Well, we wrote a whole opus on how not to shape a bagel, but then we lost the whole story in one of those cringe-inducing moments when you click a button you really didn't want to click. All we can do is breathe, and give you this Cliff Notes version.
Basically, there are lots of folks who think they know how to make a bagel, and the vast majority are running up the wrong bagel tree. The most common hair-brained way to make a bagel? Take a ball of dough and poke a hole in it. You can see a prime example below.
You can get away with it, but really, you'll never see a real bagel baker doing this. And that's for two reasons. One, it would be a nightmare poking your thumb through thousands of bagels. Two, you don't get the tightness of the dough that you want to make a nicely risen and relatively uniform bagel.
That method has also evolved into the hulahoop method. It's similar in that you poke your index finger through the middle of the dough, then twirl the dough around your finger like a gyroscope. It reminds me of the guys in NY who throw up their pizza dough in a tailspin. It's just as showy, and equally unnecessary.
Of course, the easiest way to make a bagel is by using a bagel machine. In fact, 99.5 percent of the bagels that you have ever had have been made this way. It's been that way ever since they hit the market in the 1960s, and put most bagel hand-rollers out of business. It's fast, easy and consistent. Here's good look at how the cutter/divider works before sending each sausage-roll-shaped piece of dough onto a belt that curves around a steel mandrel, rolling the bagels around it until the ends come together. It's an impressive piece of gear:
But that's not how we do it at Brooklyn Boy Bagels. We hand-roll, and in the same traditional style as the Jewish bakers who made them in Krakow, and later transported their trade to New York. It's why NYC is still the bagel capital of the world (unless you're from Montreal, but that's another story).
The proper way to make a bagel is to cut the dough into a long snake, and then roll one end of it over your hand, and break it off the snake using your thumb. This guy below is the bagel version of Michael Jordan. He is more than twice as fast as our quickest hand-roller, so we've got our work cut out for us before we can join the All-Star bagel team. But a bagel this way is how you make a pure artisan bagel, and gives you unique results that still can't be replicated by a bagel machine.
Mind you, with the high cost of labour in Australia, we can see the temptation of using a bagel machine, and we'll certainly get one to make our mini bagels (besides, it's better than child labour to make those teeny holes). And whether we ever mechanise what we do, we're proud to currently be using a traditional artisan technique that has seldom been performed in Australia. It's a more expensive way to make a bagel, but we love the fact that our bagels are like children: we love them all, and no two look alike.