Bagels, or their shape, have been around Europe for hundreds of years. Easy to carry on a stick or on a rope, they were a common street vendor's ware. The water-boiled and baked bagel is thought to be a product of the Polish-Jewish kitchen, where they could be started on Friday and quickly baked Saturday evening after the Sabbath ended. Poland was part of the German Empire (the state of Prussia) until World War I.
Brought to the US by immigrants, they are now much more popular in North America than in Germany. This recipe adds whole wheat flour to the recipe, increasing the nutritional value while keeping the performance and chewiness of bread flour.
Notes: The bagels in the photo use King Arthur bread flour (protein 12.7%) and whole wheat white flour. You can also buy high gluten flour (14% protein) for an even chewier product.
Also note that whole wheat flours will take different amounts of water, according to the protein content of the flour. Use finely ground flour for best results and add water or flour to adjust the final dough.
- For Sponge:
- 2 c./250g bread flour
- 2 c./250g whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp. instant yeast
- 2 1/2 c./560g water (room temperature)
- For Final Dough:
- All of the sponge
- 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
- 1 1/2 c./182g bread flour
- 1 1/2 c./182g whole wheat flour
- 2 3/4 tsp./20g salt
- 2 tsp./9g diastatic malt powder (OR 1 tbsp. honey or brown sugar)
- 1 tbsp. baking soda
- For Dusting: Cornmeal
- Garnish: Toppings such as poppy seeds, sesame seeds or dried onions, etc.
Make the Sponge
- Mix all the ingredients for the sponge together in a bowl until the flour is completely hydrated. The mixture will be like very thick pancake batter.
- Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the sponge becomes bubbly, rises a good deal and starts to fall when tapped on the counter. The batter will appear thinner. This will take 2 - 4 hours, depending on how warm it is in your kitchen.
Make the Final Dough
- To the sponge, add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Knead on a machine or by hand for 5 to 6 minutes. The dough will be stiff but still pliable and satiny. Add a few drops of water at a time if it is too dry, or a small bit of flour if too wet. The dough should not stick to your hands.
- Divide the dough into pieces: 4 1/2 ounces (126 g.) for standard bakery size bagels, or about 3 ounces (84 g.) for a saner sized, family bagel. Two ounces (54 g.) mini-bagels are cute for party trays, too. You can make about 16, three-ounce bagels per batch.
- Shape the dough into balls, as if you were making dinner rolls. Because the dough is so stiff and dry, do not roll them in flour, but use a clean, dry surface to roll. The dough should not stick to your hands.
- Cover the balls with a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes on the counter. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray (or brush with oil).
- Take a dough ball and poke a hole through the middle with your finger. Widen this hole, working the dough to form a smooth, donut shape. Place this bagel on the cookie sheet and repeat with the remaining dough. After a sheet is filled, the dough has relaxed and you can stretch the bagels out a little more if you want.
- Let the bagels rise on the counter for a few minutes, then do a float test: Fill a bowl with room temperature water, place a raw bagel in it and see if it floats. If it floats within 10 seconds, the bagels are ready for refrigeration. If not, let them rise a bit more and test again. Pat the wet bagel dry and replace on the cooking sheet.
- Spray the bagels very lightly with cooking oil, cover both sheets with plastic wrap and find some space in your refrigerator to put the bagels (This may be a good time to throw a few leftovers away!).
- Leave the cookie sheets in the refrigerator overnight and for up to two days.
Day of Baking
- Heat oven to 500°F.
- Take a fresh cookie sheet and spray with oil, then dust with cornmeal (or semolina flour).
- Heat several inches of water to boiling in a wide pan (to fit more bagels). Add one tablespoon of baking soda ("Natron").
- Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and drop several in the pot (mine fit three bagels). They will swell a little. Boil for one minute, turn them over and boil for another minute.
- Remove the bagels with a slotted spoon and place on prepared cookie sheet. When the first cookie sheet is empty, wipe it off and oil and dust with cornmeal to use for the second sheet of bagels.
- Sprinkle desired toppings on bagels or leave plain.
- Bake both cookie sheets at once on the two middle racks. Bake for 5 minutes, then switch the cookie sheets and turn them 180°F for even baking. Lower the oven temperature to 450°F and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, checking for color. Remove from the oven when they are golden brown.
- Let the bagels cool slightly on racks, then serve fresh or freeze.