For this recipe, you will make a Poolish sponge first, let it rise for five hours, then you’ll assemble the rest of dough and let it rise overnight. The next morning, it’s a snap to boil and bake for a breakfast treat. Such a delicious way to start the day!
1 cup (227 g) Poolish-Style (Sponge) Pre-Ferment* (do ahead)
3-1/2 cups (420 g) unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup (118 g) lukewarm water (approximately 85°F)
1/2 tsp (3 g) active dry yeast
2 tsp (10 g) Kosher salt
1-1/2 T (28 g) honey
The morning of the day before baking
*Poolish-Style (Sponge) Pre-Ferment
4 cups (480 g) unbleached bread flour
4 cups cool water (65°-70°F)
1/4 tsp instant yeast (I like SAF) or 1/3 tsp active dry yeast or 3/4 tsp fresh, crumbled yeast (Yes, that’s right–you’re only using a tiny bit here because this is a low yeast, long fermentation sponge)
Combine ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the batter after it has doubled in volume.
Beat and whisk for one minute, until well mixed and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature for 3-5 hours or until foamy and bubbly.
(If not using the same day, you can refrigerate the poolish, well covered, overnight and bring to room temperature the next day. A poolish sponge will be active and clean tasting for up to three days if kept refrigerated).
Later That Afternoon
Measure out the Poolish sponge (if taking it from the fridge, let it sit at room temperature for two hours to take the chill off).
Stir the yeast into the lukewarm water and let it sit for three minutes.
Combine sponge, flour, salt and honey in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the water-yeast mixture. Mix for one minute on slow speed and then 10-12 minutes on medium speed. You may need to stop it periodically and re-center the dough hook in the dough. (If kneading by hand, form ingredients into a ball and then knead on a lightly floured surface for about 15 minutes).
The dough should be dense and satiny to the touch, smooth and stretchable. It’s temperature should be between 82°-85°F (warm to the touch). It should also pass the windowpane test: when the dough feels supple and stretchy, pinch off a small piece and stretch it slowly apart. You are trying to stretch the dough into a thin, translucent membrane or windowpane. If it tears easily before reaching this state, knead for a few more minutes and try the test again. If the dough has not set up within 15 minutes, it may be too wet or too dry, in which case you will have to add more flour or water as needed. If the dough is sticky and gummy no matter how much extra flour, you’ve overmixed it. You’ll have to throw the dough out and start over.
Using a scale (digital is useful if you have one), scale the dough into six 127-gram (4-1/2 oz) balls (a typical commercial bagel is scaled to between 4 and 4-1/2 oz). Using the palm of your hand, cup each ball on a clean countertop and “round” them until they resemble billiard balls. Let them rest, lightly covered in plastic wrap, for ten minutes.
One at a time, press your thumb into the center and create a hole. Expand the hole with your fingers, making it an even circle. Ideally you want the center hole to be between 3/4 inch and 1-1/2 inches across, according to your preference.
Place the entire tray in a large plastic bag and tie it shut. Let the bagels sit and ferment at room temperature for two hours and then place the bag in the fridge overnight.
Remove the sheet pan from the fridge and let it sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450°F and set a wide pot with two quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tsp. honey to the water once it comes to a boil.
Give the bagels about one minute in the boiling water, flipping them over half way. Set them on a parchment lined sheet pan (I used my macaron silpat!). If you want to sprinkle the tops with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried onions, kosher salt or any other topping, do it right after they come out of the water so they’ll stick better. Evenly space the bagels and place in a 450°F oven for 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Transfer the bagels to a rack and let them cool for at least 30 minutes before eating. To freeze, cool for 60-90 minutes and then seal tightly in a freezer bag.
Right out of the oven, these beauties are delicious with toppings like:
Cream cheese / lox (smoked salmon)
Cream cheese / jam
Peanut butter / Nutella with jam
Cinnamon cream cheese and apple
Tomato and avocado with red onion
Nutella / Strawberries
Egg and cheese
They are also wonderful toasted first!
Many thanks to Peter Reinhart and his James Beard winning book “Crust and Crumb”