How to Make Bagels
The other day, I put on a batch of bagels for my husband.
He had a couple packs of amazing gravlax he’d purchased from Joshy's Good Eats that he wanted to use up... but didn’t know what flavour of bagels he wanted.
So... I made him 6 flavours, in one go.
No, I’m not a sucker for punishment... I just used my base bagel recipe, and made some quick customizations as I went:
- Half the bagels were done as normal bagels, right through the boil.
After boiling the first 3 bagels, I added baking soda to the water, and did the remaining 3 as pretzel bagels! (They’re the darker ones in the pictures)
- 2 bagels (one normal, one pretzel) were left plain.
- 2 Bagels (one normal, one pretzel) were sprinkled with sesame seeds.
- The remaining two bagels were sprinkled with “Everything” seasoning.
It literally took me about 2 minutes extra to do 6 flavours instead of 1, doing it this way!
I decided that it was about time to blog my bagel recipe, along with many of the variations you can make with it!
This bagel recipe is easy to make, requires only a few basic ingredients, and turns out amazing bagels. They’re properly chewy on the outside, soft on the inside, and super tasty.
The difficult part is waiting for the rise, while smelling the yeasty goodness happening... that’s about it!
How to Make Bagels
In the past, I’ve blogged just the recipe... but I figure it’s time to do more of a full post about bagels, with progress photos and tips along the way.
I know that baking yeast/risen breads can be intimidating for those who haven’t done it before, but seriously ... don’t worry!
Start Your Yeast
The recipe starts out with sugar, yeast, and water. This is one of the most important parts of the recipe, so make sure it’s all in place!
- The water has to be warm, but not hot. You want to encourage the growth of the yeast, without killing it.
Cool water won’t “wake up” the yeast the way warm does, and it won’t rise as much / quickly.
Hot water will kill the yeast.
The sugar feeds the yeast.
Make sure to use yeast that has been properly stored and is fresh. Very old yeast doesn’t always work.
Anyway, you mix the three together and leave it for a few minutes, and this is what you should see:
When it’s all foamy like this, you’re good to go!
If your yeast doesn’t foam up in 10 minutes, something went wrong - either the water was too hot /not warm enough, or the yeast was no good.
No foam means start over again.
Make Your Bagel Dough
You can do this by hand, or - like I do - in a stand mixer.
However you do it, just mix together your flour, salt, and foamy yeast water, until it’s well incorporated and relatively smooth.
Once it’s all together, you’ll knead the dough. This develops the gluten in the dough, making the dough soft, stretchy, and perfect.
In a stand mixer:
Affix a dough hook and just let it go on medium speed for about 7 minutes or so, until it’s smooth and stretchy.
I start timing once the mixing is done, and all of the extra flour has been “cleaned” off the mixer bowl:
Once the dough has come together - and you have all of the flour incorporated into it - dump it out on a clean work surface and knead it.
Basically, I’ll use the heels of my hands to push down and stretch the dough, fold it over, and repeat for about 15+ minutes.
It’s a great way to get out some anger, aggression, frustration, or ~feelings~ in general, but it is labourious... so I generally use the stand mixer!
Anyway, whichever way you go:
When it’s ready, it’ll be smooth and stretchy.
You can test readiness by pinching off a small bit of dough, flattening it a bit, and stretching it. If you can stretch it really thin without tearing, it’s done!
Proof your Dough
“Proofing” is just letting the dough rise.
You’ll want a warm - not hot - area to do this.
As I tend to keep my house nice and cool, I generally cheat at this: I’ll turn the oven on for a few minutes to warm it up a bit, then turn it off and use it as a proofing oven.
Let it rise - undisturbed - until it’s doubled in volume. Give it a good 45 minutes - 1 hour for this, but don’t leave it much longer than that without checking on it.
OVERproofing the dough - letting it rise too long / too far - will result in deflated dough, and hockey puck bagels.
Once your initial proofing is done, punch it down and divide it out.
Forming Your Bagels
Punching the dough down removes some of the air, so it’s easier to work with.
From there, you’ll divide it out to relatively-equal portions.
I usually go with 6 for nice big bagels, but you can do 8 if you’d like them more grocery-store-sized.
Once they’re divided out, smooth them out into balls.
I’ll usually smooth it all out towards the edges, and tuck everything under.
When it comes to making them bagel shaped, there are two main methods:
1. Roll each lump of dough into a thick “snake” and secure the ends together
2. Roll each lump into a smooth ball before poking a finger though. Once you have a hole made, stretch the ring of dough out a bit to enlarge the hole.
Personally, I prefer the latter, so that’s what’s pictured.
Let them rise for another 10 minutes, as you get things ready to proceed:
Prepare your Baking Sheet
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
If you like, you can scatter a layer of cornmeal on the parchment paper as well. This is totally optional, but gives a nice crunchy texture on the bottom of the bagel.
Set prepared pan aside.
This is also a good time to start preheating your oven.
Boil Your Bagels
As your bagels are rising for the second and final time, you’ll get ready to boil them.
Get a large pot of water boiling.
If you’re adding anything to the water (see variations, below), add it in and get that well incorporated before adding the bagels.
Once the water is boiling, turn the temp down enough to keep it at a gentle simmer.
You want to cook the outsides of the bagels gently, not brutalize them.
Once the water is simmering and 10 minutes are up, gently drop 2 or 3 bagels into your pot.
Allow them to cook for a minute, then gently flip them and allow them to cook for another minute.
Use a big slotted spoon to remove them from the water and allow them to drain well, before placing them on your prepared baking sheet.
Adorn Your Bagels
Whisk together your egg and water. This is an egg wash, and it gives a great texture and finish to the bagels - don’t skip it!
Brush the egg wash over as much of the bagels as are exposed. Tops and sides - you don’t need to flip them to get underneath, though.
If you’re doing plain bagels, they’re ready to go in the oven.
If you’re adding toppings, do so now.
Bake Your Bagels
Put your pan in the oven and bake until they’re golden brown.
Note: What constitutes “golden brown” is going to vary based on what you’ve done to the bagels (see “Variations”, below)
Sweetener in the boil will produce a darker finish than no sweetener, and baking soda in the boil will produce a darker / redder finish, yet.
Just don’t over bake them, or you’ll end up with hard bagels! As soon as they go golden, take them out!
Let them cool a LITTLE when you remove them... but otherwise, you can dig in while they’re still warm.
Enjoy fresh out of the oven, or let them cool and toast them later!
Homemade Bagel Flavour Variations
Half the fun of making bagels is making different flavours, playing around with different toppings, etc.
Here are a few ideas for you!
Sweeten the Boil
You can add ⅓ cup honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar to the boiling water, if you’d like.
Make sure it’s well dissolved / mixed in, before adding the bagels to the water.
This not only adds a little sweetness (particularly nice with options like cinnamon raisin!), but also encourages a bit of caramelization during the baking.
This gives you a darker browning, and a bit more crisp/crunch to the bagel crust.
Sesame Seed Bagels
Sprinkle Sesame Seeds over the unbaked bagels, right after brushing with egg.
You can do this with other toppings, as well: Poppy seeds, dried onion, etc.
In a small bowl, mix together the following:
2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds *
1 ½ Tbsp Poppy Seeds
1 ½ Tbsp Dried Minced Onion
1 Tbsp Dried Minced Garlic
1 Tbsp Coarse Salt
* I’ll usually go half-and-half, white and black sesame seeds.
Generously sprinkle over unbaked bagels, right after brushing with the egg wash.
Fresh: Finely chop about ⅔ cup of fresh herbs (whatever you like!), add to the dough when you pour the yeast in.
Dried: Add a bit of dried herbs to the flour mixture. How much depends on your taste, and what herbs you’re using.
For instance, I wouldn’t use more than ½ tsp of thyme (¼ if used with something else), but will use a tsp of sage. Oregano and/or basil can be use more generously - 1 Tbsp total, sometimes more!
When I’m using dried dill, I’ll start with 1 Tbsp and see how it looks / smells, depending on what I’m in the mood for. Sometimes I’ll go double!
Just have fun with it!
Mix together about a cup of seeds. You can use whatever you like, what you have on hand, etc. Usually, we’ll do pepitas, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and sesame seeds.
You can do this one of two ways:
- Add about ¾ of this mix to the flour mixture, sprinkle the remaining on top after the egg wash
- Skip the seeds in the dough, but really COAT the bagels after the egg wash.
When I’m doing it this way, I’ll usually put the seeds in a shallow bowl and actually pick up the bagel (after the egg wash), invert it into the seeds, and swirl it around a bit.
- Before starting with the bagels, chop up a medium onion (white, sweet, yellow... whatever you like!).
- Cook the onion in a bit of olive oil on medium or medium-low heat, until carmelized. Sometimes I’ll add a little bit of sugar to help it along.
- If you’d like some garlic, crush a few cloves into the onion mix, as it approaches caramelization.
- Allow to cool fully
- Add caramelized onion to the dough when you add the yeast mixture.
Note: This is also fantastic with the addition of a little bit of thyme, oregano, or basil
Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
- Add 1 Tbsp+ cinnamon to the flour mixture, and increase the sugar (with the yeast) to ⅓ cup.
- Add 1 tsp vanilla extract, when adding the yeast mixture to the flour.
- Add ½ - 1 cup (or more, if you LOVE raisins!) to the dough. I generally wait until it’s smooth and ready to go, to not mess with the fluid amount.
- Add ¾ cup baking soda to the boiling water, stir well before adding the bagels.
- After doing the egg wash, sprinkle with corse sea salt.
(Also, be sure to check out my recipes for Heart Shaped Beer Pretzels with Pepper Jack Cheese Dip and Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Pretzels!)
Simple: Take bagels out 5-10 minutes early, sprinkle shredded cheese (whatever you like) on top, and continue baking for another 5-10 minutes.
Upgraded: Cut up about 6 oz of cheese into small cubes, knead into the dough once the dough is smooth and ready to rise.
Note: Cheese bagels are particularly good when you combine this, with the herbed version!
Add 1tsp dried basil, 1 tsp oregano, and 1 tsp garlic powder to the flour mixture, before adding the water.
10 minutes before the cooking time is over, take the bagels out of the oven. Brush LIGHTLY with tomato sauce (think of it more like a glazing than anything), add some mini pepperoni slices on top if you’d like (optional), and sprinkle with some shredded mozzarella cheese.
Return to the oven for another 10 minutes or so, or until the cheese is browning and bubbly. (
Jalapeno Cheddar Beer Bagels
See my Jalapeno Cheddar Beer Bagels Recipe post!
Pumpernickel “Everything” Bagels
See my Pumpernickel Everything Bagels post!
See my Gluten-Free Bagels Recipe post!
More “Capital B” Baking Recipes
Did the photo of the yeast growing in the measuring cup get to you? Oh, I love the smell of it. Anyway, if you’re looking for more excuses to bake something that involves waiting for rise times, here are a few more recipes!
Apple Cinnamon Buns
Basil, Roasted Red Pepper, & Asiago Bread Braid
Beer Pretzels & Jalapeno Jack Dip
Buffalo Chicken Buns
Chai Cinnamon Rolls
Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Pretzel Bites
Maple Walnut Spiced Pumpkin Buns
Paska - Ukrainian Easter Bread
Porter House Grainy Rye Bread
Sauerkraut Balls - Pyrizhky
Spinach Hand Pies
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Well, the published nonsense, anyway!
Anyway, on to that Homemade Bagels recipe!
How to Make Homemade Bagels
- 1.5 cups warm - not hot - water
- 4 tsp Active Dry Yeast
- 3 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
- 3 ½ cups All Purpose Flour
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1 Large Egg
- Measure warm water into a glass measuring cup or bowl. Stir in yeast and sugar, allow to stand for 10 minutes – it should get very bubbly.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Pour in yeast mixture, stir well to combine.
- Dump dough out onto a floured surface, knead until soft and elastic, 5-10 minutes. Alternatively, use a stand mixer with a dough hook for about 7 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.
- Once dough is fully kneaded, place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for one hour, or until doubled in size.
- Once dough has doubled, punch it down, and divide it out. We divided the mixture into 6 equally sized balls, for LARGE bagels – but you can make them smaller by dividing into 8 or 12 equal sized pieces.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and bring a large pot of water to a boil, while you form the bagels.
- There are two main ways of forming bagels – with roll each lump of dough into a thick “snake” and secure the ends together, or roll each lump into a smooth ball before poking a finger though. Once you have a hole made, stretch the ring of dough out a bit to enlarge the hole. Personally, I prefer the latter.
- Once you have all of your bagels formed, set them on a baking sheet to rise for another 10 minutes.
- Turn heat down a little, allowing water to simmer rather than boil. 2 or 3 at a time, drop your bagels into the simmering water, allow to cook for 1 minute, then flip each and allow to cook for another minute. Drain well, place on a lined baking sheet.
- Whisk egg together with 1 Tbsp of water, brush over the tops and sides of each bagel. Bake for 35-37 minutes (small) or 40-45 mins (large), until golden brown.