Monday, June 7, 2010

Make your Own Bagels

I love bagels. I know that in the world of carb counting, calorie watching, and whole grain mania I should love those extra fiber super food breads. I've tried and tried but I can't deny my feelings any longer. I love chewy, bready bagels, toasted with butter or cream cheese. I suppose it comes from growing up in Rochester, NY where Jewish roots grow strong and deep. Rochesterians were dining on bagels long before the Bruggers Bagel chain showed up sometime in the  90's. For a long time local favorite and all time awesome grocery store, Wegman's, made their own bagels right in the store as well as many other local bakeries. 

Sadly, when Carl and I lived in San Diego there was not a decent bagel to be found anywhere in that town. Einstein Bagels did offer something that looked like a bagel but Carl declared them "a roll with a hole in the middle" after the first bite. We begged family flying in to see us to bring bagels. I know family was much happier when we moved back to NY so they wouldn't have to come off a plane smelling like an onion and garlic bagel!

So when friend Toni T was getting ready to head out west I decided to try my hand at making a real bagel. Something hearty, chewy and could handle a road trip without being messy. I turned to The Bread Book by Betsy Oppenneer one of two bread books I have on hand. 

Add your wet ingredients, salt  and yeast and mix vigorously until combined and nice and soupy. A word about yeast: I use rapid rise. You don't have to proof it and it cuts your proof (rise) times in half. If you using regular yeast proof it before adding to the wet ingredients.
Here is the nice and soupy mixture. Paddle attachment or low tech wooden spoon work equally well for this task.

Add 3 cups of flour and beat again. I used my paddle attachment for my mixer. You can use all purpose flour (I did) but you will have a much chewier texture if you use bread flour or a combination of all purpose and bread flour.
Keep adding flour to the mixture, about 1/4 C at a time, until the dough is smooth and elastic and has a bit of a "tacky" feel. If you're doing this by  hand it will take you about 10 minutes. That's why I have a giant mixer. It only takes about four minutes. 

Place your dough in an lightly oiled bowl with room for your lovely dough blob to grow. Turn your dough over so both sides are coated with the oil (it prevents sticking later on).  My bowl of choice is ceramic. I also cover it with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. I then preheat my oven to 350 and rest my dough on top of the oven. You want your dough to double in size. If using rapid rise yeast this should take about 30 minutes. 
OK, next your going to put your big dough ball on a lightly oiled surface and then divide it into 32 equal pieces. Each piece should fit into the palm of your hand, roughly. See my instructions below for more detail.

Roll each piece into a ball and then, with your finger make a hole in the middle and then stretch the hole to about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place on flat surface and cover with towel to rest the dough. (I had to re-stretch some as the holes started to close with the resting process). Night Night little bagels!
The great thing about making bread is you can give the kids extra dough and it keeps them very happy while you are busy making bagels.
After a brief rest wake those sleepy bagels up with with a boiling bath. Don't worry, they puff up in their boiling water bathes.  Bagels are space hogs and don't like crowding. 3-4 in a big pot at a time please. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or oil very well and place so they aren't touching sides. Bagels that are touching have soggy sides when they come out of your oven. Very Yuck!

Super efficient Carl came up with the plan to have two pots going at once as well as all 3 baking sheets with bagels at different stages, two baking , one cooling. We used 3 timers to keep track of everything. It was great to have an extra pair of watchful hands.

OK, so was it worth making your own bagels? Well, they come out about the size of a Lender's bagel. So not overly large. My bagels were not as chewy as I would like but that could be fixed by a heavy dose of bread flour. Making bagels is work intensive and is much easier if you have a helper. Hmmm, unless I'm living in California and no decent bagel can be found I think I'll stick to buying my bagels.

For those of you who like great adventure here is the recipe:

Time: About two hours from start to finish. About 45 min. more if using regular yeast.
Grab all your baking sheets and line with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

You will need:

2 scant TBSP of rapid rise yeast or 2 pkgs of rapid rise yeast
2 C WARM water (105 degrees to 115 degrees)
3 large eggs at room temp. Two eggs for dough, one egg for wash.
2 TBSP vegetable oil.
3 TBSP sugar 
5 1/2-6 1/2 C of flour ( I'd recommend at least a 50/50 mix of bread flour and all purpose)
2 TBSP Milk ( for the egg wash)
2 quarts of boiling water for each pot you plan to use.
poppy, caraway, or sesame seeds, optional.

Do this:

1.Add warm water, yeast TWO of the eggs, oil, salt and ONE TBSP of the sugar. Mix until soupy. Add 3 C of flour and beat vigorously with a spoon until nice and soup, about two min

2. Gradually add more of the remaining flour. 1/4 cup at a time until dough forms a mass and starts to pull away from the bowl.  Continue mixing and adding flour as needed until a ball forms and stays around the dough hook. If doing by hand, remove dough and knead on floured surface adding flour as needed. Knead by mixer for about four to five minutes. Knead by hand for about 10 minutes. Dough should be elastic, smooth with "blisters" popping up as you knead.

3.  Put the dough in a large oiled bowl. Turn dough over to coat both side. Cover with plastic wrap and kitchen towel. Place in a warm area and let rise for 30 min or until double in size.

4. Turn dough onto lightly oiled surface.  Use a knife to divide into 32 equal pieces. Do this by dividing dough in half, then that piece in half and so on. Shape each piece into a ball. Insert your finger into the middle of each ball and stretch to make a 1 1/2 in hole.  YOU MAY HAVE TO RE-STRETCH THE DOUGH AS IT RESTS. Cover the bagels with a towel and let rest for 15 minutes. 

5. Preheat oven to 425. Beat the remaining egg with milk to make the wash.

6.  In a 12 inch dutch oven or large pot dissolve the remaining two TBSP of sugar in boiling water. Keep the water to a slow boil.

7.  Drop 3 or 4 bagels at a time. Don't crowd them! After 1 minute turn bagels with slotted spoon and boil 3 minutes longer. Remove from water with slotted spoon and place on parchment lined or well greased cookie sheets.  Put them upside down. This gives a nice crust. Make sure sides of bagels are not touching. 

8. When you have poached enough bagels brush with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds if desired. 

9. Bake for 20 minutes or until browned.

10. Immediately remove the bagels from the baking sheet and cool on a rack.

Cool all the way before storing. You can freeze or store in a bread bag in a cool, dry place for up to four days. It does taste super when toasted!


  1. We just finished a unit of study for geography on Isreal and I thought making bagels would be fun. I'll make sure to give plenty of time and I have lots of hands to help so hopefully all will go well. When you say more bread flour would make the bagels more chewy--how much more do you think you should add?

  2. My best childhood friend was Jewish. I do miss the bagels. Let me know if you find anything around here that compares to a NY bagel. Have you tried the Cinnamon Crunch bagel at Panera? It's not really a bagel but it's worth the trip to Cburg...don't forget the hazelnut spread to go with.