i'd never really cared much for bagels. they'd always seemed, oh, uninspired. bready. airy. dull. like lunkering tires of dense wonderbread. oh, i would eat them without complaint once they were toasted crisp like an ibiza-vacationing-technoraving- christina aguillera-wannabe-lookalike-euro-tramp, and slathered with a hearty coating of hummus, tomato and dill pickle(!), but i'd never sought them out.
then one day on a whim i made a batch at home. i was afraid at first. the thought of putting dough into boiling water seemed like a recipe for disaster but, much to my amazement, the little tires puffed up and an exploratory post-boiling, pre-baking cut into one showed that the interior had already mostly cooked. the end product wasn't like any bagel i'd had before. they were dense. they were chewy. they were interesting. i didn't even have to toast them and slather them with toppings!
i'm not from the east coast nor have i spent any significant amount of time there, but i'm told that these are what real ny bagels are like. they're not particularly difficult to make and shaping them is a breeze if you ignore all the bad advice about making a coil and attaching the ends to each other to form a donut (i guarantee it will come apart in the boiling process)...just stick your finger in the middle and dig around until you have a hole to your liking.
1 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoon yeast
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
place yeast in warm and sugar and allow to froth. add flour and salt and knead until smooth and shiny. depending on your type of flour and altitude, you may have to add a little more or less water. let rest at least 20 minutes so the dough can relax. separate into eight equal sized balls and make into bagel shape by punching a hole in the center of each roll with a finger or chopstick and stretching the hole out (with your finger) until it is at least 1 inch in diameter (the hole will get smaller once the bagels puff up). place on a well greased (or floured) cookie sheet and let rest another 20 minutes. at this point you should bring to boil at least 4 inches of water in a large pot with 2 T. sugar. after the 20 minute rest, place the bagels in rapidly boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. the heat of the water is very important since this is what will make the dough puff up and get chewy. place a lid on the pot once the bagels are in to maintain a high temperature. drain and place on well greased, light colored cookie sheet and sprinkle with the toppings of your choice (i like salt, dried garlic bits, sesame seeds and fresh black pepper) or leave them plain. bake at 450 for about 15-20 minutes, turning over once. for wheat bagels, omit 1 T. sugar and replace with 2-3 T honey. replace all white flour with wheat flour.