Growing up in St. Louis gave me an undying love of bagels.
Honestly, St. Louis has the best bagels, at least that I’ve ever tried. I know what you’re thinking: St. Louis is not New York. How can you compare to a New York bagel? Hear me out.
From the time I was very little, we would go to Saint Louis Bread Company, or “Bread Co.” as we called it. (People in other parts of the country call it Panera). Their bagels were a central food throughout my formative year, with delicious flavors from the sugary Cinnamon Crunch to Blueberry to the simple and satisfying Whole Grain. I’m pretty sure I ate at Bread Co. during every weekly late start day in high school. My love for Bread Co. bagels continued throughout college and graduate school, because thank goodness they had Paneras in Valparaiso, Grosse Pointe, and Dayton.
My love for bagels runs so deep that Ryan and I ate Bread Co. bagels with family and close friends on the morning of our wedding. This bride had no fear of carbs.
I decided to make my own bagels after I totally puttered out on a long run the other Saturday. Apparently a single banana and a gel or two was not enough to power me through 13 miles. I cannot handle too heavy of anything before a run and I usually run first thing in the morning. After reading several articles on Runner’s World and various running blogs, I decided to try having at least half of a plain bagel before a run.
I strongly abide by the rule of “nothing new on race day,” so I knew my last longer run before the race was the best opportunity to test out eating a plain bagel. This of course meant that I had to bake the bagels a few days before. The last time I attempted to make bagels was two years ago, when I was just learning through trial and error how to make bread. These bagels turned out small and dense, not chewy and large like bagels should be.
I must have learned a thing or two about bread since then, because my first try at a simple plain bagel recipe turned out beautifully. The dough rose oh-so-perfectly, creating chewy bagels that were big enough to make delicious egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwiches. We actually ate bagel, egg, spinach, and cheese sandwiches on Friday night, and they were an awesome pre-run dinner and a quick to prepare meal.
Don’t let all the steps intimidate you. The boiling is not difficult at all—just make sure you have a timer on hand. Bagels take a few hours to make, but most of the time is hands-off. If you live in an area with high-chlorine content in the water, I recommend using filtered or bottled water, as too much chlorine can impede the rising (a tip I learned from watching Alton Brown’s Good Eats).
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 - 4.5 cups bread flour
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- Combine the yeast with the water and the honey. Let the yeast proof for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add the yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer and then add the salt and flour. Stir to combine and then knead on medium-low speed for 10 minutes. If the dough is too watery, add more flour a few tablespoons at a time.
- Grease a large bowl with the olive oil and place the dough in the bowl, lightly coating it in any excess oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 to 1.5 hours.
- After the dough has risen, remove from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Divide into eight pieces and shape each piece into a smooth, round ball. Place the balls on a baking sheet, cover, and let rise for another 30 to 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- While the dough rises, bring 2 quarts of water to a simmer and add the sugar.
- Use your thumb to push a hole into the center of each piece of dough and then gently shape into a bagel. You want your bagels to be about 4-6 inches in diameter.
- Cook the bagels in the simmering water for 2 minutes, and then flip and cook for another minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bagels from the water and place on a greased or lined baking sheet.
- Bake the bagels in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping them about 15 minutes into the baking time. When golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool on a baking rack.
- If you don't have a stand mixer, combine the salt, flour, and proofed yeast in a mixing bowl and then knead by hand on a floured surface for 10-15 minutes.
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