There is really only one way to eat bagels. And that’s with tomato, lox and cream cheese.

Don’t even try to argue with me because you know it’s true.

I’ve been meaning to try to make bagels for a while. Of course, when the day came for me to make them, I hadn’t read the recipe all the way through before hand and didn’t realized they took two days to make. And I didn’t have two days.

So hopefully you’re reading this and you now know that bagels take two days to make.

See? I even put it in bold so that you’d be sure to see it.

So anyway, I had to wait till I had the time to make them.

Despite the time commitment, the dough is easy to make. I used Peter Reinhart’s recipe off of Smitten Kitchen. I made the bagels in two batches:

The first batch (and the ones in the picture) I baked at the end of the day. The bagels had been proofing in the fridge for 8 hours at this point. The bagels came out light and fluffy and right out of the oven and then became denser after sitting for a while. However the crumb was still too airy.

The second batch I baked two days later. These bagels were much denser and a couple hours later the crust was almost rock hard. They were also not as attractive.

I would prefer a bagel in between these two. Something dense, but still airy. Next time, I think I will let them proof in the fridge for a day and take them out of the fridge 30 minutes before boiling and baking them.

I was also not able to get my hands on high-gluten flour so I used bread flour and added 1/4 cup of wheat gluten to the recipe.

This recipe makes about 16 bagels, but it really depends on how big you make your bagels.

Peter Reinhart’s Bagels

Sponge
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 1/2 cups water, room temperature

Dough
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar

To Finish
1 tablespoon baking soda

Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting

Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, cheese, really whatever you like on your bagels.

Day one: To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.

To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and brown sugar. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.

Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes. The dough should be firm, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test*. If the dough seems to dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

*The windowpane test is when you take a small piece of dough and stretch it between your fingers. The dough should not snap/rip and instead should stretch so that you can see light through it.

Immediately divide the dough into 4 1/2 ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. Form the pieces into rolls.

Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment. Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter (half of this for a mini-bagel). The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)

Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans (Deb note: I got away with 1-inch space for the minis). Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight.

If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

The next day, preheat the oven to 500° F with the racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda.

Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minutes flip them over rand boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side.

While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water. You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination.

When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.

Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

Total Time: About 1 Day and 4 hours