Bart’s Bagel Recipe

As a rookie cook and baker, it drives me crazy when recipes use jargon and leave out steps that they think are “obvious.” So, I have written up, in a step-by-step way, how I make bagels from scratch.

My method is based on a Washington Post recipe that I modified. Some of the text below is cut and pasted from that recipe. I am continuing to experiment to see what gives me the best results. I will update here if I have any breakthroughs. Let me know if you do, too.

Equipment I Use

  1. Stand mixer with a dough hook attachment
  2. Parchment paper
  3. Saran Wrap
  4. Slotted spoon or spatula
  5. Pizza stone or large baking sheet
  6. Kitchen scale (optional)
  7. Cooling racks (optional)
  8. Thermometer (optional, to check the temperature of the water)

Notes on Equipment

  • If you don’t have a kitchen scale you can measure cups. But doing it by weight (grams) is more precise and yields more consistent results.
  • I use my grill thermometer to check the temperature of the water. If you don’t have a thermometer you can drip the water on the inside of your wrist.  Remember that 85 degrees should feel lukewarm – not hot at all.

Ingredients

  1. Bread Flour – preferably King Arthur Brand – 623 grams (appx 4 cups)
  2. Tap water – 337 grams (appx 1.5 cups)
  3. Instant or rapid-rise yeast – 1.5 teaspoons
  4. Salt – 2 teaspoons
  5. Barley malt syrup – 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon
  6. Cornmeal (for dusting so bagels don’t stick) – approx. a quarter cup
  7. Bagel toppings such as sesame seeds or everything mix – to taste

Step-By-Step Instructions

  • Put 1.5 cups of tap water into a measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl.
    • Tip: Do not use hot water from the tap.
  • Heat the water to approximately 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Tip: How long this takes depends on how cold your tap water is.
    • Tip: Five seconds in the microwave is often enough.
    • Tip: Use a thermometer if you have one.
    • Note: If the water is too hot (above ~120) it will kill the yeast. If it is too cold (below ~75) it won’t activate the yeast.
  • Stir 1.5 teaspoons of yeast into the water.
    • Note: The water will activate the yeast. After 3 minutes you should notice the mixture start to froth/bubble a little bit. This means it is alive and working. If you don’t see any froth/bubbles you may have expired yeast, or your water may be too hot or cold. Dump it out and try again.
  • Add 623 grams of bread flour into the bowl of a stand mixer.
    • Tip: If you don’t have a kitchen scale, use 4 cups of flour.
  • Add 2 teaspoons of salt into the bowl of the stand mixer.
  • Add 1 tablespoon AND 1 teaspoon of Barley Malt Syrup into the bowl of the stand mixer.
  • Pour the water + yeast mixture into the bowl of the stand mixer.
  • Using the dough hook attachment on the stand mixer, beat on the lowest speed for 4 minutes.
  • Increase the speed on the stand mixer from lowest to medium-low; beat for 7 to 10 additional minutes or until the dough is cohesive, smooth and stiff.
    • Tip: Keep your stand mixer away from the edge of a counter during this step. Kneading dough like this is tough work for a stand mixer. Keep an eye on the machine to make sure it’s not threatening to hop off the counter or overheat. You can always turn off the mixer for a few minutes before continuing with the kneading if you’re worried about the motor.
  • Put a dish towel or Saran Wrap over the bowl and let your dough rise for 1 hour.
    • Note: I made this step up because I am not interested in having the dough in the fridge overnight as the original recipe called for. My bagels came out the same doing it my way as their way. If you plan to put your bagels in the fridge overnight you can skip this step.
  • Optional: Punch down the dough, recover it with a towel, and let it rise for another hour.
    • Note: Doing this will make your bagels larger and fluffier. When I do this I skip the overnight fridge step.
  • Punch down the dough and then plop it dough onto a clean counter.
  • Use your hands to tear the dough into 9 equal sized lumps.
  • Use your hands to roll the lumps into equal sized balls.
    • Tip: Tear pieces off larger balls and then squish them into smaller balls to make the balls roughly the same size.
  • Use your thumb to poke a hole in the middle of each ball of dough, and then squish and squeeze each one into the shape of a bagel.
    • Note: The bagels will plump up when they bake so don’t worry if they seem too skinny at this point.
  • Place each of your uncooked bagels onto a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet, cover with Saran Wrap, and put them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but as long as overnight.
    • Note: There’s nothing special about doing this step on a baking sheet. You can do it on plates if a baking sheet won’t fit in your fridge. Just don’t forget to dust them with cornmeal.
    • Note: Some bagel recipes do not call for refrigerating overnight but I’ve found that having the bagels cold when boiled them helps.
  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. If you are using a pizza stone or baking stone, put it in the oven on the middle oven rack and preheat for at least 30 minutes so the stone gets really hot.
  • If you are using a baking sheet, spread parchment paper on the baking sheet and apply a dusting of the cornmeal to the parchment paper.
    • Note: This is a really important step. If you forget, the cornmeal the bagels will stick to the parchment paper during baking.
    • Tip: If you don’t have a large baking sheet you can use two smaller baking sheets and split the bagels between them. 
  1. Fill a large, wide pot with at least 3 inches of water and bring it to a boil over high heat.
  • If you have wire cooling racks, put a dishtowel on the counter and then put your cooling rack on top of the dishtowel.
    • Note: We do this because we’re about to boil the bagels and then put them on the cooling rack to drip dry.
  • If you are putting toppings on your bagels, get your toppings out, along with a bowl or pie plate.
    • Note: As soon as the bagels come out of the boiling water you will be sprinkling your toppings on them.
  • Drop 3 dough rings into the boiling water, gently stirring and briefly submerging them with a metal skimmer or slotted spoon, until they are very slightly puffed, which should take around 35 seconds.
    • Tip: For larger/more airy bagels, boil for an additional 20 seconds or so.
  • Transfer the boiled dough rings to a wire rack, bottom (flatter) sides down, to drain. If you are doing toppings, now is the time to do that. Place each bagel in a bowl or pie plate and sprinkle them with the topping. Flip each over and sprinkle the bottom.
    • Tip: Once each bagel is topped you can put it on the baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Repeat with the remaining dough rings.
  • If you’re baking with a stone, transfer the rings, cornmeal side down, to a sheet of parchment paper on top of an overturned baking sheet. Then slide the parchment with the bagels directly onto the stone.
    • Tip: 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 using a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the bagels on it and put the sheet in the oven on the middle rack.
    • Tip: Leave an inch or two between each bagel so they have room to grow during baking.
  • Bake your bagels for 12 to 18 minutes or until the bagels are a deep golden brown and crisp.
    • Note: The baking time will depend on whether you’re using a stone, and perhaps the heat distribution of your oven.
    • Note: Some people rotate the parchment paper or baking sheet halfway through. I do not because my oven heats pretty evenly.
  •  Transfer the bagels to a wire rack to cool. Use tongs or a spatula.
  • Wait for a few minutes and then dig in and enjoy!
    • Tip: Let bagels thoroughly cool before putting them in plastic bags.

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