They used to call me “the bagel queen.”  See, growing up on Long Island (NY) and in other various parts of the 5 boroughs  kind of makes you a bagel guru.  There is a bagel shop or bagel deli in practically every single strip mall on Long Island (I may be overgeneralizing but probably not) and when you live there, you know which ones have the best bagels.  You know these places so well, you could find them in your sleep.  It’s just a way of life. Same goes for pizza places.  Unfortunately, in addition to it being impossible to find garlic knots in Connecticut, it’s next to impossible to find even a decent bagel; forget about finding good bagels.  People bring bagels from a certain chain donut store to morning meetings…and these bagels leave quite a bit to be desired.  For shame. And I feel sorry for those who only know a bagel to be one of these. But I digress…

So after hemming and hawing for a whole year, I finally bucked up and made my own bagels.  And it wasn’t difficult.  In fact, it was a fun process that yielded some of the best bagels I’ve ever eaten.  These bagels were chewy and flavorful and were slightly crusty, just the way I yearn for them to be.  Peter Reinhart is a genius. He promised these would be as close as you could get to NY bagels and he didn’t lie.    The recipe is a flexible one that gives you the option of using a variety of ingredients should you not have the “first choice” ingredients on hand such as bread flour or malt syrup.  In fact, the recipe is so flexible that after I chose to use brown sugar instead of malt syrup, I forgot to add the sugar before the kneading began and I only threw it in during the last 1 1/2 of kneading.  And you’d never know I made that mistake based on the end result.  As far as toppings go, put whatever you’d like to on top.  On half of these I sprinkled everything bagel topping (which you also make at home) and on the other half, toasted onion bits.  We love bold flavored bagel toppings but these bagels would be just as incredible plain so don’t fret if you don’t have anything on hand to top them with.  Add-ins to the dough are also a possibility.  I plan to attempt Reinhart’s cinnamon raisin adaptation next but as you can see, there are other options as well.

These bagels made me very happy.  I’ve been working my way through my initial fear of yeast and this is my biggest accomplishment to date.  I’ve found the perfect bagel and will continue to make this recipe on a regular basis, freezing them as needed, but looking forward to having fresh-baked bagels almost as often as my NY-girl-at-heart desires them.  Just the way a foodie’s life should be.

A couple of things to note from my experience:

  • I used bread flour (12% protein) and boiled the bagels for 2 minutes per side to achieve the level of chewiness I was going for; high gluten flour (14% protein) should help yield a chewy bagel with just 1 minute boiling per side;
  • The dough is very stiff and my stand mixer almost didn’t make it through the process but I added a little bit more water during the kneaded away and that seemed to soften up the dough just enough;
  • Be sure to press the toppings into the boiled bagel a little so that the topping bakes into the dough to prevent losing so much of the topping when you cut the bagel;
  • The next time I make this recipe, I plan to bake them for 6 minutes at 500 degrees then 5 minutes at 450 degrees.  I would have liked the bagel to be toasted a little more on the bottom, especially after tasting a toasted one.