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What Are Bagels?
Bagels are dense, ring-shaped breads made from a yeasted, enriched dough that is briefly boiled, then baked, to achieve a chewy texture and shiny crust. The name bagel comes from the Yiddish word beygel, which in turn comes from the Middle High German böugel, meaning ring or bracelet. The exact origins of the bagel are unknown, but it first appeared in central Europe (some say Poland in the late seventeenth century) and was brought to the US by European Jewish immigrants in the late nineteenth century.
What Kind of Flour Do You Need for Making Bagels?
Professional bakers use special high-protein flour to make bagels, but you can use unbleached bread flour—which is higher in gluten than all-purpose flour—to make bagels at home. If you can find high-gluten flour (King Arthur Flour makes it under the name Sir Lancelot), use that.
How to Shape Bagels
Once you’ve rolled your bagel dough into a loose ball, there are two main methods for shaping bagels:
- Poke a hole through the center of the dough ball. Hold the ball with both thumbs inside the hole and rotate to gently stretch until the whole is roughly two inches in diameter.
- On a clean, un-floured work surface, roll the ball into slightly tapered 8 to 11-inch logs, then moisten the ends. Hold one end in your palm and bring the dough around your hand to meet, overlapping by about 1½ to 2 inches. Close your hand to squeeze together the overlapping ends, then press the seam into your work surface and roll back and forth a few times. Take the dough off your hand, squeezing to even out thickness, if needed.
4 Tips for Making Bagels at Home
- To get an extra-shiny crust, brush bagels with egg wash just before baking, and/or add sugar to the boiling water.
- Boiling is important to form the shape of the bagel, preventing it from rising too high and closing the hole in the center, but you don’t need to boil for very long—about 60 seconds should be enough.
- You can use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment to make mixing and kneading easier. Use the lowest speed, and make sure to knead by hand for the last three minutes before proofing.
- Barley malt syrup gives bagels their distinctive sweetness, but if you don’t have it you can substitute honey, or use one teaspoon diastatic malt powder per tablespoon of barley malt syrup.
12 Bagel Flavor Varieties
- Everything: Brush bagels with a mixture of one egg white and one tablespoon water, then sprinkle with poppy seeds, dried onion flakes, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, coarse salt, and garlic flakes.
- Sesame Seed: Brush bagels with a mixture of one egg white and one tablespoon water, then sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Cinnamon Raisin: Combine flour with ½ teaspoon cinnamon before mixing. Add eight ounces raisins at the end of mixing, before you knead the dough for the final time. Brush finished bagels with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
- Asiago Cheese: Add six ounces grated asiago cheese during the final kneading. Sprinkle boiled bagels with two more ounces grated asiago cheese just before baking.
- Garlic: Soak dehydrated garlic flakes in water at least an hour before you plan to bake. Brush bagels with a mixture of one egg white and one tablespoon water, then sprinkle with garlic.
- Onion: Soak dehydrated onion flakes in water at least an hour before you plan to bake. Brush bagels with a mixture of one egg white and one tablespoon water, then sprinkle with onion.
- Caraway: Brush bagels with a mixture of one egg white and one tablespoon water, then sprinkle with caraway seeds.
- Whole Wheat: Replace some, or all, of the bread flour with whole wheat flour, increasing the amount of water used by one tablespoon for every 2 ounces of whole-grain flour.
- Poppy Seed: Brush bagels with a mixture of one egg white and one tablespoon water, then sprinkle with poppy seeds.
- Salt: Brush bagels with a mixture of one egg white and one tablespoon water, then sprinkle with a little coarse salt.
- Pumpernickel: Replace some or all of the bread flour with whole grain rye (pumpernickel) flour, increasing the amount of water used by one tablespoon for every 2 ounces of rye flour.
- Montreal: Montreal bagel dough includes sugar, eggs, and honey, and is boiled in a water bath with a larger amount of barley malt syrup or honey than New York–style bagels.
9 Bagel Fillings
- Cream cheese and lox
- Cream cheese and jam
- Bacon, egg, and cheddar cheese
- Smoked salmon cream cheese
- Scallion cream cheese
- Avocado, lox, thinly sliced red onion, capers, and fresh dill
- Goat cheese and tomato
- Hummus, cucumber, sprouts, and tomato
- Avocado, arugula, and sunny-side up egg
Easy Homemade Bagel Recipe
Prep Time15 min
Total Time3 hr 15 min
For the dough:
- 1 tablespoon barley malt syrup (or honey or brown sugar)
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast or active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1½ cups lukewarm (80–95°F) water
- 4 cups unbleached bread flour or high-protein flour
- Neutral oil, as needed
For the poaching liquid:
- 2–3 quarts water
- 2 tablespoons barley malt syrup (or honey or brown sugar)
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
*Prep time includes a 12 hour rest time
- Make the dough: Stir the malt syrup, yeast, and salt into the lukewarm water. In a large bowl, combine flour and malt syrup mixture. Stir until fully blended and forms a stiff ball, about 3 minutes. If flour isn’t fully hydrated, add a little more water. Rest the dough for 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead until dough is stiff but workable, about 3 minutes. If the dough feels too sticky, add a little more flour. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Shape bagels: Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly oil. Divide dough into 6–8 equal pieces of dough about 4 ounces each. Working on a clean, un-floured surface, cup your hand to roll each chunk of dough on a into a loose ball.
- Shape bagels: Either poke a hole through the center of the ball and hold the ball with both thumbs inside the hole, then rotate to gently stretch until the whole is roughly two inches in diameter; or roll the ball into a slightly tapered 8- to 11-inch log, then moisten the ends. Hold one end in your palm and bring the dough around your hand to meet, overlapping by about 2 inches. Close your hand to squeeze together the overlapping ends, then press the seam into your work surface and roll back and forth a few times. Take the dough off your hand, squeezing to even out thickness, if needed.
- Transfer shaped bagels to parchment-lined sheet pan and lightly brush with oil. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, 12 hours, or up to 2 days.
- Remove bagels from fridge 60–90 minutes before baking. Heat the oven to 500°F. Check if bagels are ready by placing one in a bowl of cold water. If it floats, your bagels are ready to go. If it sinks, shake it off and let rest another 15–20 minutes, then test again.
- Prepare the poaching liquid: Fill a large pot with 3–4 inches water (2–3 quarts). Cover and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Stir in malt syrup, baking soda, and salt.
- Working in two or three batches, use a slotted spoon to gently lower as many bagels into the pot as you can fit comfortably. After 15 seconds, bagels should float to the surface. Flip and continue to poach until puffed, about 30-60 seconds, then transfer back to the lightly oiled sheet pan, flat side down. Once all the bagels have been boiled, transfer the pan to the oven and immediately lower the heat to 450°F.
- Bake 8 minutes, then check the bottoms of the bagels: If they look like they’re getting too dark, place another pan underneath the baking sheet to insulate. Rotate the bagel pan and continue to bake until golden brown, about 7–12 more minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
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