Bagels (Traditional & Quick)


Bagels are a work of love.  They take a while and require a little more TLC than regular yeast bread dough.  For this reason I find it beneficial to make a bunch at once and put some in the freezer.

Sponge Ingredients:

4c bread flour

2.5 cups of water

1ts yeast



½ tsp yeast

3 ¾ c bread flour

2 ¾ ts salt, or 1ts kosher salt

1tb malt syrup



1tb baking soda, to be added to your pot of water

1 egg white mixed with 1tb water for an egg wash if desired

Cornmeal to prevent sticking

Other toppings




Begin by making your sponge- combine ingredients for the sponge in a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours, or until the mixture has nearly doubled in size, is full of holes, and collapses when the bowl is bumped on the table.  The mixture will be similar to a thick pancake batter. Mix to combine with a spoon.


To the sponge, add the next part of the recipe: remaining yeast, 3 cups of flour (for now), malt syrup, and the salt – in that order.  


Using a dough hook, mix (or knead by hand) until the dough is stiff, smooth, but yet pliable and satiny.  Bagel dough will be stiffer than your typical bread dough nd may overwork your mixer. If your mixer struggles, remove the dough and finish kneading by hand.  Add the remaining flour a bit at a time if needed.


To test dough for doneness, you may do the “window test” which is tearing off a small bit of dough and gently stretching while turning in your fingers.  If you can gently stretch and turn the dough until it becomes nearly translucent, it is done. If it rips, you need to continue kneading it. By hand, kneading may take 15 minutes. 


Divide the dough into 12-16 pieces.  At this point I break out the scale and weigh the whole mass, then divide by how many bagels I want to make, then weigh each individual ball.  The exact weight of your dough will change from batch to batch but you should be able to get a pretty good average – the goal is to have them bake evenly.  If they are different sizes, they will not bake evenly. 


Form each ball of dough into a smooth, round blob by making the “a-ok” sign with one hand, and pushing the ball of dough through your fingers.  If you do this a time or two, the top will be nice and smooth, simply pinch the bottom together, then cup your hand and roll the ball on the table to smooth out the pinched end. 


Sprinkle your work surface with a light dusting of flour, then place the balls of dough on it so they don’t stick.


Cover the dough with a damp towel and let sit for 20 minutes to give the gluten time to relax. 


At this point, you have two options:  “Quick bagels” which can be completed the same day, or traditional bagels which will have a more traditional taste and texture that results from a slow second rise overnight. 


For “Quick Bagels” Preheat your oven to 500F.  Use a baking stone if you have one, and make sure it warms up in the oven as it preheats.  OR, overturn a rimmed baking sheet on an oven rack and allow it, too, to warm with the oven.  


After the 20 minute rest, begin shaping your bagels.  I poke a hole near to in the middle as I can, then gently stretch the dough with my thumbs, rotating them around each other to enlarge the opening.  I will also poke a hole through the dough, stick my pointer finger through it so that it touches the surface below, and quickly spin the dough around my finger until the opening is the desired size.  Find your method and use it here – finished product should have an opening about 2 inches diameter and the sides should be of even thickness. 


Begin boiling a pot of water. 


Let the shaped bagels rise another 20 minutes.


By now, the water should be boiling.  Drop your bagels into the water, only as many will comfortably fit without crowding, and let the water boil for 1 minute.  Flip the bagels, and allow the bagels to boil another minute. 


Remove the bagels with a slotted spoon and set the bagels on a cooling rack set over another cookie sheet to catch drips.  Continue until all of th bagels have been boiled, or you have run out of room on the cooling tray and need to begin baking them.


If you wish, prepare an egg wash (1 eggwhite mixed with a tablespoon of cold water) and wipe down the top of each bagel with the egg wash.  If you would like to top the bagels with anything, an egg wash is helpful to help toppings stick. It also finishes the bagel in a nice sheen.  It is not necessary for plain bagels. 


Sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel or a baking sheet without a rim.  If you have neither, you will have to place the bagels onto your baking stone or cookie sheet by hand.  Having a non-rimmed baking sheet with cornmeal sprinkled on will allow you to load a bunch of bagels onto your baking stone all at once by shaking them onto the surface of your stone.  The cornmeal will prevent sticking and burning the bottoms of your bagels.  


Once your bagels are in the oven, reduce the heat to 450F and bake for 15-20 minutes.  At the halfway mark you may wish to turn the pan in the oven for even browning. Flipping the bagels is not necessary.  


Remove bagels from the oven once finished and let cool a bit befor eating 😉


For Traditional Bagels

After shaping into balls and resting 20 minutes, shape the balls into bagels and allow to rest another 20 minutes as described above.  Place the bagels on a greased cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap for the rise. 


Place the cookie sheet into your refrigerator and allow to rest for 3 hours to overnight.  The very slow rise in the fridge will add a lot of flavor and excellent texture to your finished product.  


Following the long rest, proceed with the boiling and baking of the bagels.  It is not necessary to bring bagels up to room temperature before boiling.

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