Boat Bagels

By Libbie Summers (from my book, Sweet and Vicious, Rizzoli)
Photography by Chia Chong

The boys in the band ordered boat bagels.
Boat Bagels from Libbie Summers (photography by chia chong)

Boat Bagels
(perfect chewy dough, garlic bacon topping)
yields 12 bagels

For the dough:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, for brushing
2 1⁄4 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon salt
7 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

For the garlic bacon topping:
6 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, finely chopped 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon salt

For the poaching liquid:
5 tablespoons honey
1⁄4 cup baking soda
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt


Make the dough: Brush the inside of an extra-large mixing bowl with the vegetable oil and set aside.

Pour the water into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook and add the yeast, honey, and salt. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir to mix. Add the flour and mix on the lowest speed for 3 minutes, until well blended. The dough will be a stiff ball. Let the dough rest in the bowl for 5 minutes, then mix again on low speed for another 3 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is barely tacky, has a satiny sheen, and is firm. If the dough is a little too wet at this point, knead in a bit more flour to get to make it firm.

Put the dough in the prepared mixing bowl and turn to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size. Punch the dough down and let it rest for another 10 minutes.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Have a small bowl of water ready.

Divide the dough into twelve equal portions. Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape the dough into a loose ball by cupping it in your hand and rolling the dough on a clean, dry work surface in a circular motion just until a perfect ball forms. Using your finger, poke a hole through the center of the ball to create a donut shape.

Next, holding the dough with both thumbs in the hole (like learning to drive a car with your hands at the ten and two o’clock positions), rotate the dough with your hands, gradually stretching it to create a 2-inch-diameter hole in the center. Place the shaped bagel on a prepared baking sheet and repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough, dividing them between the two baking sheets. Cover the bagels with plastic wrap that has been brushed with oil and refrigerate them overnight. Bagels can be made to this point and kept, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 500° F.

Make the garlic bacon topping: Sauté the whole garlic cloves in the oil in a small skillet over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until yellow gold, then drain on paper towels and chop finely. Put the garlic in a wide shallow baking dish, add the remaining ingredients, and toss together. Set aside.

Make the poaching liquid: In a large saucepan, bring 8 quarts water to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and stir in the honey, baking soda, and salt. Using a spider or slotted spoon, gently lower each bagel into the simmering liquid (you can poach 3 or 4 at a time). Poach the bagels for 1 minute, turn them over, and continue to poach for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the bagels from the water, allowing any excess water to drain off, and place them dome side up on the same parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with a generous amount of topping. Repeat with the remaining bagels.

Transfer the baking sheets to the oven and lower the oven temperature to 475° F. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake for another 5 minutes, or until a rich golden brown. Remove the bagels to a wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

A little peek behind the scenes.

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