When I lived in Pittsburgh, PA my favorite breakfast spot was a place called The Bagel Factory which was located in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood called Squirrel Hill. The bagels were chewy and dense without being heavy and dry. The outside was smooth and shiny and the everything bagels had kosher salt and no sunflower seeds (the perfect blend). I graduated from law school in 2006 and moved back home to Virginia to start my career.
Alas, finding a good bagel in rural Virginia is like looking for a needle in a haystack.. a haystack that doesn't have any needles in it. An hour in the car will get you a serviceable bagel from Panera and nothing more. Last weekend I set out to make homemade bagels and found success. These bagels are probably not the same as you'd get in an authentic NY deli but, in my humble opinion, they're pretty darn good. Certainly better than any of the round breads they call bagels at the grocery store.
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 TB barley malt syrup or powder
1 1/4 cup water (110 degrees)
In a small bowl combine 1 1/4 cups warm (approximately 110 degrees) water and yeast. Let sit 5 minutes.
In a large bowl combine 3 cups of bread flour and salt.
If using barley malt syrup, dissolve 1 TB barley malt syrup into the yeast and water mixture. If using barley malt powder add it to the dry ingredients.
Now You're Cookin':
Once the yeast has bloomed, add yeast mixture to dry ingredients and stir together until it forms a scrappy ball.
Add the remaining cup of bread flour 1/4 cup at a time until the mixture can no longer be mixed with a spoon and then knead in the remaining flour.
Knead dough for 8-10 minutes until all flour is incorporated and the dough ball is smooth and stiff.*
Split dough into 8 equal balls (about 4 oz. each by weight) and let rest for 5 minutes.
Once dough has rested for 5 minutes form bagels by rolling the dough out to 11-12" lengths and pressing the last 1" of the ends together to form a ring. If necessary use a little water to bind the two ends together.
Place the shaped bagels onto the prepared baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and put in fridge for at least 12 (but not more than about 18) hours.
Before boiling and baking your bagels remove them from the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Fill a large pot with 3" of water and set it on the stove to boil.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Now You're Cookin':
When the water has come to a boil and the oven is up to temperature boil the bagels for about 30 seconds in two batches. The bagels will be slightly puffy.
Place the bagels on the parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 13-16 minutes. The bagels will be golden and shiny.
Place the bagels on a wire rack to cool (or act like a savage and cut one open while it's still steaming and slather it with cream cheese).
*This is not an easy dough to knead. It takes a little muscle and a little patience but if you stick with it it will ultimately turn into a smooth, stiff dough that's easy to shape.