Bagel recipe

Homemade Bagels/Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Here is a bagel recipe worthy of the best New York or Jersey deli from a baker in Boone, North Carolina. Bruce Ezzell commented on this blog ages ago and elicited a discussion about bagels, which led to his inspiring journey from being laid off to opening his own bakery. professional baker. I’ll let Bruce, @thebreadlist on Twitter, tell the story.—M.R.

by Bruce Ezzell

I’ve been baking for 20 years now. Five years professionally from 1989-1994, then what I called ‘sanity baking’ after that. Newly married, kids on the way, I had to find work that gave me a steady paycheck so I left baking for new careers. The ‘economic downturn’ changed things for me. I lost my job as the office manager of a high-end construction company in January 2009.  Boone, NC, where I live, is a small university town and in the winter of 2009 there were no jobs. Family friends who knew I baked and had eaten my bread before suggested I pick up some extra work baking. I thought, what the heck, I’ve got nothing else to do. That February I was asked if I made bagels. I hadn’t, but I’ll learn anything. Approximately 20,000 hand-formed and hand-boiled bagels later, Owl Creek Breadworks (on Facebook) takes all my time and I’m having more fun working than I’ve had in years.

And I’ve learned a little bit about bagels. Best compliment I’ve had was from a retired guy who was given one of my bagels by a friend. The message he left on my friend’s phone was this “I grew up in Jersey, in a neighborhood with a green grocer, a meat market, and a Jewish bakery. I haven’t had a bagel like this since I was a kid, chewy and dense, not bready like these things you find in the store. Where can I get more?” I figured if I could make a retired businessman remember his childhood with a simple thing like a bagel, I was on the right track.

Anyway, how do I do bagels? I did my research first. I also keep bees, and one of the first things you learn when you meet other beekeepers is that if you ask 10 beekeepers how to ‘do’ bees, you’ll get 15 answers. The same thing applies with making bagels. The true bagel is boiled in sugar water. No, the true bagel is boiled in lye. You have to have a strict 4 hour sponge, followed by an 8 hour retarding period. No sponge, make a regular dough with regular rises. Etc., etc.

In the end the recipe I use is one cobbled up from various sources through trial and error. I bake by weight, not volume, for issues of price control and quality control. Very quickly, bakers math is based on the total weight of flour in a recipe. Flour weight is always 100%. If you are baking a 2 pound loaf of bread it typically contains approximately 17.5 ounces, or 500 grams, of flour. A bread dough at 60% hydration contains about 10.5 ounces, or 300 grams, of water. 500 grams*60% = 300 grams. [Editorial intrusion: notice the ratio!—m.r.] I measure in grams for accuracy. Bagel dough is much denser than bread dough, with a much lower hydration percentage, approximately 52%. This would mean that 500 grams of flour would only get 260 grams, or slightly over 9 ounces of water.

I start with a sponge at 100% hydration, meaning an equal weight of flour and water and 1% yeast. This would equate to 500 grams of water plus 500 grams of flour and 5 grams of yeast. I let the sponge rest anywhere from 4-10 hours. Much more than that and I feel it affects the end product adversely. The gluten structure in the sponge begins to break down and the dough becomes slack. After the sponge has risen sufficiently, 4-12 hours, I mix the dough with enough additional flour to bring it down to a 52-53% hydration, adding salt, honey, and malt, each at about 2% of the total flour weight. A simple breakdown for the home baker follows:

Bruce Ezzell’s Bagels

Sponge (4 to 12 hours before baking; do this before you go to bed if you want fresh bagels for breakfast or brunch, only takes a minute)

  • 500 grams flour/18 ounces/ 3.5 cups
  • 500 grams water/18 ounces/ 2 1/4 cups
  • 3 grams active dry yeast/3/4 teaspoon
  1. Combine the ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer and mix with a spoon till the ingredients are combined. Set aside at room temperature for at least 4 hours. Do this before going to bed if you want fresh bagels in the morning.

To Make the Bagels

  • 18 grams kosher salt/.6 ounces/1 tablespoon
  • 18 grams honey/1 scant tablespoon
  • 18 grams malt syrup/1 tablespoon (you can substitute molasses if you wish)
  • 446 grams flour/16 ounces/ 3 cups
  • Baking Soda (1/2 tablespoon for every 2 liters/1/2 gallon water)
  • Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt or other garnish (optional but recommended
  1. Add salt, honey, malt syrup, and flour to the sponge, the flour last. Attach dough hooks to your mixer and mix at low speed for 8-10 minutes. This is a stiff, bucky dough so don’t walk away from the mixer if it has a tendency to walk across your counter top. I’ve had more than one mixer hit the floor and it is distressing. (This can also be mixed by hand.)
  2. Once the dough is mixed remove it to your counter and cover with a cloth to let it rest for 5-10 minutes. While the dough is resting place a wide, fairly deep pot filled with water on the stove to heat (measure the water so you know how much baking soda to use). When I boil I typically use a pan like a wok filled with water. Once the water comes to a simmer add the baking soda. Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Divide the dough into 12-13 (4 oz) pieces. Round each piece and set aside to rest for a few more minutes, covered.
  4. To shape take each ball of dough and flatten out slightly using the palm of the hand, making a disc approximately 3.5 inches wide. Make a hole in each using your thumb and place back on the counter, covered, to rise.
  5. After 10 minutes flip each bagel over so the bottom is now facing up. When this side begins to get slightly puffy and rounded it is time to boil. This may take as little as 5 minutes, but depending on the temperature of your kitchen, how cold your countertop is, etc., it might take longer. When the bagel looks and feels a bit puffy, it’s ready to boil.
  6. While your bagels are in their final rise bring your water to a simmer, then add the baking soda.
  7. Drop the bagels 3-4 at a time into the simmering water (depending on how large your pot is). They should float immediately or within a few seconds. Let them simmer for one minute, then flip them over using a chopstick or spoon and let the other side simmer for one minute. Remove from the water using a skimmer or large spoon. I like to bake them on a half-sheet pan lined with parchment paper. They can also be baked on a pizza stone.
  8. Sprinkle them with sesame, poppy seeds, salt or whatever you prefer immediately after removing them from the water, or alternately, brush with an egg wash and sprinkle after that.
  9. Bake at 450 degrees F for 12-13 minutes or until golden brown.

On occasions that I have run out of malt I have substituted molasses and received excellent reviews. Some might consider it blasphemy, but really, who cares? My customers are much more pleased with overall flavor when I boil in an alkaline (water with baking soda) solution than when I boil in a sugar water solution.

Really pretty simple. There’s a guy in Florida I recently read about who spent thousands on a water system in his shop to convert his water into the chemical/mineral equivalent of Brooklyn tap water, because he swears the water is the key to the perfect tasting bagel. I don’t know but it seems like North Carolina, Appalachian Mountain well water does a pretty good job. Like Joe Ortiz says in The Village Baker, “baking great bread requires an attitude of faith and a willingness to let nature take its course. It has to do with knowing that the process, once set in motion, has a way of determining its own destiny. All the baker does is to become a guide, leading the fermentation of the bread through its natural cycles.”

Although appropriate ingredients are certainly paramount, I think that process is key.
Yield: 13 bagels at 114 grams (4 ounces) each
Note from M.R.: These really are easy.  If you don’t have a strong mixer, knead the dough by hand for the same time you’d have done so in the mixer. Note the darker color of one of the bagels in the photo. This was cooked in water with food grade lye replacing the baking soda. It resulted in the expected darker color and pretzel-like flavor.
Update 2/1: Our new Bread Baking Basics app for iPad now available!

103 Wonderful responses to “Homemade Bagels Are a Breeze!”

  • Phillip Townsend

    Excited to see Bruce’s bagels featured here. I can attest that they are incredible. And some of his other breads, like his Austrian seeded baguettes and his wholegrain miche–well, there are no words. Had some for breakfast this morning!

  • Trish

    Bruce Ezzell is a long-time friend of ours, and we have been blessed to eat his bread numerous times. His bagels are incredible, his Austrian seeded baguette is something I wake up wanting to eat, and his whole grain miche, one of Bruce’s favorites, is probably my favorite for taste, nutrition, and size. Bruce makes every loaf he produces himself and uses long fermentations to develop incredible flavor. Everyone needs a baker like Bruce!

  • Mattm

    Nothing like getting a kick of inspiration on a Monday morning! There’s just something about the boil then bake process that I love, hence my home-made pretzel kick this past December. Thanks for posting this!

  • Tina

    I agree with Trish and Phillip. I know Bruce personally and there are no words to describe his work! The guy knows his stuff!

  • Mark

    Hey Bruce,

    I’ve tried making bagels a number of times and they always seem to deflate on me. They are nice and plump going into the oven, but a few hours after they are done I’ve got flat bagels. Any tips?

    • Bruce Ezzell

      Anytime that’s happened to me it’s because I’ve let them proof too long on the board before boiling and baking. I really want the bagels to hit the water as soon as they can float. Even coming out of the water they shouldn’t be too plump. They’ll get that final push in the oven.

  • CT

    I did not notice a recommendation for the type of flour. Do you recommend “bread flour”, “all purpose”, or something else. FWIW, I tend to use King Arthur All-Purpose for French breads and KA bread flour for others.

    • Bruce Ezzell

      I use a stronger protein bread flour in the shop. I’ve used AP flour and it works fine. The dough tends to be more slack and actually easier to work with, but I like the final texture better when I use bread flour.

  • Chappy

    What’s the recommended ratio if using lye? I made the Ruhlman pretzel’s and have some around. I assume one uses a less concentrated solution for bagel’s than for pretzels?

    Also, does a lye bagel taste noticably different from a baking soda bagel? Just wondering if it is worth the hassle.

    • ruhlman

      I used the same amount as the baking soda, a tablespoon per gallon. Worked well, strong but not pretzel strong.

      • Chappy

        Thanks. Can the lye be added after reaching a simmer like in the recipe? It seems like the danger of lye is when it is dry rather than in solution, but I just wanted to check.

  • ruhlman

    I used AP. Bruce, what do you recommend and let us know what your take is on Bread Flour v. AP flour for the home cook.

  • J.W. Hamner

    So you don’t feel you need to use high gluten flour (14% ish)? I’ve had some good success using King Arthur’s Lancelot flour in Peter Reinhart’s recipe from BBA. Homemade bagels are sooooo much better than anything you can get up here in New England.

  • Bruce Ezzell

    I would definitely recommend using a high-protein bread flour. I use Wheat Montana Natural White which is about 13%. It gives a good dough structure without being too difficult to shape & form. Higher gluten flours (14%ish) and experiments with hi-gluten additions didn’t seem to produce positive results.

  • Emily

    Great detail on bagels. I’ve always wanted to try bagels and pretzels but the need to use caustic soda, a product more commonly used for unblocking drains put me off. Just a suggested revision to part 2 of the ingredient list, the baking soda is listed directly under the flour. The first step then instructs to add all dough ingredients to the sponge. For those of us who don’t always read the instructions thru carefully, may accidentally add the baking soda to the dough.

  • feltman

    I’m going to apologize preemptively for my tone–I’m not a jerk–call it tough-love for all you “bagel lovers” out there outside the NYC area.

    Unless you’ve eaten a bagel from Absolut, Bagel Hole, Terrace Bagels, Ess-A-Bagel, or H&H (fresh from the factory only) or any one of a small handfull of lesser-known long-established neighborhood bagel joints in Brooklyn, Queens, or Nassau county–YOU JUST SIMPLY DON”T KNOW WHAT A ‘GOOD’ BAGEL IS. You have no reference. Heck, even in NYC it’s almost impossible to find a good bagel.

    You think you know–because it’s round with a hole and has some kind of seeds or something on it and hey–it tastes pretty good.
    That’s fine. And there’s nothing wrong with eating it. But please don’t call it a “good bagel.”

    Go to any of the above referenced bagel establishments on a Saturday or Sunday morning. There will be a long line. This is good. This insures that you will be getting a hot bagel right out of the oven. Order a bagel–plain, sesame, poppy, salt, pumpernickel, onion, egg, or everything–ordering any other variety immediately disqualifies you–I’m looking at you cinnamon raisin. Eat it while still warm either plain, with CC, CC & lox, or if you must a little butter and jelly (and for god sake’s don’t toast it.)

    There that’s a bagel. You can now go forth and discern whether or not your place is any good or not.

    Sorry again, guys. I do this because I care.

    • Bruce Ezzell

      It’s good to be a purist and proud of your community. I salute you!
      I suspect however, that the good citizens of Montreal and various other cities would be ready for debate.
      I have at least one customer from Jersey who politely overlooks multi-grain and cinnamon-craisin and goes directly to his poppy seed and everything bagels.

  • Natalie Sztern

    I kind of agree with Feltman…of course here that is a tradition (Montreal): one would never eat a bagel unless it has been picked up at midnight at either of two bakeries; we don’t buy bages in stores and there are ‘bagel factories’ popping up thru the city. I have to go one further than Feltman and say that any bagel that can be ‘hollowed out’ is definitely NOT a bagel…that test is done when you scoop out and wind up eating a finger: that’s a bagel!

  • rockandroller

    Can you be a little more detailed for those of us without a standing mixer? “can be mixed by hand” doesn’t really do it for me. How much vigor? How long? Etc.

    • Bruce Ezzell

      It can be kneaded by hand until it passes the window-pane test. That would be sufficient gluten development. I’m guessing 10-15 minutes. You can knead for a few, take a rest for a mnute, start back up.

  • Amber Stults

    For over a year I’ve had “malt extract” on my grocery list so I could make homemade bagels. Finally, a recipe that lists a substitute and that isn’t a zillion steps long!

  • feltman

    I have had and enjoyed Montreal bagels.
    Dynamite stuff, but they are almost a separate species unto their own.
    My comments were reserved for american-style bagels.

  • Matt

    They just came out of the oven. I’m pretty happy with the results! I used molasses. I do believe I was having difficulty during the proofing stage. Even after fifteen minutes, there wasn’t a terribly noticeable puffiness I’d expect from a proof. I think my house is just too cold today. So the bagels didn’t float right away during the boil. Not even after a few seconds…more like 45 seconds. Is this otherwise indicative of another problem besides a less than active proof?

    • Bruce Ezzell

      You can boost your yeast amount a bit. I like staying within the 3-5 grams area. My home kitchen is cold as well, My shop kitchen stays pretty warm. There really isn’t a ‘time’ I can place on the proof. It’s a matter of getting experienced with the dough. If they came to the surface within 45 seconds you’re getting close. I’m satisfied if the float within 15-20 seeconds. After you’ve shaped them, let them rest for 10 minutes, and then flipped them, you will notice that the bottom side is flattened. My visual judge is when that flattened side has rounded. A bagel should receive about a 1/4 proof. Let it go much more and you end up with a product that is ‘bready’ rather than ‘chewy’.

      • Matt

        This is so easy to do! I will definitely try this again. I think another gram of yeast may have been called for in my case, but I definitely got a dense result that I really liked! Different than many of the bagel shop bagels, as you’d expect…but more like the bagels I’m accustomed to at smaller operations.

        I also used AP flour, but I’d like to give bread flour a whirl. Is the malt extract strictly a flavor component?

  • Andrew

    Any suggestions for adjusting the ratio if using freshly milled whole wheat (hard red or white wheat) flour?

    • Bruce Ezzell

      When I use whole grains I typically include those in the sponge. I don’t often use this recipe for a 100% whole grain bagel. The second portion of the flour is always white flour. My reason is that they don’t retain the chewiness if I go with 100% whole grains. If you try it start with an additional 1-2 ounces (28-57 grams) of water. Remember this is supposed to be a stiff dough.

  • Al W

    I spent this last weekend searching for lye, everywhere from health food shops to hardware stores. I wanted to make pretzels. As it turns out, lye is key ingredient in the manufacture of methamphetamines and for that reason unavailable around here. I have since found a mail order supplier, but have not purchased any lye yet. While I understand lye is important for pretzels, how big a difference will it make in bagel baking? Thank you.

  • Bill Bush

    I’ll be in Boone within the next month just for the purpose of “visiting” one of these bagels. It is a little out of my way to Lenoir, but if the weather is good on either end of my trip, I’ll cruise through Boone and look for you.

  • Fran

    This is great. I made bagels this weekend and while they are ok, they are not right. The texture is wrong. They’re ok toasted, but it’s just not really a bagel. I’m going to give this recipe a try. It’s so much faster than the recipe I used and that’s a good thing.

    Now I just need a new delivery of rennet so I can make the cream cheese. My package got delivered to the wrong person and it appears it was without refrigeration for a number of days, so in the trash it goes. Better safe than sorry.

    These bagels will be GREAT with my home made lox and cream cheese. I’m so glad you posted it and I can’t wait to have a “proper” bagel from my kitchen!

      • Chad

        check out new england cheesemaking supply for stuff and recipes — fun and pretty easy project

  • Faye

    I know I’m just repeating what many others have already said, but you can never have too many votes of confidence…these are amazing! Fun to work with, and SO yummy right out of the oven. I like the regular white ones because the dough is nice and compliant; the ones that have a heavier, stiffer dough like his craisin bagels are a little harder to get looking good enough for Quality Control. Definitely the best bagels I’ve ever eaten…completely converted me from store bagels. You’ll never go back.

  • cheryl k

    I was going to set the sponge last night in hopes of a snow day but didn’t get the call. Just got the call now at 5:15 am and, of course, I’m up and dressed already so I might as well get busy. Warm bagles and then a nap later in the day, it just doesn’t get much better than that.
    MR, I’m loving all of these bread posts! Thank you.

  • Teri

    Made these this morning and lo and behold my beloved 500 watt Kitchenaid could not take it…he died. Hopefully the one repair shop listed for my area will be able to repair him. But at least I got a good workout kneading by hand. I could not find malt syrup so I used Sorgum and they tasted great.

  • Tom Saaristo

    I saw, I do believe, Lora Brody make bagels on “Baking with Julia” and thought, “Wow! I can do that!” But this entry is ordering me to the kitchen! No more “special order”-ing salt bagels from the bagel place down the street. Thank you!!

  • feltman

    i don’t get it.
    pretty much sums up my comment exactly.
    they didn’t like h&h and ess-a-bagel (and you’ll find plenty of argument there) but loved all my other picks.
    but the important takeaway from the article is that TIME is almost as critical as the actual product. this also jives with my post and the thousands of folks in montreal that line up at fairmont and st. viateur (sp?) every weekend morning.

  • Ethan

    Feltman I’m confused. Not sure why you’re apologizing or at whom your instructions are aimed… Do you find Bruce’s recipe lacking? I’m excited to try it this weekend and want to know if it has a New Yorker’s approval? I’m born and raised VA, so what do I know?

    • Mantonat

      The main takeaway here is: ignore Feltman unless you actually live in NYC but have never eaten a bagel. I live in Denver and if I want to make bagels in my own kitchen, I don’t need to fly to NYC first to get a baseline. We all get it – true bagels aren’t those fluffy, bready things you buy from the grocery store bakery. And we also all get that any baked item is best when consumed as fresh as possible. Make bagels without guilt or fear.

  • Todd

    Leave the mix covered or uncovered overnight? Got a batch waiting now, so quick reply would be helpful. 🙂

  • Ohiogirl

    Karen – I have not heard that outside of Cleveland – am now in LA (and have purchased bagels here, in NYC and Montreal.)

    I’m also used to mishmosh used to describe chicken soup – with a matzoball, kreplach and kasha. Carb and healing heaven!

  • Sommer J

    Made these bagels today and they were a big hit! Thanks for posting a recipe, incidentally I was looking for a bagel recipe Sunday and thought I found one until I saw this. Cheers!

  • dan

    I made these this morning following the directions exactly, and they came out perfectly, just like H and H. Once I have the bagel formed, can I freeze them and boil and bake later after they are thawed and proofed again?

    • ruhlman

      i’ll bet they freeze great, tricky part will be knowing how long to let them to thaw and rise.

    • Bruce Ezzell

      You’re probably going to want to thaw them overnight in the fridge, then remove to the counter to proof.
      Or, remove from freezer at bedtime and thaw & proof on counter at night for breakfast.
      Either way, cover them with a plastic bag to keep the surface from drying out.

  • feltman

    ethan & mantonat: you are right. i hijacked the thread with my rant. i get like that about bagels. i feel like it’s a dying art with very few references left–unlike pizza where it seems like there is a nationwide renaissance going on now.

    the recipe might well be great–i’ve tred others without much success–i hope to try this one this weekend.

    • Mantonat

      Hey, at least we all know where to get great bagels when we are in New Yor City! Just hope the locals don’t get mad at us midwestern tourists for making the lines longer.

  • Todd

    Thanks for the recipe. They were delicious! Only problem was mine were nowhere near as pretty as those in the picture.

  • allen

    These look fantastic and I’m planning on a batch Saturday morning. My only concern, after recently replacing a stripped worm gear on my KA Artisan, is whether this dough will be too much for the mixer and I should knead by hand. Any thoughts greatly appreciated.

    • Bruce Ezzell

      If you half the recipe you’ll definitely be okay. Using white flour I doubt the recipe will blow the worm gear again. If you go with whole grain, all bets are off. I’m a strong proponent of always making a dough by hand at least once, though, so you might do that anyway.

  • Michelle

    So, I made these the other day and they tasted great but were flat and a little lumpy…not nearly as puffy and beautiful as your photo! Where might have I gone wrong? (I am not much of a baker…)

    • ruhlman

      this is usually a second rise problem, either too short or too long. a number of people having similar result.

  • Fuji

    I’ve made this recipe twice now and both times the results were delicious! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. My bagels came out with a bit of pretzel-like taste/texture, but hey, I figure bagels and pretzels are cousins. 🙂

    • doug

      4 half batches in and still impressed! but I still think steps 6 & 7 should say boil not simmer, yes? I’ve boiled each time, not simmered, and have been very pleased with my results. thanks guys

  • Patrick Phillips

    I notice that in the text you mention 500g water to 500g flour to 5g yeast but the recipe changes to 3g yeast. Which is more correct?
    I’m trying the recipe today having proofed overnight with the 5g version.
    Looking forward to getting this right as the bagels available here so far aren’t worth the effort to chew them. Thank you for the sensible directions and impetus.

    • Bruce Ezzell

      I caught that myself. You can do either. Because the white bagel dough can be very active, especially if your kitchen is warm, I like to use the lower amount first. If you’ve got a cold house like mine, you might need to go with the higher amount. It gives the dough a bit more push.

      • Patrick Phillips

        Thanks Bruce. They turned out well and with some practice and keeping intelligible notes on what I actually try I think I will have an excellent recipe for my circumstances by about the third or fourth
        iteration. I definitely want to go smaller. At 12 bagels they were
        closer to 5 oz each so I will try for 15 next time. Very tasty and an easily followable recipe made for an enjoyable weekend project
        with perks.

  • Alexis

    Made these on the weekend – they were great – both right out of the oven and a couple of days later (I think the bagel-like texture actually improved with age..) Although I clearly have to work on my technique, as mine weren’t nearly as attractive as the ones in the photo. We can get decent bagels in Toronto (mostly Montreal style), but it was a cold day and I didn’t have time to trek to the bakery, so it’s great to know I can make these at home.
    The only issue I had with making them was that they didn’t float to the top of the pot on their own unless I gave them a small “nudge” with a spoon. Perhaps I didn’t let them rise long enough? Whatever the issue, it didn’t seem to hurt them in the baking or the eating!

    • Bruce Ezzell

      If they were sticking to the bottom they could have used a bit more bench-time rising. However, if they rose quickly when you nudged them, you were good. I like them when they are right at that point. A very chewy end product.

  • erik

    Made these last weekend and they were fantastic! Just one thing: my wife is now demanding egg bagels. I am thinking that I should use egg yolks only and reduce the water in the sponge by a weight equal to the yolks (adding the yolks to the sponge the next morning, of course), but I am really just guessing based on logic and minimal experience. Am I on the right track? Any idea how many yolks I should use, or other tips?


    • Bruce Ezzell

      Erik, I’ve never tried to adapt this to an egg-bagel recipe. I’m not particularly fond of egg bagels so I’ve never seen the need. Your tentative procedure seems sound to me. Let me know how they come out. I’m definitely interested.

      • Erik

        OK, gave egg bagels a shot today. I had some oven trouble and they didn’t rise as well as they did when I made the basic recipe, so I am going to have to try again.

        Anyway, after skimming some egg bagel recipes for ideas, I used your basic idea and reduced the hydration in the sponge to 88%. I added 8 egg yolks weighing 150 g with the second flour, but this made too wet a dough and I ended up adding an additional 50 g or so of flour. I finished them with an egg wash.

        They don’t have the distinctive yellow color that egg bagels often do, and because of the lousy rise they are a bit on the dense side, but the flavor is spot on. Next time around, I think I will use 10 yolks, reduce the hydration in the sponge a bit more, and maybe add a touch more yeast.

  • Joy

    Now I want bagels. There is a grocer here that important delicious bagels from Montreal but they now have some competition. Lightly toasted with a smear of homemade jam? To die for.

  • Aaron

    I’ve got some powdered malt I got at a brewer’s supply for making Peter Reinhardt’s bagel recipe. Can I substitute that? How would I need to adjust the liquid to compensate if I did?

    Hot Bagels in Cincinnati was an excellent place to get bagels outside of NYC, or at least it was when I was a kid and it wasn’t yet a chain.

    • Bruce Ezzell

      No adjustments in liquid necessary. It’s a minute amount in this size batch. I’d use about 15 grams of the powdered malt. I prefer using the powder. Note: it sucks moisture from the air extremely fast, so add it to your 2nd flour and whisk it in. If not you may have hard chunks of barley malt in your finished product.

  • Aaron

    I tried to post this earlier, but it seems to have been lost…
    I have some powdered malt extract from a brewing supply that I got for a different bread recipe. Can I use that? How would I need to adjust the liquid in the recipe if I used powder instead of syrup?

  • Bruce Ezzell

    It posted and I replied above but here goes again.
    No adjustments in liquid necessary. It’s a minute amount in this size batch. I’d use about 15 grams of the powdered malt. I prefer using the powder. Note: it sucks moisture from the air extremely fast, so add it to your 2nd flour and whisk it in. If not you may have hard chunks of barley malt in your finished product.

  • Jim

    Never was successful w/ bagels before this recipe. They turned out great. Mine became wrinkly after they cooled — I guess more time in the second rise would have fixed that. Almost burned out my KA mixer, next time just 2-3 mins in the mixer – the rest by hand.

  • *susan*

    I was seduced by this recipe by one thing….. the idea that I could make a sponge overnight, wake up, finish the dough and be eating bagels by noon. I even invited two people to come have fresh bagels for lunch.

    But the second rise took over 3 hrs. I served a lunch of linguini with meatballs and a marinara sauce.

    I am going to be honest. These bagels just weren’t that great. In spite of the long sponge rise, they tasted very “white” and the texture was too packed. I suspect they would make very good bagel chips though since they puffed up in a distinct manner.

    I will go back to my favorite bagel formula which can be found in Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice. These bagels are the bagels of my youth which was spent in NYC. Salmon is curing now for my next batch.

    • Bruce Ezzell

      Reinhart’s BBA recipe is wonderful. If the second rise (after shaping) took 3 hours when it normally takes about 15 minutes, something was off – bad yeast maybe, or seriously cold dough? I encourage you to check your steps and give it a second shot.

      • Richard

        I’m very excited to try this. BBA is my favorite recipe but to be truthful, requires some planning and fridge space, and sometimes you just need to run out of one of them to get off track.

        Would sodium carbonate, also known as either soda ash or washing soda, work? As has been mentioned, it’s difficult to find lye, and even more so to find food-grade lye. But you can get Arm and Hammer washing soda at some hardware stores (not mine, but others) and soda ash from any pool store (it’s called “pH Up”.)

        It definitely raises the pH. I just want it to be food safe. Thanks!

  • holly

    These were great! It took a lot longer for my second rise but my kitchen is quite cool. I used cane syrup as the substitute for the molasses that was the substitute for the malt syrup but, otherwise, followed the recipe exactly. Next time I will try subbing some whole wheat flour for some of the white flour and hope that works well. Any advice for adding in some whole grains?

  • Bruce Ezzell

    If you use whole grains, put them in the sponge to maximize flavor development. You might need to increase your water by an ounce or so.

  • Mary Beth

    Wow, great recipe! The last bagels I baked – years ago- were from Craig Claiborne’s NYT Cookbook c 1979. Those turned out nicely, as I recall, and just now as I looked at that recipe his ratios are pretty close to yours. The main differences being no sponge, and he uses quite a bit of malted *milk* powder (1/4 c) in the dough and both the malted milk powder and sugar in the water bath.
    I re-read your recipe last night and was delighted with the overnight sponge so that we could actually be eating bagels for breakfast this morning. So glad for your tips- such as that the bagels could take longer to proof depending on how cool the counter was. So I warmed up the board for resting the bagels, and also used a wok, something I wouldn’t have ordinarily considered.
    This is probably one of the stiffest doughs I have ever mixed. I have a DiLonghi (formerly Kenmore) heavy duty mixer, and it handled the dough perfectly. Your tip on not walking away from the mixer is right on, as my mixer walked off the counter a few weeks ago- the first time in 25 years of using a stand mixer. The DiLonghi started right up again, thank God, but what a fright!
    The bagels turned out really pretty. They floated immediately- I mean, in two seconds, and rounded out nice and plump in the oven. I baked them for 13 minutes, based on their color. Since I waited to cool them down before tasting, I was disconcerted to see that they were a tad chewier – a tiny bit doughy, and I think could have stood two more minutes in the oven. One possibility is that the oven temp might have dropped more than I thought when putting them in the oven, so I need to check my oven temp as well.
    Since we like them toasted just fine, once they cooled we popped them in the toaster oven, any concerns about doughiness were gone. My family scarfed them down, and I am going to have fun making these a staple.

    • Bruce Ezzell

      I am glad you like them. I like my bagels to be on the chewy side, the antithesis of the grocery store bagel. If they do seem a bit doughy fresh out of the oven, they might need a bit more time baking. Try dropping the temp 15-25 degrees and go a few minutes longer.

  • Todd

    I have acquired kansui (potassium carbonate & bi-carbonate of soda solution) for making true ramen noodles. This also increases the water’s alkalinity.
    Can this be substituted for the baking soda?
    I suppose I should just try it out and let you know, but if you have any thoughts before I try this route, I’d like to know.

  • doug

    4 half batches in and still impressed! but I still think steps 6 & 7 should say boil not simmer, yes? I’ve boiled each time, not simmered, and have been very pleased with my results. thanks guys

  • Tom in London

    I’m trying to make this recipe in the UK, where the shops offer a bewildering variety of flour. Would I use plain flour? Strong bread flour?

    And is there any chance malt syrup is known by another name here? If you don’t know, I’ll have to substitute it with treacle, which I believe is the same as molasses.

    • Bruce Ezzell

      Hey Tom. I agree with Ruhlman. Plain or bread flour will both work, though I feel I get better results with bread flour. Treacle should work just fine. I have people who prefer them made with molasses rather than barley malt. I’m happy either way.

  • Tom in London

    Many thanks. I plan to try it this weekend, but will have to resist the temptation to try to source food-grade lye and malt syrup in the meantime.

  • jackie maxwell

    here’s the scoop. i do not bake. ever. well, unless you count the no knead bread. so i don’t have a clue what a dough or a sponge or anything else is supposed to look like or feel like. i decided out of the blue that i wanted some good bagels, which can’t be bought in this town. so here i am. i am in the middle of my first batch. what i have here is a mass of gooey, sticky something that looks like it gave up on becoming dough, and one lonely, also gummy, little baked lump. (i decided to just bake one in case this went the way i thought it would go, and it did). i followed the recipe. the only thing i can think of that i did differently is that, not owning a mixer, i mixed the dough by hand and probably stretched, instead of stirring, it. would that make the dough gummy?
    help please!!!
    thanks in advance.


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