It was not until I was in my late 20s that I understood the magic that comes with a warm bagel slathered with cream cheese. Of course, I had eaten bagels before then, but I grew up only knowing frozen Lender bagels. And would continue to enjoy eating them in Tokyo, Palo Alto, etc.
When I moved to the Upper West Side in New York, I serendipitously lived a few blocks away from an H&H Bagel shop. Soon, I would have my first bagel that did not need to be toasted, but was still warm, softening the cream cheese. Heaven!
Unfortunately, it also made me picky. When a good bagel could not be easily had, out of desperation, I tried my hand at making them at home. I used America’s Test Kitchen recipe which yielded good results, but it would take all day and one usually hankers for a bagel in the morning. When taking a plant-based baking course, we made bagels using a simpler recipe but the shelf life seemed to just a few hours. The structure of the bread would deteriorate, to the point where croutons seemed like the next phase of life.
Then, in another ‘net crawl for bagel recipes, I came across one on Serious Eats which said the recipe was inspired by Bernard Clayton who got the recipe from Jo Goldenberg’s, a famous Jewish restaurant and deli in the Le Marais district of Paris. This recipe takes three hours so it’s ready just in time for a weekend brunch. I’ve made it about 4x now and it’s now my go-to bagel recipe.
Yields about 10-12 bagels.
- 3-1/2 cups (530g) bread flour (3 1/2 cups)
- 2-1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1-1/2 cup hot water (115°–120°F)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar (for water when boiling)
- 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water (optional, for toppings)
- Everything (sesame, garlic, onion, salt) seasoning blend (optional, for topping)
Add all the dry ingredients to the food processor and lightly pulse until mixed (about 2-3 pulses). With the processor running, slowly add the warm water. Process until the dough comes together, and becomes satiny (about 30 seconds).
Transfer dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Get your boiling water ready. Add the malt syrup or sugar to about 6 quarts of water.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently press to push out gas bubbles. Divide dough into 10 -12 equal balls (or whatever size your prefer).
Take each ball and roll into a rope long enough to wrap around one’s middle three fingers. Crimp the ends by rolling. Keep the rings of dough from drying out by covering with plastic wrap.
Let bagels rise again for 10 minutes, while you bring your water to a boil. Carefully add bagels, one at a time, to the water using a skimmer or slotted spoon.
Do not add more than 3 bagels to the pot at one time. The bagels will sink and rise. Turn each bagel over after about 30 seconds.
Remove bagels from water with skimmer or slotted spoon to a clean kitchen towel, and pat dry.
If making plain bagels, skip the next step.
Place bagels on wire cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Brush bagel tops with egg-water mixture. Shake on desired toppings. The baking sheet will collect excess dry toppings (such as sesame or poppy seeds). Pour them back into their containers for reuse.
Place bagels on prepared baking sheet. Bake until light brown and shiny, 20 to 30 minutes. Some may prefer to flip the bagels at the halfway mark though I don’t like to flatten both sides or have the toppings fall off.