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Originally published Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:04 AM

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Recipe: Homemade Bagels

Bagels, at heart, are about the basics: yeast, water, flour, salt and a bit of sweetener. What takes a bagel from good to great involves using the best basics.

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Makes 12

2 cups lukewarm water

1 tablespoon barley malt syrup (see Note)

1 tablespoon honey

3 teaspoons kosher salt

6 cups bread flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast

Scant ½ teaspoon finely ground pepper, optional

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 egg white, beaten

Toppings as desired

Note: Barley malt syrup is found in food co-ops and some grocery stores. Instant yeast also is called bread machine yeast. If you choose to add the optional pepper, make sure it’s finely ground.

1. In a bowl, stir together 2 cups water, barley malt syrup, honey and salt. In a large bowl, stir together flour, yeast and, if desired, the pepper.

2. If using a stand mixer, use the dough hook on low speed as you add the water mixture to the flour. Mix until well-blended, about three minutes. If mixing by hand, use a sturdy spoon, or your hands, and mix for about three minutes. This is a fairly stiff dough.

3. Turn the dough out onto a counter and knead for several minutes until the dough is smooth and only slightly tacky. Round into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about an hour. (For fresh bagels in the morning, place the dough in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, let the dough warm up on the counter for about an hour before shaping.)

4. Turn the risen dough out into a lightly floured counter. Cut into 12 even pieces, then shape each piece into a ball by pulling the raw edges toward the center, pinching them closed, then firmly rolling the dough on a clean, unfloured surface using the cup of your hand.

5. To shape the bagels, poke a hole through the center of each ball, then use your fingers to gently pull and rotate the dough until you have a hole about 2 inches across. Make the hole larger than you think you should, because the dough will spring back and swell while poaching and baking.

6. Cover the shaped bagels with a cloth and let rise until a bit puffy, about 15 minutes.

7. While the bagels are resting, heat 4 quarts (16 cups) water in a large pot. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place racks in the bottom and upper third. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and mist with cooking spray. Or, oil baking sheets and sprinkle with cornmeal.

8. When the water boils, reduce to a simmer and stir in baking soda.

9. Gently lower three bagels, top side down, into the simmering water, leaving enough room for them to float around. (They will sink first, then rise.) Poach for a minute, then flip over and let poach for another minute. Remove bagels with a slotted spoon and place on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with three more bagels.

10. Brush beaten egg white over each bagel, taking care not to let it drip onto the paper. If desired, coat with toppings such as sesame or poppy seeds, grated cheese, sautéed garlic or onion, etc.

11. Place pan on lower rack and bake for 10 minutes. While the first pan is baking, repeat the poaching process with the remaining bagels.

12. When the first pan has baked for 10 minutes, move it to the upper rack and place the second pan on the lower rack.

13. Continue baking for eight to 10 minutes, or until the first bagels are golden brown. Move the second pan to the top rack for its remaining eight to 10 minutes.

14. Cool for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack before slicing.

Kim Ode, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune

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