Wondering how bagels are prepared, to turn out exactly right every time? Here’s the 411 on bagel making, but be forewarned – making bagels at home delivers a super fresh taste and smell, but without expensive bagel equipment (including the vats for boiling and the specialty oven for baking) you probably won’t get that crisp brown crust and moist, chewy inside!
Step 1: Start with the right ingredients. Use bread flour, not all purpose flour – you need the extra protein and gluten content to make the bagel dough turn out smooth and elastic. Trust us – all-purpose flour will give you a lumpy, dense bagel that you’ll likely toss din the trash after one bite!
Step 2: Knead, knead, knead. If you have a mixing machine with a bread hook, use that – it will take at least 8 minutes on a low setting to get the dough to the right consistency, so doing it by hand would take at least 12! You want the dough to be elastic and shiny.
Step 3: Shape the bagels by hand. Do NOT, for any reason, use a cutter. These are NOT doughnuts! The trick to making the bagel rise without cracking is smooth edges all around. Thumb a hole in a small round ball of dough, then enlarge it by sticking two fingers of each hand in the hole and rotating while stretching gently to make a bagel shape.
Step 4: Proof properly. This means about 15 minutes on a sheet of wax or parchment paper, up to 20 minutes if you don’t have a very warm spot. The bagels shouldn’t double in size; rather they should increase by about 50%.
Step 5: Boil. You need a tall stock pop full of boiling water, and you can add some flavoring – Honey, malt, or maple syrup work well. Boil the bagels about 40 -60 seconds per side and take out with a slotted spoon.
Step 6: Bake. Your oven should be quite hot – 400-450 degrees – and your baking sheet slightly greased. You can brush the boiled bagels with a slight coating of butter and sprinkle them with salt, seeds, sugar or the topping of your choice.
Step 7: Enjoy! Your bagels will be the most delicious right out of the oven, with a little butter; remember to cool slightly if you plan to slice them and use a serrated bread knife. Cool off to spread with cream cheese and serve with jam or lox.