Making bagels from scratch does take a bit of time (the dough needs to be made a day ahead), but is well worth the effort. Including honey in the dough and in the water in which the bagels are boiled gives them their signature, subtly sweet, taste.
For the sponge, stir the water, yeast and flour together in the bowl of a mixer (but you can mix by hand) or in a big bowl. Let this sit 10 minutes.
For the dough, add the yeast, honey, flour and salt to the sponge and mix using a dough hook on low speed until the dough comes together and then increase the speed one level and knead the dough until it is elastic, about 7 minutes. Place the dough into an ungreased bowl, cover and let sit at room temperature for an hour and then chill overnight. If mixing the dough by hand, mix the ingredients into the sponge with a wooden spoon until the dough becomes too stiff and then turn out onto a work surface and knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes, until elastic.
Preheat the oven to 425 °F (218 °C) and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
Turn the chilled dough out onto a very lightly dusted work surface and divide the dough (using a scale) into 12 pieces of 110 g each. Shape each piece of dough into a ball. No need to rest the dough here.
There are two styles of shaping the dough, and the choice is yours:
a) Roll & Twist – for a bagel that sits taller and with a more defined hole, roll each ball of dough into a rope about 8-inches (20 cm) long and loop up the ends to overlap each other about 2-inches (50 mm) rolling them together with your hand in the middle of the bagel, and placing them on the baking trays (6 per tray), covering with a tea towel and letting rest 15 minutes.
b) Make a Hole – for a bagel that is a little flatter but also wider, use your thumb to poke a hole in the centre of the dough ball and roll it into its shape with your floured hand in the middle. Place them on the baking tray (6 per tray), covering with a tea towel and resting 15 minutes.
Place a large stockpot filled halfway with water up to a full boil and have your egg white and bagel toppings on hand. For every 2.5 L of water add 2 Tbsp (30 g) of honey and 1 tsp (5 mL) of baking soda. Using a slotted spoon, gently drop the bagels into the water one at a time, taking care not to overcrowd the water (3-4 bagels at a time). Boil the bagels for 90 seconds to 2 ½ minutes (the longer the boil, the chewier the crust) and remove with the slotted spoon to place back on the baking trays.
Brush each bagel with the egg white and sprinkle with toppings as you wish. Bake the bagels for 20 minutes and then turn the oven off and open the door, leaving the bagels in there for 10 minutes more. Remove the bagels to a cooling rack to cool before eating, warm or toasted.
The bagels are best enjoyed the day they are made, but are perfect for toasting for up to 2 days.