Chewy Bagels

For all their popularity, bagels began as a handmade, traditional bread, and we think that's worth recapturing. Using bread flour and a steam bath gives these bagels their chewy, golden exterior. The overnight rise fully develops the dough's flavor, while giving you a head start on tomorrow's breakfast.
Prep
45 mins
Bake
20 to 25 mins
Total
11 hrs 50 mins
Yield
8 to 16 bagels
Chewy Bagels

Instructions

  1. For the starter: Combine all of the ingredients and mix until uniform. Cover and let rest at cool room temperature overnight.
  2. For the dough: Combine the starter with the remaining ingredients to form a stiff dough. Knead by hand for 12 minutes, or in a mixer for 9 minutes. The dough will be smooth and elastic, and should not spread much when you stop kneading.
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and let rise until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  4. After this rise, transfer the dough to a work surface, and divide it eight pieces for large bagels or sixteen pieces for smaller (3 1/2") bagels.
  5. Roll each piece into a ball, cover, and let rest for 30 minutes. They'll puff up very slightly.
  6. Poke a hole through the center of each ball, then twirl it around on your finger until the hole is 1 1/2" in diameter.
  7. Place the shaped bagels on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and allow to rise, covered, for about 45 minutes.
  8. While the bagels are rising, place a steamer rack in a wide pan or canning kettle. Put 1" to 2" of water in the bottom and bring it to a simmer.
  9. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  10. Place as many bagels as will fit on the steamer with 3/4" of space between them. Cover the pan and steam the bagels for 90 seconds.
  11. Using a spatula and your fingers, gently remove the bagels from the steam and return them to the baking sheets. Repeat until all of the bagels are steamed.
  12. If you wish to top the bagels with seeds or other toppings, brush with beaten egg wash, and apply the seeds of your choice.
  13. Bake the bagels for 20 to 25 minutes, or until deep golden brown.
  14. Remove the bagels from the oven, and let cool on a rack.
  15. Store in a paper bag on the counter for one day; or slice and freeze for up to two months for longer storage.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Onion-topped bagels
    Bake unglazed bagels for 20 to 22 minutes (or until they're almost as brown as you like), and remove the pan from the oven, keeping the oven turned on. Working with one bagel at a time, glaze as instructed above, and sprinkle with minced, dried onion. Return the bagels to the oven for no more than 2 minutes (the onions will burn if the bagels are left in longer than that).
  • Cinnamon-raisin bagels
    Knead about 2/3 cup of raisins into the dough towards the end of the kneading process. Just before you're done kneading, sprinkle your work surface heavily with cinnamon-sugar (which you've made by combining one part cinnamon with 12 parts sugar), and give the dough a few more turns; it'll pick up the cinnamon-sugar in irregular swirls. Divide the dough into eight pieces, form each piece into a ball, and roll each ball in additional cinnamon-sugar. Proceed to let rest and shape as directed above.
  • We've seen bagel-store bagels in varieties as diverse as jalapeno pepper, spinach and cheese, and marbled rye. You can make bagels with just about any kind of bread dough. To retain the characteristic chewy texture, just be sure to make a dough that's low in fat and quite stiff, and follow the shaping, rising, steaming and baking techniques above.
  • You can try steaming the bagels in your electric frying pan and a small cooling rack, if you have one; if you have a round cooling rack, it may fit into your electric fry pan.