I ♥ Bagels

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summary: recipe for “real” bagels made with strong flour and parboiled in malted water before being baked; (click on image for larger view and more photos)

bagels Bagels are so amazingly wonderful, aren’t they? And I’m not talking about those fake doughnut shaped buns posing as bagels. I’m talking about bagels that have been made with strong flour and parboiled in malted water before being baked so that they have that wonderful chewy texture that only real bagels can have.

Yesterday morning we ate warmed bagels with a little butter, goat cheese and apricot jam. With good strong coffee.

De . Li . Cious :!:

Even though bagel making might seem long and convoluted, it really isn’t. Bagels are dead easy to make. Here is the recipe I followed:

based on “Jo Goldenberg’s bagels” in New Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton & Peter Reinhart’s “Classic Water Bagels”


  • 1 c lukewarm water
  • ½ tsp active dry yeast
  • ½ c of wholewheat flour
  • c bread flour

actual dough

  • ½ tsp active dry yeast
  • ¼ c lukewarm water
  • 2 c bread flour
  • 1 tsp malt powder
  • tsp salt

after shaping

  • 3 l. water
  • Tbsp malt powder
  • sesame and/or poppy seeds


  1. starter: In a bowl large enough for the final dough to double, whisk the yeast into the lukewarm water (do the baby bottle test on your wrist to ensure the water is not too hot). Add the starter flours and stir with a wooden spoon to mix well.
  2. Cover and leave on the counter for a couple of hours til it starts to bubble (in winter, I leave it on the counter overnight – kitchen is about 15C at night)
  1. actual dough: Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm water til it is smooth and creamy looking.
  2. Stir the yeasted water into the bubbling starter. Add the flour, malt powder and salt and stir with a wooden spoon to mix well.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board.
  4. Wash and dry the bowl.
  5. Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes until it is smooth and springy. Note that this dough may seem quite stiff at first. As you knead, resist the temptation to add too much more flour.
  6. Put the kneaded dough into the clean bowl, cover, and let rise til double on the counter in a non-drafty area.
  1. shaping: Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide even into 12 pieces.
  2. Shape each piece into a ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a damp (clean) tea towel.
  3. Pick up each ball and poke a hole in the center with your thumb. Stretch the hole by turning the ring around first a couple of fingers than your hands. The hole should be quite large. Lay the ring on the parchment paper and cover with the damp tea towel.
  4. Leave to rise til the rings are almost doubled. (about an hour or so)
  5. Half an hour before baking, turn the oven to 450F.
  6. parboiling: Just before baking, pour 3 litres of water into a large pot and bring to a smiling boil. Stir in malt powder.
  7. Carefully lift a risen ring from the sheet and drop it gently into the boiling water. After 30 seconds or so, use a slotted spoon to turn the bagel over and allow it to boil for about another half minute. Remove from the water and place on the parchment paper. Sprinkle with sesame and/or poppy seeds. Repeat with the other rings. (Please see photo essay of shaping and parboiling bagels.)
  8. baking: Put the bagels into the 450F oven and immediately turn the oven down to 400F. Bake for 30 minutes, turning the pan once to allow for uneven oven heat.
  9. Allow to cool on a rack before eating.

If you like warm bagels, reheat them after they have cooled. Serve them with butter. Or cream cheese. Or goat cheese. And apricot jam. Or smoked salmon and capers.

I must confess that this time, I had forgotten that there was a starter for this recipe. I made the “starter” in the morning and then about ten minutes later decided to just mix the “actual dough” without waiting for the starter to bubble. The bagels turned out just as fantastically as ever…

Please note that strong bread flour is best for bagels. While all-purpose flour CAN be used, the resulting bagels are more like buns with holes in the center. (Also note that our cup measure holds 250ml rather than the 237ml US.)

Read about other bagel making times:


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18 responses to “I ♥ Bagels

  1. bing

    They look wonderfully chewy. But did any of them sink in the water? The one in the picture looks like it’s floating. (I guess you wouldn’t need to turn them over if they were sinking.)

    I keep hoping to hear of a real person having their bagels sink.

  2. ejm Post author

    I didn’t feel even a twinge of regret that they didn’t really sink at all. The closest they came was to be half way submerged.

    This is from Real Honest Jewish Purist’s Bagels

    The bagels should sink first, then gracefully float to the top of the simmering water. If they float, it’s not a big deal, but it does mean that you’ll have a somewhat more bready (and less bagely) texture. Let the bagel simmer for about three minutes, then turn them over with a skimmer or a slotted spoon.

    I suppose that I could pretend that my bagels sank and gracefully floated quickly to the top of the simmering water. (if one argues that a bagel can float gracefully very very quickly)

    But I’m starting to think that the whole sinking thing is a myth – that’s one of the reasons I didn’t even mention sinking in this version of the recipe. I really don’t think anyone could possibly argue that this last batch of bagels I made are at all bready.

  3. Rosie

    Just a quick question: Where do you get the malt powder? Is it really necessary to make the bagels or can you get by without it? I would really like to try the recipe, and the only thing I am missing is the malt. To be truthful, I just don’t have room in my cupboard for one more “one trick pony”.

  4. ejm Post author

    I got the malt powder at a store called “the bulk barn” in Toronto. It does add a certain je ne sais quoi to bagels. You can also use malt syrup that may be available in health food stores although it’s a little pricey. But I feel certain you can use sugar or honey and get a similar result. Not being an expert in this, it’s my feeling that it’s the strong flour and parboiling in sweetened water that are the keys to making real bagels rather than buns with holes in the center.

    Aha!! Look: The recipe for Real Honest Jewish Purist’s Bagels calls for malt powder or sugar.

    It looks like you don’t have to have another “one trick pony” in your cupboard. Do let me know how your bagels turn out, Rosie!

  5. bing

    I have always used ordinary sugar in my bagel water, and they taste beautifully bagely.

    Not that I have anything against having More Ingredients. Oh my, no. The more the merrier. It’s just that with any bread recipe, I think that pretty much any ingredient can be left out or used in different proportions, and it would still be _some_ recipe or other, even if not the one I’m looking at.

  6. emily

    A girl after mine own heart! I came after seeing your post on my blog and what do I see? A post about making your own bagels! AWESOME! Thanks so much for your tips. I’m thinking about getting a bike so that St. Lawrence and Kensington don’t seem like so much of a trek, and when I do, I’ll definitely check out that cheese shop you mentioned.


  7. ejm Post author

    Many thanks for dropping by, Emily.

    It’s definitely worthwhile having a bike in Toronto! It’s one of the best places to bicycle (although one must really watch for car doors opening). There are only a few weeks of the year when the roads are pretty much impassable because of snow or ice. There are several bike paths and lanes crisscrossing the city. And biking is SO much freer than driving or TTCing. It’s about a 15 or 20 minute bike ride between St.Lawrence and Kensington.

    If you like cheese, once you have the bike, it’s an easy ride along the Martin Goodman trail (follows the lake) to the western side of the city to get to “The Cheese Boutique” (45 Ripley Avenue off the South Kingsway).

  8. Leann

    I am going to have to make these at some point! I LOVE a good bagel and am a bread baker so this ought to be a piece of cake (no pun intended – well, maybe a little intended… ;) )

  9. ejm Post author

    Yes, you must, Leann. You won’t be sorry. In some ways, they’re actually easier to make than bread. Easy as pie. (heh… if one pun is good, then more must be better. :whee: )

    I find shaping bagels is much much easier than shaping loaves. And there’s something so satisfying about watching them puff ever so slightly in the smiling sweetened water.

    The only drawback to making bagels is that they get eaten rather quickly.

  10. Jo-Ann

    I had never made bagels until today, although I have made quite a few different bread recipes. I followed one recipe up to the point where it called for boiling the bagels after one rising of the dough. I then picked up another recipe which called for forming the dough (after the first rise), then letting it rise again on a greased cookie sheet. Then I simmered them in a deep frying pan using a mixture of water and molasses, then let them dry on a tea towel per the instructions in recipe #2. When I say ‘dry’, I mean I simply let the hot water drip off before moving them to a greased cookie sheet in preparation for glazing/sprinkling with dried onion and coarse salt. Well, some of the bagels stuck to the tea towel so I carefully removed them (but now have a tea towel with icky bagel dough on it), but even worse, the bagels stuck to the cookie sheet after baking – I practically had to pry them off with a crowbar. They tasted great, looked great, but getting them out of the pan was not worth the effort.

    I have read in some recipes that you should use parchment paper on the baking sheet. Does this work? I would love to continue trying out different bagel recipes, but I don’t want to deal with the mess of them sticking to the pans. Any advice?


  11. ejm Post author

    Definitely, parchment paper works fantastically. There is no need to grease the paper either. The bagels just pull right off.

    I use a slotted spoon to lift the just boiled bagels directly onto the parchment paper and don’t bother with draining them first. No need for messy tea towels!

    Hope you try again, Jo-Ann! Do let me know how it works out.

  12. Megs

    Quick question:
    I am currently in an ovenless apartment, and wonder instead of putting the bagels in the oven, do you think I could cook them through on a frying pan, ala English muffins?

  13. Megs

    Thanks for the links! Never even thought of using the wok. I will have to give it a try soon (all baked out this weekend!), and will post how the results turn out.

    I hope it works, M! I’m really looking forward to hearing how it goes. -ejm

  14. Elaine

    This looks remarkably easy. I just bought 10 kg of all-purpose flour and want to change it for bread flour now. May go buy bread flour tomorrow anyway just to try making these bagels. Thanks for the recipe!

    They are pretty easy, Elaine. And there’s no need to exchange your all-purpose flour. Once you start making your own bread, you won’t want to stop. And all-purpose is ideal for most bread. It’s just not as good for bagels. -Elizabeth

  15. Michele Hays

    I have a different recipe for these same Jo Goldenberg bagels that doesn’t use a starter; I make them all the time – you can go from ingredients to excellent bagel in about two hours (I also use sugar instead of malt powder, if you’re looking for a recipe with pantry-friendly ingredients.) I like chapati flour for the wholemeal (I use about a 1 to 3 ratio of chapati to AP flour,) plus a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten for stretch.

    I’ve found that when I make smaller bagels (I usually make 16 from one batch, which looks to be about the same amount of dough as your recipe) they never sink. Larger bagels sometimes do, but you need to get them in the water fairly quickly after the second rise – I only let them go 10 minutes, and just until they’re puffy, not doubled. However, I do get hearty, chewy, crusty bagels even when I have to flip them over in the boiling water. The one time I got sinkers, I didn’t notice the difference.

    Quips Travails and Braised Oxtails: Sundays with Sparky – Bagel of Mercy

    edit 8 June 2010: Thank you for comment, Michele. While I don’t think we could get bagels in two hours here (the kitchen is rarely warm enough for that), like you, I’ve often made same-day bagels with great success. But I haven’t tried using chapati flour – although I’ve heard of others doing so. We don’t usually buy chapati flour (I use a half and half mix of whole wheat and unbleached all-purpose for making chapatis). Good idea to add vital wheat gluten to make up for not using strong bread flour. And nice to know that sugar works as well for you as malt powder in the boiling water. -Elizabeth


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