Let's Make Bagels!

A delicious plate of Jewish donuts.

Some scholars of history believe that Napoleon conquered one country after another, in a quest to find the type of bagels he enjoyed in Poland, as a young boy**. Too bad he didn't have this recipe. If you think you can't make delicous bagels at home, that you have to buy them from a bagel factory... think again. You can. You don't need any special equipment or ingredients. And what you see pictured above, tastes a lot better than mass produced commercial bagels you buy at the supermarket -- especially in the frozen section. In fact, my guest thought they tasted better than the ones you buy at the bagel store. Whereas, I thought the texture wasn't right. The interior was soft and chewy, as it should be. But the exterior of at least some of them was too crispy, whereas they should be relatively soft.

That was partially my fault however. This was my first try at making bagels, so I had some mistakes to learn from. Namely, if you can't get them all on the middle rack, don't put them anywhere else! (I could not fit them all on one tray, and couldn't fit two trays on one rack. So some went on a rack near the lower heating element, some on a rack just above that. As a result, some were too well cooked, partly burnt, and others not cooked enough). Making home made bagels is really not that hard. It's a bit more trouble than no-knead bread, but much faster and they really are very tasty.  On top of which... check out the ingredients. There are no dough conditioners there, no malt powder, no additives, no junk. Flour, sugar, salt, yeast, water and oil. That's a purer list of ingredients than most bagels you are likely to buy, supermarket or bagel store!


4 cups bread flour
1 T sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt
1 T vegetable oil
2 t instant yeast
1 1/2 c warm water


Dry and liquid ingredients
Dry ingredients (with oil)
Mix the dry ingredients and oil in a large bowl. Add the water slowly, incorporating the flour into it. It's important not to add too much water, as you want to end up with a relatively stiff dough, not a soppy, wet one. So you may wish to start off with 1 1/4c of water, adding another 1/4 c or less, as needed. For the all-purpose flour I used, 1 1/2 c was perfect. If there's still some dry flour not incorporated, break the dough up with your hands and use the moister inner portions to incorporate the dry parts.


Step 1: Bunch up dough
before downward pressure
Dough mixed, ready to knead
Step 2: Preparing to flatten end
(apply pressure)
Step 3: After flattening one end
with palm of hand
Once the water has been completely incorporated into the dough, you can begin the process of kneading the dough. Since the dough should be relatively dry, it should not be necessary to flour the work surface at any time. Flatten and stretch out a portion of the dough (this should require quite some pressure), using the palm of your hand. At this starting point, the dough breaks easily. Fold over the stretched dough, give it a quarter turn, and repeat the process of stretching it out with your palm, then folding over. Knead the dough like this for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until it becomes softer, smooth, pliable, and has some elasticity when you stretch it (it shrinks back just a bit).
Step 4: Dough fully kneaded
and formed into a ball shape

Step 5: Cutting kneaded dough in half
(This is the hardest part of making this recipe. So if you don't like kneading, you can always cheat and use the kneading program on a breadmaker, or a stand mixer). When done, cut the dough into eight pieces, form them into balls, and let it rest under a tea towel for about 10-20 minutes.
Step 6: Ball of dough cut into 8 pieces
Step 7:
Forming 8 balls to roll into snakes

Step 8: Rolling a snake of dough
Step 9: Snake of dough, after rolling
Step 11: Showing joint of ends
Step 10:
Rolling snake to join ends
Step 12: Fusing ends, preparing to join
Get a flat, stable surface to work on with enough space. For each of the dough balls, roll it out with the palms of your hands into a snake shape. Start in the centre and move toward the edges. The surface of the dough will be dry and slip when you try to handle and roll it. So wet one hand under running water very briefly, and shake off the excess (you do not want to add too much water). Rub some moisture on the dough "snake" and it will grip the surface.

Step 13: 8 finished dough rounds
The width of the dough "snake" should be about a bit longer than the width of your two hands. Once you've got it long enough, wrap it around your hand, and wrap the ends under the palm of your hand. Then roll over the joint with the palm of your hand, moving your hand a bit from side to side, to ensure you have gone over the joints. Repeat for the rest of the dough balls. Once done, let them rest under the tea towel for about 20 minutes.

Dough snakes become halos.

Step 14: Seeded dough rounds before baking
Bagel soup anyone?
During this time, pre-heat your oven to 425F, fill a large pot with water and bring to boil (on the stovetop). Drop two to four bagel circles into the boiling water (if properly made, they should float to the top in no time). Take care not to crowd them and do not cook too many at a time. Work in batches, instead, until all the bagels are cooked. Boil for 30-60 seconds on one side, flip each over, boil other side the same amount of time. Then remove each boiled bagel to a drying rack. Or, if you are using seeds, place the (uncooked) seeds on a plate or tray, and dip one side of a boiled bagel over the seeds, then place seed side up on a drying rack. Dry for a minute or so.


Sesame seeds
(pat down to spread on plate)
Sesame seed bagel
drying after removing
from water.

Once all the bagels are boiled and dried, place them seed-side up on a baking tray well oiled with vegetable oil (preferably olive). Place the tray on the middle rack of your oven, bake 10 minutes one side, flip, 10 more minutes the other side. Let cool 20 minutes.


Jackpot! 8 perfectly baked bagels (attempt no. 2)
You can make these plain (without topping), or use sesame seeds, onions, poppy seeds, caraway seed, or whatever you like.

**(This sounds totally made up).


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