Ingredients for 1 dozen bagels:
2-1/4 cup water at 80-90 degrees, divided
1 scant tablespoon dry active yeast or 1 package
2 tablespoons sugar, divided
3 cups bread flour
3 cups unbleached flour
3 tablespoons solid shortening
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons sugar or malt syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 egg whites beaten with 1 tablespoon water and strained
1/2 cup sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion flakes (optional)
1/2 cup cold water and 6 ice cubes
Proof yeast: Sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup water. Add 1/2 teaspoon sugar and allow the mixture to become creamy.
Dough in mixer : Combine and mix the remaining sugar, 5 cups flour (hold back 1 cup unbleached flour), shortening and salt with the paddle attachment in place. Pour in proofed yeast and remaining water. Stir into a shaggy dough. Change to dough hook and knead in remaining cup of flour or more until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl.
Dough by hand: Combine water, sugar, shortening and salt in a bowl. Stir in proofed yeast and then the flours, 1/2 cup at a time until the dough is shaggy. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured counter and knead in remaining flour.
Kneading: Bang the dough down on the counter to help develop gluten. Work it until the dough is taut.
First rise: Fold the dough into a steep-sided bowl lightly coated with shortening. Cover with plastic and let the dough rise in a warm (80-100 degree) spot until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Second rise: Punch down the dough, fold it over, cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.
Shaping: One hour before baking the bagels bring 4 quarts of water to a simmer in a deep pot. Place a stone in the center of the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees. Line 2 bake sheets with dishtowels. Flour one heavily, dust the other with cornmeal.
Remove the rising bowl from the refrigerator. Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, return the other half to the refrigerator.
Divide the dough into 6 bagels. Cover five. Roll one into a ball and stretch the surface tight making a seam where the loose parts come together. Turn this seam down on the work surface. Push your index finger into the center of the ball all the way to the board. Insert another finger and rotate them to create a doughnut shape about 5" in diameter. Place this bagel on the floured cloth and continue shaping the remaining pieces.
Boiling and Baking: When all six bagels are formed, take the sheet over to the water bath. Dissolve the sugar and baking soda in the water. Transfer the bagels to the bath taking care to keep them separated. Cook them for 2 minutes, turning them once after they come to the surface. Lift them from the water with a strainer spoon and let excess water drain off them before placing them on cornmeal lined towel.
Lightly brush the bagels with the strained egg whites. If you want to add an optional topping, brush them again and shake on the seeds.
Transfer the bagels to the preheated oven. Immediately pour 1/2 cup of cold water and a dozen ice cubes onto the floor of the oven. Turn the heat down to 450 degrees and bake for 25 minutes. Cool them on a rack.
Repeat this process with the remaining piece of dough.