Let’s talk about bagels.
As a pretentious New Yorker, I take my carbohydrates very seriously — this includes both pizza and bagels. I have no shame in admitting as much. Just as pizza is not simply bread with sauce and cheese slapped on it, a bagel is not simply round bread with a hole in the middle. The ingredients and method used to create a realbagel are what sets it apart from that which you can buy at a grocery store or chain eatery (I’m looking at you, Panera + Einstein).
I couldn’t get a decent bagel in Utah, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. While this recipe is not perfect, it will get you about as close to New York bagels as humanly possible without building some of your own wooden bakeware.
The “secrets” to the New York bagel:
- Overnight proofing — a lot of bread doughs require 60-90 minutes of rest. For the best bagel results, you need to allow for a retarded fermentation. In a refrigerator, the fermentation process will happen more slowly, allowing the yeasty flavor to better permeate the dough. It will also allow the water content in the dough to be more evenly distributed. I’ve tried a more conventional dough proofing process, and the bagels stunk. Don’t shortcut this.
- Barley malt syrup — If you google bagel recipes, you will usually find that they call for a tablespoon or two of whatever sugar you have (typically either table sugar or honey). This is complete malarky. You need to use barley malt syrup. I have only been able to find it at Whole Foods, but I guarantee that without it, your bagels will just taste like rolls. If you’ve never had a New York bagel, you won’t care. If you have, you will notice that the taste difference is staggering.
- Poach before you bake — Real bagels are poached (boiled) in a solution containing barley malt syrup, salt, and baking soda. This gives the bagels their chewy external texture and their lovely golden sheen. Lazy/commercial bakers will skimp on this step by either brushing the bagels with a baking soda/water solution or omitting it entirely. Fools.
There are a couple of actual baking techniques involving baking the bagels on wooden boards and such, but these are advanced and not wholly necessary tricks of the trade. Honestly, while I think they would improve my bagels’ quality, I am too lazy for the time being. That said, if you don’t have a baking stone, I suggest that you get one ASAP, because these really don’t turn out as well when baked on a metal baking sheet.
Now that you understand what will be required of you, feel free to proceed forth to my carefully crafted (with the help of my professional bagel-baking father) bagel recipe at your own risk.