How Nancy Leson Makes Bagels From Scratch In One Hour Flat

Jun 25, 2014

Trigger warning for the gluten-hysterical: This segment contains multiple and appreciative references.

Eaters, I am scandalized! Nancy Leson has slammed out a batch of made-from-scratch bagels in just one hour — that's one hour from the mixer to out of the oven.  

I haven't tried them; I've just seen the pictures, but I must admit that they at least look good. Here's how she did it.

Nancy's Version of Mikey's Bagels

(makes 12 bagels)

Ingredients:

3 2/3 cups (550 grams) bread flour

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable or corn oil

10-12 ounces warm water (110 degrees)

2 tablespoons baking soda (for boiling the bagels)

Optional: Eggwash (I use whites only) plus any garnish you’d like (poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc.)

Equipment:

standing mixer

1 large or two small baking sheets fitted with parchment paper

large wire rack

large pasta/soup pot for boiling water

perforated ladle or wired skimmer

To prepare the dough:

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and oil.

Turn the mixer onto its lowest speed then drizzle ONLY 10 ounces of the warm water down the side of the bowl. Watch until the flour is completely incorporated, using the additional 2 ounces of water only if you need it to create a “clean” bowl. The dough will climb the hook.

Kick the mixer up to its next speed and continue to mix for 7 minutes.

Remove the hook, shape the dough into a ball, put it back into the mixing bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap.

Let dough rise for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 420 degrees and bring the big pot of water to a boil with 2 tablespoons baking soda.

To shape the bagels:

Once risen, roll the dough, which should feel springy to your touch, into a 16-inch log and cut into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a “snake” (about 10 inches long), then form a bagel by overlapping the ends by an inch or two, putting four fingers through the hole and gently rolling the overlap to create a circle.

To boil and bake:

Boil the bagels in three batches (of four bagels each), dropping them one-at-a-time into the water. They should float immediately. Boil for 15 seconds, flip and boil for another 15 seconds, then using the ladle/skimmer, remove to the wire rack to “drip dry” for a couple minutes. Work fast or your bagels will get too puffy!

Optional: At this point, you may brush the eggwash onto the bagels and sprinkle your garnish (seeds, whatever).

Place the bagels on the parchment-lined baking sheet(s) and bake approximately 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool before serving.

For the uninitiated, here is a great video on how to shape the little devils.

I'm dubious that much flavor can develop with such a short rise. I do three separate ferments overnight in the fridge — first the sponge, then the next night the kneaded dough, and finally the shaped bagels take an overnight. The morning after that, I let them come back to room temp, boil, top and bake.

Stein's bagels: The result of three separate overnight ferments.
Stein's bagels: The result of three separate overnight ferments.
Credit Dick Stein

I use a slightly tweaked version of Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe from her book, "The Bread Bible." I do think Rose has a few unusual ideas (here's her method). She adds some black pepper in the dough. I don't. Also, I think an egg white glaze is unnecessary. Further, her specified oven temps seem a bit high, but that could just be my oven running hot. 

If you try either — or both — of these recipes, please let us know how they came out.

"The bagel is an unsweetened doughnut with rigor mortis."

– Beatrice and Ira Freeman, "About Bagels"