Contrary to what many may think, making homemade bagels is relatively easy and requires minimal effort on your part: generally, the yeast and mixer will do most of the work. One of the most important tips for making homemade bagels is to use the proper flour, as all-purpose baking flour will not make the best product. Other good tips include ensuring that all of the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and that the resulting dough is elastic and firm in texture. Using your hand as a template for shaping the bagels, rather than purchasing and using cutouts, can also be helpful.
One of the main reasons that people believe making homemade bagels is difficult is because they have tried it with all-purpose flour and the resulting product was less than appetizing. As bagels are technically considered yeast bread, they require a high-gluten flour to achieve the optimal texture. Gluten creates pockets of air in the dough for the gases that the yeast creates to develop, a process that is responsible for dough rising. Bread flour, available in most grocery stores, is typically ideal for making homemade bagels because it has a high level of gluten, but also has the fine texture of all-purpose flour.
As with any baking task, ensuring that all of the ingredients are well-mixed is an important tip for making homemade bagels. Thoroughly mixing together all of the dry and wet ingredients separately, before combining them, is the easiest way to ensure that everything is evenly distributed throughout the dough. Attempting to add all of the ingredients to one bowl simultaneously often results in ingredients clumping together rather than blending, which can keep the dough from rising.
Thoroughly kneading and blending the dough once all of the ingredients are mixed together is important when making homemade bagels. This step activates the yeast, forcing it to start eating the sugars in the dough, which then causes the yeast to create gasses. At the same time, kneading and blending help to build up the gluten in the dough, which traps the gasses. This entire process is essential for making the dough rise, and not doing so will result in dense, hard bagels.
There are numerous cut-outs and baking tools on the market that can help you to shape your homemade bagels. Despite this, one of the best tips for making bagels at home is to use your hand. By rolling out a piece of dough into a log and wrapping it around your middle three fingers, you will not only create a near-perfectly shaped bagel, but also save yourself money on kitchen tools, storage space, and clean-up.