Best-of Bagels 8.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

May 10, 2016

This recipe represents a collaborative effort by Post staffers and hobby bakers Alex Baldinger and Becky Krystal, who streamlined and combined methods and ingredients to come up with a bagelmaking process that works even for novice home bakers. The result? A chewy bagel with a gorgeously burnished thin and crackly crust.

We recommend using King Arthur Bread Flour, widely available at grocery stores, or King Arthur High-Gluten Flour, which has a bit more protein and is available via KingArthurFlour.com. Using a kitchen scale will yield the best results for measuring the flour.

You'll need a stand mixer (we don't recommend trying to knead this stiff dough by hand) and ideally a pizza stone, though a baking sheet will still give you pretty good results. A kitchen scale is useful for portioning the dough. Do not skip the boiling step; if it's not boiled, it's not a bagel. For bagels with toppings, see the VARIATIONS, below.

Check out our annotated recipe, complete with notes on our process and how-to gifs, at wapo.st/bagelrecipe.

Make Ahead: The rolled and shaped bagels need to rest in the refrigerator overnight or for 12 to 18 hours.

Storage Notes: The bagels can be stored tightly wrapped or in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Wrapped in plastic wrap and foil, the bagels can be frozen for up to a month. To reheat, place in a 450-degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes. If bagels have been frozen, unwrap and defrost before reheating.

Where to Buy: Barley malt syrup is available at Mom's Organic Market and select Wegmans locations. It's also often sold at brewing supply stores.


Servings:
8 - 9

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 8-9 servings

Ingredients
  • For the bagels
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise active dry yeast, preferably SAF brand
  • 337 grams (scant 12 ounces; scant 1 1/2 cups) warm water (80 degrees)
  • 623 grams (22 ounces; approximately 4 cups) bread flour (may substitute high-gluten flour; see headnote)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon barley malt syrup (see headnote)
  • 3 tablespoons cornmeal, for dusting
  • For the optional toppings
  • Sesame seeds
  • Poppy seeds
  • Caraway seed
  • Dehydrated onion flakes
  • Dehydrated garlic flakes
  • Sea or kosher salt

Directions

Mix the yeast into the warm water in a small bowl or measuring cup and let it start to foam while you prepare the rest of the dough.

(If the mixture fails to foam after several minutes, dump it out and start over with new yeast.)

Combine the flour, salt and barley malt syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough-hook attachment. Add the yeast mixture and beat on the lowest speed until the dough starts to come together around the dough hook, about 4 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low; beat for 7 to 10 minutes or until the dough is cohesive, smooth and stiff.

Dust a rimmed baking sheet with the cornmeal. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, then divide it into 8 or 9 equal portions (about 4 ounces each). Roll the pieces into smooth balls and cover with plastic wrap to rest at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Form each dough ball into a rope 11 inches long by rolling it under your palms. Try to avoid tapering the ends of the rope.

Shape each rope into a circle with a diameter of about 4 inches, overlapping the ends by about 1 1/2 inches. Pinch the overlapped areas firmly together, moistening them lightly with water if the ends won't stick. Working with one at a time, place your fingers through each ring of dough; with the pinched-together seam facing down, roll the rope several times, applying firm pressure to seal the seam to form a bagel. Each ring should be about the same thickness all around; if it's not, you can roll it in other places around the ring to even it out.

Place the dough rings on the cornmeal-covered baking sheet as you work, spaced an inch or two apart. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (12 to 18 hours). The rings will have puffed and spread slightly.

When you're ready to boil and bake the bagels, place a pizza stone or baking stone, if using, on the middle oven rack. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. (The longer you can preheat, the better; up to an hour is great.)

Fill a large, wide pot with 3 inches of water; bring it to a boil over high heat.

Drop 3 or 4 dough rings into the boiling water, stirring and briefly submerging them with a metal skimmer or slotted spoon, until very slightly puffed, 30 to 35 seconds. Transfer the dough rings to a wire rack, bottom (flatter) sides down, to drain. Repeat with the remaining rings.

If you are using any of the optional toppings, dip the bagels in them while the dough is still wet (see VARIATIONS, below).

If you're baking with the stone, transfer the rings, cornmeal side down, to a sheet of parchment paper on top of a pizza peel or overturned baking sheet. You'll then just slide the parchment with the bagels directly onto the stone. (Depending on the size of the stone or your comfort in sliding off 8 or 9 bagels at a time, you might choose to bake in two batches, which will also help space the bagels out, for better browning on the crust.) If you're not using a stone, transfer the bagels to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake (middle rack) for 12 to 18 minutes or until the bagels are a deep golden brown and crisp, rotating the parchment paper or baking sheet halfway through; the baking time will depend on whether you're using a stone and perhaps the heat distribution of your oven.

Use tongs to transfer the bagels to a wire rack to cool. If you've split the bagels into two batches, slide the second one in and bake.

Wait for a few minutes before splitting open the hot bagels.

VARIATIONS: For topped bagels, dunk the boiled and drained dough rings (both sides) into 1/2 cup of your favorite toppings (sesame, poppy or caraway seed; dehydrated onion or garlic flakes; sea or kosher salt, etc.). For an "everything" bagel, combine 2 tablespoons each sesame and poppy seed and 1 tablespoon each caraway seed, sea or kosher salt, dehydrated onion flakes and dehydrated garlic flakes. A glass pie dish is perfect for this task.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "Cook's Illustrated Baking Book" (Cook's Illustrated, 2013) and "Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads," by Bernard Clayton (Simon & Schuster, 1995), posted on SeriousEats.com. CORRECTION: An earlier version of this recipe incorrectly stated that barley malt syrup is available at Whole Foods, Giant and Yes! Organic Markets. This version has been updated.

Tested by Alex Baldinger and Becky Krystal.

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Email questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.