Homemade Bagels

By • July 11, 2013 • 33 Comments

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Author Notes: The only thing you can do to mess up making your own bagels is to make them, say, square.

This is a promise -- the secret to good bagels is that there really is no secret, other than you don't have to be anywhere near New York City to have perfectly chewy, fresh bagels for breakfast this Sunday morning.


More things that aren't true: that it's the New York water that makes them what they are, that you'll kill the dough by squeezing, forcing it into a bagel shape, that they're too high-maintenance and you'll go running (screaming) back to the grocery store standard.

Please don't do that. If you've ever mixed and kneaded any other dough, this will be cake. Let's do it together.

Note: This recipe is adapted from one by the bread man himself, Peter Reinhart. (Why mess with a good thing?) I use all-purpose flour, but you can swap any amount of it with whole grain flour (like rye or wheat) for a different flavor. Reinhart also uses barley malt syrup, as do most serious bagel people, but honey works just as well.
Kenzi Wilbur

Makes 6 to 8

  • 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) unbleached flour (see note above)
  • 3 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey (see note above)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons room-temp or slightly warm water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg white, optional
  • Seeds!
  1. Mix the flour, 2 teaspoons of the salt, the yeast, honey, and the water until everything begins to form into dough. You can use a mixer if you like, but it's simpler by hand. It'll be a stiff dough, as there's not much water, but this makes it sturdy enough to withstand a dunk in boiling water later. Feel free to add a bit more water if necessary, but you shouldn't need much.
  2. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes while you find a place in your tiny apartment on which to knead.
  3. Knead on a floured surface for about 3 minutes -- the dough will get smooth, a little tacky.
  4. Now put your lovely little dough ball into an oiled boil, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it hang in the fridge for a few hours, or at least an hour. (I've left it for both 45 minutes and 4 hours, and both batches turned out fine.)
  5. When you're ready to shape the bagels, line a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper. Then remove the dough from the fridge, and cut it into 6 or 8 pieces, depending on how large or small you'd like your bagels to be. (I find that 6 pieces yields my kind of bagel: not puny.) Form each piece into a ball, and then each ball into a 10-inch log, with tapered ends. (Don't use any flour on your surface! You'll need the dough to stick just slightly in order for it to change shape.)
  6. To shape the bagels, place one end of one dough log in between your thumb and forefinger, and then wrap it around the rest of your fingers -- the dough ends should overlap by an inch or two -- and squeeze it slightly to bind it together. Once you do this, you can also roll the ends together on a surface to enhance the seal. Extra security is never a bad thing.
  7. Repeat for all of the bagels, then lightly oil them and cover with plastic wrap. Put them in the fridge to proof overnight. Invite guests over for brunch.
  8. About an hour an a half before you want to bake them, pull the bagels out of the fridge to come to room temperature, and fill a large pot (I use a Dutch oven) to at least 4 inches deep. Cover and bring it to a boil. When it boils, add 1 teaspoon of salt and the baking soda, then turn it down to a simmer.
  9. Crank the oven to 500° F.
  10. Now test the bagels by using the float test: fill a bowl with cold water, and place one bagel in it. If it floats, they're all ready to go. If not, you haven't failed: just return it to the baking sheet and let proof for 15 to 20 minutes more, then do the test again.
  11. Working in batches that will fit in your pot, carefully drop each bagel into the simmering water, let poach for 1 minute, and flip with a slotted spoon or a spider. Poach 30 seconds more, and then return each bagel to the baking sheet.
  12. And, the fun part: sprinkle your bagels with whatever topping you want. To help your toppings stick, use an egg white wash, but the residual water from the poach should do the trick, too. Seeds are great, as is big flake or rock salt.
  13. You're so close: slip them in the oven and reduce the heat to 450° F. Bake for 8 minutes, rotate the sheet, and bake 8 to 12 minutes more, until the bagels are golden brown. Feel free to check the bottom of the bagels as they cook -- if they're getting too brown, just stick another baking sheet underneath them (a baking stone works, too).
  14. Pull them from the oven, and wait an excruciating 30 minutes before you eat them.
Jump to Comments (33)

Comments (33) Questions (0)

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15 days ago Shannon Roberts

I too would like to know why AP & not Bread Flour. Please can you tell us why this is. also if we want to use the barley malt syrup do we use the same amount as the honey in the recipe above?

Stringio

15 days ago Shannon Roberts

I wanted to know why A.P. Flour and not Bread Flour? Is the higher gluten of the bread flour a problem in making these?

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2 months ago Franziska

Just made these again ... they turn out superb every single time. My favourite recipe on Food52 - or should I say Sustenance52 ;). Thanks Kenzi!

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5 months ago Dan Bilen

I made these, and the bagels came out great taste wise, but the skin of the bagels did not come out smooth and crackly the way only a classic New York style bagel can. Any tips on how to achieve that texture? My bagels came out rather bumpy. More kneading?

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6 months ago Jenny Ly

I made these and accidentally added the baking soda in with the dough mixture but the bagels turned out fine still! The only thing is I would skip adding salt to the poaching or lessen it to maybe 1/4 teaspoon because it made my bagels way too salty! Otherwise, awesome recipe, can't wait to try making cinnamon raisin bagels and maybe even a rose cranberry bagel :)

Afterlight

7 months ago Joy Belamarich

This is the third weekend in a row that I am making these. They are saving my life, now that I'm not 3 blocks from Absolute Bagels. *Bows down*

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7 months ago Mae

I'm going to try this in a few days! I know you said you can swap any amount of all purpose flour for whole wheat flour, but do you think it would work with all whole wheat? I haven't quiet gotten the hang of bread making with whole wheat flour. Thanks so much for sharing this!

Me

7 months ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

If you've never made bagels (or a lot of whole wheat bread) before, I might start with just a portion of whole wheat, since it typically absorbs more moisture than all-purpose and may change the character of the dough. Once you get comfortable with what the dough should look and feel like, you can play more!

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8 months ago Rebecca Robles

How would you add cinnamon and raisins? Thanks!

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8 months ago GraceT

Well, depending on how much of a cinnamon taste you want, add 2-3 tablespoons cinnamon in step 1 above. I'd also add 1 cup raisins, either golden or dark (make sure they are fresh) at the same time. After making them once like this you can then adjust the cinnamon and raisins up or down to your own taste.

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8 months ago Rebecca Robles

Thank you! Can't wait to try this with your suggestion soon.

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8 months ago Gourmel

Made these over the weekend. Mine turned out very dense and heavy. Any ideas why that happened?

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8 months ago GraceT

Generally, when a bread turns out too dense and heavy it is because it has been overworked and too much flour used. You don't say how familiar you are with bread making, but this is easy to do as a beginner. Next time try using a little less flour (bread making, unlike cake making, is not an exact science) and when you turn it out to knead, use less flour on your board and knead it for 2 min. (set a timer for this) and see how it feels when the timer goes off. It should still be a little rough and tacky and you will need just a little more work to get it smooth. If the dough sticks to the board, sprinkle a little more flour down on the board. This should cure your problem of heavy, dense bagels.

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8 months ago Gourmel

Thanks Grace! I'm definitely a beginner and didn't even add flour when turning it out to knead as it was already very crumbly (maybe that should've been my first clue). Will try for less next time.

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9 months ago msaleigh

I love N.Y bagels! Can't wait to try this! but what is an oiled boil??? It sounds like from one post that you put the dough in a bowl of warm water 115-120 degrees then put in the fridge. please help. thank you.

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9 months ago GraceT

It sounds like you have your steps combined somehow. The yeast needs a liquid, in this case water, between 115-120 degrees to activate and grow. The dough, once made, is put in an oiled or greased bowl (the recipe does say boil, that is a typo) that you cover and then place in the fridge. Hope this helps clarify things.

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10 months ago Kari2011

I made pumpernickel bagels this morning (substituted 1/3 cup of King Arthur's pumpernickel artisan bread flavor). Very tasty. They rose well, but the water bath seemed to flatten them. Any idea why?

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about 1 year ago Ashley

I used this recipe and I hardly ever bake. They came out awesome! I sprinkled rosemary and sesame seeds on mine. Mine didn't really rise too much while they were in the fridge either, but they did perfectly after putting them in the oven.

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about 1 year ago Oli

At what point do they rise? I just did the overnight step and mine haven't risen at all! Also, my seams didn't really stay sealed. What do we think went wrong?

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about 1 year ago GraceT

It should have started rising in step 4 when you put it in the frig the first time. Possibly (probably) your water wasn't warm enough. It should be 114-120F, the temp you would make baby formula. When you make the bagels, go ahead and pinch the dough together firmly then work it a little to hide the pinched area.

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over 1 year ago paula

Thanks so much for posting this recipe. I tried it this morning and it was delicious and very easy! I thought making bagels was so difficult and thanks to you and this recipe there will be many more bagels made from scratch in this home.

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over 1 year ago GraceT

I would love to make some egg bagels but don't know how many eggs and what other changes I would need to make Any suggestions?

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over 1 year ago Stitty

I would love to try this, but how exactly do you knead the dough? What does that even mean? Whenever I've tried to knead doughs in the past, I just end up ruining the dough.

Me

over 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

Try watching this: http://www.thekitchn.com.... And if you try them, let me know how it goes!

Jillian

over 1 year ago jbban

This recipe is such a winner. It's a bit hectic the first few times with the boiling, topping, and baking, but my mum now churns them out like a pro. We like a smaller bagel (3-3.5oz.) in my house, so each batch yields closer to 16 bagels.

Me

over 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

Totally with you -- it has a lot of steps, but none of them are particularly hard. Once you get the hang of it, it's cake!

Mrs._larkin_370

over 1 year ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

yum! now we need to know how to make a Flagel!

Chris_in_oslo

over 1 year ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

Kenzie, when I was in college, a friend and I spent an entire year trying to develop a bagel recipe. The hardest part was the boiling step, which I see you've managed to avoid all together. After many, many failures, we developed a recipe that could give us a variety of bagels (not just toppings, flours too) in one batch. To celebrate, we made more than 50 for a gathering. And I doubt that either one of us has made a single bagel since!

Me

over 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

I do boil mine! See step 11. But now I want to know your recipe!

Chris_in_oslo

over 1 year ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

Whoops, how did I miss your boiling step? A full minute and a half sounds very brave to me, as we shortened ours several times. I'm almost sure I can find our recipe, 40 years old! If so, I'll send it on or post it for sure.

Me

over 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

Please do! I'd love to see it.

Chris_in_oslo

over 1 year ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

So I did find it! Turns out that we left the boiling time as "a few minutes." Some things are similar to yours, others not so much. Just for your amusement, kenzi, I put it up, http://food52.com/recipes.... Thanks for the memories, your bagels look absolutely beautiful.

Me

over 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

AH! I'm so happy you uploaded. Just took a look -- you're right. A few similarities, a few differences. I'm intrigued by both the sugar and the boiling. Maybe you should put it to the test once again? :)