Bagels? Bagels!

Last week’s bagel workshop was a great time, and I left convinced that I could actually easily make my own bagels at home, which is impressive for someone as unskilled at bread-making as myself.  Karen McCallum, our most excellent facilitator has given me permission to reprint her bagel knowledge here, so click through to get a full bagel tutorial!

First, some definitions …

New York bagels are (traditionally) sweetened with malt and contain salt.   They are boiled in unsweetened water before being baked in a conventional oven.  This makes a puffy, airy, moist bagel.

Montreal bagels are (traditionally) sweetened with malt and sugar, but contain no salt.   They are boiled in honey sweetened water and baked in a wood fired oven.  The end result is a sweet and crunchy, though small and dense bagel.

That said, there are no bagel police or any regulatory agents so any baker can call any bagel-like hunk of bread a bagel.  Ask questions of the baker, if you are curious.


The innards of our bagel friends are, when you really get down to it, pretty commonplace and definitely uncomplicated.  Have you ever made bread dough?  Good, you can make bagel dough.  There are at least two features that make bagel dough different from your regular old bread dough.

a) Bagel dough is dry.  You don’t need a high moisture content in the dough, so hold back:  even if your dough looks a bit thirsty, don’t overwater.  As long as your dough is homogenous and pliable, it is likely not too dry for making bagel.s

b) Bagel dough is sweet.  The beautiful colour that bagels get when they bake is a result of there being sugar in the dough.  To get that lovely crust colour, choose recipes that include honey, malt or sugar of some kind.


Whole wheat bagel recipe (All quantities given in weight, as Karen highly recommends weighing rather than measuring.  You can find a kitchen scale for ten or fifteen bucks, and it can make the difference between flawless bread and frustrating results!):


  • 510.5 g (18 oz) Hard whole wheat flour
  • 312.5 g (11 oz) Filtered water

Mix water and flour until dough is pliable, homogenous and smooth.  Give it a good mix before you consider adding more flour or water to make it drier or wetter — it should be just hydrated.  Let this sit for at least 20 minutes in a bowl — this process is called autoleasing.

Final Dough:

  • 1.25 g (0.375 oz) instant yeast
  • 5 g (0.18 oz) salt
  • 35.5 g (1.25 oz) honey, light or dark malt syrup, honey and molasses mix, or molasses

Cut the soaker dough into small pieces about the size of large eggs.  First sprinkle the salt and the yeast on top of the dough (while still in the bowl).  Then pour the liquid sweetener on top of it all and mix it your damp hands.  You’ll never mix it into a homogenous mixture with a spoon, so use your hands.  Mix entirely in the bowl, or mix in the bowl for a few minutes and then finish mixing on a counter top (I like mixing in the bowl because I have more control of the dough and it’s less messy).

Mix it until the dough is pliable and smooth, tacky but not sticky.  It should be tough and elastic, but stop if it starts to rip.  Mix no longer than 10 minutes.  Let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 5 oz pieces, then, one by one, roll each piece into a long thin length of dough (think back to your childhood skills at making play-dough snakes).  Wrap each piece of dough around your hand and join the two ends together by rolling them against the counter under your fingers.  Gently form your bagel into an even round creature.  Lay them down side by side onto a baking sheet.

While you are forming the bagels, you can get a wide pot of water boiling.  For a sweeter, crispier crust, add about 2 Tbsp of sugar, honey, molasses or other sweetener to the water.   When it starts to boil, add 1 Tbsp of baking soda to the pot.

Drop the bagels into the pot of boiling water so that the pot is full but not crowde3d.  Boil the bagels for two minutes, then flip them over and boil for another two minutes.  Take the batch out with a slotted spoon and put them on a try.  Add another batch.  While the second batch is boiling, dip the boiled bagels in a topping if you like.

When the tray is full but not crowded you can bake it at 450 degrees Farenheit for 15 minutes.  After 7 or 8 minutes, quickly take the tray out and unstick the bagels or they will be much harder to pry off later (or, dip them in cornmeal before you bake them).  If you take them out to unstick them, quickly get them back in.  Take them out when they are browned, not burnt, and yummy looking!

Let them set before you break into them.  If you cut into them right away they will look unde3rcooked.  They must be cool before the gelatinized protein bonds have properly set into the structure of cooked dough.



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