If you live in a great bagel city–and by that, I mean New York–this post will not be important to you. Feel free to skip it.
Everyone else: this is the most important post on a food blog you will ever read. In fact, if I were you, I’d stop whatever you’re doing, shut the door, and power off your phone. Even if you’re a brain surgeon in the middle of surgery, or a diplomat negotiating peace in the Middle East, this takes precedent. Please sit down.
Let’s start with a simple fact: outside New York, a good bagel is hard to find. You can find it in South Florida, where my family lives, and that makes sense because so many Jews settle there in retirement. You might be able to find one in Montreal, but that’s not the kind of bagel I’m talking about. I’m talking about the classic New York bagel, covered in seeds and garlic and onions and topped with mounds of flavored cream cheese.
I went to college in Atlanta, so I knew something about bagel deprivation before moving to L.A. In Atlanta, I did things I’m not proud of; specifically, I’d go to Dunkin’ Donuts (gulp!) on a regular basis and eat their toasted sesame bagel with a thin layer of cream cheese in order to get my bagel fix. I’d wear a dark hat and sunglasses in the hopes that no one would recognize me; but still, I knew how far I’d fallen and it wasn’t pretty.
Here in L.A., I’ve eaten some pretty dreadful bagels. At the 101 Diner, I ate a bagel that almost certainly came from the freezer section of the grocery store. At The Oaks, where I go on a regular basis, the bagel is more like a roll. And, along with their smoked salmon and cream cheese, they put sprouts on it (yes, what an L.A. cliché, but it’s true).
I was beginning to reach a crisis point, when–rather randomly–I ordered the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook on Amazon.com. It’s been out for a while, and I’d been holding off (thinking maybe I’d get it as a gift?) but, as a huge fan of Christina Tosi’s Compost Cookies, I knew I had to have it. So I bought it.
And in there is a recipe that’s changed my life. I know people say that to exaggerate how good a recipe is, but this one really did. Now I can have warm, authentic-tasting bagels whenever I want them; only they’re not just bagels, they’re bagel BOMBS filled with scallion cream cheese (or whatever cream cheese you want).
You start by making that flavored cream cheese. Into a stand mixer, you add 7 ounces of cream cheese (I just added the whole packet; 8 ounces) and whip it until it’s fluffy:
Notice the iced coffee in the background—that was my fuel as I made these—and the chopped scallions on the cutting board: those go in next, along with a pinch of salt and (weird) a pinch of sugar. (The original recipe has you add bacon and bacon fat, and that’s fine, I suppose, but I’m really not into that.) Then you shape that cream cheese into globs that you put on parchment on a cookie sheet and pop into the freezer:
They have to freeze for at least an hour, so plan accordingly.
Now you make the dough. You can do this with a scale, by weight, as I do here, or by cups and tablespoons which I think will totally work (there’s not much that goes into it). First the flour:
Add your yeast and salt:
Then add room temperature water:
You knead that in your mixer for 7 minutes or so. The instructions say it should “look like a wet ball” but mine just looked wet, so I added two handfuls more of flour to help it come together. Then I placed it in an oiled bowl and covered with plastic wrap for 45 minutes:
While the cream cheese was freezing and the dough was rising, I made an everything bagel mix. Have you ever wondered what makes an everything bagel an everything bagel? Here’s your answer:
You mix these together in specific proportions, and there you have it:
45 minutes later, your dough is risen:
And it’s time to make your bagel bombs.
Flour a surface and cut the dough into eight equal pieces:
Take each piece and flatten it and stretch it so it’s about a 3-inch circle:
Then you just plop a frozen cream cheese knob into the center:
Fold the dough all around it, pinch the top well, and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet:
Continue until you’ve used up all the dough and the cream cheese, and then brush the unbaked bombs with an egg wash (just 1 egg and a little water):
Finish by sprinkling aggressively with the everything bagel mix (just don’t get it on the bottom of the dough):
That’s it! You’ve made your everything bagel bombs.
Into a 325 oven they go for 20 to 30 minutes. As Tosi explains, “The bombs will become a deep golden brown and a few may have cream cheese explosions. Continue baking until you see this happen!”
Indeed, that’s precisely what happened:
But this was not a problem at all; all the cream cheese that exploded out goes back in quite easily with your fingers (or just swipe the bagel bomb across the cream cheese before you put it in your mouth).
But: hello! Can you see why this is the greatest recipe ever? This former New Yorker living in L.A. finally had that taste I was craving, that taste of warm dough, coated in garlic and onions and poppy seeds, and literally exploding with creamy, scallion-flecked cream cheese.
I realize you gave up brain surgery to read about this, and I appreciate it, but hopefully those of you craving bagels will see in this as much of a salvation as I do. These are Everything Bagel Bombs and they’re my new favorite thing.
Recipe: Everything Bagel Bombs
Summary: Based on the recipe in Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook.
- 8 ounces cream cheese (plain, not low-fat)
- Scallion greens from a bunch of scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt PLUS 1/2 tablespoon (for dough) PLUS 3/4 teaspoon (for everything bagel mix)
- 1 3/4 cups (or 225 grams) flour
- 1/4 packet (or 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast
- 7/8 cups (or 185 g) room temperature water (warm enough to activate but not so hot it kills the yeast)
- Neutral oil
- 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
- 1 egg
- Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream it on medium speed, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the scallions, sugar, and salt and paddle briefly to incorporate. Taste to adjust.
- Scoop the cream cheese on to a parchment-lined cookie sheet in 8 even lumps and freeze until rock hard, 1 to 3 hours.
- To make the dough, stir together the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer using the dough hook like a spoon. Continue stirring as you add the water, mixing for 1 minute, until the mixture has come together into a shaggy mess.
- Engage the bowl and hook and have the machine mix the dough on the lowest speed for 3 minutes, or until the ball of dough is smoother and more cohesive. (If it just looks like a big wet mess, add some more flour until it begins to look more like a ball.) Then knead for 4 more minutes on the lowest speed. The dough should look like a wet ball and should bounce back softly when prodded.
- Brush a large bowl with oil and dump the dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough proof at room temperature for 45 minutes.
- Make the everything bagel mix by mixing together the salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onions, onion powder, and garlic powder. Whatever you don’t use you can save in the pantry, in an airtight container, for up to 6 months.
- Preheat the oven to 325.
- Punchdown and flatten the dough on a smooth, dry countertop. use a dough cutter to divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Use your fingers to gently stretch each piece of dough out into a mini pizza between 2 and 3 inches wide.
- Put a cream cheese plug in the center of each dough circle. Bring up the edges of each round and pinch to seal so that the cream cheese plug is completely contained, then gently roll the ball between the palms of your hands to ensure the bomb has a nice, round, dinner roll-y shape. Arrange the bombs 4 inches apart on a parchment- or Silpat-lined cookie sheet.
- Whisk the egg and 1/2 teaspoon water together and brush a generous coat of egg wash on the buns. Sprinkle a heavy even coating of the bagel mix all over the bagel bombs–every possible inch, except for the bottoms, should be coated.
- Bake the bagel bombs for 20 to 30 minutes. While in the oven, the bombs will become a deep golden brown and a few may have cream cheese explosions. Continue baking until you see this happen! Not to worry–serve them as is or use your fingers to tuck the cream cheese back inside the bagel bomb. Bagel bombs are best served warm out of the oven–or flashed in the oven later to warm and serve. If you can’t finish them all right away (we did!), once they are cool, wrap them well in plastic and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days.
These would be great for a brunch party; make a bunch ahead and freeze them before baking. Then pluck them straight out of the freezer and bake them as your guests arrive.
You could vary up the cream cheese flavor, no problem. Next time I may try smoked salmon.
Preparation time: 1 hour(s)
Cooking time: 25 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8