The Ultimate Bagel

It’s the “ultimate” bagel because it’s a solid base dough for most bagel flavors, therefore it can be almost any bagel you need it to be.

Bagel

I feel deep down in my soul that I belong in New York City, in Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment living a creative life with a group of friends that are really more like family like Hannah in Girls, while fully understanding I’d be living a life more like Abbi like in Broad City and spending every extra cent on any and all on and off-Broadway shows as possibly can. My short and unfortunately an only trip to the big apple only solidified my gut feeling that I belonged there. I could go on and on about how equally fantastical and somber the city looked and felt because we went the December after Hurricane Sandy hit Manhattan, or how the hotel we stayed at was totally haunted, or how we were stalked through an abandoned neighborhood by a homeless man while he yelled a string of profanities that was almost like poetry (and that we quote to this day), but this is a food blog. So I will instead tell you about my favorite morning I spent in New York.

I woke up in a sun-soaked room, but not a warm sun-like in summer but a cool light more of light grey rays filtering through the sheer curtains. It was 2 weeks before Christmas and I had spent the last 4 nights in this strange but comfortable bed in a hotel that definitely has seen better days but still inviting, but still not exactly a place you want to spend any more time in then you have to, but that’s how we travel. The night before my husband Colby, his cousin (my quick new best friend) Gaby, and I had spent a long night getting lost in little Italy, fighting strangers for cabs and winning, and drinking rum in our Grey’s Papaya Pina Colada. Colby was a little slower waking up than I was so I text Gaby and we decide to grab bagels and walk through Central Park until Colby is ready to start the day. I get ready, kiss Colby on the forehead and hop on the subway. Honestly, I’m loving the subway so I don’t mind the ride at all. 

Her apartment is on the upper west side surprisingly close to our hotel. I wait outside admiring the brownstones wondering what life would be if we lived here, while Gaby made her way down beyond excited for our next food destination. She takes me up to her favorite bagel place that is just south of the diner the gang from Seinfeld hung out. I was thankful for the long line to contemplate what of the thousands of combos of bagel and smear that were possible I wanted while enjoying the sweet smell of the water bath the piles and piles of bagels were in not even an hour ago.

We get to the counter I decide to order the biggest coffee they had, the dill and chive smear was calling me name on an everything bagel, with lox, red onion and capers, thinking “Why mess with a classic? You’ll only be mad at yourself later”. I order Colby the same thing for when he catches up, Gaby gets a her bagel and we head to the North West part of Central Park. Right as we reach the edge of the park Colby texts asking where we were because he’s on his way to meet us so we find the perfect bench to people watch the joggers and families.

We got to the counter. I decided to order the biggest coffee they had, the dill and chive smear was calling me name on an everything bagel, with lox, red onion, and capers, thinking “Why to mess with a classic? You’ll only be mad at yourself later”. I order Colby the same thing for when he catches up, Gaby gets her bagel and we head to the northwest part of Central Park. Right as we reach the edge of the park Colby texts asking where we were because he’s on his way to meet us so we find the perfect bench to watch the joggers and families.

While we waited we sip our hot coffee chat about how excited we are to see the Broadway show we had tickets for that afternoon and pointing out runners who ran like Velociraptors, once we were settled and warmed to the core we dug into our bagels.

I take my first bite of this bagel and it’s like I’ve never had a bagel before, it’s like I get transported similar to Remi in Ratatouille where the flavors swirl around in my head in shapes and colors I’d never seen before. I have been trying to recreate that feeling with a bagel ever since. In no shape I am calling myself a bagel master or that I could out bagel and bagel place, but I also don’t see traveling again in our near future, thanks covid, so I had to figure out something. I can’t remember what that bagel place was called or exactly where it was so it’ll be a sweet memory about the time we had the best bagels then stumbled into Strawberry field on the anniversary of John Lennon’s death then feeling obligated to stay to pay respect for what my mom’s old doorman Mark (David Chapman) did.

What I learned on my bagel journey.

  • The water needs to be warm, the way we do it is just warm enough that you can keep a finger in it but it’s too warm to keep it there for long.
  • Bread Flour is higher in protein therefore giving you the dense but chewy texture you need in a bagel.
  • Barley malt syrup is what gives bagels their sweetness but I prefer molasses, I give the bagels a malty flavor and make them a bit richer in color, but brown sugar is also a great substitute.
  • You will need to hand knead the dough because the protein in the bread flour will make the dough too dense for most mixers to handle, bagels aren’t worth losing your mixer for.
  • The water bath is a must you will not get the same chewy crust bagels are known for. The point of the water bath is to allow the bagel to keep its shape just like a pretzel.

The shine bagels are known for are the starches gelatinize there for giving bagels that shine and chew, you really should check out ChefSteps for why that is.

Yield: 8 bagels

The Ultimate Bagel

The Ultimate Bagel

It's the "ultimate" bagel because it's a solid base dough for most bagel flavors, therefore it can be almost any bagel you need it to be.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Water, warm
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons Yeast
  • 500 grams Bread Flour
  • 1 tablespoon Molasses
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • Oil to coat bowl
  • 1/4 cup Honey
  • 1 Egg White

Instructions

  1. Warm your mixing bowl and dough hook attachment on your stand mixer by just covering the hook with hot water, warm for 5 minutes. Dumb the water and dry the bowl.
  2. Whisk the warm water, yeast, and molasses in the warmed mixing bowl then allow to bloom for 5 minutes
  3. Add flour and salt into the bowl and turn on mixer on low and allow to mix for 3 minutes. This dough is stiff, and kind of dry. because of this, you will need to knead your dough by hand for 4-5 minutes or until the dough bounces back once poked.
  4. In a lightly oiled bowl, place the dough and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Allow to rise at room temp 60-90 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, turn the dough out to it, and punch it down to release any air bubbles. Then divide into 8 equal parts, shape dough into a ball. Press your finger into the center stretch the hole big enough to put two fingers (of opposite hands) into twirl the dough around both fingers until the hole is about 1- 1 1/2 inches big. Allow to rest while the water bath comes to a bowl.
  6. In an 8qt heavy bottom pot (a dutch oven works best) fill the pot about 1/2 way add honey and bring to a boil then reduce to medium-high heat. Carefully place the bagels into the water bath making sure not to crowd them. Cook for 1 minute then flip and cook for 1 more. Remove and place on to either a parchment-lined or slip mat covered sheet tray, place aside to air dry.
  7. With a pastry brush, brush the egg white over the tops of the bagels, then you can either sprinkle toppings on like salt, parmesan, or dill or place topping on a plate a dip the top of the bagel to coat it like with poppyseeds or everything bagel seasoning.
  8. Place in a 425˚ preheated oven for 20-25 minutes rotating the sheet tray halfway through. They will be done when they are a deep golden brown. Allow to cool on the sheet tray for at least 20 minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack,
  9. Enjoy them toasted with a good smear, topped with salmon and capers, bread for your epic sandwich, or the perfect base for a pizza bagel for your light night rummage for munchies.

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