I don’t think I’ve ever made a bagel that’s a flawless torus, but nobody’s perfect. They’re crunchy, chewy, deep brown and taste great with cream cheese, which is all you need to get into bagel-maker heaven when you die.
As I’ve mentioned previously, there are a lot of bagel dough recipes out there, and when you start to compare the really good ones, you begin to see that there’s not a whole lot of difference between them. The main difference is usually the amount of water in the dough (hydration), otherwise the thing that really makes one bagel different from another is technique. That said, here’s how they’re made. Beginning with your dough, you first use a bench scraper or a knife to cut it into pieces…
…weighing about five ounces each.
Next, roll the dough pieces into balls using the same technique for buns and rolls that I demonstrated in my post on that subject.
The balls need not be perfectly smooth, for believe me, they’re going to get a whole lot bumpier. If you’re wondering what those flecks are in the dough, they’re cracked black pepper (I add about a teaspoon to the dough since I like my bagels a little spicy).
Now then, there are two basic techniques for shaping bagels, and they produce very different breads. I’ll show you both of them since, well, different strokes for different folks. First, the one I prefer. You start by rolling your dough out into a log. Notice I’m not using any flour, not even a little. The reason for this will be clear in a second. Fortunately good bagel dough is very stiff.
Once you’ve made about a six-inch log, you wrap it around your knuckles like so, holding the two ends in your palm. (WARNING: Does not work the same as brass knuckles in a street fight).
Then you just give the bagel a couple of quick rolls to seal it. Here you can see why I’m not using flour on my board, since if the two ends of the bagel were coated with a dusting of flour, they wouldn’t join.
This method is a bit more involved that the other method I’m about to demonstrate, but it produces a flatter and denser bagel for the simple reason that the pressure of rolling breaks more gas bubbles.
Method II begins by poking a hole in the center of the dough ball with your finger…
…then stretching the dough ring out with both hands (some people twirl it on the end of their finger…whatever floats your boat). This method has the advantage of being easier if your dough is on the sticky side, though the bagels tend to puff up to a more roll-like shape since more gas bubbles are left intact.
Now then, while all this rolling has been going on you’ve had a pot of sugary water on the boil, yes?
Gently drop your bagels in a few at a time and boil them for about two minutes on the first side…
…then giving them a flip with your spider, about a minute on the other side. Pretty bumpy, yes? I told you. But don’t worry, all those crinkles will bake out.
Transfer the bagels to a wire rack and paint them with an egg white-water glaze (doing it on a rack keeps you from spilling the glaze on the baking sheet, which would stick the bagels down).
Now if you wish you can apply toppings. A few poppy seeds…
…some sesame seeds for the wife.
Me, I like mine plain. Again the advantage to doing this on a rack is that it prevents you from spilling the seeds onto your baking sheet where they’d certainly burn. That wouldn’t really hurt anything, but it smells sort of nasty. Now then, all you need to do is transfer your bagels to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 450 for about twenty minutes until brown. Cool on a wire rack while you head out to get the lox. Eat!