I love bagels. I spent my formative high school years going to a place called the Bagel Depot. We lived close to New York City, so our bagels had the traditional chewiness of a true NY bagel. Due to the suburban clientele however, flavors as exotic as everything and blueberry were available. (I'm being a wee bit sarcastic. This was the 80s, jalapeno-cheddar and french toast bagels were still off in the shimmering future) .
My favorite was a poppy seed bagel, twice toasted (I have always been partial to crispy, dark brown baked goods) with a slather of butter or butter and cream cheese. The Bagel Depot was infamous for giving you a 1/2" layer of butter inside your buttered bagel. It made a mess and set up a few of my classmates for early bypass surgery, but it was fantastic.
Up here in the woods north of Boston, I had given up on bagels. The ones we can find are too soft and lack a good crust (frankly, they're underbaked). They also aren't chewy enough. Well thank you Chef Reinhart! His method worked perfectly for me. While I didn't get the best chewiness, I think that was my fault in that I used regular bread flour, not the high-gluten flour he calls for.
All my bagels were topped with poppy seeds because I had no other suitable toppings in the house. No worry, I'll be making these again and will have the full panopoly of toppings at hand next time. To me one of the greatest features of this recipe is that almost all the work is done the day before. On the day you want to eat your bagels, you pull the proofed dough from the fridge, boil the bagels (essential step) and then bake. I tried retarding my bagels for 24 and 48 hours. I thought the 48 hour ones had slightly better flavor when tasted plain.
In this picture, look how much the bagels grow during boiling. On the left, a proofed bagel; on the right, a bagel post-bath. I boiled mine for two minutes a side hoping for greater chewiness. They weren't that chewy, but I think that was a result of the flour, not the boiling.
To gild the lily, I made some cured salmon as a bagel enhancement. I used the recipe here and substituted applejack (apple brandy) for the ouzo. Deelish.