Jerusalem bagels have much in common with regular bagels. Both have a hole in the middle, and both are often covered in sesame seeds, but that’s where the similarities end. Unlike the common bagel, Jerusalem bagels are not boiled before baking, so they are tender and fluffy where regular bagels are dense and chewy. Their ingredient list often includes milk or milk powder and sugar, making them slightly sweet as well. This is a super-simple and rewarding bread to make at home. And since we’re in Philly, home of the soft pretzel, we’ve taken Jerusalem bagels one step further by “pretzel-izing” them. Pretzels get their unique flavor and texture from a dip in a lye solution prior to baking. But lye is a hazardous, slightly scary chemical that’s not readily available. Fortunately, baking soda is similarly alkaline, so now you can “pretzel-ize” worry-free in your own kitchen.
Makes 6-8 bagels
Michael Solomonov from the Israeli Soul cookbook
1 packet active dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1¾ cups warm water
4 cups bread flour
⅓ cup canola oil
⅓ cup labneh
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 large eggs
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling
Combine the yeast, sugar, and 1½ cups of the water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, oil, labneh, and salt and mix until the dough comes together. Cover the bowl and let rise at room temperature until it almost doubles in volume, 1 to 1½ hours. Portion the dough into 6 to 8 equally sized balls and place on a lightly floured large board. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
Pat one piece of dough into a rough rectangle the size of your board, then roll it up, starting from one long end, pinching and deflating/degassing the dough as you roll. Pinch the seam to seal. Continue rolling the dough into a long rope using both hands, starting in the middle and moving outward to make it as even as possible (it should be about 1½ feet long). Bring the edges together to make a long oval and pinch to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces. Let rise on the board for 1 hour. The dough will puff up a bit.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread out the baking soda in a small ovenproof dish and bake for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and whisk with the eggs and the remaining ¼ cup water in a small bowl. After the dough ovals have risen, place them on the prepared baking sheets. Brush the tops with the egg wash, using all of it, and sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds. Bake until deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
Jerusalem bagels are traditionally served very simply, with savory and salty za’atar wrapped in a scrap of old newspaper. Rip off a chunk and dip it in the za’atar—or dunk it first in a little dish of olive oil.