I am not a baker, and that's okay. You don’t have to be well versed in baking procedures to learn how to make bagels. It's not hard. It just takes a little time and patience, because there is definitely a process to each step.
There are several reasons I wanted to make my own bagels, mostly because it’s hard to find a good bagel in Chicago. We also just received a new salt blend at The Chopping Block called ‘Everything Bagel’ that I wanted to try.
I do enjoy baking, but rarely have the time or ingredients I need on hand when the mood strikes me. I was bored on my day off and decided to use my time and be productive vs. procrastinate (the latter being my specialty) for this month's blog. Once I realized I had 98% of the ingredients I needed to make this happen, it was on!
I say 98% of the ingredients, because I didn’t have bread flour. I only had all-purpose flour, but I was determined to make this happen knowing that using the all-purpose flour would yield a slightly ‘cakier’ interior product than a more ideal bread-like textured bagel. I didn’t have dried onion flakes, but I did have garlic flakes. Yum!
The first step is to activate the yeast. The most important thing to pay attention to here is the temperature of the water. If it’s too cold, the yeast will not activate. If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast. Keep your hand under the running water and make sure it is warm to the touch.
While you are waiting for the yeast to activate, you can measure the flour and salt. While the dough is mixing, I rubbed about a teaspoon of olive oil in the bowl that the flour was measured into so I could place the dough back into that bowl for it to rise.
At this point, you have an hour. During this time, I measured my toppings, prepared the egg wash, my sheet tray to bake the bagels on and prepared the poaching liquid. I also squeezed in a little FaceTime with my mom and nephew!
Once the dough has doubled in size, gently deflate the dough, divide into 8 equal portions and roll into balls.
Are you impressed I could take pics and do this one handed all at once?
Then, you push a hole through the center of the dough ball and gently stretch it out to form the shape of the bagel. Let the dough rest for approximately 10 minutes.
The poaching process is important because the addition of baking soda to the water helps the bagel form that chewy exterior we all enjoy. You will do this same step if you make pretzels.
After you poach the bagels, gently brush them with the whipped egg white, then generously sprinkle with the toppings of your choice. I used Maldon sea salt, poppy seeds, caraway seed, garlic flakes and celery seeds.
Finally, it’s time to bake! My oven is a little shady, and I’m never really sure what the temperature is reading. I set the oven to what I thought was 425 degrees. I always set my timer for half the suggested bake time, so I can rotate my tray, check the color of whatever I’m baking, and readjust if necessary. I did lower my temperature slightly, because I felt the bagels were getting brown a little more quickly than anticipated.
I’ll brag a bit… this was totally worth the effort! I quickly gobbled up one bagel a few minutes after it came out of the oven, with nothing more than a pat of unsalted butter. As I finish writing this blog, it seems another bagel has mysteriously disappeared. (I blame the cat!) What shall I do with the other 6 bagels? Perhaps I’ll share with the neighbors. Nah, I’ll revel and enjoy the fruits of my labor.
If you really want the hands-on bagel-making experience, sign up for our Bagel Brunch cooking class at our Lincoln Square location on Sunday, September 27. Once you make them, you can even top them with smoked salmon.
In the meantime, here's a recipe to try on your own using my method:
Sesame and Poppy Seed Bagels
Yield: 8 bagels
Active time: 35 minutes
Start to finish: 2 hours, 10 minutes
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon light brown sugar or malt syrup
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg white, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds (see note, below)
- Place the yeast and brown sugar (or syrup) in a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Pour the water over the yeast, gently stir, and wait about 5 minutes. The yeast should bubble up, which indicates it’s alive.
- Add the flour and salt to the bowl. If using a stand mixer, knead with the dough hook for 5 to 6 minutes on low speed. If mixing by hand, knead for about 10 minutes until smooth.
- Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled in size, about one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 425o. Line two sheet pans with silpats or parchment. Lightly grease the silpats or parchment paper.
- Punch down the dough and divide into eight equal pieces.
- Roll each piece of dough into a ball. Use your thumb to punch a hole through the center of each dough ball, and then gently twirl to stretch it so the hole is 1 1/2 to 2 inches across.
- Place the bagels on the prepared sheet trays and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
- While the dough rests, fill a wide, heavy pan with 2 inches of water, and add the granulated sugar and baking soda. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Poach the bagels in the simmering water for 1 minute on each side. Drain well, then return them to the sheet pans, using the same greased silpats or parchment.
- Brush the tops with egg-white wash, sprinkle with seeds as desired, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is a rich golden brown.
- Allow to cool before slicing and serving.
Note: For “everything” bagels, make a topping mixture of 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, 2 teaspoons celery seeds, and 1/4 cup minced onion.