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This Christmas, my family decided to do things a bit differently.  Usually on Christmas Eve we’ll gorge ourselves on finger foods before opening presents, saving Christmas dinner with our extended family for Christmas Day.  This year, my aunt and uncle joined us for our Christmas Eve extravaganza, and we skipped the usual Christmas dinner to stay at home reading.  It was awesome.  I am heartily in favor of continuing this tradition.  But besides numerous books, I received a miraculous present from my aunt: a big jar of poppy seeds.

At first, I was rather perplexed.  What does one do with that many poppy seeds?  After making plenty of jokes about going back to school after break and starting up an opium business, it occurred to me…bagels!

My love affair with bagels began in the summer of 2009, when I spent a couple weeks at a writing camp in Iowa City (where I took a one-day class about food writing…hmm…).  On a rainy Sunday, I trekked downtown to the coffee shop above the Prairie Lights Bookstore.  It was there that I had my first “everything bagel”—poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion.  Even though I’d only ever had more desserty bagels (cinnamon raisin, I’m looking at you), it was possibly the most delicious bagel known to humankind.  No lie.  Ever since, I have been searching for a store-bought bagel to rival the Prairie Lights Miracle (in a pinch, Thomas’ bagels will do).

But with my jar of poppy seeds was born a dream—to make my own everything bagels.  So I turned to the Internet and found a recipe for bread-machine bagels.  I’m sure I’ll take some flak from purists for using a bread-machine, but let’s face it—I’m a lazy college student.  While the machine works its magic, I can get things done, do homework, practice piano (or, y’know, window shop online), then snap into action when the dough is done.  Trust me on this.  Use the bread machine.  (However, this recipe will work without a bread machine…it just requires more work.)

This recipe requires some special equipment—namely, the bread machine.  You’ll also need a big pot and a baking sheet.  I’d also recommend a pastry brush and a slotted spoon, but neither of these is strictly necessary.

The ingredient list is pretty simple here.  For the dough, you’ll need 3 cups of bread flour (or you can mix and match: on my second go I tried 2 cups bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour—very good indeed), 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1.5 teaspoons of salt, a packet of dry yeast, and 1 cup + about 1 tablespoon of warm water.  To make everything bagels, I threw in about a tablespoon of dehydrated onions with the rest of the dough ingredients; however, the dough is just fine without onions as well.  Other than this, you need one egg white, some corn meal, and whatever toppings you desire.

  1. Dump all the dough ingredients into the bread machine in the order recommended for your machine.  For me, this means pouring in the water first, then all the dry ingredients with the yeast on top—NOT touching the water at all!  Put the machine on the dough setting and go on your merry way.  (I recommend modcloth for your window-shopping pleasure, if you, like me, will while away your time during the dough making by looking at beautiful dresses you will probably never buy.)
  2. Once the dough is done, let it sit on a floured surface for a few minutes while you preheat the oven to 375°F and begin boiling 3 quarts of water with 3 tablespoons of sugar.
  3. While you wait for the water to boil, divide the dough into nine roughly equal pieces.  I usually use kitchen scissors, but you could very well use a knife, a pizza cutter, brute strength, etc.  Roll each piece into a ball and flatten it.  Poke a hole in the middle of each disk, twirling it around your thumb or index finger—this stretches out the famous bagel hole, which allows for even cooking.  Cover the bagels with a clean towel and let them rest for about 10 minutes.
  4. This next part is my favorite.  Once the water has hit a rolling boil, slip three bagels into the pot.  Boil for thirty seconds, flip, and boil for thirty seconds more.  Boiling is EXTREMELY important because it sets the crust, which will later become chewy and delicious.  After boiling the bagels, set them on a dry towel to drain a bit.
  5. Sprinkle the baking sheet with corn meal and set the bagels on the sheet.  Separate an egg (here’s how) and use a pastry brush (or your fingers) to brush the tops of the bagels with the egg white.
  6. Finally, sprinkle your toppings on.  Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, cheddar, onion…or all of them!  I’ve made poppy seed bagels, everything bagels, and cheddar bagels—all extremely delicious.
  7. Bake the bagels for 20-25 minutes, and voila! Bagels.

The first time I made these, I’ll admit that I was terrified.  How could something on par with the Prairie Lights Miracle be so easy to make?  While my bagels were still warm, I sliced one open and slathered on some cream cheese.  The first bite was, dare I say, life-changing?  Well.  Possibly a slight overstatement, although my love of these bagels did inspire this entire blog.  But anyways, that bagel was seriously delicious.  Dense and chewy, still warm so the cream cheese melted, poppy seeds and corn meal crunchy and delicious.  The bagels were shiny from the egg white and they looked like something from a magazine.  I immediately snapped a picture with my phone and sent it to basically everybody I knew.  I was that excited.

These beauties didn’t last long, especially once my brother showed up.  Obviously the answer to this was to simply make more bagels.  The second time I subbed in 1 cup whole wheat flour for 1 cup bread flour and make 18 mini-bagels.  A very yummy variation, perfect for smaller snacks.

The true test of bagel-hood came when I sliced one in half and toasted it.  They are, indeed, toastable.  Toasted bagels, with their crunchy outsides and chewy insides are truly one of life’s greatest gifts.  Think I’m joking?  Make some bagels and get back to me.

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