In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water. Stir and allow to sit until frothy, 5-10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Mix in the frothy yeast and malt syrup. Slowly add the remaining water to form a dough.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Transfer to a greased large bowl, turning to coat, and cover. Allow to rest in a warm place until doubled, 1-2 hours.
Line two baking sheets with parchment or grease. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Form one piece into a smooth ball, tucking the edges under and pinching to seal. Poke a hole in the center and evenly stretch until the hole is about 1 inch wide. Place on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining pieces. Cover lightly with towels and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the baking soda and malt syrup. Gently add the bagels to the water in batches (I boiled 2 at a time) and boil for 1-2 minutes, then flip and boil the other side for another 1-2 minutes. Use a large slotted spoon or spatula to transfer the bagels to the baking sheet and immediately add desired toppings. Repeat with remaining bagels, separating them about 2 inches on the baking sheets.
Bake in preheated oven until golden, 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature before slicing and serving with desired accompaniments.