Today, I’m going back to my roots and making a Jewish classic beloved by jews and non-jews alike: BAGELS! There’s a very popular myth that says the water in New York City is what makes their bagels the best, but I’m going to do some myth busting today! What makes the city’s bagels iconic isn’t the water that’s mixed into the dough, it’s the water they’re boiled in before they get baked! Boiling the bagel ensures that the dough is steamed all the way through before it’s baked, which results in that soft-yet-chewy interior and the golden, crisped exterior.
Often, bagel shops outside of the NYC metropolitan area will try to mimic that boiling process with a steam-injected oven to save time, but that only steams the outside of the bagel, and so the interior texture is never quite right. There are various popular additions, like malt powder or baking soda, to the boiling water for added color and shine, but my personal favorite is brown sugar since I always have it on hand.
I feel obligated to include a warning for just how tough the dough will be during the kneading process. Since we’re using bread flour, the dough has a very high gluten content. This is ideal to get the classic bagel chewiness, but not ideal unless in you’re in the mood for an arm workout. This kneading process may leave you schvitzing, but I promise the warm bagel at the end will be worth it. My favorite type of bagel is an everything bagel because of the textures and flavors in the seasoning: dried garlic and onion, toasted, crunchy black and white sesame seeds, flaky salt and poppy seeds, too. If that’s not your favorite, don’t worry, because this is a great, basic bagel dough, and you can swap the toppings for anything you prefer, like cinnamon sugar, sesame, poppy seed, or even just plain!
Finally, I like to top my everything bagel with scallion cream cheese, but plain cream cheese is delicious by itself, too. Cream cheese is very easy to flavor, so play around with adding different spices, veggies, or even fruit to make it your own! If you ask me, bagels are a perfect food any time of day. Toast one up with cream cheese in the morning, or make a variety of flavors for a brunch spread, slice them in half and turn them into pizza bagels for lunch, cube and bake one to add delicious everything croutons to your salad for dinner. If you get lucky and have leftovers, they freeze well until your next bagel craving hits!