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For the biga: Mix the water, flour and yeast together with your hands in a large bowl until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for about 12 hours.
For the dough: Add the flour, malt powder, sugar and salt to the biga and mix with your hands to combine; the dough will be very tough and thick. Continue to knead and fold the dough onto itself until it is very smooth, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature until it has almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough, divide into 3-ounce portions and roll each into a small log.
Roll a log with the palms of your hands to about 10 inches long. Wrap the dough around the knuckles of one hand to form a ring and, while pressing the two ends down, roll to seal. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining logs.
Allow to rest, uncovered, at room temperature until the dough has risen slightly, 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes.
For baking: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or lightly oiled parchment paper. Bring a wide pot filled halfway with water to a rapid boil. Stir in the molasses. Add the baking soda and stir until the bubbles subside.
Gently drop 4 bagels into the pot and boil for 30 seconds, then turn over using a slotted spoon and boil for 30 seconds more. The bagels will turn light amber brown and puff slightly. Place onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with some desired topping, pressing to adhere. Repeat with the remaining bagels.
Bake until the bagels are well browned and spring back to the touch of your finger, about 18 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.