Have you ever been eating a potato skin and thought to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone made these out of bagels?” No? Well, I made it happen anyway. Why? Because when an idea like “bagel skins” enters your head, you do what needs to be done. This is a silly recipe, and who among us is incapable of enjoying very silly things? They are as delicious as you are currently imagining, and it’s a fun project for whenever you’re stuck inside with on a rainy day. These aren’t bagels, which need to be perfect lest you face a pitchfork-wielding mob. No, they are bagel skins, and the only reason they exist is to show you a good time. (And to provide a more bite-sized option when you don’t have a bagel-sized appetite. And to offer an easily handheld passed app at brunches. Come to think of it, there are lots of reasons for bagel skins to exist.)
I really want you to focus on the playful nature of this recipe, because—and I know this is going to infuriate the “baking is a science” crowd—making bagel skins leans heavily on intuition, which you might not have yet as you make these things. And that’s okay! You’ll do great as long as you follow the recipe and read all the instructions first. You might want to read them two or three times, picturing yourself going through all the steps before you even set foot in the kitchen. Take your time, be as creative as you want, and do not forget to have fun. Again, you’re making bagel skins.
- 550 grams all-purpose flour
- 1¼ to 1¾ cups lukewarm water
- 1 tsp. active dry (activated) or instant yeast
- 1 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. barley malt syrup
- 1½ tsp. kosher salt
- 2-3 cups water
- 1/4 cup barley malt syrup
- 1¼ tsp. baking soda
- 1½ tsp. kosher salt
- 8-12 russet potatoes, cut in half lengthwise (these are used to mold the dough, so use a potato the size and shape you’d like your bagel skins to be)
- Approx. 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
- Optional: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or any other bagel topping you like
- Food processor with a dough blade, or a heavy-duty stand mixer
- 2 baking sheets
- Clean countertop or big wooden board, lightly dusted with flour
- Wide saute pan
- Tongs or a fish spatula
- Clean kitchen towel, or a roll of paper towels
- Aluminum foil
Put the flour, yeast, barley malt syrup, salt, and 1 cup of the water in the bowl of a food processor. Quickly pulse a few times to bring everything together, then continue pulsing in 10-second increments while gradually adding water until the dough looks smooth, then pulse for another 10-20 seconds until the dough is firm and a bit tacky, like soft Play-Doh. Dump the dough onto your floured board or counter. (Note: if you’d rather do this in a stand mixer, follow the same instructions using the dough hook, kneading at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes.)
Divide the dough into small portions, roll into balls, cover with a cloth towel (or plastic wrap) and let them rise for 30 minutes. How do you decide what a “small portion” is? This depends on the side of the potatoes you’re using for your bagel skin-molds. Pretend you’re a kid playing with Play-Doh; that will help your instincts guide you. Make a ball of dough roughly the size of an apricot, stretch it out the same way you would a pizza, and try to cover half a potato with at least a 1/2" of overhang on all sides. Add/subtract dough as you need until it fits, then roll that dough up into a ball again, and that’s your measurement. Do not worry about being perfect.
For the bagel bath: add the barley malt syrup, baking soda, and salt to a saute pan, then add water until it’s at least 4" deep. Stir and bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and deep warm over low heat. For the molds: line each baking pan with aluminum foil and coat generously with a few spoonfuls of vegetable oil. Toss the potatoes in additional oil until slippery, and arrange evenly on the baking sheets, cut-side down. Cut two pieces of foil, roughly 8" wide, fold in half, grease, and set next to the potatoes.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Uncover the water bath and raise the heat to high so it comes back to a rolling boil. Set a plate lined with a cloth towel nearby, but far enough away that it won’t catch fire. (There’s a lot of moving parts here, so safety first!) Put the baking sheets with the potato molds on the other side of the towel-lined plate, and if you’re using bagel toppings, put those nearby. After this point you are going to get messy, so if there’s anything you need to touch or grab, do it now.
Use your hands to press and stretch the dough into oblong shapes about 1/2" thick (big enough to cover a potato!), and slip them two at a time into the boiling water, where they’ll float. Boil for 45 seconds, then use tongs or a spatula to flip them over and cook for another 45 seconds. Move to the cloth towel for a few seconds to remove any extra water, then put each bagel disc on top of a potato half. Cover each piece with the greased pieces of aluminum foil, using it to press and shape the dough onto the potato. Firmly cinch the foil and let it sit in place while you boil the next two bagel skins, which will give the dough enough time to set in place over the potato. Repeat the process, reusing the same greased foil, until all the potato halves are covered in bagel dough.
(Note: If you have more dough than potatoes, keep it in the refrigerator to stop it from rising further and and boil/bake in batches. If you have more potatoes than dough, you’ll end up extra roasted potatoes to eat, which is never a bad thing.)
If you’d like to add toppings like poppy seeds or coarse salt, lightly brush each formed skin with a tiny bit of the bagel water, then sprinkle on the toppings.
Bake both trays of bagel skins for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans from top to bottom and bake for another 8-10 minutes until the tops are firm and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 3 minutes, then use whatever tool you’d like (tongs, fork, fingers) to remove the bagel skins from the potato molds and flip them over, now arranging them between the potatoes to help them stand upright. Bake for another 5-10 minutes until the insides are dry and lightly brown. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
You can fill your bagel skins with anything you desire, but if you’d like to mimic the toppings in the photo above, this is what they are, from left to right:
- Cream cheese potato filling; freshly sliced tomato, pickled garlic, chives
- Chicago-style deep dish pizza bagel with sausage
- Cream cheese potato filling, cured salmon, diced red onion, capers
- Cream cheese potato filling mixed with scallion sauce, everything bagel seed blend
To make cream cheese filling: While the potatoes are still hot, using a stand mixer or a large bowl/hand masher, smash up enough of the now-cooked potato halves until you get about 1½ cups of mashed potatoes. Add 8 ounces of cream cheese and continue mashing until melted, then add 1/2 cup whole milk with a hefty pinch of kosher salt. Taste, adding more milk, salt, and/or cream cheese as you desire. Spread into cooled bagel skins and top with whatever you’d like.
To make Chicago-style deep-dish sausage pizza bagels: Fill the bottoms of your pizza skins with an excessive amount of mozzarella cheese, top with a few spoonfuls of marinara sauce, add pre-cooked sausage, and sprinkle with a bit more cheese. Slide under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the cheese is brown and bubbly, then sprinkle with Parmesan, crushed red pepper, and whatever else you think belongs on pizza.