Every New Yorker (or, in my case, former New Yorker) has their favorite bagel place, which you can identify by their tendency to refer to it as "the best bagels in New York" (if they dare reveal this information to you to begin with). For me, it's not just a place, but also a time of day, when the first bagels of the day come out of the oven. And no, I don't think I'll be telling you where it is. Sorrrrrryyyyyy.
I can totally tell you my second favorite bagel though: this one. Unlike New York pizza, which is nearly impossible to replicate (trust me, I've tried it in every conceivable way), these bagels taste pretty darn close. The only differences are that mine are smaller, because let's face it, who needs a bagel the size of their head, and mine have about twice as many raisins as your normal run-of-the-mill cinnamon raisin bagel. However, like my favorite New York bagel, these things straight out of the oven are pure bliss.
Until the other day, I'd never dared even think about making bagels. I'd just resigned myself to savoring the few real ones I get a year, and that was ok. But now, things have changed. I really have Love & Olive Oil to thank for this life-changing revelation. The amazing cooks/ photographers/ writers behind the blog proposed the allusive bagel as their July Kitchen Challenge and, well, I accepted.
In the Kitchen Challenge post, the L&OO authors suggest lots of great tips and resources for making bagels. I didn't use any of them, though. It took a lot of research on my own, and a few false starts, but I think I got it. They may not be the prettiest bagels in the world, but where it counts - taste, texture, per-capita raisin density - these things deliver. And, yes, they are time-consuming, and no, there are no shortcuts (do not try to skip the second rise. Trust me). If you don't want to wake up at 4am just to have fresh bagels for breakfast, I guess that's understandable. My suggestion would be to make the dough and do the two proofs the night before, and then store them at room temperature overnight (securely covered in plastic wrap, of course) overnight. The morning you want to eat them, do a quick proof in the oven if necessary (i.e. if they've lost volume overnight), then boil and bake. [Disclaimer: I didn't make them this way; I did it all in one day.]
However you make these, if you have the time, do it. Fresh out of the oven, slice open, slather with butter, and pat yourself on the back...cause you'll be living the good life. No plane ticket necessary.
Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
Buttercream Fanatic (2013)
2 1/4 teaspoons (one packet) instant yeast, at room temperature*
1/2 cup very warm water (110-115F) + 1 1/4 cups room temperature water
1 teaspoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
4 1/4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups raisins
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
*Notes regarding yeast: If you are wondering, I used Red Star's instant variety and had excellent results. You can definitely use whatever brand you want, but it must be instant and a relatively new packet. Check the expiration date; the fresher the better. And no matter what you use, make sure you do not skip or skimp on the proofing step. This is extremely important because, not only does it get the yeast working at its best, it also clues you in as to whether the yeast is dead or old because it won't produce a strong foam. You can think of yeast as edible sea monkeys: water at the right temperature wakes them up and sugar gives them something to "eat" so it can grow. If you barely get any volume after 20 minutes of proofing, and you are sure you used the right temperature water and added your sugar, your
First, proof the yeast. In a small bowl, combine yeast, 1/2 cup very warm (110-115F) water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir gently and then set bowl aside in a warmer area of the kitchen. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
While the yeast is waking up, mix the bread flour, remaining sugar, and the salt for a moment in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook attachment. In a small bowl, microwave the remaining 1 1/4 cups water on high for 45 seconds until warm. With the mixer running, slowly add water in a thin stream and mix on medium speed until the dough begins to come together. It will still seem dry and crumbly.
When the timer goes off, check to make sure the yeast is ready; it should have developed into a thick foamy dome. Slowly add the entire bowl of yeast slurry into the mixer (while it is still running) and mix until completely combined. Finally, add cinnamon and raisins and mix until raisins are evenly distributed but some streaks of cinnamon still remain. The dough should be completely uniformly mixed and if it's not you may need to knead it by hand for a minute to make sure everything is worked in properly.
Coat a glass bowl with nonstick spray and turn the dough into the bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and put the bowl on the top rack of the oven. Do not turn the oven on. Bring a small stockpot that is half filled with water to a boil. When it reaches a rolling boil, put the entire pot, uncovered, onto the oven rack below the rack that the dough is sitting on.
After 20 minutes, quickly remove the pot of water (opening the oven door for as little time as possible so as to avoid reducing the temperature more than necessary). Bring the water back to a rolling boil and replace it in the oven for 20 more minutes. Repeat this process once more, for a total of 3 consecutive 20-minute rises. After an hour, once the dough has doubled in size, remove from the oven.
Prepare two cookie sheets by covering with a nonstick pad or sheet of parchment. Keep these nearby.
Divide the dough into 11 equal-sized pieces, each of which should weigh about 4 ounces each. Lightly flour a large cutting board and, on it, roll a dough portion into a long snake, about 8-10 inches long. Loop the dough snack around your hand, and dip your finger in water to wet each end of the dough snake before pressing together and rolling lightly to completely adhere the ends. You should have a bagel shape. Place on cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough, spacing each bagel 2-3 inches apart.
Preheat the oven to the warm setting (~150-200F) and when it is just ready, turn it off and open the oven door for about 30 seconds to let some of the heat out. Place the cookie sheets inside and close the door for 20 minutes for a second rise. They should gain about 50% more volume, give or take.
While the bagels are rising the second time, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. You will also need a broad and heat-resistant slotted spoon or spatula.
Once the second rise is complete, remove the bagels from the oven and preheat the oven to 450F. Being careful not to deflate it, gently drop one bagel face down into the boiling water. (It should remain floating at the top, but if it doesn't, use your slotted spoon to gently remove it from the bottom of the pot.) After 5-10 seconds, flip the bagel for an additional 5-6 seconds before removing. Use the slotted spoon to remove the bagel and shake gently to remove any additional liquid before carefully placing it back on the cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the bagels on that sheet and immediately place the sheet of boiled bagels into the preheated oven to bake for 10 minutes. Repeat this entire procedure with the second tray. If your bagels aren't golden brown enough for you, turn on the broiler for 1-2 minutes to crisp the tops just a little more.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Those not being eaten immediately should be transferred to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 11 bagels. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.