Bagel dough is drier than most bread doughs, with upwards of 6 or 7 cups of flour used. This creates the dense, chewy texture hallmarking great bagels. Some recipes call for a very high yeast content, which result in light, airy bagels more akin to those found in the bread section of the local grocery. However, I feel pretty strongly that a proper bagel needs to be dense and substantial.
|Plain bagels. Not perfectly pretty, but delicious.|
The water used for poaching the bagels before baking should be sweetened. You can experiment with various sweeteners for different tastes, but basic sugar, malt, and molasses are the mainstays as they provide excellent flavoring and don't wind up costing so much as honey (the poaching water should have more sweetener added every few bagels, so this can wind up taking a large chunk out of the honey reserves.)
6-7 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp salt
1 packet active rapid-rise yeast
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp butter (very soft or melted and cooled) (substitute vegetable oil if desired)
2 1/3 cup warm water
extra oil for greasing a large bowl
4+ Tbsp sugar or malt for poaching
Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the water, butter/oil, and sugar. Mix to a dough, stirring in one direction to develop the gluten. Add water a tablespoon at a time so that the flour is completely incorporated.
Once the dough is mixed, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and begin kneading. Kneading bagel dough takes time, at least a solid 10 minutes of steady work. The dough should be dry enough that you do not need to add more flour to keep it from sticking to the surface, so add flour as needed to make a nice dry dough. It should be very hard to work with by the time it is ready to rise. Form a ball with the dough and put it in a lightly oiled bowl, turning the ball so that it is evenly oiled all over.
Cover the bowl and place in warm area. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 90 minutes. Punch the dough down and knead vigorously for a minute or two. A finger indentation in the dough should not spring back immediately.
Divide the dough evenly into 14 or 15 pieces. There are a couple ways to form the bagels: form the dough into a ball and poke a finger through it to make the hole; or form the dough into a rope, bring the ends together, and pinch. I prefer the ball method personally, as I find that when I make pinched ropes, they tend to come undone in the poaching.
After you have formed all the bagels, give the bottoms a quick brushing of oil or place them on a well greased tray. Let them sit, covered, for 10-20 minutes. While the bagels are sitting, bring a pot of water to a boil and preheat the oven to 500 degrees (you'll have about 10 minutes work ahead of you before we get to the baking, so if your oven heats quickly, save the preheating until later.)
Add 2 Tbsp sugar/malt/molasses to the boiling water. Begin poaching the bagels, 2-3 at a time, for 60-90 seconds, turning once. The bagels will expand while being poached, so leave room in your pot to accommodate. Take the poached bagels and place them back on a sheet of parchment paper or the greased tray.
I prefer to use a baking stone with a coating of corn meal to bake, but cookie sheets are just as effective. Bake the bagels for 12-15 minutes, until golden-brown on top. Transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy.