Basic Bagels

My parents called me the Dairy Queen growing up due to my pretty self-explanatory obsession. While my obsession has lessened (only slightly), a new nickname has cropped up: Flour Child. I love carbs. I love gluten. In all honesty, my gluten love is not even matched by that of my psuedo-step-bro Paul. He is the truest Flour Child. His bready enthusiasm is unparalleled.

I had my first truly 100% New York bagel in the spring of 2012 on Long Island. If I knew the exact shop it came from I would give em a shout, but alas alack it was delivered to me out of the blue by an ex-boyfriend's mom. What a delight.

I haven't been to New York since I graduated from Bard in May 2014 and I miss that state something fierce. I've also been wanting to experiment with yeast more so bagels were a perfect match. After a bit of snooping, I came across this recipe and it turned out so so well! 

Basic Bagels

Dumbed down from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday


  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (Reinhart recommends bread flour, but make do with what you have on hand)
  • 1 cup & 2 tbs lukewarm water
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 1/2 tsps salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1-3 tbs poppy seeds (optional)

Combine your salt, honey, and yeast in the lukewarm water. Wait about five minutes for it to get frothy. In a large bowl, add the liquid mixture to your flour. If you're like me and can't afford a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix everything together with a wooden spoon for three minutes. By the end of your three minutes, the dough should start clinging to itself. If not, add a teeny bit more water and stir some more. Let your dough (and arms) rest for five minutes.

Dump your dough out on a silicone mat or a clean kitchen counter and start kneading. As you're kneading, the dough will start really coming together. Reinhart says it'll feel "stiff yet supple, with a satiny, barely tacky feel." AKA there will be some moisture, but the dough shouldn't feel wet. If it does, add a bit of flour as you knead. 

Set your dough in a lightly oiled--but otherwise clean--bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Stick the bowl in the refrigerator overnight to let the dough rise.

The Next Day...

An hour to an hour and a half before you want to bake your bagels, pull your dough from the fridge and divide it into 6-8 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your hands or on a worktop so that it forms a rope about six inches long. Repeat this process for all your dough pieces.

This next part is tricky to describe, but wrap the dough around your index finger in the palm of your non-dominant hand. Your other fingers and palm will support the rest of the dough rope and the two ends should fall between your index finger and thumb. Overlap the ends by an inch or so and wet them with a bit of water before pinching them together to a seal. Roll the ring of dough back and forth to reinforce the seal. Repeat these steps for all your pieces and then let the newly formed bagels proof.

The bagels can take anywhere from 60-90 minutes to proof although they may be ready before then. To test your bagels, you can fill a bowl with cold water and to see how well they float. You know your bagels are ready to be poached when you put one in the cold water water and it rises immediately to the surface. If your bagels sink in the water bath, they need more time to proof. You can check on them intermittently, ideally every 15 minutes or so. Once one of your bagels floats back up, the rest are ready to go. If your bagels pass the float test before you're ready to poach them, pop 'em into the fridge so they don't proof too much. 

Proofed bagels on oiled parchment paper

Proofed bagels on oiled parchment paper

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet or two (depending on how many bagels you have) with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper so that the bagels don't stick. If you want toppings, prep them now as they need to be applied to your bagel as soon as they are done poaching.

When your water reaches a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and grab a slotted spoon. Gently lower your bagels into the water. Add as many as will fit comfortably in your pot. All the bagels should float back up to the surface within 15 seconds. After a minute, turn your bagels with the slotted spoon and poach them for another half minute to minute before removing them from the water and place them on your oiled parchment paper baking sheets domed side up. If you so choose, immediately cover them in your toppings. If you forget to top them ASAP, whip up a little egg wash (one egg with an ounce or so of water) and brush it over the top of the bagels and then top your bagels.

[NB: Egg wash will help your topping stick better than just the poaching water alone so if you're using something larger or denser than poppy seeds you may want to consider this extra step.]

After all your bagels are poached, pop the tray into your preheated oven. After they go in, drop you oven temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake for another 8-10 minutes. We're aiming for a nice golden brown. 

Congrats! You just made scratch bagels. Aren't you fancy! Whip out this recipe when you need to intimidate someone with your baking prowess or you're missing NYC. 

I personally prefer these guys toasted rather than purely fresh, but I know that's a controversial opinion. Be sure to check out the original recipe as there is a fun variation there for cinnamon raisin bagels.