Ok, my German Friends. You know those little hockey pucks they sell in the pre-cooked breads aisle at Kaufland? Those are *not* bagels. I do not know what they are, but seriously, just use them to prop your doors open and be done with it. Likewise those weird seed-filled things they make into terrible sandwiches in France are not bagels. Those are just dry, nasty, challenging, grainy rolls.
Real bagels are sort of like a sweeter version of the best fresh brezel you have ever had, but thick enough to top with whatever you like. They should be slightly crisp and chewy on the outside and moistly fluffy inside. They may be served toasted or plain, warm or room temperature. They may have a topping of sesame or poppy seeds, they may even be topped with onions if you must. And, if you have a lot of time you can make an extra batch with chocolate chips in it. But, really, the joy of a fresh, plain bagel is bliss itself. So, here is a quick how-to. I adapted these from the Baking With Julia recipe. Metric conversions were done using The Metric Kitchen.
- 2 1/4 cup tepid water (540 mL)
- 1 packet dry yeast
- 2 TBS sugar (25 grams) (or DIASTATIC MALT POWDER- available mail order)
- 3 TBS shortening (36 grams)
- 1 TBS salt (20 grams)
- about 6 cups high gluten (550) flour (about 720 grams)
- baking soda, salt, malt powder or sugar for boiling
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, a pinch of sugar and 1/4 cup of tepid water. Allow to rest until the yeast is dissolved and creamy. Add in the rest of the water, sugar (or diastatic malt powder), and the shortening. With the mixer on dough setting, gradually add in the flour until a slightly sticky dough forms. The dough should just barely clean the sides of the bowl and may not clean the bottom. Knead for another 6 minutes until smooth and very elastic. Add a little more flour as it works if it is too sticky to touch. (NOTE: If you happen to have a little wheat gluten around for bread making, this is a great recipe to use it in. Bagel dough really wants to be stretchy!)
Oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a ball and allow to rise in the greased bowl covered with a towel until doubled, about an hour. Deflate the dough. At this point you may refrigerate it for up to 2 days if desired.
When you are ready to make the bagels, preheat oven to 500 F (260 C). Fill a large pot with water and set it to boil. Then, form the bagels. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces and form each piece into a tight ball. Pinch the ball in the very center to form a hole. With your thumb and forefinger, gradually stretch out the hole until it is about 2 inches (5 cm) across. You want a stretched out donut shape. Allow the shaped bagels to rest on a baking sheet with a couple inches space between them for 20 minutes or so, while the water comes to a full boil.
For the boiling:
To the boiling water add 1/4 cup sugar (or malt powder), and 1 TBS baking soda (not baking powder! In Germany or France you can get this at the pharmacy, I am told. In a pinch, just use salt). The things you add to the water are what will give the bagels their shiny, flavorful crusts. Drop the dough gently into the water in batches. The bagels will sink at first and then float. Once they are floating continue to boil 2 minutes or so, turning over once or twice. Remove with a skimmer and place onto parchment or silicone lined baking sheets with the smoothest side up.
At this stage you can brush lightly with an egg glaze and top with course salt, seeds, onion, garlic, etc. Plain is just how we roll!
For the Baking:
Spray the oven quickly with water and put the bagels in. Turn the oven down to 400 F (200) and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool on racks.
Enjoy with cream cheese, lachs, butter, jam, or whatever strikes your fancy!