Like many things, I suspect that the kind of bagel one likes is the kind of bagel one had as a child. According to the various articles that have come to me as I trawl the internet, there are two kinds of bagels: the good ones, and the bad ones. The New York Times, unsurprisingly, takes as fact that the New York Bagel (whatever that is) is the standard to aspire to. But worry not, as apparently there are also bagels in places like Montreal and the Bay Area that will serve in a pinch.
Personally, I guess I am a bit of a bagel heathen: I always preferred the somewhat fluffy type of bagel found at a place like Noah’s over the “better” kind–which, as far as I can tell, is just denser. (This is judging by the bagels from the NYTimes-heralded Beauty’s.) I have, however, always liked homemade bagels, of any variety. The first recipe I tried was from somewhere on the internet; I thought it was the NYTimes (again) but I can’t find it now. Recently, though, I’ve made the recipe from Reinhardt’s book a few times and it has always been wonderful. The bagel is more of the New York style, and I think it is my favorite so far–so I guess home-cooked trumps regional prejudices yet again.
[Again from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day]
Dough [makes 8 bagels] (I always do this by weight)
1 Tbsp (20 g) barley malt syrup or honey
1 tsp (3 g) yeast
1.5 tsp (11 g) salt
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp (250 g) water
3.5 Cup (450 g) flour
Poaching Liquid (I don’t do this by weight)
2 to 3 quarts water (I don’t measure, just fill up at least 4″ of a big pot)
1.5 Tbsp barley malt syrup or honey
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Combine the dough in a large bowl and mix. Then mix some more, kneading some if you like, until well combined. You want to develop the gluten a bit here, but we’re not going to do any of that stretch-and-fold stuff that Reinhardt normally calls for (he doesn’t here). Cover and let rise for one hour, then refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 500 F. Separate the dough into 8 pieces. For each piece, roll into a rope-shape (Anna likes to insert raisins + cinnamon here) and them wrap around your hand and squish the ends together. Roll it off your fist and you’ve got a bagel!
Fill the poaching pot with (cold) water. Put one bagel in it, and if it floats you’re ready to go. If it doesn’t, wait 20 minutes and try again. Bring the water to a boil (without the bagels in it), then add the honey, soda, and salt to the water. Boil the bagels one minute per side (I can do 4 at a time in our pot). Put the bagels on a greased or oiled and parchment lined baking sheet–you really need the oil or it will stick to the parchment paper. I put them in the same orientation that I first put them into the poaching pot, as I think it looks a little nicer, but it really doesn’t make a difference.
Put them in the oven, lower the heat to 450 F, and bake for about 14 minutes. If they get too black on the bottom, but an empty baking sheet on a rack beneath the main sheet (mine always require this).
I’ve done up to 50% whole wheat successfully (and haven’t tried higher), with slightly more water, and they come out (unsurprisingly) somewhat denser. I once used barley malt syrup when I had some left over from a beer brewing (more on that later!), and didn’t notice a difference from the honey bagels–but I also used 50% whole wheat that time, and that difference probably swamped the difference in sugars.