The ratio of the water to flour is critical for bread baking. Slight changes in the ratio can impart a different texture to the final products. I have been baking bagels every weekend, some times twice a day, for past few weeks to find out the best flour and water ratio. Bagel dough is drier than regular bread. Not enough water makes the bagels too dry, and too much water gives them the texture of regular bread. After trial and error, I think I found the perfect ratio for the bagels. The raising time matters, too. Bagels do not require the first rise. The second rise could be somewhere between 15 ~ 40 minutes. The shorter the rising time is, the harder the bagels get. I personally prefer 20~25 minutes. And last but not least, the way you shape the bagel is reflected in the
final texture too.
There are tons of bagel recipes on the internet. Surprisingly, most recipes calls for a measuring cup to measure flour. If you are inexperienced baker like me, and cannot tell the right texture of the bagel dough (as I said, bagel dough is tougher than regular bread dough), I highly recommend using a scale. You could easily over-pack or under-pack the flour in a measuring cup, and the dough will be too dry or too wet.
Finally, using an egg wash is totally optional. Bagels applied with an egg wash are shiner than the ones without, but there is no difference in taste. If you are using sesame seeds or poppy seeds, I recommend using it: the seeds attach to the bagels better.