If you’re from the East Coast, you know that bagels can be a pretty delicate subject. In the Northeast, there’s a particularly fierce rivalry between bagels made in New York and those from New Jersey. But really, everyone loves a good bagel—here are the best bagel shops in every state.
Even better, it’s not as hard as you may be picturing to make a great bagel in your own kitchen. Here’s how to make homemade bagels that are just as fresh and chewy as the baker’s dozen at your favorite local bagel shop.
How to Make Bagels
We tend to put bagels in their own category, but bagels are, at their core, a shaped yeast bread. This Honey Bagel recipe makes a dozen bagels that have just a hint of sweetness.
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1-1/4 cups warm water (110° to 115°F)
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup honey, divided
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
4 to 5 cups bread flour, which is made from hard wheat and is higher in protein than all-purpose flour. This gives bagel dough the necessary strength and elasticity to create a soft, chewy texture.
Optional toppings: minced onion, sesame seeds and poppy seeds
Dutch oven: Boiling bagels helps gives them a chewy texture. We recommend using a large Dutch oven.
Spider strainer: Using a spider strainer will help make it easier to boil the bagels. It makes flipping them a snap and the bagels will sit perfectly still in the round basket as you remove them from the pot to drain.
Digital scale: Homemade bagels require precise measurements. A digital kitchen scale will help you accurately measure your flour and other ingredients.
Step 1: Combine wet and dry ingredients
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add the oil, both types of sugar, 3 tablespoons of honey, salt and the egg. Mix the ingredients together well.
Next, stir in enough flour to form a soft dough. (Here’s how to properly measure flour.) The flour will give the dough just enough binding to stick together. It should feel very pliable and give way easily in your hands.
Test Kitchen tip: Use a thermometer to test the temperature of your water—it should be between 105º and 115º. Water that’s too hot can kill the yeast, while too-cool water won’t activate the yeast as quickly. Check out more tips on how to proof yeast.
Step 2: Knead the dough
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, scraping the bowl as needed, and begin to knead the dough by hand. As you knead, the dough will tighten, taking on a slightly elastic feel. It won’t recoil like a spring, but it should have a fair amount of memory. When the dough loses its matte surface and gains a subtle shine, you’ll know it’s almost ready. Stop kneading when it feels smooth and heavy in your hands—this takes about 8 to 10 minutes of kneading.
When you’re finished, cover the dough with a tea towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Step 3: Shape into rings
Release your inner boxer and punch the dough down. Then divvy it up and shape it into 12 balls.
To form the bagel rings, use your thumb to create a hole in the center of each dough ball. The hole should be about 1-1/2 inches wide. Next, stretch and shape the bagel into an even ring—this will prevent it from becoming lopsided and will help it cook evenly. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Place the bagels on a floured surface. Cover and let them rest for another 10 minutes. After they’ve rested, flatten the bagels slightly with your fingertips.
Test Kitchen tip: To help prevent your hands from sticking, moisten them with water before shaping the dough.
Step 4: Boil the bagels
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring 8 cups of water and the remaining honey to a boil. Drop the bagels into the boiling water one at a time. You’ll need to flip them, so don’t overload the pot. (It’s no fun trying to handle bagels in a crowded pot of scalding water.) Cook each bagel for 45 seconds, then turn it over and cook for an additional 45 seconds. Remove the bagels from the water using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, allowing any extra water to drain off.
Test Kitchen tip: Use a loud timer to keep track of the amount of time the bagels are boiling.
Step 5: Season and bake
After boiling the bagels, sprinkle any desired seasonings on top. You can use poppy seeds, sesame seeds or everything bagel seasoning.
Finally, place the bagels about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake at 425° for 12 minutes. Flip each bagel and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Step 6: Serve
We recommend eating at least one bagel while it’s fresh out of the oven. Try your favorite combination of these bagel toppings:
Cream cheese: If you go with store-bought schmear, use one of the best cream cheese brands, according to our Test Kitchen pros. You can also make a homemade flavored cream cheese, like this savory Garlic-Herb Bagel Spread or sweet Maple Nut Bagel Spread.
Vegetables: Try tomato, cucumber, lettuce, sprouts, onion or capers on top of your homemade bagel.
Proteins: Consider piling on lox, scrambled or poached eggs, sliced cheese, hummus or tuna salad.
Tips for Making Homemade Bagels
Do you have to boil bagels?
It’s essential to boil your bagels before baking them if you want the right texture. The bubbling water sets the outside of the bagel, allowing it to form a chewy crust. (You boil homemade soft pretzels for the same reason!) But be sure to keep an eye on the bagels while they boil—if they’re in the water for too long, they’ll form a thick exterior and an overly dense interior.
Why are my homemade bagels flat?
Similar to the many reasons why bread doesn’t rise, there could be several explanations for why your bagels are flat. You may have added too much salt, sugar or flour, or your yeast could be too old.
What should I serve with bagels?
Bagels can be the star of a delicious weekend brunch spread. If you’re serving a crowd, set out several types of cream cheese and toppings like lox, capers and onions. Bagels are also great alongside tuna salad and egg salad. For other accompanying dishes, try one of these egg casseroles and a fresh fruit salad.
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