Author Notes: After FOOD52 assistant editor kenzi posted a bagel recipe http://food52.com/recipes... and a beautifully photographed feature http://food52.com/blog..., I was transported back 40 years to when a college friend of mine and I spent a whole year trying to develop a bagel recipe. Most of our experiments resulted in waterlogged messes. As we were science majors, we let a few of them go, and they grew vibrant-colored colonies of bacteria and molds. With persistence, we found we could not only make bagels, we could make six completely different flavors at a time. We celebrated our success by making 54 different bagels for a party. And I doubt that either of us has made a single bagel since. —Greenstuff
Makes: 6 bagels
For the bagels
cups all-purpose flour (we often used some whole wheat, especially for cinnamon-raisin, or see below, and start out with half the flour and add in other flours later)
packet yeast (there was no instant then; it was active dry, 1 packet = 2 1/4 teaspoons = 1/4 ounce )
tablespoons salad oil (that meant vegetable oil, use a neutral oil)
egg, slightly beaten
other additions (whatever you like)
quarts boiling water
tablespoons sugar (I don’t remember why the sugar was important, but maybe it helped develop the glaze)
- Sift the flour, salt, and sugar together. You can use all-purpose white or a mix of flours, or if you like math, just use half the flour at this point, and add additional options once you’ve split the dough.
- Dissolve the yeast in one third of the water (I’m sure you could use 1/3 cup of water rather than 1/3 of the 2/3 we called for. Or even into the whole 2/3. What were we thinking of?)
- Mix the oil with the rest of the water and then stir into the yeast.
- Make a well in the flour mixture. Add half the liquid and the slightly beaten egg. Mix, add the rest of the liquid, and mix again to combine.
- Divide the dough into six approximately half-cup sections, and add whatever you would like to each of them. Some of our favorites were garlic, onion, cinnamon, raisins, and/or cheese. It’s also at this point that, if you’re a math whiz, you’ll add extra flour in the right proportion for whatever your divisions were. (The total is ½ cup flour per bagel, so at this point, you’d be adding ¼ cup flour per bagel.)
- Knead for about two minutes. Place in an oiled bowl or bowls, turn shiny side up, and allow to rise for 15 or 20 minutes. Punch down and repeat two or three times. (We were very into multiple rises.)
- Knead, and shape into six bagels. (Since the dough is a little thick, at first it seems hard to shape them and have them attach, but it works better than you’d think, and you’ll get the hang of it.)
- Let rise once more. Meanwhile get your water and sugar boiling.
- Broil briefly, so that there’s a little color. (Maybe we found that the broiling step helped guard against water-logging, but I think that at the outset, we were told that bagels were broiled, boiled, and baked.)
- Boil for a few minutes. (Kenzi’s recipe calls for a minute and a half. I remember us decreasing the boiling time over the course of the year, but in the end, we didn’t seem to think it was important enough to specify a time.)
- Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes and then increase the heat to 400°F for another 5–6 minutes. (I don’t remember why we developed this complex regime.)
- Let rest, and break out the cream cheese. (We couldn’t afford lox, even for the two of us, and we sure couldn’t afford it for all our friends.)