This recipe is based on the one in Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I’ve modified it a little, added some notes and thoughts for what was successful for me. Don’t be intimidated by all the instructions. It’s actually not as complicated as I thought it would be. Making the dough is easy, you get a break during the rising process, and creating the bagel shape can be tricky at first, but is simple once you do it a few times. Just remember, even if it seems tough, the smell of fresh bagels will make it all worthwhile.
- 2 Tbsp. agave nectar, divided
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 1 packet dry active yeast (1/4 ounce size)
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 3 Tbsp. vital wheat gluten
- 2 tsp. salt
- raw sesame seeds for coating
- Vegetable oil for the rising bowl
- Salt for the boiling water (about 2 teaspoons)
- In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of agave nectar with the lukewarm water. One trick I use is to microwave room temperature water in the same small bowl I’m going to use. I microwave for thirty seconds. Unless you have a super-high-powered microwave oven, this will get the water just to the point of being lukewarm… Of course, if you have a super-high-powered microwave oven, then you’re probably exposing yourself to way too high of a level of harmful microwaves.
- Add the packet of yeast. You can stir this up… I don’t. I just sprinkle it evenly on the top of the water. I don’t stir the yeast in. I don’t pile it all up in one area. I spread it out evenly across the surface of the water so that there’s a thin layer of yeast all around. Let it sit till it’s activated and foamy… I wait about ten minutes. Some other recipes say to wait only five minutes, but I think the bagels come out better when you wait a little longer.
- While the yeast is activating, combine the flour, wheat gluten and salt together in a large bowl. I like to take my smaller wire whisk and give it a nice, fast whisking to mix it completely. I’m sure a wooden spoon or silicone spatula would also work, but it’s fun to whisk it. Quick note: if you’re using a stand mixer for the kneading that will happen later on, then you can use the bowl for the stand mixer to mix the flour… One less bowl to wash!
- Make a well in the center of the flour, pour the yeast mixture in, add the second tablespoon of agave nectar, and mix till combined… Don’t ask me why, but I think that the bagels taste better when the second tablespoon of agave nectar is added at the mixing stage. Yes, I’ve added both tablespoons when I first prepare the yeast. Yes, I’ve forgotten the second tablespoon entirely. The bagels taste pretty good no matter what you do with the second tablespoon of agave… But for some reason, the best bagels I’ve made are with one tablespoon of agave to activate the yeast and one more when mixing everything together.
- So when mixing everything together, it’s not necessary to mix till all the flour has been incorporated. Most of it should be mixed together, but there can still be some spare flour. The dough will form and the rest of the flour will follow. Once you begin kneading, the rest of the flour will become incorporated because they don’t want to be left out. If you’re into hand kneading, that’s fine. I’m weak, so I use the stand mixer. With the stand mixer it takes about 3-5 minutes of kneading, so if you do it by hand, it will probably take about 6-10 minutes.
- Like most bread doughs, the bagel dough will be fully kneaded when it’s a lot more smooth and looks evenly mixed. The dough should not be wet or dry. In other words’ it shouldn’t be sticky or powdery. Some say that it should be pleasantly tacky. That confused me at first, but here’s a translation… Think of Post-it Notes. The dough should feel like that. It will stick to you a bit, but with a little effort, you can easily disengage the dough from your fingers.
- Take a large bowl and oil it evenly. I use an oil mister and give the bowl an even spray. Put the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat the surface evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a moist kitchen towel. If you’re a cool, Eco-friendly kind of person, you can use those re-usable bowl covers. Just make sure it fits well. Put the bowl with the dough in a warm-ish place to proof and rise for about an hour. The dough will be soft and spongy, but it won’t necessarily double in size, and that’s okay!
- Towards the end of the rising process, pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. At the same time, put a large pot of water on the stove. I use a Dutch oven because it has a larger diameter. A pasta pot is tall, but more narrow. Add about two teaspoons of salt to the water and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, you want to lower the temperature so that it’s a gentle simmer.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and divide it into twelve pieces. Each piece should be relatively equal, but you don’t have to worry if you have some bagels that are bigger than others. Roll each piece into a ball. This also isn’t something you need to be perfect on. The oil from the rising won’t let you roll each into a perfect ball.
- Cover all the balls with a wet kitchen towel so that they do not dry up.
- Now comes the fun part. Guess what? There isn’t a bagel hole maker… Not like a donut hole maker. The hole in a bagel is created manually (I’m sure that large bagel makers have machines, but I’m just a single person of average size, so I make them manually). Hold each ball of dough so that your thumbs are in the middle of it and pointing upward. Just pretend you’re eating it like a veggie burger or sandwich. Gently but firmly, begin rolling the outside edges into the center of the bagel, using the power of gravity to help you stretch the dough while you do it. I also use my top fingers to help move the dough to the edges so that my thumbs can gather more dough, roll it to the bottom, and push it in gently. This process does two things. First, it will make the exterior of the bagel smoother, and second, it will make the center of the dough at the top thinner. Eventually, with patience and continuous rolling of the edges in and up, the top gets so thin, you will break through. At this point, I work the hole so that it’s about 3/4 inch wide. Here’s a big tip… Rotate the bagel while you’re doing this. It makes the resulting bagel more evenly rounded and helps stretch out the dough.
- As you finish more bagels, cover them with a wet towel to keep them soft. When the water is at a gentle simmer, begin simmering your bagels. Carefully put three bagels in the water and simmer for one minute, flip over, and simmer for one more minute before removing from the water and putting on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- When the next batch of bagels is in the simmering water, go ahead and spread some raw sesame seeds on a flat plate and dip the still damp bagels on the plate to add an even layer of sesame seeds.
- When all the bagels have been simmered, bake in the pre-heated oven for 18-22 minutes until they are beautifully browned like the bagels you know and love. Remove from the oven when they are done.
- Here’s the toughest part. You need to allow the bagels to cool for 30 minutes. The smell will be driving you crazy, but have patience. Hot bagels mean soft bagels. Soft bagels will become flat bagels if you bite or slice them. So once they are cooled down, pat yourself on the back for your patience, slice them in half, top with your favorite dip or vegan cream cheeze, and enjoy! Note: after they cool, be sure to put in an airtight container so that they will not harden.