I've been wanting to tackle this project for a long time, but I never had the guts to do it.
This bagel recipe intimated me big time. I thought it looked way more complicated than I could handle...and although it is a bit complicated and time consuming, it's very doable. :) If I can do it - you can do it.
I had a nice weekend with not many plans and it was the perfect time to take on the beast of the bagel recipe. I spread the making/baking over two days. I recommend doing the same or you will have to dedicate most of your day to bagel making...and I'm guessing if you're anything like me - you don't have time for that. :) I'd encourage you to try this though because they turned out delicious and I definitely would make them again. I may try making the dough in my bread machine next time just to cut down on time, but these were still worth the work! Another version I'd like to try is whole wheat.
Yield: 12 large or 16 medium bagels
For the sponge:
1 tsp. (0.11 oz.) instant yeast
4 cups (18 oz.) unbleached bread flour
2 ½ cups (20 oz.) water, at room temperature
For the dough:
½ teaspoon (0.055 oz.) instant yeast
3 ¾ cups (17 oz.) unbleached bread flour
2 ¾ teaspoons (0.7 oz.) salt
1 tablespoon (0.5 oz.) honey
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal, for dusting
Desired toppings (such as cinnamon sugar, cheese, seeds, etc.)
*”Everything” topping: combine 4 tsp. each of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried minced garlic, dried minced onion and 2 tsp. kosher salt)
*Cinnamon sugar coating: Combine Cinnamon & Sugar (equal ratios) with melted butter and mix until consistency is smooth and spreadable. Coat bagels with mixture using a pastry brush.
To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a medium mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.
To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl, add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and honey. Stir until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining ¾ cup flour to stiffen the dough.
Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes. The dough should be firm, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all the ingredients should be hydrated. If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
Immediately divide the dough into 4 ½ ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired (I recommend using a kitchen scale to actually weigh the dough in order to ensure they are all the same size). Form the pieces into rolls. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500° F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby. Have your toppings ready. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds).
After 1 minute flip them over and boil another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side.
While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-line sheet pans with cornmeal. If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water.
When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180˚ rotation. After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450° F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.
Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.