1. Mix the ingredients for the starter; I find using cold water works best. Make sure they are mixed thoroughly, then cover and set aside on your bench top or somewhere warm for 2 hours. The starter should rise in that time
2. ‘Knock back’ the starter, which just means quickly kneading the air out of it, then mix in the ingredients for the dough. I mixed in 3 cups and then reserved the remainder ¾ cups for kneading. The dough is extremely dry and needs a fair amount of kneading, (about 10min but it can be longer). I think a good way to tell whether the dough is ready is this: pull off a small piece and pull it out until it makes a thin sheet; until it can do this it isn’t ready. It should also look smooth.
3. Once the dough is kneaded, cut it off into 120g (4 ½ oz) pieces and then roll into balls. This can be done by punching each piece flat onto the bench. Then, starting with your palm flat, forcefully rotate the dough round slowly bringing your hand up to a cupped position with fingers splayed. You can then finish shaping it by cupping both of your hands round the bottom of the ball and rotating it round. This works best with wetter dough and since this dough is quite dry, it helps to wipe a damp cloth over the bench before you shape each piece. Once all pieces are shaped (recipe should make at least 12), cover them with a damp tea towel and rest for a minimum of 20 minutes.
4. To make that distinctive bagel shape, push your thumb through the centre of the ball, then rotate your thumb until it clears the hole on the bottom side. I also picked mine up and gently pulled them out until I was happy with the shape. Place each shaped bagel onto a lined tray (it also helps to spray a bit of non-stick spray on the tray before). Once all are complete, spray again with some non-stick spray (you can also brush them with a bit of oil) then cover with some plastic wrap. Let them rise for roughly 20minutes or until they look adequately puffed or one can be dropped into a bowl of cold water and float to the top almost immediately. Then place in the fridge overnight. This helps to develop the flavour of the bagel and gives an even texture to the dough. You can choose to cook them straight away, but they will not be as good.
5. The following day is great as all of the hard work has been done! Bring a reasonable sized pot of water to the boil with a tablespoon of baking soda. Once boiling steadily, gently drop the bagels in one by one (you should be able to fit about three at the same time). They should be boiled about a minute on each side – turn them over with a slotted spoon or fish slice. Once done, place them onto a tray sprinkled with cornmeal and immediately sprinkle them with the desired toppings, as they will stick better when the bagels are still wet.
6. Now take the tray with the boiled and prepared bagels and place in an oven preheated to 250°C for 5-10 minutes (I turned the oven down to 230°C once they started to brown and look glossy and then baked them for a further 5-10 minutes until they looked adequately brown). Once done, remove from the oven and savour success with some cream cheese.