Homemade Bagels

Maybe having the word “homemade” in the title of the post is redundant because most everything on my blog is, in fact, homemade.  However I felt it was necessary because making good bagels at home feels like a huge accomplishment to me.  I have wanted to try making bagels for a long time and have had many, many recipes saved to use as references, but I never committed and decided it was time.  Then my good friend Chelle told me she was planning on making bagels this week, so we decided to make these together as well.  I am so glad she gave me the motivation I needed to give these a shot because the results were fantastic!  These bagels have the perfect texture and are every bit as good as those I have bought from bakeries in the past.  What a wonderful treat to wake up to!

I should have known these would turn out well.  After all, this is my third Peter Reinhart recipe and the other two recipes were huge successes (cinnamon rolls and focaccia).  I must admit I was not very sure of myself during the dough-making process, as the dough was so stiff that my KitchenAid stand mixer just couldn’t handle the kneading.  I ended up kneading the dough by hand and it came out fine, and I actually really enjoyed the hand kneading, but it still made me nervous.  Also, the sponge did not collapse when the bowl was tapped (or banged) against the counter – it deflated slightly, but by no means collapsed.  It all turned out okay in the end though, so just go with your instincts and power through if you are unsure.  I left half of the bagels plain, but since my absolute favorite bagel from Panera is the “everything” bagel, I wanted to try to replicate that.  After looking at the ingredients on their website, I came up with a mix of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic salt and kosher salt to sprinkle on top.  It worked well and they taste very similar to the “everything” bagel.  I can’t wait to make these again and experiment with some other toppings like Asiago cheese, Ben’s favorite.  If you are like me and have been wanting to make your own bagels but just haven’t taken the leap yet, do it.  You will be very glad you did!


Yield: 12 large or 24 mini bagels

For the sponge:
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
4 cups (18 ounces) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 ½ cups (20 ounces) water, at room temperature

For the dough:
½ teaspoon (.055 ounces) instant yeast
3 ¾ cups (17 ounces) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 ¾ teaspoons (.7 ounce) salt
2 teaspoons (.33 ounce) malt powder OR 1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar

To finish:
1 tablespoon baking soda
cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, or chopped fresh onions that have been tossed in oil (optional)

1. To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl.  Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter).  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly.  It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.

2. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir.  Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining ¾ cup flour to stiffen the dough.

3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine).  The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth.  There should be no raw flour – all the ingredients should be hydrated.  The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees F.  If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading.  If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achiever the stiffness required.  The kneaded dough should feels satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

4. Immediately divide the dough into 4 ½ ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. Form the pieces into rolls.

5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

6. Line two sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil.  Proceed with shaping the bagels by pushing a hole through the center and stretching out the hole to 2 ½ inches in diameter.

7. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pan.  Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

8. Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”.  Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water.  The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water.  Take one bagel and test it.  If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days).  If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats.  The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

9. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500° F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda.  Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds).  After 1 minute flip them over and boil another minute.  If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side.  While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-line sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour.  (If you decided to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.)  If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water.  You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination.

11. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven.  Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation.  (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.)  After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450° F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown.  You may bake them darker if you prefer.

12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

Source: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, 10 Speed Press, 2001.

14 Responses

  1. These look great! I’d love to tackle bagels, as well. I agree they seem like such a huge accomplishment. Yours look delicious.

  2. These look great! I like the various flavors you made too 🙂

  3. Wow, how incredible do these look! You did an awesome job. I can’t wait to try this recipe, I have been eying it for a while now.

  4. Pretty little bagels, all in a row 🙂 I love your photo! We love these as well, I’m so glad we made them! (And I’m glad our KA’s survived ;-))

  5. Isn’t this a great recipe? I made these not too long ago but just haven’t posted it on my blog yet. I love the variety of bagels you made. My KA mixer wasn’t too happy with me either after I made them!

  6. You did a fantastic job on the bagels. I’ve never tried to make them – always thought it was just daunting to think about it and get reduced to going to the local bagel shop (which is excellent). I could really go fo a bagel and cream cheese, throw in a little smoked salmon and we have a party.

  7. Making homemade bagels is definitely an accomplishment! And your work paid off – they’re gorgeous.

  8. I sort of hate you a little bit for getting back into the kitchen so fast with a newborn in the house! How do you do it? You must be Superwoman. The bagels look amazing! (And I don’t really hate you — I’m just jealous.)

  9. Those look AWESOME!! I would love to attempt bagels someday!

  10. bagels?! i’m so impressed.

  11. These look AMAZING! I’ve been wanting to make bagels for a while now and I think your AWESOME pics have totally motivated me!

  12. Thanks for the post

  13. […] Bagels (via Annie’s Eats) […]

  14. These are simply the best bagels ever!!!

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