Mummy, I made bagels

This, like most things I make, has been a long time coming: bagels. Having witnessed a few flops of the home-made variety, I was understandably wary of the Mighty Little Bagel. I finally bit the bullet, after stumbling across a few bread-making books at the library. As they entered my life on the heels of the conclusion of last month’s Daring Bakers Croissant Challenge, I figured it’s a sign to continue down the Bread Path.

A few years ago, the Los Angeles Times featured a huge spread on bagel-making at home, and not having much faith in it, I filed it away for a rainy daywhen I had nothing better to do. Well, yesterday was that rainy day, quite literally. I combined a few tips from the LA Times articles, the books I checked out from the library (Breads from La Brea by Nancy Silverton and Crust & Crumb by Peter Reinhart, author of the LA Times article), and some advice from around the web.

I made a poolish sponge (too much, which I will have to use up sooner rather than later), and five hours later, proceeded to make the bagel dough. I made a stiff yet pliable dough; it passed the windowpane test, and then I sent it for a couple spins through the Kitchen Aid mincer as an extra guarantee that the gluten would be well developed. The dough was shaped without any proving time, and then left to prove overnight. Since it was a cold night, I didn’t bother placing the plastic-bag enclosed tray in the refrigerator to prove.

I woke up to a tray of well-proven bagels, proving that my relatively bagel-haunted dreams were largely unfounded.

After boiling them for very imprecise amounts of time (I was a bit frazzled this morning), I got kind of worried. The bagels shriveled up, looking a bit the way we get when we’ve showered too long. I shrugged mentally, and carried on, since I’d already started preheating the oven. And since I put 30 minutes of kneading energy into the dough the night before!

So, I egg-yolk washed them. Dipped half in cinnamon-sugar (1 tsp cinnamon, 5 tsp sugar), the other half in sesame seeds. Popped them into the oven for 12 minutes. Rotated trays, front to back and top to bottom, half-way through the bake. Twelve minutes later, out popped these beauties:

Am I happy? Yes, more or less. They are a bit chewier than I would prefer. Next time, I’ll follow Nancy Silverton’s advice of restricting the boiling to strictly 20 seconds, and see how that goes. In the meantime, they are perfectly edible, and definitely hit all the right bagel notes: they are definitely not mistakable for donuts, nor are they merely bagel-shaped bread rolls. They’ll do.

Poolish Sponge

18 oz bread flour
4 cups cool water
1/3 tsp instant yeast

  1. Whisk together all ingredients till a smooth mixture results.
  2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 3 to 5 hours, or till foamy and bubbly.
  3. Refrigerate overnight, well covered.

8 oz poolish sponge, at room temperature
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
16 oz bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp honey or malt syrup

Pot of water
1 TB baking soda
1 egg yolk, beaten


  1. Combine yeast with water for 3 minutes, then add to the sponge with flour, salt and honey.
  2. Stir until dough starts to form, then turn dough out onto clean work surface and begin to knead to form a satiny and pliable, yet stiff, dough, about 15-30 minutes. The dough should pass the windowpane test.
  3. Immediately divide the dough into 14 pieces, each being 2 ounces (or 7 four-ounce pieces, if you prefer them normal-sized). Roll into balls, then place them in a plastic bag to rest for 5-10 minutes. Once the rolls have rested, poke a hole into the center, enlarging it up to about 1 inch (or 1 1/2 inch for larger bagels), allowing the dough to rest if it begins to tear during the hole-creation process.
  4. Place onto greased baking sheets, enclose in a plastic bag, and allow to rise for about 1.5 hours, or until increased in volume by about 25%. Thereafter, place covered tray into refrigerator for bagels to rise slowly, at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
  5.  Remove tray from refrigerator at least half an hour before poaching them.
  6. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  7. Fill a large pot with about 4 inches of water (enough for the bagels to be submerged a few at a time). Bring water to a boil, reduce to a steady simmer, then add baking soda.
  8. Poach bagels, 3-5 at a time (or as many as can fit in the pot comfortably. Poach evenly on both sides, nor more than one minute total, then remove to a wire rack. Once all bagels are poached, wash with egg yolks. Then garnish with cinnamon sugar and/or seeds of choice, or leave plain.
  9. Place bagels on tray with 2 inches of space between them. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating trays mid-way through the bake.
  10. Remove bagels once well-browned. Cool on wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving, then store in air-tight container. Serve with cream cheese, of course.
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3 thoughts on “Mummy, I made bagels

  1. Thank you! They are amazingly easy to make, so give them a go when you’ve got a wee bit of spare time. If you’ve got a stand mixer that can handle heavy kneading, all the better! :)

    The exterior has softened a bit in the one day since I made them, so the chew isn’t as intense as it was the first day…so, I’m a lot happier!

  2. Pingback: Birthday Bagels | Getting Snappy

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