The famous New York bagel appears to have gotten its start in Poland sometime in the 1400s, and possibly earlier. Eastern European Jews likely became associated with the bagel because it was one of the first breads they were allowed to bake and, eventually to sell commercially. As Jews emigrated from from the Old Country and landed in America, they bought along the bagel. By 1900, food writer Joan Nathan points out, there were at least 70 bagel bakeries on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Despite their strong "Jewish food" association, bagels don't have religious significance. But thanks to their circular shape, they are often served at lifecycle events, ranging from as bris and baby naming parties to shiva houses. Interestingly, in 17th century Krakow, community records show they were even given as gifts to women who had just given birth.
Few people attempt homemade bagels anymore, assuming they're tricky to make. But Giora Shimoni's simple recipe is a great starting point if you want to try your hand at crusty-on-the-outside, chewy-on -the-inside bagels. While many recipe call for overnight proofing and specialty ingredients like diastatic malt, Shimoni's is straightforward, relatively quick to make (for yeast-risen bread, at least), and quite tasty.
Miri's Recipe Testing Notes and Tips:
Prefer vegan bagels? You can omit the honey in the water bath -- I baked bagels with and without it, and didn't discern a big difference between batches.
I tried 3 different shaping techniques, and got good results with all three. The upshot? Choose whichever shaping method you find simplest. You'll find 3 options in the recipe instructions below.
Most bagel recipes call for a short 1 to 2 minute water bath. Shimoni's recipe called for a 7 minute simmer. I split the difference and simmered the bagels for 2 minutes per side, and got good results.
Edited and updated by Miri Rotkovitz
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups water (lukewarm)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Optional: 1 tablespoon honey
- Optional: Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or a mix (for topping)
1. To mix in a stand mixer or by hand: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, or a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast, warm water, and sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes, or until foamy.
2. Add 2 cups of flour and the salt. Mix in the mixer on low speed, or by hand with a wire whisk. Add the remaining flour, mixing with the mixer or a wooden spoon, until the dough looks shaggy and begins to pull into a ball.
3. Set the mixer to medium and allow it to knead the dough for 5 minutes, or until it is soft, smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 to 10 minutes. Regardless of how you knead the dough, If it is sticky, add more flour, about 1 tablespoon at a time, just until the dough is easier to handle. (It should still be soft.)
4. If you kneaded the dough by hand, put it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes.
5. To mix in a bread machine: Place the ingredients in the machine, following the order suggested by your machine's manufacturer. (In my Cuisinart, I start with water, salt, and honey, then flour, and finally yeast). Select the machines dough cycle, and start the machine. After the machine completes kneading the dough, allow it to rest in the machine for 20 to 40 minutes.
5. Punch the dough down and remove from the bowl or bread machine. Place on a lightly floured work surface. Use a sharp knife to divide the dough into 12 fairly equal pieces.
6. Lightly flour a rimmed baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with a tea towel or paper towels. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
7. On another lightly floured surface, shape the dough into bagels, using one of the techniques described below:
- Form pieces of dough into a 6 to 8-inch rope. Overlap the ends slightly, then pinch together to form a circle with a hole in the middle.
- Form each piece of dough into a ball. With floured thumbs, make a hole in the center of the dough, gently stretching the hole to form a bagel shape.
- Roll the pieces of dough into 4 x 6 x 1 inch thick rectangles. Roll each rectangle jelly roll style into a 1/2 inch thick log. Slightly overlap the ends and press together to form a bagel.
8. Transfer the shaped bagels to the baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes.
9. While the bagels are resting, fill a large stockpot at least halfway with water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Stir in the honey, if using.
10. Carefully slip 4 to 6 bagels into the pot. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. With a large spoon or mesh strainer, turn the bagels and simmer for 2 minutes more. Remove the bagels from the water with a slotted spoon or mesh strainer, transferring each to the towel-lined baking sheet. Simmer and drain the remaining bagels.
11. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the boiled bagels on the sheet. Top with poppy and/or sesame seeds, if desired.
12. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the bagels are golden and crusty. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once cool, store bagels in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days at room temperature.