The first time I tried baking my own bagels they came out flat, and hard as hockey pucks. It was so disappointing that I gave up for years at even attempting to bake them. Now that I realize how easy they actually are to make, I regret not trying again for so long. This recipe makes bagels that are truly better than anything I have ever bought in the store, and there's nothing better than waking up and enjoying this chewy, crunchy, breakfast delight. Everything changed a few months ago when I decided to give bagel-making another try by adapting and perfecting a simple recipe from The Bread Bakers Apprentice - a book considered by many to be the bible of baking bread, and a must have for anyone looking to master the art.
This recipe takes 24 hours to complete, but it is SO worth it. The final product gives me a dozen fresh, melt-in-your-mouth chewy bagels. I gave these to Jon to bring into work and he told me that his co-workers are still talking about them. These bagels are that good. The best part is you can freeze them and thaw as needed, and they still taste fresh as the day you made them. I like to use onion and sesame on mine, but you can really use any topping that suites your tastes. Experiment a bit to find out what you like. You can add poppy seeds, dried garlic, sea salt, egg wash, and even pepper if you want a bit of spice. Even better, mix it up! Starting your morning with a piping hot cup of coffee and a bagel smothered in cream cheese gives me an easy but delicious jump-start to my day. This recipe starts with something called a "sponge," (I assume it's called that because of its appearance), it helps give the dough a nice flavor and is essential for making the bagels rise just right. Don't be afraid of the overnight refrigeration period, and please don't let it throw you off. It is essential for this recipe, and you will be pleased with the final outcome. If you mess up your first few batches, I suggest that you keep trying until they come out just right because it will be worth it in the end.
Recipe: Homemade Sesame Onion Bagels
- 4 cups bread flour - King Arthur or other good quality
- 2 1/2 cups tap water - room temperature
- 1 tsp. yeast
- 3 3/4 cups bread flour
- 3 tsp. salt
- 1 T honey (brown sugar to substitute)
- 1/2 tsp. yeast
- 1 T baking soda (goes in boiling water)
- 2 T cornmeal (for dusting)
- 1 T kosher salt
- 3 T dried onion
- 2 T sesame seed
- For the sponge, mix yeast and flour in your mixer until combined. Add water and mix with the paddle attachment until a sticky dough starts to form. Make sure all of the ingredients are mixed together well. Cover with plastic and let rise for 2 hours. I place the mixing bowl in my oven (if cool) with the interior light on.
- After 2 hours, add the remaining ingredients for the dough to the sponge mixture: salt, honey and yeast, and mix to combine. Add flour, 1 cup at a time until left with 3/4 and slowly work into dough until it forms a stiff ball, blended evenly. The dough will be extremely thick, and you'll want to use your dough hook to knead it.
- Divide dough into 12 equal pieces, about 4 1/2 ounces each. I use my kitchen scale to measure accurately. Work each piece into a ball so that there are no holes or creases in the dough, pulling the edges down into the bottom so that a tight skin forms over the ball. Place all 12 pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with a damp towel, and allow to rest and rise for 20 minutes.
- Shape each ball into a bagel by working your thumb through the center and pulling the dough all along the middle to stretch. You should be able to work around each bagel so that there is enough room for 4 fingers to fit through the center. The bagels will rise, so the holes may seem extremely large at first, but they'll tighten up over night. Place each bagel on an oiled piece of parchment lining your baking sheet, spacing them an inch apart. For this recipe, I have to use 2 standard baking sheets, and I fit 6 bagels on each sheet. (I don't use spray oil, it gets in the air and sticks to ceiling fans and moldings and is a bad idea to use in your home, lightly oil each piece of parchment with vegetable oil on a napkin to coat).
- Cover each baking sheet with plastic and allow 20 - 30 minutes to rise, and place them in your refrigerator for 24 hours, or overnight.
- The next morning, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Using your widest pot, fill it with enough water to cover 2 bagels and bring to a boil. Add baking soda. (Baking soda is used to give alkaline to the water which replicates the flavors we get in store bought bagels).
- Place enough bagels into the pot so that they float evenly on the surface of the boiling water in 1 layer. Boil each bagel for 2 minutes per side and flip to boil for another 2 minutes on the other side. Sprinkle cornmeal on the same parchment-lined baking sheet that the bagels rose on overnight. Remove bagels from the water and place them back on baking sheet. Add toppings to the bagels immediately after removing from water to allow them to stick. I sprinkle with cracked sea salt, dried onion and sesame seeds. Proceed to follow these steps until all bagels are boiled and covered in topping.
- Once oven is preheated place baking sheets inside and bake for 5 minutes with the pans on two different shelves. Reduce heat to 450, switch shelves, rotate pans, and bake for 5 more minutes until brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Wait until completely cool to toast and serve.
Number of servings (yield): 12