Real Bagels

25 Nov

As a New Yorker, I feel privileged to be able to enjoy the best bagels in the world, anytime I want. (Is it wrong to say “in the world” even though I can’t back that up?) I guess if you have never had the real thing, you probably don’t mind a frozen supermarket bagel, but once you’ve have a New York bagel, I’m pretty sure you’ll be disappointed by everything else forever. With a bagel store available 5 minutes in every direction of any town here on Long Island, there has never been a need or desire to make my own bagels. But when I saw the recipe for “Real Bagels” in last month’s Cooking Light magazine, I saw it as a challenge. Real bagels? That’s quite a claim…what do the people at Cooking Light consider a “real bagel”? Could this super simple, one page recipe even come close to being anything like a good bagel? But just like any true Southerner knows how  to make their own fried chicken or how every Maryland chef  has their own secret crab cake recipe, shouldn’t I, a proud Long Islander, have a recipe for true New York bagels in my repertoire?

I made them immediately, even though it was 9:30 at night. The folks over at Cooking Light don’t lie. This wasn’t a roll masquerading itself as a bagel, it was truly the real thing… chewy, dense, crusty on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. I don’t think I have ever been so amazed at the authenticity of something I made. I really expected the recipe to fail on some level…. how could it be that easy? If it was that easy, why, when I take a road trip to another state, are the bagels so bad different? Maybe it’s the water. Maybe you have to be born here to be able to do it. I don’t how it happened, but once it did, I made sure everyone I could get my hands on tried one. I challenged them, “Eat this bagel, I MADE it. It tastes like a bagel. Really.” They were equally amazed. “You MADE a bagel…? ( Bite ) This is a real bagel…it tastes just like a really good bagel.”  This went on, pretty much word for word, with each of the 11 people I gave them to. As the recipe describes, “these are a revelation”. As a teacher, my favorite thing is seeing the excitement of my students when they create something amazing that they never thought they could make at home. I knew I had to make them with my classes but I had to find a shorter way to break the time up, so the second time I made them, I made the dough and popped it in the refrigerator overnight. I am glad to say it was a success. This dough is perfect for making Saturday night and then rolling, boiling and baking fresh on Sunday morning. My fellow New Yorkers, I challenge you, for the sake of your heritage, to make these immediately. For those of you who live elsewhere, you now have a way to enjoy something wonderfully authentic and awesome.

No 1 rule to follow with this recipe: Weigh your flour, don’t measure it. When I weighed it, it came out to about 4 cups rather than the 6 1/4 stated. I did not have barley malt syrup, which the recipe said could easily be omitted, so I left it out. The bagels were perfect, but I ordered the stuff on Amazon just to see if they could become any more perfect, just in case.

Real Bagels – adapted from Cooking Light Magazine – November 2011 issue

For the bagel dough:

2 cups warm water- 100- 110F

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

28.5 ounces bread flour – divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 Tablespoon barley malt syrup ( can be omitted )

To Boil in:

12 cups water

3/4 cup sugar

To Sprinkle on top: ( Optional )

Sesame seeds, dehydrated onion, garlic salt, sea salt, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, oatmeal etc.


Combine the warm water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Proof the yeast by stirring it together and waiting for bubbles to form to see if the yeast is alive. ( Both times I didn’t get bubbles but the yeast was alive. My kitchen was cold and with no sugar to feed the small amount of yeast I didn’t see much bubble action)

Weigh 28.13 ounces of bread flour into a separate bowl and stir in salt. Add flour mixture and malt syrup ( if using) into yeast mixture.

Mix on low speed for 6 minutes. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until smooth and elastic. Add remaining ( .37 ounces)  of flour if mixture is too sticky. ( I didn’t measure that part out, I just sprinkled a little down on work surface and my hands as needed.)

Place in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm ( 85 F) spot for 30 minutes. ( Or overnight in the refrigerator) Test to see if two fingers inserted in the center leave an imprint. If it springs back, let it continue to rise.

If dough was refrigerated overnight, let it come to room temperature. Turn out onto a floured work surface and and divide dough into 12 equal portions.They make smaller bagels than compared to the over sized ones seen more often. For larger bagels make 10 instead of 12.

Pinch dough together at the bottom and roll each section into a smooth ball. Cover with a towel to prevent drying.

Using both hands, gently stretch a 1 1/2 inch hole in the center of  each ball of dough to form the bagel shape. If hole is too small it will close up completely when cooked.

Set bagels on a lightly greased sheet pan and cover with plastic. Let rise in a warm place for 10 -15 minutes. Bagels will only rise slightly.

While the bagels rise, pre-heat oven to 45oF. Prepare two greased cooling racks set over a sheet pans to place the bagels on after boiling. gather any toppings for the bagels and prepare another two sheet pans with parchment paper for baking the bagels.

Bring 12 cups of water and sugar  to a boil in a large dutch oven or heavy bottom pot.

Gently lower 3 risen bagels at a time into the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds, gently bobbing them under the water occasionally.

Remove and place on greased cooling racks. Sprinkle with any toppings at this point.

Transfer boiled bagels to lined sheet pans and bake for 7 minutes. Rotate pans and bake another 7 minutes.

Make sure you are out of your pajamas by now because once you are finished you will be so proud and excited that you will knock on your neighbors doors and get in the car to deliver them to people. They are amazing right out of the oven but if that’s not possible make sure to heat them in the oven before sharing. DON’T MICROWAVE a bagel, that’s a sin, and remember to check your teeth before you head out…


2 Responses to “Real Bagels”

  1. Loretta November 26, 2011 at 4:31 am #

    The best bagels EVER? Really? ……REALLY!

    I don’t know why it was sooo amazing, but it was just one of those things you think you can’t get anywhere but a genuine, from a Jewish neighborhood, made on premises bagel store. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t taste them for myself.

  2. meryl Cittadino November 26, 2011 at 4:44 am #

    I love your recipes, I love your blogs and I love how funny you are. Your writing always makes me smile.
    Love and miss you

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