Step 6: Bake
Place bagels on a shelf just below the middle in a preheated 400F. oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops are a nice golden brown.
Bake the bagels on a baking sheet. The easiest surface available to most home cooks is an aluminum cookie sheet or flat Teflon-coated sheet pan. Coat with a little oil and sprinkle very lightly with yellow cornmeal to prevent bagels from sticking. Or line the pan with parchment paper; it eliminates the use of oil and cornmeal and cleaning pans.
Bake the bagels on wooden boards (described earlier in directions). Place bagels on the boards bottom side up to form a crusty bottom, and flip them off the board after 2 or 3 minutes onto a stone or sheet to continue baking.
Bake the bagels directly on a baking stone or tiles. Place the stone or tiles on the lowest rack. Or line a baking sheet with the tiles and place that on the lowest rack. Preheat the oven, with stone or tiles inside, to 400F. for 1 hour before baking. Sprinkle cornmeal on the stone or tiles. Transfer unbaked bagels to the hot surface with a wooden peel (a long-handled wooden paddle used in baking), or any flat instrument with a long handle so you don't burn yourself; wear heavy padded gloves.
Do not wash or immerse stone or tiles in cold water while they are hot; they may crack. Soak the cooled stone or tiles in cold water and scrape with a spatula. Do not use soap, as the surfaces tend to absorb soap, which will be imparted to the bagels. Stones and tiles will discolor, but that won't affect their baking ability. Don't place a hot stone directly on your kitchen counter; depending on the material, the heat could leave a mark.
Steam baking gives bagel tops a crisp crust and extra shine. Create steam during the first few seconds of the baking by spraying the sides of the preheated oven with water from a spray bottle when you place the bagels inside. Place a heavy pan in the lower part of the oven bottom while it is heating. Place the bagels in the oven and then pour cold water or half a dozen ice cubes into the pan.
Storing And Using Bagels:
Bagels are best when they're eaten fresh from the oven while still warm. Because they don't usually contain egg or milk, they tend to dry out faster than breads that contain these ingredients. If you can't consume all the bagels in a reasonably short time, freezing them is recommended. It's smart to slice them horizontally before freezing so you can toast only half at a time, if you wish.
Thaw bagels on the kitchen counter in a plastic bag for about 15 minutes or toast directly from the freezer. Or zap them in the microwave oven for about 1 minute on Defrost and then toast them until lightly browned on top. Microwaving too long will make them tough.
What if a few bagels get stale? Put them into your blender or food processor and grind them into bread crumbs. None of the tasty bread need ever go to waste!
The Best Bagels are made at home by Dona Z. Meilach