Homemade bagels are a million times better than store-bought.
Like, those pre-packaged bagels in the bread aisle don’t even come close!
Which is why making bagels from scratch at home is such a fun baking project. They’re a little messy and time-consuming, but totally doable. Especially if you follow along with my video below which shows you exactly how to make bagels. PLUS, I’ve even included a bunch of flavor and topping customization ideas so you can really get creative.
Bagels are made with a basic yeast dough. We basically let the dough rise, shape it into 8 balls, then let those balls rise again. Then, in order to get the bagel shape, you simply use your index finger to poke a hole through the center and twirl it around your finger to stretch that hole out.
In order for the bagels to develop that well browned exterior and slightly dense chewy texture, they’re actually boiled briefly before baking. This works because the boiling water sets the exterior crust before it hits the oven, preventing the bagels from rising very much while further developing that browned exterior.
The reason we add barley malt to the boiling water is to further develop that browned crust and to give it that distinct flavor we all know and love. Traditionally lye is used, but you can also substitute with brown sugar.
Do I need to use bread flour?
The higher protein level in bread flour helps to create that chewy texture that makes bagels so delightful. It’s worth the trip to the grocery store to pick some up. You can use all-purpose flour if you absolutely must, but the texture will suffer.
Flavors & Toppings
It’s one thing to know how to make bagels. But it’s another to make any flavor you want! Customize your bagels by using my flavor ideas below, or get creative and experiment with different dough add-ins and toppings! The full printable recipe is down below.
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced onion, or coarse salt as desired
1 egg white, beaten
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons onion flakes
2 teaspoons garlic flakes or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt or coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Combine all ingredients and sprinkle over egg-washed bagels before baking.
Asiago Cheese topping
10 ounces freshly grated Asiago cheese
Make the recipe as instructed all the way until the water bath. Place the cheese in a shallow bowl. As the bagels come out of the water bath, immediately place them, one at a time, in the cheese. Turn to coat and press to adhere. Transfer back to the prepared baking sheet.
Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
2/3 cup raisins
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Knead the raisins into the dough just before the kneading process is done. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle all over a clean work surface. Place the dough on top and knead a few times in order to pick up all the cinnamon sugar in swirls. Proceed with the recipe as written.
1 cup blueberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A few minutes into the kneading process, add the blueberries into the dough. Continue to knead as the recipe instructs; you may need to add more flour if the dough becomes very wet. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle all over a clean work surface. Place the dough on top and knead a few times in order to pick up all the cinnamon sugar in swirls. Proceed with the recipe as written.
Whole Wheat Bagels
4 cups (17 ounces) whole wheat flour
Replace the bread flour in the original recipe with the whole wheat flour. Combine all the dough ingredients and let stand for 1 minute before kneading. This allows the whole wheat flour to better absorb the water. Follow the recipe as written, but if time permits, allow the dough to rise overnight in the fridge to soften the whole wheat taste.
Taste: I made everything bagels and asiago bagels, and they were both savory perfection!
Texture: Perfectly chewy and wonderful.
Ease: Not exactly quick and easy, but with the step-by-step video you can totally make your own perfect bagels!
Pros: No need to fly off to NYC for a delightful bagel. Plus you can totally customize the flavors.
Cons: Time consuming and a little messy. Definitely a project for a free afternoon.
Would I make this again? Absolutely! I make homemade bagels every few months.
How to make Bagels
Yield: 8 bagels
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
If you don’t have instant yeast, you can always substitute with the same amount of active dry yeast. Simply add the active dry yeast to the warm water and let it proof for 5 minutes before proceeding with the recipe.
If you can’t barley malt syrup (which I find on Amazon or at Whole Foods), use brown sugar.
For the dough:
1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 cups (17 ounces) bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
For the water bath:
2 quarts (64 ounces) water
2 tablespoons barley malt syrup
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
For the topping:
1 egg white
Desired toppings, see above
Make the dough:
Combine all the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes (or knead vigorously by hand for 12 to 15 minutes). The dough will be stiff and hold its shape without spreading. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise until puffy but not necessarily doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Transfer the dough to a work surface and divide into eight pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth, round ball. Place on a silicone mat-lined baking pan or lightly greased baking pan (do NOT use parchment paper) and cover the balls with plastic wrap. Let them rest for 30 minutes. They may puff up slightly.
Prepare the water bath:
Meanwhile, prepare the water bath by heating the water, malt powder, and sugar to a gentle boil in a large, wide pan. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Use your index finger to poke a hole through the center of each dough ball then twirl the dough around your finger to stretch the hole to a 2-inch diameter. Place each bagel on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Transfer the bagels, 4 at a time, to the simmering water. Increase the heat to bring the water up to a gentle boil if necessary. Cook the bagels for 2 minutes, gently flip them over, and continue cooking for another minute. Use a skimmer to remove the bagels back to the baking sheet and repeat with remaining 4 bagels.
Top and bake:
Beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water and coat each bagel with the mixture. Sprinkle any desired toppings evenly over the bagels.
Bake the bagels for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they reach their desired brown color. Remove the bagels from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
Serve or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Stored bagels are best served toasted. You can also freeze the bagels in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
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