Never have bagels been more abundant or elusive: Most bakeries, coffee shops, and corner delis hawk them, but an authentic crackly, chewy bagel is as common as a tasty burrito in Dubuque. Tired of settling for bland impostors, we turned to our own oven.
Traditional bagels are made of high-gluten flour, yeast, water, salt, and malt. Some bagelries substitute sugar, brown sugar, or honey for the malt. In the name of convenience, we started with basic pantry items and then added more esoteric ingredients to build a more bona fide bagel flavor and texture. After baking nearly 100 bagels, we’re confident that our recipe produces the best in the West.
What to buy: Malt syrup is a natural sweetener made from a mash of corn and barley that is not quite as sweet as honey and has a slightly earthy note; it adds that distinct maltiness that makes a bagel really taste bagel-y. It can be found in natural food stores or online.
Game plan: The bagels are best when eaten within an hour but are pretty darn good for 2 or 3 days. They’ll keep well in a cotton or paper bag, and will need a quick warming or toasting before being consumed. They also freeze well: Once they’ve cooled completely, slice them and store them in a freezer bag for up to a month.