All right, I baked batch number 2 last weekend and I think I am nearly there. If you like your bagels fairly fluffy then this might actually be your recipe. So while I still don't think this is where I want to take these lovelies, here is recipe number 1 of probably several.
So, what did I do?
I think the main thing that you'll want to know about is that I used not only yeast but also some refreshed sourdough leven. If you don't have a sourdough starter living in your fridge you have several options:
a) make some, I'll tell you how to do that next week
b) if you're in St Andrews, let me know and I'll give you some of mine
c) use only yeast (but keep in mind that the reason I am using sourdough in the bagels is because of the flavour and the added moisture so you won't get quite the same texture and flavour)
500 g Bread Flour (you want a high protein content here, so extra strong is a good thing in this case)
1/2 tbsp Honey
3/4 the amount of yeast you would use for 500g flour normally (i.e. 32g of fresh yeast, or however much your dry active or instant yeast packaging tells you to use).
300 ml Water (if you are using dry active yeast, use some of this water when you are activating the yeast)
2 tsp Salt
150g Refreshed Production Sourdough (alternatively, use the entire 42g of yeast)
1 tbsp Salt &
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda for the water you'll boil the bagels in
Sesame Seeds, Salt or whatever else you want to put on your bagels
Mix the yeast, honey, part of the water and a couple of tablespoons of the flour and allow give it 10 minutes or so to get started before you mix it in with the rest of the flour and the salt. Knead for a few minutes and add enough water until you have a fairly stiff dough (you might not need all of the water so don't add it all at once). Then, add the production sourdough and knead for another couple of minutes.
Once the dough has a satiny feel to it (if this doesn't make any sense to you, send me an email) form it into a ball and put it into a bowl, cover the bowl with cling film and stick it into the fridge.
Give the dough at least an hour, I normally leave it in there for 5 or so hours.
When you are ready to form the bagels take the dough out of the fridge and cut it into 8 pieces. For me this works out at around 120 g for each piece. Roll each piece into a ball, then stick your finger into the middle and poke a hole into the ball. Make the holes about 8 cm in diameter (they will get a lot smaller when they are proofing and when you are poaching them) then put the bagels onto a baking sheet that has been lined with oiled baking parchment. Don't leave out the oil! Oil is your friend in this case (I can't believe I am saying this, but if there is one thing that turns making bagels into non-fun it's them sticking to something at any point of the process, don't forget to oil the baking parchment).
Brush the bagels with some oil (again, I've tried it without and it's not worth it...go for the oil!)then cover the baking sheet with some cling film.
Stick your baking sheet into your fridge and leave it to proof for several hours or preferably overnight.
In the morning, take the baking sheet out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature until the bagels have warmed up. This should take around 90 minutes or so.
Half an hour before you are ready to bake the bagels, take out all the spare baking sheets in your oven (yes, I know you're lazy, but still), turn on your oven and preheat it to 250˚. You really want to give it the time to heat up properly so find something else to do for a while - like finding your biggest pot.
Mine holds 5 but you should be able to work with a smaller one as well. It'll just turn the whole poaching thing into a much longer affair.
So, once you've decided on a pot, heat some water and once it's boiling add the salt and bicarb.
Using your fingers transfer two or 3 bagels into the water and poach for 1 minute, then turn them around and poach them for another minute (don't go for much longer or they'll go super chewy - the bad kind, but if you like your bagels on the non-chewy side of things you could even reduce the time for the second side to 30 seconds, I think 1 minute is just right though).
Anyhow, using a slotted spoon, take them out of the water and transfer them back onto the baking tray (the oiled baking parchment should still be on there).
Repeat with the second batch.
While the second batch is in there, sprinkle your bagels with your topping of choice (the skin dries fairly quickly so it's better to sprinkle them while you're waiting for the next batch rather than doing all in one go).
Repeat until all bagels are poached.
Put the bagels into the oven and turn down the heat to 220˚, then you have about 8 minutes to work on the mess that your kitchen has turned into (ours turned into a sesame seed disaster zone), then rotate the baking sheet and give them another 10 minutes. My oven is on the hot side of things so I turned it down to 200˚ at this point but if yours is not having that problem just leave the temperature up.
You might want to check the bottoms of the bagels and see whether they are going too dark too quickly, if that's the case it apparently helps to put a second baking sheet under the one you're using. I've never had that problem though, so I don't know whether it works (sounds sensible though).
Once your bagels are done, take them out of the oven, slide them onto a wire-rack and let them cool before you slather them in cream cheese, or have them with some mouthwatering cheesy scrambled eggs.