6-8 cups bread (high-gluten) flour
4 tablespoons dry baking yeast
6 tablespoons granulated white sugar or light honey (clover honey is good)
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups hot water
a bit of vegetable oil
1 gallon water
3-5 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar
a few handfuls of cornmeal
large mixing bowl
measuring cups and spoons
wooden mixing spoon
butter knife or baker's dough blade
clean, dry surface for kneading
3 clean, dry kitchen towels
warm, but not hot, place to set dough to rise
2 baking sheets
HOW YOU DO IT:
First, pour three cups of hot water into the mixing bowl. The water
should be hot, but not so hot that you can't bear to put your fingers in it for
several seconds at a time. Add the sugar or honey and stir it with your fingers
(a good way to make sure the water is not too hot) or with a wire whisk to
dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, and stir to
Wait about ten minutes for the yeast to begin to revive and grow. This
is known as "proofing" the yeast, which simply means that you're checking to
make sure your yeast is viable. Skipping this step could result in your trying
to make bagels with dead yeast, which results in bagels so hard and potentially
dangerous that they are banned under the terms of the Geneva Convention. You
will know that the yeast is okay if it begins to foam and exude a sweetish,
slightly beery smell.
At this point, add about three cups of flour as well as the 2 tsp of
salt to the water and yeast and begin mixing it in. Some people subscribe to
the theory that it is easier to tell what's going on with the dough if you use
your hands rather than a spoon to mix things into the dough, but others prefer
the less physically direct spoon. As an advocate of the bare-knuckles school
of baking, I proffer the following advice: clip your fingernails, take off your
rings and wristwatch, and wash your hands thoroughly to the elbows, like a
surgeon. Then you may dive into the dough with impunity. I generally use my
right hand to mix, so that my left is free to add flour and other ingredients
and to hold the bowl steady. Left-handed people might find that the reverse
works better for them. Having one hand clean and free to perform various tasks
When you have incorporated the first three cups of flour, the dough
should begin to become thick-ish. Add more flour, a half-cup or so at a time,
and mix each addition thoroughly before adding more flour. As the dough gets
thicker, add less and less flour at a time. Soon you will begin to knead it by
hand (if you're using your hands to mix the dough in the first place, this
segue is hardly noticeable). If you have a big enough and shallow enough bowl,
use it as the kneading bowl, otherwise use that clean, dry, flat countertop or
tabletop mentioned in the "Equipment" list above. Sprinkle your work surface
or bowl with a handful of flour, put your dough on top, and start kneading.
Add bits of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking (to your hands,
to the bowl or countertop, etc....). Soon you should have a nice stiff dough.
It will be quite elastic, but heavy and stiffer than a normal bread dough. Do
not make it too dry, however... it should still give easily and stretch easily
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with one of your
clean kitchen towels, dampened somewhat by getting it wet and then wringing it
out thoroughly. If you swish the dough around in the bowl, you can get the
whole ball of dough covered with a very thin fil of oil, which will keep it
from drying out.
Place the bowl with the dough in it in a dry, warm (but not hot)pace,
free from drafts. Allow it to rise until doubled in volume. Some people try
to accelerate rising by putting the dough in the oven, where the pilot lights
keep the temperature slightly elevated. If it's cold in your kitchen, you can
try this, but remember to leave the oven door open or it may become too hot and
begin to kill the yeast and cook the dough. An ambient temperature of about 80
degrees Farenheit (25 centigrades) is ideal for rising dough.
While the dough is rising, fill your stockpot with about a gallon of
water and set it on the fire to boil. When it reaches a boil, add the malt
syrup or sugar and reduce the heat so that the water just barely simmers; the
surface of the water should hardly move.
Once the dough has risen, turn it onto your work surface, punch it
down, and divide immediately into as many hunks as you want to make bagels.
For this recipe, you will probably end up with about 15 bagels, so you will
divide the dough into 15 roughly even-sized hunks. Begin forming the bagels.
There are two schools of thought on this. One method of bagel formation
involves shaping the dough into a rough sphere, then poking a hole through the
middle with a finger and then pulling at the dough around the hole to make the
bagel. This is the hole-centric method. The dough-centric method involves
making a long cylindrical "snake" of dough and wrapping it around your hand
into a loop and mashing the ends together. Whatever you like to do is fine.
DO NOT, however, give in to the temptation of using a doughnut or cookie cutter
to shape your bagels. This will pusht them out of the realm of Jewish Bagel
Authenticity and give them a distinctly Protestant air. The bagels will not be
perfectly shaped. They will not be symmetrical. This is normal. This is
okay. Enjoy the diversity. Just like snowflakes, no two genuine bagels are
Begin to preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
Once the bagels are formed, let them sit for about 10 minutes. They
will begin to rise slightly. Ideally, they will rise by about one-fourth
volume... a technique called "half-proofing" the dough. At the end of the
half-proofing, drop the bagels into the simmering water one by one. You don't
want to crowd them, and so there should only be two or three bagels simmering
at any given time. The bagels should sink first, then gracefully float to the
top of the simmering water. If they float, it's not a big deal, but it does
mean that you'll have a somewhat more bready (and less bagely) texture. Let
the bagel simmer for about three minutes, then turn them over with a skimmer or
a slotted spoon. Simmer another three minutes, and then lift the bagels out of
the water and set them on a clean kitchen towel that has been spread on the
countertop for this purpose. The bagels should be pretty and shiny, thanks to
the malt syrup or sugar in the boiling water.
Once all the bagels have been boiled, prepare your baking sheets by
sprinkling them with cornmeal. Then arrange the bagels on the prepared baking
sheets and put them in the oven. Let them bake for about 25 mintues, then
remove from the oven, turn them over and put them back in the oven to finish
baking for about ten minutes more. This will help to prevent flat-bottomed
Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks, or on a dry clean towels
if you have no racks. Do not attempt to cut them until they are cool... hot
bagels slice abominably and you'll end up with a wadded mass of bagel pulp.
Don't do it.
Serve with good cream cheese.
TO CUSTOMIZE BAGELS: After boiling but before baking, brush the bagels with a
wash made of 1 egg white and 3 tablespoons ice water beaten together. Sprinkle
with the topping of your choice: poppy, sesame, or caraway seeds, toasted onion
or raw garlic bits, salt or whatever you like. Just remember that bagels are
essentially a savory baked good, not a sweet one, and so things like fruit and
sweet spices are really rather out of place.