Rejoice! Everything Bagels from Scratch

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Like a dying swan, I came to L.A. and watched as, feather-by-feather, all of my bagel-eating genes fell to the ground. I tried, I really did. I made bagel bombs, which were a nice alternative, but not the real thing. I stood and ate a bagel at Brooklyn Bagel and thought, “Oh man: this doesn’t feel right at all.” I basically gave up. And then, very gradually, a new idea began to hatch in my brain: what if I made my own everything bagels? How hard could that be? On Friday afternoon, I bought bread flour and malt powder and cream cheese and nova and red onions; on Saturday morning, I woke up all set to make Peter Reinhart’s famous recipe.

It was then, and only then, that I realized it was a two day process. A normal person would’ve accepted that fact: it was only Saturday, I could start today and have bagels on Sunday. Most people eat bagels on Sunday anyway.

But no, I’d been bagel-bereaved for too long. I wanted my bagel NOW. (Or at least in two hours.) Which is when I stumbled on this Chow recipe. The process takes 2 hours and 15 minutes and that was time I was happy to put in if it meant I’d be eating a warm bagel at the end of it.

You start, simply enough, by making the dough. It’s a combination of bread flour and, according to the recipe, malt syrup; I followed Smitten Kitchen’s advice, however, and used malt powder instead. There’s also salt–a lot of it (2 tablespoons!)–which had the commenters on Chow grousing, but I didn’t see that until later. Finally, there’s yeast dissolved in warm water.

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You work that all together with a dough hook until the dough is nice and smooth, and the gluten is well developed (about 8 minutes):

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Plop the dough into a greased bowl and let it rise for 20 minutes. 20 minutes? That’s nothin’!

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While that was happening, I did a few things. I filled my Dutch oven with water and brought it to a boil. I separated an egg white and mixed it together with a little water. And I made an everything bagel mix using leftover ingredients from those bagel bombs. After that, I flipped the dough on to a floured cutting board and used a pastry cutter to separate it into 12 pieces.

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Then it’s fun: you roll each of those pieces into a rope, about 9 inches, wet the ends and pinch them together into bagels. “This is fun,” I said to Craig who was reading the newspaper on the couch. “Mmmmhmmm,” he responded. Here’s what I had when I was finished:

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Bagels! Well, not yet. (And note: if I had weighed the pieces when I divided them, at the beginning, they would’ve all been a similar size. But I didn’t care.)

Here’s how easy this is: a few at a time, you lower the raw bagels into the boiling water.

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You cook them very briefly–they’re almost like dumplings, in that way–and lift them on to a drying rack to drip away while you boil the rest.

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Once all your bagels are boiled, you simply brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle with the seasonings.

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Into a hot oven they go and, 25 minutes later, they’re done.

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That’s it! Are you shocked? Hot, homemade everything bagels out of the oven in 2 hours? Under what rock have I been living that I didn’t know this was possible?

The hardest part, obviously, is waiting 30 minutes to eat them. The recipe says they need to rest so the insides continue to cook and the outsides firm up. Ugh. What a cruel recipe, this is.

After 20 minutes, I couldn’t stand it and sliced a bagel in half, spread on cream cheese, topped with nova, red onion and capers.

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Dear God in Heaven, I don’t know what I did to deserve this, but thank you thank you thank you. My prayers have been answered: this moment was one of the most blissful I can remember since moving to L.A. two years ago.

Coming back down to reality for a second, was it a perfect bagel? Was it too salty? Well: to the first question, I loved it. Probably not perfect, no…I bet the Reinhart recipe develops a lot more flavor. But a hot bagel out of the oven that looks like a bagel, smells like a bagel and tastes like a bagel is a perfect bagel in my book. As to the second question, I didn’t really mind the salt, but it is prominent. Next time, I may cut it down to one tablespoon.

And that’s pretty much that. My only other thought is that next time, I may divide the dough differently and make larger bagels (these were pretty small, though that’s how bagels are supposed to be). Otherwise, I feel like the luckiest man on earth because in my freezer right now are all of the bagels we didn’t eat that morning (we each had two). I have bagels, good bagels, in L.A. Maybe I’ll sell them on the black market.

Everyone else: if you live in a place that doesn’t have good bagels, look no further. This recipe is a godsend.

Recipe: Everything Bagels from Scratch

Summary: Adapted from Chow.com.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups tepid water (105 F) plus 1 tablespoon for the egg wash
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons malt powder
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (that’s salty! Cut it down to 1 tablespoon if you’re worried)
  • 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Mix together the tepid water and yeast in a measuring cup with a fork; set aside. In the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid mixer with the dough hook attached, combine the flour, malt powder, salt and sugar. Add the yeast mixture, scraping out any dissolved bits.
  2. Mix on low speed, about 2 minutes. Then increase the speed to medium low and continue mixing until the dough is “stiff, smooth, and elastic” about 9 minutes more. (If the dough gets stuck on the hook, mash it back to the bottom of the bowl.) The dough should be stiff.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl, turning to coat it in the oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise for 20 minutes.
  4. Heat the oven to 425. Fill a large, wide pan (I used a Dutch Oven) with water, bringing to a boil over high heat. Set a wire rack over a pan to collect the boiled bagels. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper for baking the bagels. Mix together the egg white and the tablespoon of water for the eggwash. Combine the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onions, onion powder and garlic powder in a separate bowl.
  5. Turn the risen dough on to a dry surface. Divide into 12 equal pieces, about 3 ounces each (you can use a scale to measure, I didn’t). (While you work, keep the dough you’re not handling covered with a damp towel to prevent drying). Roll each piece into a 9-inch rope, lightly moisten the ends with water, overlap the ends by 1 inch and press to join so you’ve created a bagel. The hole at the center should be quarter-sized. Cover the shaped bagels with a damp towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Then, boil the bagels 3 or 4 at a time, letting them bob around for 30 seconds on each side until they look shriveled. Then remove to the rack and finish the rest of the bagels.
  7. Place the bagels on the parchment-lined cookie sheet, brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle with the everything bagel spices. Pop into the oven and bake for 25 minutes until they’re a “deep caramel color” and have formed a crust on the bottom and top.
  8. The hardest part: let them cool for 30 minutes before eating. Good luck.

Preparation time: 2 hour(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

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