Because what could be better than homemade bagels? I must confess that years ago, before I had the hang of making bread by hand, I attempted bagels. It’s a sure thing that when someone uses the word “attempted” that the results perhaps were not stellar. And by not stellar I mean shriveled, wrinkley and hard as stone.
However, when I walked into Neal and Kathy’s house, of the Kitchen Gardener and Duck Fest Extraordinaire, and saw a mountain of gorgeous bagels that Kathy had baked herself, I was again imbued with a determination to try again. Kathy uses Julia Child’s recipe and so I followed suit. Now I’m not sure that I’ll ever want to buy bagels again (sorry bagel store down the road) and I’m working on the logistics of making them for breakfast on the Riggin. How does bagels and lox for 30 people sound?
This recipe is not a beginners recipe, but rather one for someone who’s already successfully kneaded and baked a loaf of bread. What I’ve done here, because the original recipe by Dorie Greenspan is so long, is to give the measurements and ingredients and paraphrase the instructions. Dorie’s full directions are fleshed out wonderfully in Baking with Julia and if you don’t have a copy, I’d recommend it to anyone who has an interest in baking beautiful breads and pastries at home (or on a boat!)
Bagels by Dorie Greenspan and Julie Child
Because the work involved is not insignificant, I’ve been at least doubling the recipe for my family of four.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups tepid water
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 tablespo salt
6 cups high-gluten flour, bread flour or if you have to all purpose flour
Combine the yeast, water and sugar and let the yeast dissolve until creamy. Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time and stir until incorporated. When the dough is soft and sticky and wanting to be in a ball, turn it out onto a board and knead for 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the ball of dough to a bowl brushed with the melted butter and brush the top of the dough too. Cover with plastic wrap and rise until double, about 1 hour.
Deflate the dough by pressing your fist into the center of the dough and then chill for four hours or over night. When you are ready to bake the bagels, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line two baking sheets with kitchen towels, dusting one with flour. Bring a stockpot of water to a boil and add 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon baking soda.
Transfer the dough to a floured board and cut into 10 equal pieces. Shape into balls by pinching all edges together.
Press your index finger into the center and work into a bagel shape with the hole about 2 to 2 1/2 inches wide (it will shrink as soon as you stop working the dough). Place on the floured towel and repeat. To keep all dough that you aren’t touching from forming a crust, cover with kitchen towels.
In batches, transfer the bagels to the boiling water with a slotted spoon or carefully with your hands. Boil on each side for 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove with a skimmer or slotted spoon to the baking sheet/unfloured kitchen towel. Work quickly as they’ll stick to the towel.
Transfer the bagels to a clean, dry baking sheet and brush bagels with a glaze of 2 large egg whites and 1 teaspoon cold water. Try not to get the glaze on the baking sheet as it will cause the bagels to stick. Sprinkle with whatever toppings you love.
Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and toss ice cubes onto the bottom of the oven or into a baking pan to create steam. A squirt bottle of water also works as long as you steer well clear of the oven light. Turn the oven down to 450 degrees and bake for 25 minutes.
Turn off the oven and leave the bagels for another 5 minutes. Open the oven door for another 5 minutes and then remove the pan.
Inhale. Breathe. Get out the cream cheese, cured salmon, capers and dill. You’ll never go back to store bought.