TRY YOUR HAND: Bagels of any flavor are easy to make. Simple ingredients… (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)
Ever thought homemade bagels were possible? And great bagels at that? They are, and Peter Reinhart wrote a great story for Food to share his secrets:
"What I am about to explain could get me barred from the Lincoln and Holland tunnels or any other routes into Manhattan. But as a baker who loves bagels and all the things that can go on them, I am duty-bound to dispel urban legends and to tell you that anyone can make great bagels at home, no matter where you live....
"Bagels are about the simplest of all breads to make. A little flour, water, salt, yeast and barley malt syrup (or honey) is all it takes. The secret ingredient is time."
Give them a try. I loved the story, and was amazed at how amazing these bagels were when we tested Reinhart's recipe in the Test Kitchen; it's now my go-to method when I'm craving bagels over the weekend. Have fun, and get creative with the flavors! Did I mention weekend project?
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Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes plus chilling, rising and cooling time for the dough and bagels
Servings: 6 to 8 bagels
Note: Barley malt, also known as barley malt syrup, is generally available at health food stores including Erewhon Natural Foods in Los Angeles and Granny's Pantry in Pasadena, as well as at most Whole Foods Market stores. Instant yeast is generally available at cooking and baking supply stores. Despite the short work time, this recipe takes two days to make because of the rising time. If you make more than six bagels, you may need to prepare two baking sheets. Toppings can include poppy or sesame seeds, coarse salt, dehydrated onion or garlic bits that have been soaked, and cinnamon sugar.
3 1/2 cups (1 pound) unbleached bread flour
3 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup (or honey)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon baking soda
Toppings as desired
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor or by hand, mix the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, the yeast, barley malt syrup and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water until the ingredients form a stiff, coarse ball of dough (about 3 minutes if mixing by hand or in a mixer; or 1 minute in a food processor). If necessary, add a little more water. Let the dough rest 5 minutes.
2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until the dough feels stiff yet supple, with a satiny, slightly tacky feel, 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough seems too soft or too tacky, sprinkle over just enough flour as needed.
3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to several hours. Keep in mind that the bagels must be shaped before proofing overnight.
4. When ready to shape the bagels, line a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 6 to 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a loose, round ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand; do not use any flour on the surface. If the dough slides around and won't ball up, wipe the work surface with a damp paper towel and try again -- the slight amount of moisture will provide enough "bite" for the dough to form a ball. When each piece has been formed into a ball, you are ready to shape the bagels.
6. Using your hands and a fair amount of pressure, roll each dough ball into a "rope" 8 to 10 inches long. (Moisten the work surface with a damp paper towel, if necessary, to get the necessary bite or friction). Slightly taper the rope at the ends so that they are thinner than the middle. Place one end of the dough between your thumb and forefinger and wrap it around your hand until the ends overlap in your palm; they should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together and then press the joined ends into the work surface, rolling them back and forth a few times until they are completely sealed.
7. Remove the dough from your hand and squeeze as necessary to even out the thickness so that there is a 2-inch hole in the center. Place the bagel on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the other pieces. Lightly wipe the bagels with oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
8. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 90 minutes before you plan to bake them. Fill a large stockpot with 3 quarts of water (be sure the water is at least 4 inches deep), cover with a lid, and slowly bring the water to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on.
9. Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven to 500 degrees.