Today is National Bagel Day (in case you need a reason to indulge in this ever popular uniquely Jewish food that can now be found across the globe.) Make some at home to celebrate.
For the sponge: (substance that causes the bagels to rise)
4 cups high-gluten flour or bread flour
1 tsp. instant yeast (not active dry)
2-1/2 cups hot water
For the bagel dough:
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
4 cups high-gluten flour plus more as needed
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tsp. malt powder or 1 Tbs. malt syrup (available at natural food stores)
For shaping, boiling, and baking:
canola oil spray
1 tablespoon baking soda
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, finely chopped onions tossed in a little oil
In a 4-qt. bowl, mix the flour and the 1 teaspoon yeast. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth mxture. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until the mixture is very foamy and bubbly, 1 to 2 hours. It should double in size.
In a stand mixer bowl, stir the sponge with the 1/2 teaspoon yeast. In a bowl, mix 3 cups of the flour with the salt. Add it to the sponge, along with the malt. Using a dough hook, mix on the lowest speed, slowly working in the remaining flour until the dough is stiff and smooth; you may need extra flour. Keep kneading on low until the dough is firm but still pliable and smooth, about 6 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces, each weighing about 4-3/4 oz. Shape each piece into a smooth ball by pulling the dough down and around to one point on the bottom and then pinching the bottom closed. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes so the gluten relaxes.
To shape, boil, and bake the bagels:
Line two baking sheets with parchment and spray the parchment with canola oil.
To shape the bagels, poke a hole in the center of each ball of dough with your thumb and then gently rotate the dough around both thumbs, slightly stretching the dough as you turn until the hole has enlarged to 1-1/2 to 2 inches. The dough ring should be an even thickness all around.
Set the shaped bagels on the prepared pans so they’re 2 inches apart. Spray the bagels very lightly with oil and cover the pans with plastic wrap. Let the bagels sit at room temperature until they grow a little.
After 15 minutes, do the “float test” to see if they’re ready to be set in the refrigerator: Drop one bagel a bowl of water. If it floats within 10 seconds, the bagels are ready for the overnight rise. Pat the test bagel dry and return it to the pan. (If it doesn’t float within 10 seconds, pat it dry, return it to the pan, and test again every 10 minutes until it floats.) Refrigerate the pans, covered, for at least 8 hours, or up to two days.
When you’re ready to bake the bagels, heat the oven to 500°F. Bring a large wide pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda; have ready a skimmer. Remove one pan of bagels from the refrigerator. Line another pan with parchment, mist with oil, and sprinkle with cornmeal.
Gently drop the bagels into the water, boiling only as many as will comfortably fit; they should float within 10 seconds, if not immediately. Boil for 1 minute, flip them over, and boil for another minute.
As the bagels finish cooking, lift them out with the skimmer and set them on the baking sheet with the cornmeal. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, kosher salt, chopped onions, or minced garlic.
When the bagels on the first pan are boiled and sprinkled, bake for 10-15 minutes or until firm. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the bagels to a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Remove the second pan of bagels from the fridge and boil and bake them the same way.
Serve with cream cheese and lox—another Jewish favorite!