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Making your own bagels?

  • m

Has anyone ever tried this? I recently found a recipe in Cooking Light magazine and it seemed pretty straight forward. I couldn't find the recipe online, but it was basically kneading a dough, briefly poaching the bagel for a minute in a beer/water/sugar mixture then baking them the rest of the way to cook through.

The recipe was for plain bagels (well, with poppy seeds or sesame seeds on top), but I was wondering if I would be able to alter the recipe from the get go in order to make onion bagels. My gut is telling me to try the recipe as-is before making changes.

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  1. I've never made bagels but I would approach it like most other things and experiment with just a few from the first batch and then learn from the result.

    1. I have made bagels before, it is blast to do. I don't think I have made them from scratch since college. Hmmm-could be fun to do with my 4 yo!

      One word of advice: make sure to shape them smaller than the size you want at the end. The expand and puff up in the water and if you are not careful you have a scene right out of woody allen movie. (Yes I speak from experience)

      I have started by making plain dough, boiling and then rolling them in different flavors (sesame seeds, chopped onions, poppy seed, salt etc. I then graduated to flavored doughs (onion, pumpernickel, etc). Have fun!

      2 Replies
      1. re: foodiex2

        If I wanted to make this basic dough recipe flavored, could I just add some sauteed onions to the mix (maybe compensate with a touch more flour) and follow the other directions as written, or is it more complicated than that? Would adding onions before the dough rises cause any issues?

        I have never even made bread with yeast, the closest I have come is pizza dough, so this is a big step for me.

        1. re: mels

          My favorite bagel was caramalized onion. I added them at the very start the proccess. IIRC I added them to yeast/water mixture along with salt and pepper to taste and the slowly added the flour. Just proceed as usual. Be sure to let us know how they come out! ;)

      2. You must have a go - this was one of the most fun sessions I have ever attended as a cooking school class. In fact, I'm posting the recipe we worked from here, just in case you want another one to try. The recipes in many cookbooks and bread baking books are often so much more complicated and often involve working with the dough over a two-day period. We made bagels in a three-hour session and they were the best bagels I have ever had.

        When you get to the bottom of the recipe, you'll see there is no cooking time: it's really best to use your senses to gage when the bagels are done, especially since, as with other dough-related recipes, the bagels will turn out differently and in a different amount of time depending on the weather outside and of course, your kitchen environment. Enjoy!!


        1 1/2 Cups of warm water
        2 1/4 Tablespoon dry yeast
        3 1/2 Tablespoon of sugar
        1/2 Tablespoon of salt
        2 1/2 Cups of bread flour

        Yields 10 bagels

        1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a metal bowl let stand for 5 minutes.
        2. Add sugar to yeast mixture.
        3. Add bread flour and salt to wet ingredients.
        4. Stir till dough comes together.
        5. Knead until smooth.
        6. Bring large pot of water to a boil and add 2 Tablespoons of sugar to the water.
        7. Divide dough into 4 oz. pieces, roll each piece into a 12 inch rope. Wet ends and fuse to form a ring.
        8. Proof for 10 minutes.
        9. Drop bagel into a pitcher of warm water to determine readiness.
        10. Poach bagels in simmering water for 30 seconds, remove from water and bake in a 400 hundred degree oven.

        ** For poppy, sesame, salt bagels. Dip bagels after poaching into poppy seed, sesame seeds or coarse salt.
        ** For Garlic or onions bagels sauteed onion or garlic for 4 minutes.
        5 minutes before bagels are done remove from oven, brush top with egg white wash and sprinke sauteed garlic or onions.
        Return to oven to finish baking.
        ** For everything bagels same as garlic & onion, sprinkle poppy and sesame and corse salt.

        Link: http://www.tartingitup.com

        1. If you can find a recipe using malt rather than sugar, you will have a better bagel. Malt does not fuel the yeast as much (or as quickly) as sugar, and so you get a denser and less bread-like texture, more like genuine bagels than the large, airier things that pass for them these days.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Karl S.

            Also, IIRC, baking soda in the proofing water helps with the crust. The link has a version of this.

            Link: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/33

            1. re: Karl S.

              I have been obsessed with making bagels for the past year and use a recipe very similar to the link ( I have the cookbook with the original but don't remeber the reference.) The malt syrup makes a subtle but real difference. I also weigh the ingredients rather than measure ( per my recipe). Also, I add gluten to bread flour to approach the high gluten flour used commercially. I hand knead and the dough should be quite stiff, otherwise one winds up with flat rather than "bagelly" shaped bagels. I have tried many other recipes...although many taste good this is the only one that truly approaches NY bagels...chewy with a crust.

              1. re: Karl S.

                Yes, I find the baking soda thing makes better bagels. Though be careful to use a non-reactive pan for the water.

            2. I made cinnamon raisin bagels from a recipe in the bread baker's apprentice. It was fun (probably more of the two day variety recipe), but I'll admit, I haven't repeated the experiment. I'm not the bagel snob that some are (not said with any derision, I'm a snob about other things), so am able to find acceptable bagels for purchase that involve far less work.

              However, I definitely thought it was fun to do, and would recommend you try it.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Smokey

                Oy weh! Not another bagel spoiler! My people didn't have time to put fruit in bagels when they were escaping across the Red Sea from the Egyptians. They had to use the plain bagels as ammunition against Pharaoh's murderous horde.

                Fruit in a bagels is a diabolical invention of the goyim.

                1. re: ChiliDude

                  Yeah? Well they didn't have large vats to boil them in and ovens to cook them in either.
                  Actually, weren't bagels invented in Poland in the 1600's?

                  1. re: ChiliDude

                    giggle snort, giggle snort!

                    Alright already, I know, it's not the traditional. Nonetheless, you didn't read me write, 'chocolate chip bagel' did you?!

                2. You can use chopsticks for quick flipping of the bagels in the boiling water to get both sides evenly boiled.

                  1. If you haven't grown up in the NYC area with a certain bagel ideal in mind, then any of the recipes out there for donut-shaped bread will probably strike you as being enjoyable to make and eat.

                    But if you're trying to make something of gastronomic interest and/or authenticity, then you might find it worthwhile to track down a recipe that uses high-gluten flour (easily obtainable from the King Arthur Flour Company's website), malt, a relatively small amount of yeast, and a long rising time (at least overnight in the fridge).

                    The H-G flour gives it the characteristic chewy texture. The long rise gives the dough complexity (and prevents it from tasting like a yeast bomb). Malt is a traditional flavoring and helps browning.

                    The recipes in the Reinhardt books (Bread Baker's Apprentice/Crust and Crumb) are the best I've found so far.

                    Link: http://tomness.blogspot.com

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Tom Meg

                      People who grew up on the Southside of Chicago also know from concrete donuts as we used to call them. I have to agree with one the previous replies that today's bagel chains are baking soft rolls that are not traditional or pleasing to the palate.

                      The bagel may have originated in Poland where Jewish people were not allowed citizenship. That's why a Jewish person born in Poland or descendants of such claim to be Hebraic when asked their national origin.

                      BTW, I can't fathom cream cheese and lox on a chocolate chip bagel. BLECH!

                    2. Thank you for your reply!

                      1. Baking your own bagels is a lengthy and ardous task. I visited the fabrication area of a great Bagel bakery in NY, and was amazed at the amount of time and skill it took.

                        The best bagels are boiled in a mild lye solution before baking. Wouldn't want to try that at home.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Fleur

                          Lye = base (as opposed to acid).
                          baking soda = base
                          Therefore, adding baking soda to the water for boiling is essentially the same as using a mild lye solution.
                          That's what too many years of taking chemistry does to you!
                          Anyway, I've made the bagels from the book Secrets of a Jewish Baker (I think that was the title, it won a James Beard award about 12 years ago?) and they came out very good. Lots of other great bread recipes in that book, too.

                        2. I made bagels years ago, from a pretty simple recipe that I found in a bread cookbook, long since lost in some book purge. It was really fun! I highly recommend you try it.

                          My recipe specified forming the bagels by making a ball of dough and making a hole through it with your thumb, and then working it a little to smooth out the edge (rather than making little ropes and forming them into rings.) Since most bagels I buy don't show any kind of a seam, I think this technique may have something going for it.

                          1. I made bagels using Nancy Silverton's recipe from La Brea Bread cookbook with very good results. It uses both malt syrup and powdered milk, and implores you to BRIEFLY boil the bagels before baking them to avoid the over-blown, fluffy bagels we get at Nxxx's.
                            It was fun and rewarding, may have to do it again soon.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: rabaja

                              Ditto the Nancy Silverton bagel recipe! A great one. Saveur mag also had a good recipe about I can't remember how many years ago.....6?

                              It's really fun to make bagels and everybody should do it at least once.

                              As we say here in Oakland (wasteland of bagels as is the rest of the SF BayArea after growing up in L.A.)....Nxxx's makes pretty good bread but THEY'RE NOT BAGELS!

                              1. re: oakjoan

                                The Saveur recipe is our tried and true -- my husband and I make bagels using this recipe 2-3 times a month. They have such a great crust and chew that even my relatives from NYC can't believe they're homemade. I can't recommend it highly enough. The procedure is pretty simple, but you do need a stand mixer and a tile for your oven. I'll try to post a version of it later.

                                1. re: TerriL

                                  OK, here's the recipe:


                                  1 ½ t active dry yeast
                                  3 T barley malt syrup
                                  4 t wheat gluten
                                  4 cups all-purpose flour
                                  1 T kosher salt
                                  3 T cornmeal

                                  Mix together yeast, 2 T barley malt syrup, and 1 ½ cups lukewarm water (about 80°) in the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook. Meanwhile, sift together gluten, flour and salt into a bowl. Sift twice more, then add flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, to yeast mixture, beating at the lowest speed until you’ve added all the flour and the dough is rough-looking and just barely holding together, about 4 minutes. Increase speed to medium-slow and mix until dough forms a smooth, stiff ball, 8 – 10 minutes.

                                  Put dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into 8 equal pieces (about 4 oz. each), then roll into smooth balls. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 5 minutes.

                                  Shape each ball into an even 8"-10" rope. Form into bagels by overlapping the ends of each rope by about 1 ½”, dampening with a little water to hold the ends together (if necessary). Place on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet (I like to use coarse polenta), cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 10 hours (we always do this overnight).

                                  Preheat oven to 450°. Adjust oven rack fitted with baking stone to center position. Remove dough rings from refrigerator. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add remaining barley malt syrup, then drop rings, 3 or 4 at a time, into boiling water for 30 seconds. Turn over with a large skimmer and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove rings from water and drain, bottom side down, on a wire rack.

                                  Place boiled rings onto the baking stone in the oven and bake until deep golden brown and crisp, about 14 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.