Whole Foods. You can substitute honey for the barley malt syrup if need be, however, your bagels will not have the same distinct bittersweet flavor as those from your favorite bakery.
Using a wooden spoon, stir together 4 cups of the bread flour, 2 1/2 cups of the water, and 1 1/4 teaspoons of the yeast in a heavy-duty electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until very bubbly, about 3 hours.
Add salt, gluten, syrup, 3 cups of the flour, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon yeast to flour mixture. Beat on low speed just until combined. Increase speed to medium-low; beat, gradually adding remaining 1 cup flour, until a very stiff dough forms, about 6 minutes.
Divide dough into 12 balls (about 4 1/4 ounces each). Place dough balls on a lightly floured work surface, and cover with a damp towel. Let stand 20 minutes. Roll 1 dough ball into a 10-inch rope. Overlap ends by 2 inches; press ends together, and roll to form a ring. Place on a lightly greased parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough balls, and a second lightly greased parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly grease tops of bagels, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand 20 minutes. Transfer to refrigerator, and chill 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 500°F with pizza stone on middle oven rack. (Do not remove pizza stone while oven preheats.) Whisk together egg and remaining 1 tablespoon water; set aside.
Fill a large stockpot with water, and bring to a boil over high. Add baking soda. Remove 1 baking sheet of bagels; place bagels in boiling water. Boil 1 1/2 minutes per side. Meanwhile, dust same parchment-lined baking sheet with cornmeal. Transfer boiled bagels to prepared baking sheet; lightly brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with desired toppings. Place baking sheet in oven on preheated pizza stone. Bake 6 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 450°F, and bake until golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer bagels to a wire rack; cool at least 15 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 500°F, and repeat cooking procedure with remaining bagels.
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