The ingredients are simplicity itself. Here's the list, from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice:
1 t. instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2-1/2 cups water
1/2 t. instant yeast
3-1/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2-1/4 t. salt
2 t. malt powder OR
1 T. dark or light malt syrup, honey or brown sugar
1 T. baking soda
cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated garlic and onion, or whatever else you want to use as toppings
So, first you mix up all the sponge ingredients, then let them sit for about two hours until risen to about double. Then you add the ingredients for the dough and stir, stir, stir, until you've got a firm, stiff ball. Turn that ball out onto a floured surface and knead for about ten minutes: if it's tacky or sticky, add a little flour; if it's too dry and rips, add a little water. Then divide the dough into 12 parts (or six, if, like me, you're halving) and let it rest for twenty minutes or so, meanwhile lining a baking sheet with parchment paper misted with a bit of oil.
Then, you shape them. You can either roll out a rope and pinch the ends together around your fist, or you can make a ball and put your thumb through the middle. I did both ways, and found little difference. Once you've got them all shaped into roughly doughnut-shape, let them proof for another thirty minutes. Here are my little darlings resting after being shaped.
Peter Reinhart wants you to rest them in the fridge overnight, but who has time for that? I WANT MY DAMN BAGELS NOW! So I put a pan of water to boil and added the baking soda to it. Into the hot bath with you, my pretties!
I like my bagels to fight back, so I gave them two minutes a side in the hot bath. If you like them a little more easygoing, give 'em one minute a side. Then, once out of the bath, drop them onto some cornmeal-dusted parchment paper on a baking sheet and top them with whatever you like. I made two poppy seed, two sesame seed, and two everything (I halved the recipe). Then bake for about ten minutes at 450 degrees, watching carefully to gauge the level of darkness.
So there you are, home bagels! My first attempts lacked polish, the holes closed up, they were a bit lopsided, but mmmm, slather some cream cheese and lox and capers on those puppies, it won't matter a bit. When I presented my first efforts to missus chritter she was like "You made a bagel? You MADE a bagel??" because she, like me, thinks of bagels as only something you get from a bagel shop or bakery. But not so, my friends, not so!
Happy baking, Groupthink!