Two things that a transplanted New York bagel-snob like me doesn’t like to admit are: 1) New York bagels aren’t quite what they used to be, and 2) I like cinnamon-raisin bagels, even though they’re newfangled. Just as French readers of our blog tell us that baguettes in France aren’t what they used to be, many New York bagels have become mass-produced and bland, without the chew and crispy crust that I remember (there are exceptions but you have to seek them out). So here’s how to hand-shape, boil, and bake your own. If you’re really a traditionalist, don’t bother rolling in the cinnamon, sugar, and raisins and you’ll have a terrific plain whole grain bagel.—Jeff
Cinnamon-Raisin Whole Wheat Bagels
Makes about 10 bagels
2 pounds (cantaloupe-size portion) Master Recipe dough (see below)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins
For the boiling-pot:
8 quarts boiling water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1. Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat a baking stone near the middle of the oven to 425°F, with an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won’t interfere with rising bagels.
2. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Using your hands and a rolling pin, flatten the dough to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Sprinkle the dough with raisins and cinnamon-sugar. Roll up the dough, jelly-roll style, to incorporate the raisins. Shape into ball.
3. Cut off a 3 ounce piece of dough from the ball (about the size of a small peach). Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
4. Punch your thumb through the dough to form the hole. Stretch it open with your fingers until the hole’s diameter is about triple the width of the bagel wall.
5. Repeat to form the rest of the bagels, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
6. Prepare the boiling-pot: Bring a large stockpot full of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the sugar and baking soda.
7. Drop the bagels into the simmering water one at a time, making sure they are not crowding one another. They need enough room to float without touching or they will be misshapen. Let them simmer for 2 minutes, flip them over with a slotted spoon, and simmer for another minute on the other side.
8. Remove them from the water, using the slotted spoon, and place on a clean kitchen towel that has been lightly dusted with whole wheat flour. This will absorb some of the excess water from the bagels. Then place them on a peel covered with whole wheat flour.
9. Slide the bagels directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake with steam for about 20-25 minutes, until deeply browned and firm.
Serve these a bit warm—they’re fantastic!
Master Recipe: A Whole Grain Artisan Free-Form Loaf
Prep time: 15 minutes to prepare enough dough for 4 loaves, to be baked on 4 different days. Loaves average 5 minutes of active preparation time (can double or halve recipe).
5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt (like Morton’s)
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
4 cups lukewarm water (about 100°F)
Cornmeal or parchment paper for the pizza peel
1 to 2 tablespoons of whole seed mixture for sprinkling: sesame, flaxseed, caraway, raw sunflower, poppy, and anise
1. Measure in dry ingredients: In a 5-quart bowl or lidded plastic food-grade bucket, whisk together the flours, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten.
2. Add the water all at once and mix without kneading using a wooden spoon, until all ingredients are uniformly moist, producing a loose and very wet dough.
3. Rising: Cover with a lid (not airtight). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, about 2 hours, but no more than 5 hours. DO NOT PUNCH DOWN! After rising, the dough can be baked immediately, or covered (not completely airtight) and refrigerated up to 14 days. The dough will be easier to work with after at least 3 hours refrigeration.
Editor's Note: Use half this dough to make the cinnamon-raisin bagels above. Make a second batch with the rest of the dough or bake it in a loaf as follows:
4. On baking day, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it with cornmeal to prevent the bread from sticking when you transfer it to the oven. Uncover the dough and sprinkle the surface with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough (serrated knives or kitchen shears are best).
Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the a quarter-turn as you go to form a ball. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom of the ball may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere during resting and baking. The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds. If you work the dough longer than this it may make your loaf dense.
5. Elongate the ball, stretch gently, and taper the ends by rolling between your palms.
6. Allow to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, on the prepared pizza peel for 90 minutes (40 minutes if you’re using fresh, un-refrigerated dough).
7. 30 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450°F, with baking stone on middle rack. Place empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf.
8. Using a pastry brush, paint the top crust with water. Sprinkle with seed mixture and slash with 1/4-inch deep parallel cuts across the loaf, using a serrated bread knife.
9. Bake it: Slide the loaf off the peel and onto the baking stone (if you used parchment, it slides right along with the loaf into the oven). Quickly but carefully pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is richly browned and firm to the touch.
(Image: Mark Luinenburg)