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Orwashers bagels
Photograph: Courtesy of Orwashers

How to make real New York-style bagels at home

Written by
Bao Ong

An obsession with baking loaves of crackly sourdough bread sparked a social media fire the past two months as people across the country stayed at home. All that viral Instagram hoopla could make you forget that if there’s one carb that reigns supreme in New York, it’s the humble bagel. 

Just ask Keith Cohen, the owner of Orwashers, an Upper East Side staple since 1916. A Hungarian family had run the bakery until selling it to him in 2008. And while Cohen focused on a bread program at first, he eventually added bagels in 2016 after testing countless recipes.

“Baking, in general, is a multi-day and multi-hour task,” Cohen says. “It’s like a video game for food.”

He shared the recipe below with Time Out New York and advises at-home bakers that “there’s no substitute for practice. You have to get a feel for it. It’s disciplined baking.” It’s also a three-day process (and if you have trouble tracking down flour or other baking ingredients, check out these local suppliers).

Some argue—that like pizza—the secret to the Big Apple’s iconic recipe is the water. Wherever you fall on that debate, however, a few things are clear: You want a nice sheen on the exterior, chewy-but-not-doughy insides and a slight tangy flavor. We’ll leave it to you whether to toast your bagel or not.

Orwashers New York-style bagel

8-10 bagels

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the biga:

  • 1 cup cold water at 70F
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1 packet dry yeast (¼ ounce or 2 ¼ teaspoons)

For the bagel:

  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour 
  • 1/3 cup cold water at 66F
  • 2 cups biga (the entire amount you made the day before; make sure to take cold directly from refrigerator to the mixing bowl)
  • 6 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 packet dry yeast (¼ ounce or 2 ¼ teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons salt 

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Mix all the biga ingredients in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment for 7 minutes on medium speed. Cover the bowl and chill for 16-20 hours. Don’t exceed 20 hours or your biga will turn sour.
  2. Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix bread flour, cold water, biga, honey and yeast on low for 1 minute. During this minute, slowly add the salt.
  3. Mix on low for 4 more minutes. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a soft spatula. Mix again on medium for 6 additional minutes.
  4. Cut dough into 8-10 even pieces and allow them to rest covered in plastic wrap for 1 hour at room temperature.
  5. Once the dough has rested, you can shape the bagels by rolling them out and cupping the seam together. Once this is completed you can dip the bagels in seeds or your choice of toppings.
  6. After shaping, place the bagels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the shaped bagels lightly with plastic wrap and relax for 2 hours at room temperature. Put wrapped bagels in the refrigerator until the next day for baking.
  7. Take the bagels out of the refrigerator about 2-3 hours before baking; you want the bagels to warm up to room temperature (about 70F-72F degrees).
  8. Set oven temperature at 465F and bake for 9-11 minutes or until a light golden brown color on top. For a convection oven, set temperature at 445F and bake for 9-11 minutes or until a light golden brown color on top 

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