Although it’s the extreme dry heat of a professional oven that makes the absolute best bagels, it’s possible to make a good bagel at home. Many bagels made at corner shops are made with egg wash, honey, or other ingredients. Commercial bagels are often made with micro-ingredients, such as l-cysteine, and they lack the satisfying chew of a freshly baked bagel. This recipe makes half a dozen, but easily shrinks or doubles.
3 cups whole wheat bread flour
A pinch coarse sea salt
1 1/2 – 2 cups warm water
1 1/2T yeast
1/2T green herbs (I use herbes de Provence)
1/2t garlic powder
2 liter water
1T baking soda
1T blackstrap molasses
2T unsweetened plant milk
Optional: There are a lot of variations for bagels. You can braid the dough for something more European. You can make them smaller with a larger hole and sprinkle them sesame seeds for a bagel in the Montreal style. You can also flavour your bagels as you like (e.g., with onion or cinnamon and raising, etc.), but be careful of interrupting the yeast.
For a plain bagel, leave out the garlic and herbs. Unbleached, all purpose flour will give you a bit more fluff (but you made need less water). You can also sprinkle sesame seeds and other toppings toward the end of the baking. You can also change the sweetener, but be careful about changing the pH balance of the water too much — it’s partly what makes the bagel chewy.
Note, to get the fluffiest, chewiest bagels you can, it’s helpful to have a baking stone for this recipe. If you don’t have one, sprinkle a lightly oiled baking sheet with 1/2T coarse yellow corn meal instead. Or, if you have baking paper rated to 450F, use that. You want a hot, dry oven.
It’s also best if you have a pan large enough to boil them all at once. The longer the bagels sit between the boiling and the baking, the longer they lose their heat and the fluff that goes with it. If you have to do the boiling in batches, remove each to a clean, dry cutting board sprinkled with a little corn meal while you do the remainder.
Start by mixing the flour and salt. Mix the water and yeast according to its instructions. Add the wet to the dry and mix until a smooth dough forms. Add additional water as necessary 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead for about 10 minutes. Let the dough rise covered with a warm, moist tea towel for 2 hours, punching down periodically. Roll out on a floured board. Fold in the garlic powder and herbs. Knead for a minute or so.
When the dough is ready, break into 6 equal parts. If you want large, sandwiched sized bagels, break the dough into 4 parts. Roll the dough out to a long thing tube, about 6″ long and 1 1/2″ in diameter, between your palms.
Once rolled, connect both ends of the tube securely into a bagel shape. The size of the hole varies by style. I make mine about 1 1/2″, and I twirl it on my index finger. Repeat until all your bagels are ready. Cover and let rise another 30 minutes or so. Don’t let them over-rise.
In a large pan, bring the water to a light boil. Preheat your oven to 500F (or 450F if your oven doesn’t reach 500F). Add the baking soda and molasses to the water and return to a light boil. Add the bagels, simmering them in the mixture for about 1 minute, turning over and boiling another 30 seconds or so. Remove the bagels from the water with a slotted spoon.
Add your bagels to your baking stone or sheet. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until they are starting to brown lightly (depending on the temperature and whether you use a stone, a baking sheet, etc.). Ovens vary; use the colour and texture of your bagel as a guide.
When the bagels are starting to lightly brown, brush each with a little plant milk. Sprinkle any additional toppings at this point. Bake for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. Or, let cool completely and then package up for later.