These bagels have a hearty yeast flavor that’s enhanced by the potato water. They are delicious with honey and butter as well as with the more traditional cream cheese.
Make a sponge by combining yeast, ½ cup of the warm potato water, and ½ cup flour to make a fairly thick batter that you can still stir. Place the mixture in a warm place and let sit for at least 2 hours until light and bubbly. In a food processor or large bowl, combine the sponge, the remaining 1 cup potato water, salt, and enough of the remaining flour to make a very stiff dough. Knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until almost double. Punch down, roll dough into a sausage, and cut it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and let rest, covered, for about 10 minutes. Form into doughnut shapes by poking your finger through the center of each ball. Place bagels on a greased baking sheet, cover with a dry towel, and let rise for 20 minutes in a warm place. Bring about a gallon of water to a boil in a large, shallow pot and drop about 4 bagels at a time into the water. Boil for about 5 minutes, turning once gently Remove with a slotted spoon, and place again on baking sheet. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired (if the seeds resist sticking, brush bagel tops with a whole-egg wash). Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Split, toast, and spread with cream cheese or your favorite topping. Bagels not eaten the first day should be frozen for later use (split bagels before freezing so they’ll be ready to eat all the sooner).