Add sugar and yeast to 1/2 cup warm water, without stirring. Let sit for five minutes, then stir until dissolved.
Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and our in the yeast mixture along with half the remaining water. Begin to mix, adding more water as needed to form a firm dough.
On a floured counter, knead for 20 minutes (I know its a long time, consider it your arm workout for the day). Cover and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled. Punch down and let sit another 10 minutes.
Divide dough into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. To form the bagel, dip your pointer finger into some flour and poke it through the middle of the ball to form a rind. Stretch it out so that the hole is about 1/3rd the diameter of the bagel. Continue with remaining pieces. Set on a cookie sheet, cover, and let sit for another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the baking soda to a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. Working in batches, add about 3 bagels to the boiling water. They should float to the top almost immediately. Let boil 2 minutes, then flip over and let boil 3 minutes on the other side. Remove and return to cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining bagels.
While the bagels are boiling, combine the egg yolk with 2 Tbs water. Brush over the bagel as you remove them from the pot. Sprinkle with any toppings that you desire (ex: coarse sea salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dehydrated garlic, etc).
Heat oven to 450. Bake bagels for 10-15 minutes or until the bagels are a light golden color.