Making Bagels: Trying Something Different

Last week I tried making bagels for the first time.  Although I am an experienced baker, I had never tried bagels before.  And, although the ones I made were delicious, I may never make them again!

Making bagels is pretty much like making bread except you have to use bread flour and there are a few extra steps.  Bagels are supposed to be dense and chewy.  Thus the reason for the bread flour and the extra steps.  I used the recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

You start by mixing up all the ingredients:  yeast, water, bread flour, brown sugar, and salt.  Pretty basic, although I don’t usually have bread flour.  I doubled the recipe and made half cinnamon and raisin bagels and half chocolate chip bagels.  I let the dough rise once and then kneaded in the cinnamon, sugar, and raisins or chocolate chips.  The recipe calls for mixing in the raisins or chocolate chips with the other ingredients.  If I make these again, I will do that because trying to get the chocolate chips to stick in the dough was very frustrating.  I would also use mini chips.

After forming the bagels, it was time for the water bath. Bagels must cook for 1 minute on each side in a pot of boiling water. This is the most important step in the whole recipe. Why?

  1. Boiling the bagels gives the bagel its beautiful shine. But looks aren’t everything– this shine is actually a result of the dough’s starches gelatinizing which creates a crisp, shiny coating.
  2. Boiling bagels cooks the outer layer of dough, which guarantees they’ll hold their shape in the oven.
  3. Adding honey to the water bath gives the bagels extra caramelization and crisp.

The recipe I used told me to divide the dough up into eight bagels.  If I make bagels again I will make smaller bagels.  Maybe 10 or 12.  Also, the recipe said to make a ball and then poke your fingers through the middle to make the hole.  I didn’t have much luck with this.  My bagels were lumpy instead of smooth and several of them broke when I boiled them.

After boiling, my bagels were big, lumpy messes.  They were also very wet.  I should have dried them off somehow because the egg wash was too diluted to make the shiny crust I wanted.  I baked them at 425 for 22 minutes.  I turned the pans halfway through each baking time as instructed.

The bagels didn’t look impressive, but they tasted pretty good.  Much better than the stale or preservative filled bagels you can get at the grocery store.  But I’m not sure they were better than the baked fresh daily bagels you get at Panera’s.  Then again, I made 16 bagels for the same price as two bagels at Panera’s.

The bagels were time intensive.  The dough has to rise, they need a lot of kneading, and the water bath takes a while.  I felt like I used half the dishes in the kitchen so clean up also took a while.  It took me five hours from start to finish.  My bagels weren’t pretty but maybe everything would be easier a second time.

How about you?  Have you ever made bagels?  If so, what tips or tricks would you recommend so my bagels will turn out better next time?