To make bagel dough & shape bagels: Whisk 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, yeast, sugar, 2 teaspoons malt syrup (or powder), if using, and oil in a large bowl until the yeast dissolves. Stir in 1 cup flour. Then stir in 1 tablespoon salt and enough additional flour to make a soft dough, about 2 1/2 cups.Advertisement
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead, gradually incorporating more flour, until the dough is smooth and quite firm, 10 to 12 minutes. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces; roll each piece into a 10-inch-long rope. Form into bagels by overlapping the ends up 1 inch. Pinch ends together firmly. Set bagels aside, uncovered, to rise until slightly puffy, about 20 minutes.
To kettle & bake bagels: Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line 1 large or 2 small baking sheets with parchment paper, sprinkle with cornmeal and set aside. Bring water, 2 tablespoons malt, if using, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large pot. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
Slip several risen bagels at a time into the pot--the water should be at a healthy simmer. Cook for 45 seconds, turn them over with a slotted spoon or tongs, and cook for 45 seconds longer. Drain the bagels on a clean dish towel and place on the prepared baking sheet(s). Sprinkle with topping, if using. Place the bagels in the oven, reduce heat to 425 degrees F and bake for 15 minutes. Turn over and bake until golden brown, about 5 more minutes.
To the dough, mix in 1 cup dried or chopped frozen cranberries or 3/4 cup dried cherries or 1/4 cup chopped nuts or 1 to 3 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs or 1 to 2 teaspoons grated citrus zest.
Make Ahead Tip: Freeze fresh (and properly cooled) bagels immediately unless you are eating them all that day.
Don't let bagels rise too long before being shaped: the dough becomes slack and the hardy rings cannot hold their shape in the boiling water. Also, the characteristic, appealing denseness is lost.