1/4 cup (2 oz, 56g) granulated sugar (for boiling)
2 teaspoons baking soda (for boiling)
1 egg white, whisked lightly
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds or kosher/coarse sea salt for topping (optional). To make “everything” bagels combine a tablespoon of each of the seeds & a teaspoon salt with a pinch each of garlic powder & onion powder.
Combine the starter, water and 2 cups of the flour in a mixing bowl. Mix to form a thick batter. Cover the bowl and set aside for 30-60 minutes.
Add the barley malt syrup and salt. Switch to the dough hook. Add the remaining flour and mix to combine. The dough should eventually cling to the hook and start to clear the sides of the bowl.
Knead 5 minutes on medium speed. If working by hand, stir in as much of the flour as you can, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in the remaining flour. Knead 5 minutes. Form the dough into a smooth ball.
Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat the dough. Cover the bowl and set it aside at room temperature. After 30 minutes uncover the bowl, lift one side of the dough and fold it into the middle of the dough. Repeat with the other three sides of the dough then flip the dough over. You’re basically turning the dough inside-out to redistribute the yeast. Cover the bowl and repeat the procedure after 30 minutes, then again after 60 minutes. After another 60 minutes the dough should be ready to shape the bagels. By now the dough should be lively, elastic and airy. If the dough is still sluggish give it another hour or two at room temperature.
Line a baking pan with parchment paper then generously sprinkle the paper with cornmeal (or flour). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface without kneading out the air. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces. Use a cupped hand to roll each piece into a smooth ball.
To form a bagel, poke your finger all the way through the center of a ball to make a hole. Use two fingers to gently open up the hole. Continue gently stretching to form the bagel or twirl the dough around your fingers to widen the center hole to 1 – 1.5″ wide.
Place the bagel on the prepared sheet pan and continue to form the remaining bagels. The dough will probably spring back a bit so you can go back and re-stretch the holes once you’re done forming all the bagels. Cover the pan with plastic wrap. If the dough and the ambient temperature is on the cooler side, leave the shaped bagels at room temperature for 30 minutes then place the pan in the refrigerator overnight. If the dough and ambient temp is warmer and the dough is quite active, place the bagels into the refrigerator without leaving them out for 30 minutes.
In the morning: If you are working at a cooler time of year and the room is on the cooler side, take the bagels out of the refrigerator and leave them at room temperature while you preheat the oven and boil the water. The bagels should look full and aerated. They won’t puff up and double, but should be noticeably lighter than when they were formed. If you are working at a warmer time of year when the ambient temperature is higher, leave the bagels in the refrigerator until the water is boiling and the oven is preheated. The cold bagels can go right into the boiling water.
Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a large pot combine 1 gallon of water with the sugar and baking soda and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to keep the water at a rolling simmer. Set a cooling rack over a sheet pan or kitchen towel and place it next to the stove. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and generously sprinkle with corn meal (or flour).
Once the oven is preheated, you’re ready to boil. Gently lift a bagel off the sheet pan and lower it into the water. Boil the bagels for 30 seconds, flip and boil for 30 seconds on the other side. Depending on the size of your pot, you can boil 3-4 bagels at a time. As you remove the bagels from the water, set them on the cooling rack to drain.
Place 6 of the boiled bagels on each sheet pan. You could fit them all on one pan but they may stick together as they bake.
Brush the bagels with egg white. Add the topping(s) of your choice. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.