A long time ago, like 10+ years ago, I attempted to make some homemade bagels. I remember virtually nothing about them except that I found the process slightly tedious and annoying. I’ve always loved bagels, but up to now, I’ve been content to just buy them from places like Einstein’s and the like. There’s nothing really wrong with their bagels, they’re just not spectacular. Don’t even get me started on the crap “bagels” that you can buy in most grocery store bread aisles. They’re essentially dense hamburger buns with holes in the middle. Where’s the chewiness? Where’s the good crust?
I’ve not yet been so fortunate as to travel to New York City, the bagel mecca of the United States, but I hope very much to get the chance one day. Until I can get myself to a surely awesome place like Russ & Daughters, I must console myself with making my own bagels at home. These are leaps and bounds better than the bagels I turned out at home all those years ago, and with good reason. This recipe originally comes from a restaurant and deli in the Jewish quarter of Paris called Jo Goldenberg’s, which closed it’s doors in 2006. I stumbled across the recipe via one of my favorite websites, Serious Eats. I’ve adapted it just slightly from the original recipe, mostly so I could turn it into some Jalapeño-Cheddar bagels! I told a co-worker that I was planning on making bagels and he said I should make some Jalapeño-Cheddar ones, so I have him to thank for that delicious idea. I also made some Everything bagels, which were equally awesome and tasty.
These bagels are perhaps a little smaller than you’re used to, but trust me, they’re more than plenty for a snack or for breakfast. Slathered in some butter or cream cheese, with a cup of coffee or hot tea to go alongside, they’re just delicious. Go make some! You’ll be so proud of yourself for making these damn good bagels. I’m still amazed that these came out of my oven. Maybe electric ovens are good for something, after all?
everything bagels / jalapeño-cheddar bagels
(yields ten 4-inch bagels per batch)
3 1/2 cups (530 grams) bread flour
1 envelope / 2 1/2 tsp (7 g) instant dry yeast
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (12 oz / 340 g) hot water
1 1/2 Tbs barley malt syrup OR dark brown sugar
1 egg + 1 tsp water, beaten together for egg wash (per batch)
cornmeal, for sprinkling on sheet pans
for jalapeño bagels:
1/4 c (38 grams) extra bread flour
5 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
5 medium jalapeños, chopped small with seeds/membranes removed
for everything bagels (topping):
4 tsp dried onion flakes
4 tsp dried garlic
4 tsp sesame seeds
4 tsp poppy seeds
1-2 tsp kosher salt (depending on how salty you want them)
Start off your bagel-making adventure by gathering two sheet pans that have been lined with parchment paper (just use one pan if making one batch only). Sprinkle these pans lightly with cornmeal and set aside. Also, make sure you have a large dutch oven or spaghetti pot nearby to boil the bagels later.
In a food processor, pulse together your flour (be sure to add the extra 38 grams if you’re making the jalapeño-cheddar recipe!), yeast, sugar and salt until well combined. Once the dry ingredients are mixed, now’s the time to throw in the chopped jalapeños before you add the water, if you’re going that route. Otherwise, proceed with the recipe! With the processor running, stream in your hot water. The dough should come together and form a ball. Keep the food processor running for 30 seconds so that your dough gets nice and smooth.
Grab a large bowl and spray it lightly with cooking spray. Gather up your dough and plop it into the oiled bowl, covering the whole thing tightly with plastic wrap and setting it aside to rise for one hour at room temperature. When the dough is set aside to rise, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and get out a large pot. Fill it 2/3 full with water, and stir in the malt syrup or brown sugar. FYI, barley malt syrup can apparently be purchased at Whole Foods, but I just used regular dark brown sugar in my version. I’m not sure the difference between bagels that are boiled in water with brown sugar versus malt syrup, but mine came out quite tasty just the same.
Once the dough has risen for one hour, it should be pretty much doubled in size. Now is a good time to turn on your pot of water to boil. Weigh the ball of bagel dough and divide this number by 10 so you know how heavy each portion of bagel dough should be. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface, and flatten gently to deflate the dough and press into a rectangle. Sprinkle the surface of the dough with a little more flour and, using a knife or a bench scraper, score the dough in half lengthwise and then each half into 5 equally sized pieces. Once I scored the dough, I cut it with my bench scraper and weighed each piece to make sure that each one was of equal weight You don’t have to be this anal about it, but I wanted to be sure that each bagel would be relatively identical in size. The plain/everything bagel dough weighed in at around 3.28 oz / 93 grams per piece, while the jalapeño dough weighed around 3.5 oz / 100 grams per piece. Yours may not be exactly the same weight, but it gives you an idea the weight of each bagel portion.
Once you’ve got the bagel portions weighed out, it’s bagel-shaping time! Ball up each portion of dough and make a hole in the center of each ball with your thumb, going through to the other side. You can use your fingers to stretch out the center, or put the ring of dough on your index finger and sort of hula-hoop it around to enlarge the center. Just be careful that the bagel doesn’t fly off your finger! The centers of the shaped bagels will tend to tighten up again because of the dough’s high gluten, so stretch them bigger than you think they should be. If the bagel comes out sort of irregularly-shaped after this step, you can squeeze the dough around to even it out. Place all 10 formed bagels on your lightly floured surface and cover them lightly with plastic wrap. Let the bagels rise and rest for 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes, your water should be at a full rolling boil. Gently pick up a bagel at a time and boil them for 30 seconds, making sure to boil no more than three at a time together. When 30 seconds are up, flip the bagels over with a slotted spoon and boil them for 30 seconds more. On a large plate or another sheet pan, place a lint-free kitchen towel (no terry cloth, it’ll pick up lint) and fish out the bagels with your slotted spoon, placing them on the towel to drain while you boil three more bagels. Once all the bagels are boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash. If you’re making the Everything bagels, throw together your topping ingredients into a shallow bowl or plate and drop the bagels egg-side down into the mixture. Swirl them around a bit to fully coat the tops, and place topping-side up on your cornmeal-covered sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining bagels. If you’re making the Jalapeño-Cheddar bagels, lay the egg-washed jalapeño bagels onto their sheet pan and sprinkle the grated cheese on top of each bagel, about half an ounce per bagel.
Pop the bagels into the preheated oven and bake on the middle rack for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway and bake for another 15 minutes. The jalapeño bagels could probably even go for 2-3 minutes longer, depending on how crispy you like your cheese.
Take the pan out of the oven, and behold! Perfect, chewy, crispy bagels that came from your very own kitchen! Go ahead, give yourself a high-five. You deserve it.
I must confess — the night I made these bagels, somehow I wound up eating three of them. They’re just that good! The only thing I’d do differently next time would be to add more jalapeños to the jalapeño bagels. The heat level was pretty good to me but if you like spicy, I mean if you realllllllly like spicy, go ahead and add one or two more chopped jalapeños to the dough. Be warned though, that you’ll have to add a little less than 1 tablespoon of extra flour per extra jalapeño that you add, to account for the extra moisture. Decreasing the water would work as well, but I didn’t try that method. Adding some sliced jalapeños to the tops of the unbaked bagels before the cheese goes on would also be a tasty addition.
I challenge you to try one of these warm from the oven with a bit of cream cheese or butter and still be able to tell yourself that store-bought bagels are just as good. I suspect you, like me, will never be able to purchase a commercially-made bagel again.