Growing up in Chicago and then living in New York City for 7 years, I’ve noticed there are certain foods that are a bit scarce in each city. For example, Italian Beef isn’t really a thing in New York. There’s no Johnnie’s or Portillo’s or Buona and while you can typically get a beef sandwich from any local burger joint or hot dog stand in Chicago, it’s missing from the menus in NY.
Conversely, Chicago is lacking in bagels*. I’m not talking about the relatively flat, plain bagel with plain cream cheese at your local coffee shop; I’m talking standalone bagel shops with dozens of types of bagels, boiled in New York water, and equally as many flavors of cream cheese all lined up in a beautiful deli case. You can go toasted, untoasted, with a generous schmear, bacon-egg-and-cheese style, lox with the works – just please don’t ask for it scooped out.
While I rarely ate Italian Beef anyway, bagels were a Saturday morning treat or a cheap, delicious lunch that unglued me from my desk. I was almost always within 3 blocks of a bagel shop to satisfy any last-minute craving. In Chicago, you’d have to drive or hop on public transit to find one. Suffice to say I’ve been bagel-deficient since I moved here in August.
Or at least I was until last month when I learned how to make bagels myself! Thanks to Sally’s Baking Addiction, I can have oversized, New York style bagels that are perfectly crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside whenever I’d like. I’ve already made them four times since; my husband, who is not a big bagel guy (🤷🏻♀️), loves them and my parents requested a batch of their own, so I can promise they’re delicious.
I’ve tweaked Sally’s recipe slightly so you only need a single packet of yeast (which is 2 1/4 teaspoons versus the 2 3/4 her recipe calls for), added cheddar into the dough, and then baked them with more cheddar and sliced jalapeños on top. Here we go!
- 1 and 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 4 cups bread flour
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 jalapeños, sliced
- Nonstick spray (to coat the bowl before rising)
- 1 egg white + splash of water (for the egg wash)
- 2 quarts water + 1/4 cup honey (for boiling)
- Heat water until it’s ~110*F. I recommend checking with a thermometer if you have one because you can easily kill the yeast if the water is too hot. Depending on your microwave, 110* tends to take around 1 minute.
- Add the packet of yeast to the mixing bowl and pour in the warm water. Cover with a towel and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Add the bread flour, brown sugar, and salt to your bowl and mix on low using the dough hook until incorporated. Add 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and mix for another minute or 2.
- Lightly flour counters, knead the dough for about 4 minutes, then shape into a ball.
- Spray the original bowl with nonstick spray and add the ball of dough; cover with a towel and let it rise. You can put it in your oven on the proof setting, which only takes ~45 minutes, or you can leave it at room temp for over an hour.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch out the excess air and divide into 8 parts. I find it easiest to use a bench scraper and cut the ball into four and then half each triangle.
- Roll 1 piece into a ball, creating a seam at the bottom and pinching it together. Pop your thumb through the center and then stretch the hole with your other thumb. Cover with a towel while you work on the rest.
- Preheat the oven to 425* and heat a large pot of water over the stove. Add honey and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium-high, add 4 bagels at a time and boil for 1 minute on each side. Then place 4 bagels per baking sheet lined with parchment.
- Crack 1 egg white into a bowl and add a splash of water. Beat and brush on bagels, making sure to get the sides and the hole.
- Top with the remaining cheddar cheese and sliced jalapeños (3-4 slices per bagel is perfect) and then bake for 22-25 minutes, rotating the sheet after 15 minutes.
Then voilà, delicious bagels for the week! While this seems like a time consuming process, it’s actually quite easy. The active time (mixing, shaping, boiling, and topping) is only around 20 minutes; the rising and baking take the most time, but you don’t have to babysit them thankfully. I’m spoiled for store-bought bagels now, but I’m happy to make my own when they’re on par with my favorites from New York.
*If you search “bagels” on Google maps in Chicago, Dunkin Donuts locations make up 90% of the results. One exception is Chicago Bagel Authority. Their sandwich options are *chef’s kiss* (but they could use some additional cream cheese flavors). I welcome other local suggestions!!