These came from our OWN kitchen. We are pretty proud of ourselves! It’s amazing what desperation can do when it comes to accomplishing things.
But not to take too much credit, now that we are in our fifth year living overseas it has become more a matter of necessity than a matter of “wow, we are such good cooks” that drives us to do things like make our own bagels. Would we do this if we still had Brooklyn Bagel Deli down the street? No way. But what choice do we have, when the only kind of bread in ANY of the bakeries is just that light, fluffy, hot-dog bun style, formed into whatever shape they think the ex-pat population likes to eat? I’m not complaining. You can spread garlic butter on almost anything and give it a toast in the oven to make it taste good. It’s perfect for french toast! But coaxing a wonder bread recipe into a baguette shape doesn’t make it a baguette. Forming it into a circle with a hole in the middle doesn’t make it a bagel, either!
This is the best bagel recipe, first discovered when we lived in Ukraine. We didn’t need it so much there because the bakeries in Kyiv were overflowing with delicious loaves of old, European-style bread. We didn’t need it in Azerbaijan either, where on every corner you could buy the freshest, chewiest tandoori bread you could imagine! But here in Zambia… well, necessity has made us bagel-makers. I love this recipe because it’s EASY. Only two short rises of 20 minutes each, no proofing the yeast, and you can knead it with a dough hook if you want. Obviously, they turn out awesome, even for lazy dough people like us.
4 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp oil
2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups of warm water
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. The dough will be stiff, but add the extra water if you have trouble adding all the flour.
Plop the dough on the counter and knead it like crazy for about 10 minutes, or put it in the mixer with the dough hook. Either way, the dough should reach that “springy” stage, where suddenly it becomes easier to knead and almost starts to be fun. It will also be smooth and satiny and make you feel like “wow, I get what ‘dough-spring’ means now!”
Divide the dough into 10 equal balls, and let them rest for 10-20 minutes. I lay a barely damp paper towel over the top of the balls to keep the tops from getting too dry.
Pre-heat the oven to 425. Fill a big pot with water and get it started for boiling.
Take each dough ball and roll it into a snake on the counter top, then wrap it around your fingers and pinch the ends together to form a bagel. This takes a little practice, I’ve made a lot of lopsided bagels that don’t fit very well in the toaster, but you’ll figure it out. After you’ve made all 10 bagels, let them sit again on the counter for 10-20 minutes. I use the damp paper towel again, because once they dried out and had little hard spots all over the tops. It was okay, they tasted fine, but they weren’t as smooth and pretty.
After about 20 minutes the bagels will start to look a little puffy, and it’s time to boil. Add a big splash of baking soda to the water to give them that “bagel” smell when they’re done. Drop each one in and let them boil for one minute, then turn to the other side for one minute. This part goes pretty fast. Take each one out when it’s done and set it on a wire cookie rack to dry.
Line a baking tray with parchment and sprinkle it with cornmeal. If you don’t have cornmeal or parchment, you can also oil the tray, but I always have problems with them sticking when I do this. It works if you have to, just make sure to be liberal with the oil! Either way, make sure each bagel has a little cornmeal on the bottom when it goes on the tray.
Put the bagels in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. That’s it!!