To make the sponge, combine the ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer and mix with a spoon till the ingredients are combined. Set aside at room temperature for 4 -12 hours. Do this before going to bed if you want fresh bagels in the morning.
Add salt, honey, malt syrup, and flour to the sponge, the flour last. Attach dough hooks to your mixer and mix at low speed for 8-10 minutes. This is a stiff, bucky dough so don’t walk away from the mixer if it has a tendency to walk across your counter top.
Once the dough is mixed remove it to your counter and cover with a cloth to let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a baking stone in the oven.
Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Round each piece and set aside to rest for a few more minutes, covered.
To shape take each ball of dough and flatten out slightly using the palm of the hand, making a disc approximately 3.5 inches wide. Make a hole in each using your thumb and place back on the counter, covered, to rise.
Bring your water (in a wok or large pot) to a simmer, then add the baking soda.
After 10 minutes flip each bagel over so the bottom is now facing up. When this side begins to get slightly puffy and rounded it is time to boil. This may take as little as 5 minutes, but depending on the temperature of your kitchen, how cold your countertop is, etc., it might take longer. When the bagel looks and feels a bit puffy, it’s ready to boil.
Drop the bagels 3-4 at a time into the simmering water (depending on how large your pot is). They should float immediately or within a few seconds. Let them simmer for one minute, then flip them over using a chopstick or spoon and let the other side simmer for one minute. Remove from the water using a skimmer or large spoon and place on a clean tea towel.
Sprinkle them with sesame, poppy seeds, salt or whatever you prefer immediately after removing them from the water, and place on parchment paper.
Slide parchment paper onto baking stone and bake for 12-13 minutes or until golden brown.