Tomorrow, December 11, is National Eat a Bagel Day.
I spent much of my childhood in New Jersey, where finding a decent bagel was never a problem. I now realize that I was spoiled by the bakeries of my youth.
In my current haunts—western Massachusetts and northern Virginia—bagels are much harder to come by.
The other day I recalled that when I was a teenager living in India another American expatriate, Jane Abel, used to make her own bagels. (She made her own gefilte fish, too, but I’m not that brave!)
I decided to ask Jane for her bagel recipe.
Unfortunately, Jane has been back in the U.S. long enough to have lost her magic bagel formula. She did send me another recipe to try. She said it looked similar to the one she remembered.
The bagels I made looked far from perfect. Frankly, my shaping skills need a lot of work. The end products tasted much better than the bread-like substances that often masquerade as bagels, however.
As connoisseurs know, a true bagel is twice cooked—first boiled and then baked. Think of it as a baked dumpling. The double cooking creates a firm crust and a chewy interior.
These are indeed true bagels. If they look a little odd, please blame the cook and not the recipe. Actually, my friend Deb thinks I should call them “Bagels Rustica” and pretend I WANTED them to look this way!
The only change I might make another time (other than getting someone more talented to shape the darn things) would be to halve the sugar in the dough. These bagels are a tad sweet.
My nephew Michael was home sick from school yesterday and was thus able to sample a bite of bagel when the first batch emerged from the oven. He pronounced the bagels “awesome.”
They are best eaten fresh and warm with a dab of butter, but they are also terrific toasted the next day and smeared/schmeared with cream cheese.
Almost Jane Abel’s Indian Bagels
4-1/4 cups bread flour
2 packages instant (rapid-rise) yeast
4 tablespoons raw sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
In a mixing bowl stir together 1-1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast.
In a separate bowl combine 2 tablespoons of the sugar (you will use the other 2 tablespoons later), the salt, and the water.
Stir the water mixture into the flour and yeast. Combine thoroughly at low speed on your electric mixer, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula from time to time.
Turn up the mixer and beat the mixture for 3 minutes.
Next comes the kneading. The bread flour makes the dough very stiff so if you have a dough hook on your mixer it is best to use it rather than knead by hand. In this case add all of the remaining flour. Mix on medium speed with the dough hook for 4 to 5 minutes, stopping from time to time to redistribute the dough.
You will have VERY stiff dough—but don’t worry; it will loosen up as it rises.
If you don’t have a dough hook, add the remaining flour gradually as you knead. Kneading by hand will take 8 to 10 minutes. Again, expect very stiff dough.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a damp dish towel, and let it rise in a relatively warm place until it puffs up a bit, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
Divide the dough into 12 (I actually had 14) small balls, and roll them as smoothly as you can. This is not my specialty so my balls—and my bagels–were ragged. If you are good with shaping, however, you’ll do better than I did!
Use your index finger to poke a hole in the center of each ball. Gently work to make the center a bit bigger—the bagels tend to close up as they cook—and smooth the rounds into bagel shapes.
Cover the bagels again and let them rise for at least 1/2 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a wide 8-quart pot bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, along with the remaining sugar.
Carefully place a few bagels in the boiling water. You should be able to boil at least 4 at a time. Not being a patient woman, I tried 7 at a time, which overcrowded them a bit so I don’t recommend it! The bagels expand as they boil.
Boil the bagels for 6 minutes, turning them with tongs halfway through; then drain them briefly and place them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
Bake the bagels until they turn golden brown in spots, about 30 minutes. Repeat the boiling/baking process with your remaining bagels. 

Makes 12 to 14 bagels.

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9 Responses to “Bagels”

  1. Ramona says:

    My mother was a great bread baker. She was always willing to try any new recipe. So, when I asked her to make bagels for me, she was game to try. (I had gotten hooked on them while living in the city where they were readily available.) I was so surprised they had to be boiled.
    I remember them as being good, but she only made them the one time.
    Breads are my food weakness – more so than sweets.

  2. Grad says:

    It’s been awhile since I’ve made bagels. But I just bought some fresh yeast because it is, after all, baking season. I shape my bagels by making a ball and then squishing the middle into a hole, and then stretching it out a bit. They never look perfect either, but who cares how they look when there’s a fresh, homemade bagel to be had. I’ll try this, and halve the sugar. I like them with cream cheese and smoked salmon. Your bagels look splendid by the way.

  3. Deb says:

    I kinda like the braided bagel look of your rustic shapes!

  4. Loyce Cofer says:

    Oh these sound so good, wish my kneading days weren’t over, or perhaps I could get my kitty cat, Annie to knead it for me (when she does that kneading motion I say she is making biscuits) So I will have to settle for the store bought kind.
    Love you for sharing recipes,

  5. Grad says:

    I made these on Saturday, Tinky. They use a lot more yeast than my normal bagel recipe does. They were far superior to the recipe I follow when I make bagels. I didn’t have bread flour, but AP worked just fine. The higher yeast content made these very flavorful. One thing I did different, though, was pre-heat the oven to 400 (a little hotter than your recipe) and just before closing the door on the bagels, I threw about 1/8 cup water into the oven to create steam. Nice and crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside. This is my new bagel recipe.

  6. tinkyweisblat says:

    Grad, I love your suggestions and will try them next time! Loyce, the image of making biscuits is one that will come to me next time Lorelei Lee starts kneading. Deb, your terminology makes me strange food sound SO MUCH BETTER. Ramona, I share your weakness for bread–as you can probably tell from reading this blog!

  7. I lived in NY for 8 years and one of the things I miss most is the bagels. A decent bagel is pretty hard to come by down here. I’ve looked at a few recipes and recall them calling for some weird ingredient I don’t have, maybe barley malt, that you can only get at a health food store. So I was always scared off. I like that your version doesn’t contain anything I need to search out and will definitely try making my own.

  8. tinkyweisblat says:

    I have actually ordered barley malt from King Arthur Flour, just to TRY it, but I know just what you mean, Abigail. Do try Grad’s hints if you make the bagels, though; I’m going to!

  9. Never done this before, but I am such a huge bagel fan. You may have convinced me to try it one of these days…

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