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BBA #3: Bagels!

June 1, 2009
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I was really excited to undertake the third recipe in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice for the BBA Challenge — bagels! After reading what some of the other participants experienced with the dough, it seemed like it would be a challenge, and I’m always interested in recreating foods and dishes at home that you would normally just buy somewhere. And it was a challenge: this was the stiffest dough I’ve ever worked with, and it certainly gave me quite the workout getting it kneaded, but overall I thought for a first attempt, they came out pretty nicely.

There were a few ingredients that Reinhart recommended using to achieve the best results: high gluten flour (I decided to make whole wheat bagels, so I substituted whole wheat bread flour for half of the white bread flour) and malt powder or syrup. I picked up some barley malt syrup at our local co-op, then I was ready to begin.

The process spans two days. On the first day, the first step was to mix up a sponge with flour, yeast, and warm water — I left this to bubble up and double in size, which took a few hours.


After the sponge had doubled in size, I added more flour, the malt syrup, more yeast, and salt.

bba_bagels_2I mixed all of these ingredients together until they formed a (very) stiff dough, leaving some of the remaining flour out to incorporate during the kneading process per Reinhart’s instructions. Now: you’ll notice I have no pictures of the kneading process. This was because by the time I was finished, I was so worn out that it was all I could do to shape the dough, stick it in the fridge and plop down on the couch! The dough was very stiff, so I tried to take a slow, steady approach to the kneading, working it for about 10 minutes then taking a 10 minute break to let the gluten relax a bit before working it more. At times the dough seemed like it was getting way too dry, so I dripped a little water onto the dough as I was kneading it and that seemed to help. After 3 periods of 10-minute kneading with breaks in between, the dough finally passed the windowpane test and I was ready to shape it into rolls. Whew!

Now, here’s where I realized my scale might need a smidge of recalibration. Reinhart says the dough should make enough for twelve 4.5 ounce balls…but when I measured out 4.5 portions, I only got 8. I realized afterwards that I had to recalibrate my scale, and so the portions of dough I had shaped were going to become bagels on the large side…but oh well. They were already portioned out at this point and I was so tired from the kneading, I decided to just press on. Next time I’ll just divide the dough into 12 balls outright.


These balls rested for about 20 minutes, then it was time to shape. Reinhart suggests two methods: (a) poking a hole through the middle and gradually pulling outward to create a ring, and (b) rolling each ball into a rope and coiling the rope into ring. I wanted to avoid bagels with a “seam,” and thought the latter method would probably result in that, so I chose to go with the poke-a-hole method.


Not looking too bad. So these went into the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, overnight. When they emerged the next morning, they had risen slightly and were looking even more like we’d be having quite hefty bagels.


And now it was time to cook them! Into a large pot of boiling water (to which a little baking soda has been added) they go, cooking for 1 minute on each side.


After their boiling water dip, onto a sheet pan they went where I sprinkled them with sesame seeds.


Now it was into a 500 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until they were golden brown.



The verdict? Tasty! They were chewy, pleasantly whole wheat-y without being overly grainy. I wasn’t entirely happy with the slight bumpy-lumpiness of the exteriors — they weren’t as picture perfect as those you get in a bagel shop — but for a first attempt, I thought they turned out pretty well and they tasted delicious. I’d definitely make these again, perhaps playing around with adding cinnamon and raisins, or maybe some fresh herbs.


We had them toasted, with some cream cheese into which I mixed scallions, parsley and garlic – yum!


Previous BBA Bread: Greek Celebration Bread

Next up: Brioche (mmmm…..)

21 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2009 7:40 am

    Sounds like you exerted yourself way too much! Relax! Ha ha ha. It looks like it was totally worth it, though, yum! (And you got some exercise too…)

  2. June 1, 2009 8:44 am

    Your bagels look awesome!! I’m so impressed. And it sounds like you got a huge work out out of it. Man oh man, you’re making me want to try my hand at the fine art of bagel-making. Fabulous job!

  3. June 1, 2009 9:43 am

    These look totally delicious! Completely enormous, but delicious. Also, using cream cheese with parsley, scallions, and garlic mixed in is such a fantastic idea! My wife and I had dinner at Hazelnut Kitchen last night and they did something similar with their butter. I take this as a sign from above that I need to start infusing dairy products with herbs as soon as possible.

  4. June 1, 2009 11:22 am

    I tried making bagels once and have to say that I don’t think I’ll repeat the experience. Too much effort for not such a great result. Gotta say yours look good though and for a moment there I was tempted to change my mind!

  5. June 1, 2009 11:29 am

    Your bagels turned out really nice.
    Bold to do the whole wheat thing. I agree with you on the bagel “seam”…i find that it can come apart in the water bath.
    I like to make bagels, and do so a few times a year.
    Instead of baking soda to the water, it is more traditional and yields a nice result as well (for a shiny-ness after baking), to add the barley malt syrup to the hot water.

  6. June 1, 2009 1:05 pm

    Mmmmmm, these bagels look really delicious! I love your photos. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. June 1, 2009 1:27 pm

    Yum! Sounds like hard work but with excellent results ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Betsy permalink
    June 1, 2009 2:20 pm

    Your bagel with cream cheese looks scrumptious – what a great idea to mix in herbs!

  9. June 1, 2009 2:21 pm

    Your bagels look great especially with the cream cheese,parsley,garlic and scallions. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Great job,

  10. Carrie permalink
    June 1, 2009 7:43 pm

    YUM! One of my favorite foods. Great job. And, what is so bad about a big bagel????? Oh, for those of us with less time and for less kneading… I just got a book called Needlessly Simple.. all breads are knead free! I have done a few and it really does work. I’ll try anything for some homemade bread I can manage to have time to bake these days.

  11. June 1, 2009 9:49 pm

    Those are some amazing looking bagels! I don’t see anything lumpy or bumpy about them. And, I love what you’ve smeared them with. Looks like the recipe was a success! Good luck on your brioche.

  12. June 1, 2009 10:16 pm

    This makes me want to make em again! I made mine with great success in an outdoor kitchen…but the kneading part almost did me in…but made it more rewarding…now onto Brioche!

  13. Andy permalink
    June 1, 2009 11:40 pm

    I moved out of Ithaca 3 years ago and I still _crave_ the bagels from CTB. There’s nothing like them in Seattle. More often than not the Ithaca Bakery on RT 13 is my very first stop when coming back into town. Before I leave I pick up a baker’s dozen for myself and jealously pack them into my carry on to be frozen back in Seattle and rationed out over the next week.

    Also, if you’ve never had Ithaca Bakery’s Becks and Cheddar bread… well… that should rocket to the top of your “to eat” list.

  14. June 2, 2009 1:53 am

    Great looking bagels! I was thinking about whole wheat but decided to try that out later as I was having enough issues trying to find the right bagel flour here in Italy.

  15. June 2, 2009 12:47 pm

    wow homemade bagels?! i have to try this!

  16. June 2, 2009 8:22 pm

    Beautiful bagels and the toasted ones with the cream cheese spread are making me hungry. In our house there were none left over for toasting.

  17. June 3, 2009 9:10 pm

    I love that blue Le Crueset pan. Oh–the bagels look delicious, too ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. June 3, 2009 10:24 pm

    VERY impressive indeed! Bagels are a lot of work, but they sure look like they were worth it. Mmmmmm.

  19. June 4, 2009 6:45 am

    These look perfect! I must say they even look better than those in the stores here ๐Ÿ˜› And I agree, they do look like a whole lotta work!

  20. June 6, 2009 9:24 am

    Bagels have been on my list for a while now. I guess I’m a little intimidated. But I absolutely love them and i will make them at home! Yours look so great!

  21. June 6, 2009 9:29 pm

    I love bagels…for me, the chewy interior and slightly sweetened dough are what make the bagel (or break it, if not done correctly). Your recipe looks right on the money. I wouldn’t worry about the bagels looking bumpy/lumpy outside, that’s how you can tell they’re homemade and not mass-produced at some factory.

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