Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Bagel Bombs

There's something about being from New York (and, more specifically, being a New York Jew) that makes you feel entitled to hold forth on the subject of bagels. To speak cavalierly of your runs to H&H, of high-gluten flour and barley malt and the ineffable quality of the water. But the truth is, while I may talk smack about the bagel offerings on this side of the country, it's pretty rare that I actually buckle down and make my own.

Partly this is because there actually are a few solid bagel places in town. And partly it's because I'm lazy. But mostly it's because bagels really are at their best within a few hours of being baked. I'll eat a fresh bagel, marvel at its deliciousness, and by the end of the day be packing up the better part of a dozen for the freezer. It seems like a waste.

But recently I was invited to a brunch potluck, which meant a whole lot of hungry people to eat just-baked bagels at their peak. And, at just about the same time, I came across the concept of the bagel bomb.

This long-overdue idea—the doughnut hole of the bagel world—comes from Christina Tosi, the mad genius behind the salty-sweet compost cookies. She wraps dough (softer and more pleasant to work with than a traditional bagel dough) around a frozen packet of seasoned cream cheese, then coats the bombs with traditional bagel toppings and bakes them up to hot, crusty, cream cheese explosions.

Ingrate that I am, I couldn't help tweaking the recipe: upping the quantities to yield an even dozen, tossing some barley malt in the dough for that sweet depth of flavor, dropping the bacon from the filling (sorry), giving the bombs a quick simmer for a true bagel finish, and upping the baking temperature for a nice crisp crust. The end result is just amazing, especially for a group who can eat em up while they're still warm, crusty and oozy at the same time. It's like the best of New York in one messy mouthful.

Bagel Bombs

adapted, a bit heavily, from Momofuku Milk Bar
yields 12 bombs

1 1/3 cups water, at room temperature (275 grams)
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup
1 generous teaspoon active dry yeast
scant tablespoon coarse salt
2 2/3 cups flour (412 grams)

12 ounces cream cheese
1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt

2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 heaping tablespoons sesame seeds (a mix of white and black is nice, if you've got it)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 tablespoons dried onions
1 tablespoon dried chopped garlic

To Finish:
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon barley malt

To make the dough: Place the water in the bowl of a mixer, and add the barley malt and yeast. Let sit a few minutes, for the yeast to soften and bloom. Add the salt and flour, and mix on a low speed with a dough hook until fully blended. cover with a dish towel, and let sit for 5 minutes to relax and hydrate. Mix again on low speed for several minutes, until it forms a soft yet cohesive dough that springs back when you poke it. Pour a bit of neutral oil into a bowl, scrape the dough into it, and then flip to coat with the oil (if you're insane and have a digital scale, you can weigh your bowl before transferring the dough so that you know the weight of the entire dough ball, and then can divide by 12 when it comes to shaping the bombs). Cover the bowl with a plastic bag, and let sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes or longer, until the dough no longer springs back when you press a finger into it.

If you have the forethought, you can let the dough rise overnight (or up to two days) covered in the refrigerator, which will result in a better bomb. Just let come to room temperature for half an hour before proceeding with the recipe.

To make the filling: Mix together all of the filling ingredients until well combined (you can do this by hand, or using the paddle attachment of a mixer). Scoop the dough out into 12 equal-sized blobs on a cookie sheet using two spoons or a cookie scoop (and yes, I weighed it out). Transfer to a freezer, and freeze until solid, ~1 hour.

To assemble the bombs: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Farenheit, and line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Set a large pot of water to boil, and drop in the baking soda and barley malt (keep on high until it boils, then lower until it maintains a gentle boil).

Mix together the topping ingredients into a shallow bowl and set aside.

On a lightly-floured countertop, divide the dough into twelve equal lumps, and form each one into a ball (I like to pull the edges of the dough underneath and pinch together, to form a sort of skin on the top pulling it into a round). When your dough balls are formed, remove your balls of cream cheese from the freezer, and loosen with a spatula if necessary.

Take a ball of dough, flatten it into a chubby disk, and place a frozen cream cheese ball in the center. Pull the edges of the dough over the cream cheese, and pinch to seal. Repeat until you have formed three filled bombs. Gently drop in the simmering water, and simmer for about a minute and a half, while you fill three more bombs. Because of the cream cheese, the dough should sink (and thus simmer on all sides), but then float up by the end of its boiling time. Remove one by one with a slotted spoon, and place, top (aka non-seam side) down in your bowl of topping. Grab by the bottom, turn to coat the top and sides fully (no need to coat the bottom), then transfer, right-side up, to your prepared cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining simmering bombs, then repeat the process until all of the bombs have been filled, simmered, and topped.

Bake the bombs until nicely browned, ~25-30 minutes (I tend to like them on the darker side). A few might explode (I had three mild ruptures out of twelve), but just continue baking. Remove when done, let cool only slightly, then devour.


  1. Sounds delicious! I've never made bagels, but this is very tempting!

  2. Wow, these are the most beautiful things I've seen in a while. Definitely need to make these immediately.

  3. Great idea, great name! These look like so much fun!

  4. Hey! I make bagel bombs all the time and have been contemplating trying boiling myself, as well as purchasing malt powder.

    Have you tried bagel bombs the non-boiled Milk Bar way? How do these compare? How big an impact do you feel the malt powder has?

    1. I've only tried boiling and malt, which contribute a bit to crust formation and flavor. That said, I'm sure these would be delicious any which way.