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Saturday, December 20, 2008


Clockwise from top left: Salt, everything, sesame, plain.

I've been itching to make bagels with my new KitchenAid Pro 600 mixer, and the imminent delivery today of something like twenty pounds of buttery, velvety Eastern nova and lox from Barney Greengrass—a gift to Mr. Chalmers from my parents—was more than enough to get me and the bug started last night. (Although, as it turns out, there were tons of bagels in the FedEx box too!) It's possible to make these without a good stand mixer, but it won't be all fun and games. The dough has to be super-stiff but also thoroughly combined (the barley malt syrup doesn't integrate itself easily), and you have to knead it for a good ten minutes. When I did this by hand last year I nearly broke my arms. The KA struggled a bit but powered through admirably.

This recipe is a keeper. Stick to it, and you'll have bagels that seriously taste just like the real thing—not just a decent New York bagel but a very, very good one. Crusty on the outside, chewy, and light on the inside. I don't remember where I got the recipe I based this on, someplace on the Internet, but my thanks go to whoever posted it years ago.

Makes 16 bagels.

For the sponge:

2 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten (see Notes)

For the dough:

1 tablespoon barley malt syrup (see Notes)
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons vital wheat gluten
2 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

To boil and bake:

1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup
Toppings: sesame seeds, poppyseeds, coarse sea salt, dehydrated chopped onion and garlic;

The night before you plan to boil and bake the bagels:

Make the sponge: Put the water in a large bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Stir in the flour and vital wheat gluten, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise for 2 hours.
Make the dough: Add the malt syrup, yeast, 3 cups flour, the vital wheat gluten, and salt. Stir, adding enough of the remaining flour to make a very, very stiff dough. Knead for 10 minutes. Cut the dough into 16 pieces and roll each into a ball. Cover with plastic and let rest for 20 minutes. Shape the balls by sticking your finger through the center and stretching them into circles (make the hole bigger than you think it should be, as it'll close up as it rises). Put the circles on two parchment-lined sheet pans, spaced at least 1 inch apart, cover completely with plastic, and let rise for 20 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, boil and bake: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and stir in the baking soda and malt syrup.

Drop in a few bagels at a time and let them boil for about 1 minute, then turn them over (chopsticks work well for this) and cook on the other side for about 1 minute. As they boil, sprinkle some of the toppings, if desired, on the parchment. Return the boiled bagels to the parchment and immediately top them with . . . toppings. Repeat until all the bagels are boiled and topped.

Bake for 5 minutes. Rotate the pans, lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees, and bake for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the bagels inside for 5 minutes. Crack the oven door and leave them in there for 5 minutes more. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Note: Vital wheat gluten can be found at health food stores (check the bulk bins) and in good supermarkets (among the specialty flours). You can use barley malt powder instead of syrup, if you like. Both powder and syrup are available at most health food stores.
Serving suggestion.

Lox, overcast daylight, and the hand of a happy Mr. Chalmers.

Eastern nova, and lots of it. Thank you, Mom and Dad!