I have achieved perfection.

If I should die today, I’d go with a smile on my face.

Why?

Because I have perfected the pumpernickel bagel.

(Technically, I should say “pumpernickel” — more on that in a second.)

Behold:

A half-dozen beautiful perfect pumpernickel bagels. I love these more than my life

It took me four or five iterations to get these right. Mostly, I was experimenting to achieve two features essential to bagel-dom:

Chew.

Bagels must be chewy. That’s almost the whole point of a bagel.

My first efforts at pumpernickel bagels didn’t have the chew I wanted.

I figured out the culprit pretty quickly: it was the flour.

Pumpernickel bread, of any kind, requires a certain percentage of rye flour in the dough.

It supposedly adds something to the flavor.

But a bagel’s chewiness comes from two things: how long you beat the shit out of the dough when you’ve mixed it, and the amount of protein (gluten) in the flour.

That second reason is why most bakers like King Arthur’s High Gluten Flour for bagels. With a 14% protein, it’s tough as hell.

Sir Lancelot High Gluten Flour Oh yeah baby. Gimme that good stuff.

Rye, at 11% protein, doesn’t bring much chew to the party. So I skipped it.

That makes my bagels “pumpernickel” — but the chew is so worth the compromise.

Skin

Bagels are also supposed to have a lightly crispy skin.

It’s a delightful texture, and helps to distinguish the crust from the main body of the bagel.

I have struggled to achieve this skin for years.

I’d followed the directions in the bagel bible:

George Greenstein's Secrets of a Jewish Baker Secrets!

Which calls for putting a steam-tray (a cast-iron filled with boiling water) in the oven, to help the bagels rise better.

But I’d found that the water would never fully boil away during the baking. The lingering moisture would dampen the skin of the bagels, taking away that crisp bite I was looking for.

So, I nixed the steam tray. And baked for ~2 minutes longer than Greenstein calls for.

And… perfection.

Best bagels I’ve ever made.

It’s a damn good day!