I made those. Me. Yep. And if you can't tell, I'm still a little impressed at myself for actually making credible bagels.
I owe it all to Cooking Light's October 2005 issue which offers tips for bakers. If you want to make good baguettes, pretzels, or bagels go get this issue before it disappears from newsstands. Go. Now!
The ones above are a little misshapen which is due to me cutting my thumb badly when I divided the dough. I abandoned them at a critical moment to stop the bleeding (I didn't save the liver with its natural coagulents), and didn't get a chance to make them into balls and had to poke the holes in the center AFTER they rose on the tray, all of which I think deflated them.
But they tasted great. In my opinion, a great bagel needs a good crumb that holds together, neither too fluffy or too dense; a nice chewy skin, which is imparted to it by boiling the bagel briefly; and a nice clean flavor that pairs well with peanut butter, cream cheese, salmon, hummous or whatever else you like to put on your bagels. This recipe produces bagels with all those qualities.
The classic bagel uses malt syrup in the boiling mix and in the initial yeast mix. This recipe uses beer instead. I added malt syrup to the boiling mix for the second batch of bagels, and it made quite a difference, but I get a little kick from the idea I'm having beer for breakfast with these bagels. It's like I'm back in college, but without the resilient immune system and ability to rally.
For now, here's the Cooking Light recipe with a minor change here and there as I made it.
4 1/4 cups AP flour plus up to 1/4 cup more flour plus dusting flour
1 12 ounce bottle dark or brown beer(I used a Sam Adams Octoberfest the first time and a Negra Modelo the second time)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 egg, separated into white and yolk
1 packet active yeast
vegetable oil in a spritzer and to coat bowl
1/4 cup cornmeal for scattering
(optional - 2 tablespoon malt syrup, aka barley malt syrup if not using, substitute 2 tablespoons brown sugar)
Equpment: large bowl, large cooling rack, cookie sheet, non-reactive dutch oven, sheet of aluminum foil
In a large bowl combine 1 1/2 cups water with 1/2 cup of beer. Bring to 100-110 F. Stir in the yeast and dissolve. Let sit in a warm place for 5 minutes.
Lightly beat the egg white during those 5 minutes. Stir it into the yeast mix.
Mix 4 1/4 cups of flour with the salt.
Little by little, stir in 4 1/4 cups of flour to the yeast mix until it forms a sticky dough. knead the dough on a lightly floured surface. Mix in enough of the extra 1/4 cup four to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. It will still be a little tacky. Knead the dough for 6-10 minutes until it's smooth and elastic.
Form the dough in a big ball. Wash, dry, and oil the big bowl lightly. Turn the dough ball around in the ball so it gets very lightly coated with oil. Cover and place in a warm draft-free place to rise for one hour and fifteen minutes.
The ball should now be twice its original size. If you poke the dough, the mark should remain. Punch the dough down and let it rest five minutes.
Divide the dough into ten approximately equal portions. Roll each into a ball. Push your thumbs through the center of the dough to make a hole and form a torus (aka a doughnut/bagel shape). Make sure the hole is a decent size. You'll see why in a second.
Lay the bagels on a lightly oiled sheet of aluminum foil. Brush or spray them lightly with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise ten minutes. They should not rise much, but this is why you want decent sized holes in the step above. They will close a bit with the rising.
In a dutch oven or other large non reactive cooking vessel, combine the rest of the beer and four cups of water with the barley malt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Set up a cooling rack and spray it with oil. Two at a time, drop the bagels into the boiling mix and let them boil 30 seconds on the first side, then flip them in the bowl and let them boil 30 seconds on the second side. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on the cooling rack. Repeat until all the bagels have been boiled. You put them on the rack to let them drain a bit and to prevent them soaking the cookie sheet they'll be baked on.
Mix the egg yolk with a tablespoon of water and mix to create an egg wash. Brush the top of each bagel with the egg wash. If you want to make salt or poppyseed or sesame bagels, now is the time to coat the tops with poppyseeds or sesame seeds or kosher salt.
Spread the cornmeal on the cookie sheet. Place the bagels on the sheet and bake in the 400 F oven for 17 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden.
Let cool five minutes before serving. Warm bagels are a thing of beauty and don't even need cream cheese, if you ask me.