There’s a whole category of food out there, quasi-convenience foods, that I tend to take for granted: bagels, pretzels, jam. I can get pretty good versions at the store, and there’s always a ready supply in my pantry. Then one day I’ll realize, hey, I could make this myself. So I do, and it’s a revelation, and suddenly I’m telling everyone I know that they should make their own, too. Today.
That’s precisely what happened with this bagel recipe. I know bagels cost less than $1 and they’re often eaten standing up or on the run. But just try making a batch at home, and you’ll experience a bagel revelation: soft and chewy on the inside, golden brown and lightly crisp on the outside.
I happen to love everything bagels, though I usually leave one or two plain bagels in the batch. Since each one is topped individually, it’s easy to mix and match. Use poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, onion, salt, cinnamon-sugar, or whatever you like.
Adapted from Molly O’Neill’s New York Cookbook
1 package active dry yeast
3 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups warm (105-110 degrees) water
1 tablespoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
About 1/2 cup cornmeal, for dusting
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, roasted minced garlic, minced onion, for toppings (or just have them plain, if you like)
1. Proof the yeast by placing it in a large bowl and adding 1 1/2 teaspoons of the brown sugar and the warm water. Stir well and set aside until the mixture bubbles and a slight foam forms on top, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar and the salt; stir well. Gradually add the flour, 1 cup at a time. Using your hands, mix the dough until the flour is well incorporated. Knead the dough in the bowl until smooth, about 7 minutes. [You can also use a KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook for this.] The dough should retain a sheen and not appear too floury. Cover the bowl and set aside to rest in a warm place for 40 minutes.
3. Lightly dust half a large cutting board with flour and half with cornmeal. Turn out the dough onto the floured side of the board. With a sharp knife, cut a thick 2-inch strip from the dough. On the cornmeal-dusted board, roll out the strip with the palms of your hands until it resembles a rope as thick as two fingers. Bring the two ends of the rope together into a circle and pinch the bagel together. If it fails to hold together, squeeze the seal in your hand for a few seconds, then reshape the bagel, stretching and squeezing it with your hands. Continue making the rest of the bagels.
4. Lightly dust a baking sheet with cornmeal. Place each bagel on the prepared baking sheet and set aside in a warm place to rise, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heavily dust another baking sheet with cornmeal.
6. Fill a large, wide pot two-thirds full with water and bring to a boil. Using a wide, slotted spoon, drop the bagels in batches into the water; they must not touch. Boil on one side for 2 minutes. Turn the bagels and boil on the second side for 1 1/2 minutes. They should firm and puff up. Carefully remove from the water and drain for 1 minute on a rack.
7. Place the bagels on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with the desired toppings. Immediately place the sheet in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Turn the bagels over and bake until deep golden brown all over, about 7 minutes. Remove from the baking sheets to cool on racks.
Makes 10 beautiful bagels