Fresh, delicious homemade bagels are nothing like you’ll get at your local deli or–worse–in the frozen food aisle of your supermarket. Nor are they hard to make. All you need is bread flour, yeast, water, and honey, plus any topping you can imagine.
Let’s clear something up right away: New York City isn’t the only place in the world to get decent, authentic bagels. The truth is, you can make bagels that are just as good at home, no matter where you live. They’re one of the simplest breads to make, requiring only flour, water, salt, yeast, and malt—and one secret ingredient: time (in the form of long, slow, cold fermentation). Any decent bagel shop knows this and uses an overnight method to stretch out the fermentation process, releasing all sorts of subtle flavors trapped in the flour. While bagel shops often use a type of high-protein flour not available to home cooks to achieve that distinctively chewy texture, regular, unbleached bread flour can also do the trick. The real key is to use a much lower percentage of water than is used for baguettes and other European hearth breads, producing a stiff dough that can stand up to a dunking in boiling water before going into the oven. More than any ingredient or other aspect of the method, this boiling step is what defines the uniqueness of the bagel.
That said, bagels do usually feature one other distinctive ingredient: barley malt. While this may seem like an exotic, hard-to-find product, it’s actually commonly available at most supermarkets, usually labeled “barley malt syrup.” If you can’t find it, simply substitute an equal amount of honey. Your bagels might not have that malty flavor, but they’ll still be better than almost any bagel you can buy. Originally published January 29, 2010.–Peter Reinhart
Proof You Can Make Excellent Homemade Bagels!
Doubt you can make homemade bagels that look professional and taste better than anything you’ve had before? Doubt not! Reader and home baker Herman Gersten whipped up these beauties. (Honestly, they are so gorgeous, Herman has inspired me to go back and makes these again.)
- Quick Glance
- 45 M
- 12 H
- Makes 6 to 8 bagels
IngredientsEmail Grocery List
- For the dough
- For the poaching liquid
The first method is to poke a hole through the center of the ball to create a donut shape. Holding the dough with both thumbs in the hole, rotate the dough with your hands, gradually stretching it to create a hole about 2 inches in diameter.
The second method, preferred by professional bagel makers, is to use both hands (and a fair amount of pressure) to roll the ball into a rope about 8 inches long on a clean, dry work surface. (Again, wipe the surface with a damp towel, if necessary, to create sufficient friction on the work surface.) Taper the rope slightly at each end and moisten the last inch or so of the ends. Place one end of the dough in the palm of your hand and wrap the rope around your hand to complete the circle, going between your thumb and forefinger and then all the way around. The ends should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together by closing your hand, then press the seam into the work surface, rolling it back and forth a few times to seal. Remove the dough from your hand, squeezing it to even out the thickness if need be and creating a hole of about 2 inches in diameter.
Homemade Bagel Variations
You can replace any amount of the bread flour with an equal amount of whole-grain flour (by weight), such as wheat or rye. If you do so, increase the water in the dough by 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz / 14 g) for every 2 ounces (56.5 g) of whole-grain flour you substitute.
Top your bagels with any combination of the following garnishes: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt, or rehydrated dried onions or garlic. (Soak dried onions or garlic in water to cover for at least 1 hour before applying.) The toppings will stick even better if you first brush the top of each bagel with an egg white wash made by whisking 1 egg white with 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz / 14 g) of water. If using coarse salt as a garnish, remember that a little goes a long way.
For raisin bagels, mix in 1 1/3 cups (8 oz / 227 g) of raisins during the final 2 minutes of mixing and, if you like cinnamon, stir 1/2 teaspoon (0.14 oz / 4 g) of ground cinnamon into the flour before you start mixing. When the bagels come out of the oven, brush the tops with melted butter and dip the top into a bed of cinnamon sugar to give it a very tasty cinnamon crust. You can make cinnamon sugar by whisking 2 tablespoons (1.6 oz / 44 g) of ground cinnamon into 1/2 cup (4 oz / 113 g) of granulated sugar.
Recipe Testers Reviews
At first it seemed silly to test this recipe. Why would I go through all the trouble of making homemade bagels when I live in the Northeast and have at least five good bagel places within a two-mile radius of my home? Yet I thought my 4-year-old son would enjoy seeing how bagels are made, so we gave this recipe a try.
The ingredients were easy to find—no problem with the barley malt. There was no long rise time, no tiresome kneading—probably one of the easiest breads to put together. The boiling section of the recipe barely made a mess and the baking was quick.
The result: homemade bagels with a slightly crisp exterior and a soft, chewy interior. We used sesame seeds and coarse kosher salt as toppings, both were delicious. I look forward to experimenting more with other variations in the near future. This way I never even need to leave the house for good bagels. Trust me: if this recipe was easy for me with my 4-year-old sous chef, it’ll be easy and successful for you as well.
I make bagels often and am constantly trying new recipes to find the perfect one. I think I’ve found it! Not only were the bagels wonderful—crisp on the outside, with just the right amount of chew on the inside—but Peter Reinhart’s directions are clear and precise, even for a novice bagel-maker. He also gives alternatives for forming the bagels, options for different amounts and types of flour, and garnishes. Don’t be put off by the length of the recipe. These bagels are easy to make. The length is due to Reinhart’s great detail to ensure perfect homemade bagels.