Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Easy Homemade Bagels

These bagels are delicious, truly delicious. Let me give my preemptive acknowledgement to the website where I found the original recipe. I did tweak it a bit, which makes me feel justified in re-posting this recipe.

Making bagels, contrary to popular belief, is quite easy and exceptionally affordable. The only trick is activating yeast and fine tuning your bagel rolling. Otherwise, it's quite straight forward - and I'll give you tips on the other two.

I'm writing this cooking blog with the assumption some people may be new cooks and need a bit more information. Therefore I will give a lot of details; sorry if it seems a bit verbose.

A couple cooking tips in general:
* Read through the entire recipe before you begin cooking; it can save you a lot of headache & frantic runs to the grocery store.
* Pull out all your ingredients & baking utensils beforehand - there's nothing worse than trying to get a clean spoon out of the drawer with dough all over your hands.
* Clean as you go - if you're waiting on your dough to rise, use the opportunity to rinse or wash your dishes, put away items you're finished with, etc.
* Do all necessary prep work - grease your pans ahead of time, get toppings spread out on plates ahead of time - it will make your whole cooking process more smooth.

Alright - to the bagels:

4c flour
1 1/2 teaspoon (tsp) salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2c warm water
2  tsp yeast
1 Tablespoon (Tbs) sugar
1 Tbs oil (I prefer olive oil, but any kind would work)

Step One: If you don't have warm water on tap, warm some water. Combine the yeast & sugar in a small bowl.  In a separate container measure your water - making sure it is the correct temperature to activate yeast. My general rule of thumb for activating yeast - you want the water to be hot enough that when you stick your finger in the water this thought goes through your mind: "yeah, that's pretty warm but I can leave my finger in there. Should I take my finger out? No, it's not too warm, I'm good." If you generally can stand water a lot hotter than other people, take that into consideration when you activate your yeast.

Many people are terrified of activating yeast, and therefore miss out on all the wonderful goodies you can make (cinnamon rolls, homemade bread, hamburger buns). It's really not that hard. Just think of it as it is - yeast is a living organism that is essentially in 'hibernation' when you buy it from the store. When you put warm water on it, the yeast 'wakes up' - the sugar combined with the yeast (especially if it's not quick rising) gives the yeast something to eat, literally...therein making it 'activate'. You can do it. I promise.

Step two: add 1 cup of your warm water to your yeast (save the other 1/2 c for later), pouring in a circular slow motion to 'mix-in' the yeast & sugar. Many people add the yeast & sugar to their water - I find this results in a layer of unactivated yeast on the top of the water, and the need to stir it, which I've found can damage the yeasts ability to activate. The water-poured-on-top method works every time.

It should look about like this. Now just leave it alone & combine your salt & flour in another, larger bowl.


As your yeast activates, it should begin to bubble and foam at the top. Don't worry if it's not super tall at first, if your yeast has activated, you'll know.

 Step 3: Add 1 Tbs oil to your yeast mixture, then pour your yeast mixture into the pre-measured flour & salt. Start mixing, gradually kneading in all the flour. You may need to add the remaining 1/2 c water, but do so slowly as this bagel recipe is so good because the dough is not too wet.
Step 4: After you've mixed in all the flour, knead your dough for ten minutes. You really want to do a full ten minutes as this will help everything mix well and will contribute to smoother, yummier bagels. 
 Step 5: After ten minutes of kneading, separate your dough into 8 equal pieces. I usually form mine into a log and cut in halves until I have 8 pieces.

 Space your 8 pieces apart, as they will rise a bit, and cover lightly with a bit of olive oil. I find if you don't grease them, they become incredibly dry & won't roll as nicely. Cover with a towel and let rise for 10 - 20 min. If you really prefer not to use oil, you could alternately get your towel slightly damp before using it to cover the bagels - just make sure it's not too wet.
Use this time to do a bit of clean up, and prep for your next stage which is the rolling phase. You'll need some clean counter space.  

Step 6: After the bagels have risen for 10-20 min, roll each piece out using two flat hands. Remember when you were a kid and you would make a snake using playdough? That's what you're doing again. Make your 'snake' a bit wider than your two hands (if you have large hands, or very tiny hands, take this into consideration). After you have your 'snake', join the head & the tail together, pinching them to remove any seams in the dough. This is the trickiest part of making bagels, don't worry if they're a bit misshapen or still have some of a seam.
Obviously, I'm still perfecting mine too. 

Step 7: Once you have them all shaped like bagels, again let them rise for about 20 min. No oil is necessary at this stage, but you should still cover them with a towel to keep them moist. While your bagels are rising, fill a large size pot with water, add 1 Tbs of sugar or molasses and bring to a boil. Preheat your oven to approx 400F or 200C. 

Step 8: After your bagels have finished rising, gently lift them from the counter and place them gently in the boiling water. You can do more than one at a time, just make sure your bagels aren't too crowded as they will get a bit bigger during this stage.
Boil your bagels for 1 min, then flip, boiling on the other side for another minute. Remove using a slotted spoon, or something similar and allow to 'dry' for a minute or two on a drying rack. Continue with the rest of your bagels. 
If you would like toppings on your bagels (I did sesame seeds and poppy seeds), dip the bagels lightly in the topping before placing topping side up on a greased baking sheet.  Otherwise, just transfer directly to the baking sheet.
Your bagels can be relatively close together as they won't get much bigger in the oven.
 Step 9: Once your baking sheet is full, place in the oven and bake for fifteen to twenty minutes, until the bottom is nicely browned. Flip over and let bake for another five to ten minutes. 
Step 10: Remove from the oven and place bagels on a cooling rack - serve warm or put them in sealed container or bag to use throughout the week! Counter life is about 1 week, fridge life would be a bit longer. I also have half a dozen in the freezer right now, and assume they will last up to a month or two. 
 I've made this recipe 4 times now, and feel like I have it fairly perfected. A couple tips: don't make your dough too dry, don't make your snake too long or your bagels will be too thin & crunchy, don't bake them too long on either side or you'll end up more with bagel chips, and put in a sealed container shortly after they've cooled or they will dry out. 

Other recommended toppings: sauteed onions & garlic, other seeds, cheese (though I would sprinkle this on top of the bagel, rather than dipping the bagel in it). 

Dough variations: whole wheat bagels - use 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour, and 2 2/3 c white flour
cinnamon raisin bagels - after your dough is formed, add approx 2 tsp cinnamon & 1/3 c raisins to your kneading process
honey wheat bagels - add 2 Tbs honey to your yeast mixture at the same time you add the oil - reduce oil amount to 1 tsp rather than 1 Tbs, use whole wheat flour ratios (above)
jalapeno cheese bagels - add 1/3 c chopped jalapenos to the kneading process (as with cinnamon raising bagels) and sprinkle formed bagels with cheese just prior to baking

I'm sure there are many other alterations you could make to your dough (blueberry, anyone?) and to your toppings. If you are a new break maker, I would recommend making a fairly straight forward first batch and expanding from there - it will just be a bit less overwhelming. 

Please feel free to pass on any suggestions and feedback. Happy bagel making!! 

Next recipe up will be homemade passion juice for all you living near the equator!


  1. They are in the oven now!! Can't wait to try them, they look awesome!!

    The only issue I saw in the directions was you are missing the oil in the ingredients list. I just added a TBSP, figured that was about right.

    Miss you guys! Hope we can Skype soon!

    1. So glad you tried them! The oil is actually just to put down on the pans in order to keep the bagels from sticking. You could alternatively use parchment paper. How did they turn out with the oil in them? I would bet a bit fluffier! Hope you enjoyed them!

    2. They were awesome! Everyone loved them (including Buddy, he swiped some of Henry's).