Making bagels seems like such a challenging thing to do. How many people do you know making their own at home? My answer to that question is zero, one if I reach to include acquaintances from my barters… At our first Backyard Barter Urban Food Fair in late 2012, a lady showed up with a few dozen homemade bagels to trade and was swarmed by excited folks offering pretty much anything she wanted in exchange for a few precious bagels. I know firsthand because I was one of the excited folks– I think I traded a jar, maybe two, or homemade, organic jam for three bagels. And it was a worthwhile trade, because the bagels were wonderful: soft but with a perfectly chewy exterior, flavorful and satisfying. When I read somewhere at the beginning of the month that February 9th is National Bagel Day, I decided it was time for me to give bagel making a go. A lightly-scheduled Saturday turned out to be the perfect day for me, though a full day is not at all necessary. My bagel adventure took just about two hours from start to taste.
Cinnamon raisin bagels are a favorite in our household; I adapted a plain bagel recipe with additions of cinnamon, raisins and vanilla to create that signature flavor we enjoy so much. The verdict from my husband? “They taste just like Mister Bagel”, high praise indeed! I couldn’t agree more. These bagels are soft on the inside, chewy and golden on the outside and full of plump, sweet raisins. Thank goodness I thought to put in vanilla; I think it added just the right touch. If anything, I could have used more cinnamon. You can taste it, but it’s not an assertive flavor, and I probably could have added another 1/2 tsp. This is a recipe I will make again and again– it was really fun, very approachable and with better-than-expected results.
With my confidence boosted from the experience of making these cinnamon raisin bagels, I envision many more afternoons of flavor experimentation. My husband’s favorite kind is cheddar jalapeno, so I think I’ll try those next, and I am faint at the notion of recreating my beloved spinach bagel– I haven’t had a good one since college, when we used to road trip to Finagle a Bagel in Boston. I really can’t say enough how much fun I had making bagels. Now, if I can just recreate my favorite schmears, I’ll be in business. That’s good news for my bagel-loving barter friends!
Cinnamon Raisin Bagels (makes 8)
- 1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
- 2 1/4 tsp. yeast
- 3 T. sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 c. flour*
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 c. raisins
- 1 egg white + 1 1/2 tsp. water
I used a stand mixer to make my dough and recommend doing so; of course, you can mix by hand if you prefer.
Add the warm water to your mixer bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the top; allow to sit for 5 mins. in a warm spot until the yeast softens. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and add vanilla. Sift together 2 c. flour, salt and cinnamon and add to the bowl; mix with the dough hook attachment until combined. Add the raisins and an additional 1 1/2 c. flour and mix again until combined. At that point, assess whether you need more flour: the dough should be smooth and not too sticky to handle. It should form a ball easily and not look or feel very wet. If it is still quite wet and sticky, add more flour, 1/2 c. at a time, until the dough is smooth enough to be handled. Remove from the mixer bowl and knead for a minute or two with your hands, folding the ball in on itself one way and then the other. Lightly grease a glass bowl and put your kneaded ball in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides with oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, place in a warm area and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, about one hour.
After your dough has doubled, punch it down and allow to rest for a minute or two. While it’s resting, prepare a board or counter top by sprinkling it gently with flour and cover two cookie sheets or similar baking pans with parchment paper. Fill a large stockpot two-thirds full with water and add the remaining 1 T. sugar; put it on to boil. Whisk together the egg white and 1 1/2 tsp. water; this is your egg wash. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Turn your dough onto the floured surface and divide it in half. I found a bench scraper to be very helpful, but a knife will work. The key to this step and the next few are consistency. Cut each dough half into halves, and then each quarter again into halves, so you have eight equally-sized balls of dough. I used a scale to weigh mine (each ball was between 4.8 and 5.1 oz.) but your eyes will work if you don’t have a scale. Gently form each ball of dough into a round and pat it flat; repeat until all eight are done. Rest the dough again at this point for 2-3 mins.
Now it’s time to turn those dough balls into bagels! Working one at a time, press your thumbs through the center of each dough ball and pull apart gently to form the center hole. Pull slowly away from the center with your thumbs until you have the shape you want. Continue until all eight balls of dough have a hole in the center. Rest the dough again for at least 10 mins. or until the water in your stockpot is boiling.
Before you start cooking, put a cotton tea towel over a plate or rack directly adjacent to your boiling water and have ready a spider or some tongs. Also, have your baking sheets ready and nearby. Working 2-3 at a time, add bagels to the boiling water; cook for 30 seconds and then flip on to the other side and boil for another 30 seconds. The bagels will puff up significantly during this stage. Remove them to the towel-lined plate to drain some of the excess moisture, then put them on to a baking sheet, leaving space between so the bagels aren’t touching. Repeat until all bagels are boiled.
Use a pastry brush (or spoon in a pinch) to glaze the top of each bagel with egg wash. Bake for 25 mins. until golden brown, rotating the pans halfway through to ensure even baking. Remove from the oven and cool slightly, but make sure to eat (at least) one hot from the oven! It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Bagels will keep in a tightly-covered container for 3-4 days and can be frozen.