Growing up we didn’t eat bagels. My mother’s family on her mother’s side came over from Eastern Europe and were connected to the local Jewish community. Her grandfather used to take her to late Saturday afternoon dinners with friends who had gone to temple earlier in the day. But my mother went to parochial school, and it seems communion bread was more likely to have touched her lips than a good chewy bagel with cream cheese. We had plenty of homemade bread, and even helped make it, taking turns at the crank on the bread bucket, punching down the dough after it had risen, and even making little knot rolls when we were old enough to keep our promise not to just sit their and eat raw dough (cause that is a attraction when you’re just 4 or 5!).
But lately I’ve been wondering just how hard it is to make bagels. I’ve been eating them for years, whether as foundation for a pizza, a warm and crunchy version of a healthy breakfast with a bit of low-fat cream cheese, tomatos, cucumbers and black olives on top, or deliciously covered in full-fat cream cheese, lox, onion and capers with maybe a sprig of dill, if I’m lucky. But they’re always bagels from a bakery.
I’ve only been to two jewish bakery/delis that I remember. Rein’s deli in Connecticut, which has moved locations but is still a great place for breakfast or lunch, and a stop on our way to singing events when we’re down that way. And the Buttermill Bakery on Long Island. The latter is no more unfortunately. I found out today that it has been taken over by Bagel Boss. But they’re still serving up amazing dishes including bagels, pierogies, blintzes, pretty much anything your heart (and stomach) could desire. It’s definitely a place I’ll have to rediscover in it’s new identity, once doors open and restaurants can welcome diners once again.
But how difficult are bagels to make? Rumor has it, it takes a lot of boiling water, flipping raw dough, and waiting for the dough to rise, and rise again. So I did a bit of research and came up with the following recipe. It took me about 2 ½ hours from start to finish, but I think if I did it a few more times I’d get it down to a couple hours total. They’d be smoother and contain less cracks, too. But they came out so yummy, chewy and bagel-y!
I chose to make these as Pumpkin Pie Spice Bagels, but I’ve included some other flavoring ideas at the end. That list could be endless. I also use my heavy duty Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook to get this dough mixed properly. You can do it in a breadmaker (the kneading and rising part) but you need to watch not to over knead or over proof the dough.
Pumpkin Pie Spice Bagels
Makes 8 -10 bagels depending on how you cut them.
Ingredients for bagels:
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 ¾ TB granulated sugar (1 ½ TB used in the yeast proofing process, and the rest used in the dough)
- 1 ¼ cups warm water (I just use hot from the tap)
- 3 ½ cups white flour (if you want to use wheat, do half ultra grain white whole wheat/half unbleached white, otherwise you’ll have a very heavy dough)
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 2 TB pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ cup white Swedish pearl sugar (for topping)
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar (for topping)
- 1 TB Pumpkin Pie Spice (for topping)
- Olive oil or cooking spray to use in the bowl for dough
Instructions to make bagels:
- Pour ½ cup of warm water into a bowl. Sprinkle yeast and granulated sugar (1 ½ TB) over the top.
- Let sit for five minutes until bubbly, then stir together until completely dissolved
- Mix flour, salt, remaining sugar, and pumpkin pie spice in a large mixing bowl. I use a fork and really make certain it’s well combined. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture by pressing down the center of the flour mixture. Pour the yeast and sugar mixture into the well. Add 1/3 cup of the remaining water and mix on low, adding water slowly until you get a firm but moist dough that is workable with your hands.
- Empty dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. You’ll need to continue kneading in more flour as you go until you have a firm, stiff dough.
- Spray the inside of the bowl (or brush with olive oil). Add your dough and turn to coat. Cover with a warm dish towel and place in a quiet, warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size. When ready, punch the dough down and let sit for 10 more minutes, covered.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and roll into a long even tube shape (18” or so). Divide the dough into 8 – 10 even pieces, then shape each piece into a perfect, smooth ball. Once you have all 8 (or 10) dough balls, you’re ready to make them look like bagels!
- Dip your index finger in flour and gently press into the center of one dough ball to form a ring. Slowly stretch the ring to allow the center hole to be about 1/3 the diameter of the bagel. Place on a non-stick or oiled cookie sheet. Or you can use parchment paper, or Silpat. I have a copper non-stick baking sheet we got for Christmas that lines our cookie sheets. No need to oil anything and they don’t stick!
- Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Once you’ve got eight (or ten) completely shaped bagels, cover them again with a warm damp dish towel and allow to rest for 10 more minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
- In a bowl, mix together your topping. In this case you’re mixing pumpkin pie spice, pearl sugar and brown sugar.
- While waiting for the oven to heat, set a large dutch oven filled with water and 2 TB brown sugar on medium heat. Heat to boiling.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to simmer, and lift each bagel with a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer to the water carefully. My pan could easily hold 3 – 4 bagels at a time.
- They may sink to the bottom but will soon rise to the top again. Allow to float for 60 – 90 seconds on each side for a total of 2 – 3 minutes per bagel, then remove and set on a drip pan. I used a grill tray so the bagels wouldn’t be sitting in hot water that may have run off them during this process.
- Now add your toppings. Sprinkle them liberally and give a few good pats to make sure the toppings have adhered to the bagel. Using an egg wash on the just boiled bagels will make toppings stick even better and add a nice sheen to the bagels once baked.
- Once they’re all boiled and topped, transfer to your chosen baking sheet.
- Bake 20 – 25 minutes. Start checking at the 20 minute mark and judge how brown they look.
- Cool on a wire rack. These bagels will keep for up to 2 days if you don’t end up eating them all the first day! To keep fresh, wait until cooled, then pack each in it’s own self-sealing baggy. If you’re going to freeze them, make sure to cut in half first, then freeze in individual baggies.
Other bagel combinations:
Everything bagel: Do not add the remaining sugar to the dough mixture. Use garlic salt or onion salt instead of regular salt. Instead of pumpkin pie spice in the dough, mix 2 TB ground dried herbs: dill, parsley, oregano, thyme. For topping use: minced garlic, dried onion flakes, poppy seeds, black pepper, sesame seeds, and coarse sea salt.
Sticking to the reduced sugar version:
- Sesame seeds
- poppy seeds
- caraway seeds
- Coarse sea salt
- Salt, pepper and minced garlic
A few sweet options:
- Adding currants and cinnamon to your dough and increasing the sugar again. Then use cinnamon sugar for the topping.
- Again with the sugar quantity of the above recipe, mix chopped dried cranberries and grated orange rind into the dough. Add brown sugar, orange juice, and chopped cranberry combination as a crumbly topping
Bagels are a blank palette. Let your taste buds and your nose show you the way.