1) Start by combining all your sponge ingredients in a large bowl. Cover this loosely and let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
2) Meanwhile get all your final dough ingredients ready. If you don’t want to do cinnamon raisin, just get rid of the cinnamon and raisins obviously. Also, cut out the sugar and reduce the yeast to 1/2 Teaspoon.
3) Assuming you are doing cinnamon raisin, be sure to wash your raisins to remove any dirt or natural yeast that’s on them. Just pat them dry afterward.
4) After two hours, sponge should be bubbly. Then add all dough ingredients except the flour and finally stir in your flour until the dough forms a ball.
5) Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes. It’s kind of weird to knead dough with a bunch of raisins spotted throughout, but it works just fine. Eventually it should pass the windowpane test.
6) Once your dough passes the windowpane test, immediately start forming your bagels. Cut your dough into about 12 or 13 even pieces. If you have a digital scale this is super easy. Just weigh your entire dough ball, divide by 12 or 13 and see what you get. Then you can weigh out each tiny ball for evenly sized bagels. Each one of my bagels was a bit over 5 ounces of dough.
7) Let balls of dough rest for about 20 minutes just so they relax a bit. Grab a ball and gently press down in the direct center of it with your thumb. Eventually it will poke through. Then slowly work the side of the bagel out, making the hole bigger, until the hole is about 1-2 inches in diameter. The goal is for the bagel to be perfectly even all the way around.
8) Set each bagel on a parchment lined baking sheet when you’re done forming it. Let the bagels rise again for about 30 minutes. Let them sit in the fridge overnight to develop more flavor (opt.).
9) Put a large pot of water on and once it is slowly boiling add 1 Tablespoon of baking soda for approximately every gallon of water.
10) Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
11) Boil bagels a few at a time for 1 minute per side. Move them straight to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. If you were topping them with something, now would be the time!
12) Bake them for 5 minutes at 500, then rotate your sheet pans and bake them for another 5 minutes at 450. You can bake them a bit longer if you like them darker.
13) Move them onto a rack to cool right away and let them cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting them open and eating!
14) These are obviously great straight out of the oven, but they lose very little in quality if you freeze them correctly. Just make sure they are cooled completely and then store them in a sealed plastic bag. To de-thaw them, set the bagel in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes and then slice it and toast it as you would normally.