I think I’ve finally gotten to the point where, upon my next attempt, I will have the NY style bagels I’ve been looking for.  Since moving to Massachusetts almost 20 years ago, I’ve found  it frustrating to not be able to get a decent bagel, despite a few outlets and the “nouveau” bagel shops charging $2.50 for a single bagel (cream cheese is extra!) and $25 per dozen. That’s insane to me, yet people pay it!! I get that these are small batch items, but it’s flour, water and yeast with a little electricity and elbow grease added. C’mon!

My next “Reasons I miss living in New Jersey, or things I’ve grudging learned to live with” rant will include my disappointment with a lack of good rye bread and no hard rolls in the Greater Boston Area. But I digress…

I mentioned in my previous post that I’d use Baron Bagels’s recipe (as published in the New York Times Cooking section) as a jumping off point for my latest try. I modified it to use my starter and commercial yeast. I did get the rise I was looking for with this combo of yeasts.

The one thing I wasn’t a fan of was the use of baking soda in the water for the critical step of boiling before baking. Peter Reinhart uses baking soda in the boil, while Baron Bagel uses salt and baking soda, which made them too salty for my taste- and I love salt.  I referenced George Greenstein’s book, Secrets of a Jewish Baker, and he uses malt syrup in the boil. I remember making bagels once using his recipe- way back when, but lacking malt syrup,  I used molasses which provided a nice shine on the outside. I will do this again on my next round.

The float test is extremely important. If your bread dough (of any sort) doesn’t float when you drop a small chunk into a glass of cool water, then you your dough needs more time proofing. Plus it’s a pain in the ass if your bagels sink to the bottom of the pot and stick because you weren’t stirring the water or paying close enough attention- ahem.

Lastly, my oven is 20 years old and getting squirrelly. I should have baked in the upper third- as recommended in the  Baron Bagel recipe, but I kept my shelves too low and the bottoms of the bagels got a little too brown.

Bagels

Levain:
1/4 cup sourdough starter
2 cups bread flour
1 cup very warm water (about 80-85 degrees)

Mix the starter and water, add flour. Allow to ferment on the counter overnight, or at least 6 hours.

Dough:
2/3 cup warm water
5 grams of instant yeast, or a generous teaspoon
1 tablespoon malt syrup (I used brown rice syrup)
3 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt

In the bowl of your stand mixer that’s been fitted with the dough hook, mix the levain with 2/3 cup water, instant yeast and brown rice syrup. Mix to disperse.

Add the bread flour and salt. Knead dough on low for about 8 minutes.

Remove bowl from mixer and take out the dough hook. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for about 3 hours. I put the bowl on a heating pad that’s been wrapped in a thick towel. I’ve been learning that sourdough really needs some warmth to get it moving, at least it does in my house. (I have a microwavable heating pad which allows me to control how hot it gets.)

After about 3 hours, turn out the dough and cut into 8- 4 ounce pieces. Allow to rest about 30 minutes to relax the gluten so you can roll snakes.

Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Roll each piece of dough into a snake that’s about 10 inches long, so it will wrap easily around your hand. Wrap the snake around your hand, so the ends are in your palm. Using short strokes, roll your hand forward a couple times to seal the two ends together. Place on cookie sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

Allow to rest 1-2 hours on the counter, then place in the refrigerator overnight.

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Ask your husband or SO to take the dough out of the fridge before leaving for work, or you can do it yourself about an hour before you bake.

Position oven rack to the top 1/3 of the oven and pre-heat your oven to 400. Bring a large pot of water to the boil- I use my 7 qt dutch oven. Once boiling, add 1 tablespoon of malt syrup, molasses, maple syrup or brown rice syrup or sugar as a last resort.

If you’re using toppings like poppy or sesame seeds, shake them out onto a plate. You’ll dip your bagels in after boiling.

Set up a fluffy kitchen towel, cooling rack or stack of paper towels on which you’ll drain your boiled bagels.

Add 3 to 4 bagels to the boiling water. Boil for one minute and then flip over. Boil for another minute.

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Place bagels onto a kitchen towel to drain. Boil the second batch.

Apply topping by dipping one side into your seeds. Place back onto parchment lined baking sheet.

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Bake for 10 minutes. Flip bagels over and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Serve warm with some lox, cream cheese, capers, onion, etc.

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