adventures in bagel making

Since I am doing the  Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge, the next bread recipe I had to make was the ever illusive water bagel.  Someone kindly posted the recipe on the Fresh Loaf, so check out the recipe and instructions here.

As a native New Yorker, I basically refuse to eat bagels or pizza anywhere else in this country.  Call me a snob, I don’t care, this is one badge I wear with pride.  Only trouble is… I haven’t lived in NY since 2000.  I was sated for many years when I lived in Northern Virginia – even this girl admits that Brooklyn Bagels in Courthouse, VA had the bagel baking down cold.  It is the only (and I really mean the only) place outside of New York that makes, what I consider to be, an acceptable bagel.  Now in Utah, I feel there is no hope – I never found anything decent in Cali either.  For the past three years I have resorted to smuggling a dozen bagels in my carry-on and freezing them immediately when I arrived home.  As an aside – I apologize if you were ever on a flight in which I carried fresh everything bagels (or Italian cheese and cold cuts) that stunk up the entire plane, but it had to be done.

I used bread flour since I could not find the higher gluten/strong flour, and though I’m sure the strong flour would have made a difference, the bagels really turned out quite well.  The key to the chewy crust is really in the boiling rather than the flour.

I started with a sponge starter (flour, water, yeast) that had to sit for 2 hours.

After mixing in the rest of the ingredients (yeast, flour, salt, and barley malt), it turned into the stiffest bread dough I have ever used.  It actually overheated the engine on my Cuisinart stand mixer – that has never happened before.  I then kneaded it by hand since my machine was on strike.  It was a WORKOUT (especially when the kitchen was a balmy 83 degrees).  I did not get out every dry bit of flour like the recipe specified.  Sweat was pouring off my forehead and I just didn’t care after 10 minutes of kneading.  I formed the dough into 2.7oz balls (about half the size that was specified in the recipe for a smaller bagel – 20 total) and let them rest for 20 minutes.

After I drank a gallon of water (I was trying to hold out as long as possible before turning on our AC – to keep energy usage down), I formed the bagels by poking a hole in the middle and stretching it out to form a semi-perfect bagel shape.  The bagels were placed on parchment lined baking sheets, spritzed with oil, covered with plastic, and set aside to rest for another 20 minutes.

Next came the “float test.” Toss a bagel in a bowl of water.  If it floats, it is ready for the fridge.  If it doesn’t float, it needs to relax and rise some more.

The bagels were placed in the fridge overnight.

The next morning I assembled the toppings, started the water to boil, and preheated the oven.  And then the process began.  I boiled some bagels for 1 minute on each side and some for 2 minutes (supposed to make a chewier bagel).  I think I prefer the 2 minute boil.

The results were good.  The crust was chewy, the inside tender, and overall WAY better than anything in these parts.  I would make them again, but probably only for a special occasion or in the winter when the house is cooler.  They are a fair bit of work, but the flavor and crust is there.    It satisfies a New Yorker away from home like nothing else can in many parts of this country.


We schmeared our bagels with olive cream cheese.  It is my second favorite flavor of cream cheese – tofu veggie cream cheese is my numero uno (Sportsglutton feels differently).  The olive cream cheese is a little salty and tangy – perfectly delicious on a chewy bagel.

Olive Cream Cheese

  • Olives – black and pimento stuffed green
  • 1 block of softened cream cheese (regular, light, tofu, or neufchatel)

Chop the olives (the quantity of olives is up to you and your taste – I used about a handful of each for chockfull of olive cream cheese).

Put the olives and softened cream cheese in a bowl and stir to combine.

Schmear on your favorite bagel.


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