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I love baking bread, but I was never one of those people who find kneading “relaxing.” After about 90 seconds of pounding on a blob of dough, I’m bored and my arms hurt and I can’t believe there’s another eight minutes to go.

So I was delighted when, in 2006, Mark Bittman introduced the world to Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread recipe in his New York Times column.

Ever since, I’ve been messing around with the basic recipe, seeing what it can do besides round, crusty white loaves (which it does very well). Whole-wheat sandwich loaves? Check! (Terrific for grilled-cheese sandwiches!) Pizza dough? Check!

Well, how about bagels? My first attempt didn’t go so well – the dough was too wet, and the bagels came out flat and squishy. So I tried reducing the water by half a cup. Success! Since I could happily eat a bagel with low-fat cream cheese for breakfast every day of my life, this is good news.

The idea behind no-knead bread dough is that time and yeast do all the heavy lifting for you; this means that you have to start the bagels the day before you bake them. Spread out over almost 24 hours, this recipe sounds complicated, but it isn’t actually that much work. Here’s a summary of what you have to do:

  • Mix dough, leave overnight
  • Punch it down, shape it into bagels
  • Boil them, coat with seeds
  • Bake

Not so bad! Now here’s the detailed version:

 Ingredients:

  • 3 c flour (I used 2c whole wheat, 1c white)
  • ¼ tsp instant (quick-rise) yeast
  • 1 heaping tsp salt
  • 1 heaping tsp + 1-2 tbsp sugar
  • water
  • sesame or poppy seeds

bagelsphoto via steamykitchen.com

 Step 1:

  • 3 c flour (I used 2c whole wheat, 1c white)
  • ¼ tsp instant (quick-rise) yeast
  • 1 heaping tsp salt
  • 1 heaping tsp sugar

Mix these ingredients thoroughly in large bowl. Then measure out 1.5 c water and remove 2 tbsp. Add water to flour mixture, mix. You may have to get your hands in there to make sure all the flour is incorporated, but you don’t have to knead it or anything. This part takes about 5 minutes. Put a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl, put it in a warm place (I put mine on top of the fridge, in the updraft of warm air coming off the back). Forget about it for16 to 20 hours.

Step 2:

Dough should have roughly doubled in size. If it doesn’t look like it’s rising enough, try putting it somewhere warmer (like in the oven with just the pilot light on) for a couple of hours.

Flour a large cutting board, or just use the counter. Flop the dough out onto it, dust it with a bit of flour, fold it over on itself a couple of times. (It will be sticky, so watch out for that). The idea is just to get rid of any giant bubbles; don’t knead it.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

bagelphoto via sophisticated gourmet

Step 3:

Cut dough into 6 equal-sized portions, and shape them into bagels. (Dough will be sticky on the inside, so keep dusting with flour.) You can do this either a) by making each piece into a ball, then poking a hole in the middle with your fingers and squishing the dough into a bagel shape, or b) by rolling each piece into a snake and pinching the ends together. With method b) it can be really hard to get the ends to stick, though.

Step 4:

Let bagels rest/rise on cutting board for about 20 minutes, while you:

  • preheat oven to 425° F
  • fill a large pot or Dutch oven with water, add a tbsp or 2 of sugar, and put it on to boil
  • prepare a baking sheet: I use an insulated baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper on it, which is amazing – never sticks, never burns, no cleanup – but you can use a Silpat, or whatever. If you use a regular baking sheet, you may wish to flip the bagels over halfway through baking; that way they won’t burn & will brown on both sides.
  • fill a saucer with a layer of sesame and/or poppy seeds
  • get out a wire rack.

Step 5:

Now the fun part: Boil the bagels!

Put them in the pot in batches of 2 or 3, so they’re not crowded. Boil 1 minute, flip over, boil 1 more minute, remove with slotted spoon and put on wire rack to drip-dry for a couple of minutes.

Step 6:

Dip the damp sticky bagels in the seeds, coating them on both sides. Put them on the baking sheet and pop them in the oven. Bake about 25 minutes; keep an eye on them and turn them once if your oven is horribly uneven like mine.

Step 7:

Done! Cool on the wire rack. The hard part is waiting for them to cool enough to eat them! About 30 minutes is good. If you try to slice them straight out of the oven, they will be gummy inside.

Nadia Halim is a freelance editor, and enjoys the fact that her desk is about five steps away from her oven.

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