Don’t let the steps in this homemade bagels recipe frighten you: it’s so easy to make that even beginner cooks can do it.
This homemade bagels recipe is one of my favorites to make because it’s so easy that my son can help. He adores bagels, but I’m not a big fan of the ingredients listed on store-bought bagels. Sure, I understand the need for dough conditioners and preservatives when you’re making vast quantities of baked goods that sit on a shelf for days before being purchased. I just don’t want to eat them.
With this homemade bagels recipe, you skip those commercial ingredients along with the high-fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring that seems to be in every commercially baked food these days. You’ll still get the same bagel you love, and any flavorings you like!
Homemade Bagels Recipe
Combine flour, sugar, salt, and undissolved yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. While beating slowly, drizzle in warm water. Once the water is incorporated, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Then, gradually add 1/2 cup flour and turn the speed to high.
Continue mixing for a minute then add additional flour as needed to make a soft but only slightly sticky dough. At this point, stir in any flavorings you plan to use — e.g., garlic or onion powder, blueberries, bits of chopped bacon, etc.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead by hand until smooth and elastic. Kneading takes roughly 10 minutes and is one of the most satisfying parts of baking. I don’t know why, but there’s something about the back and forth motion and concentrated effort that’s soothing. Apparently, I’m not the only one to think so, as new research indicates that baking helps combat depression. Who knew?
Not in the mood to knead? Then let the stand mixer do it for you for 5 minutes.
Next, plop the dough into an ungreased bowl and cover it lightly with a clean towel. This is the first rise, so you want to keep the mixture warm while the yeast works its magic. I usually put mine in the microwave (without starting it), but in the oven with the light on works, too. Or, if it’s warm enough in your home, you can set it on the counter. Just be sure to keep it away from drafts! Wait 25 minutes, and don’t expect the dough to double in size.
Once the dough has risen for 25 minutes, punch it down. This is precisely as it sounds: you use your fist and aim for the center. It’s not necessary to be rough; pushing down on the dough once will release any large air bubbles. Once you’ve pushed down, pull the dough from the sides of the bowl and plop the whole thing onto a lightly floured board. Gently shape the dough into a 12-inch log and cut the log into 12 equally-sized pieces.
Now here’s where bagel-making gets contentious. Purists say that you should now roll the twelve slices of dough into individual logs then shape them on your hand, overlapping the ends by roughly 1/2 inch and gently pressing them together. Busy people (and I’m one of them) take those twelve slices of dough and shape them into balls then poke their thumbs through, forming the ball with their fingers until it looks like a bagel. You make the call.
Place the shaped bagels back onto the lightly floured board, or onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper if that’s easier. Cover them again with the towel and let them rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 20 minutes. I opt for the baking sheet since there’s a bit of moving around from this point forward.
While the bagels go through their second rise, bring a pot of water to boil and stir in the brown sugar. At the same time, preheat the oven to 375°F. Yep, you’ll be boiling the bagels and then baking them — that’s what gives bagels the texture that makes them so different from other kinds of bread.
Boil the bagels 3 at a time for 3 minutes. Turn, and boil an additional 3 minutes. (See how easy that is to remember?) Remove them from the water and place them on a rack to cool while you continue boiling the rest of them. When your last batch has cooled for 5 minutes, transfer all of the bagels to two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Be sure to leave 1 inch of space between them!
Bake the bagels for 10 minutes at 375°F. Meanwhile, combine the egg and water to make an egg wash. After 10 minutes, brush the tops of the bagels with the egg wash and sprinkle with any toppings you want to use (e.g., minced onion or poppy seeds). Return them to the oven to bake an additional 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and cool on a rack.
Since these are preservative-free, it’s best to eat them within a couple of days. They freeze quite well if your family isn’t the kind to gorge themselves on bagels as soon as you bake them. (Mine is.) If you’re going to freeze them, then for safety’s sake slice them first! That way all you’ll need to do is pry them apart and pop them in the toaster or microwave for a warm, delicious breakfast. Or lunch!
- 4-5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour divided
- 3 Tbsp. white sugar
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- 1 pkg. active dry yeast If using yeast from a jar check the label for equivalency
- 1½ cups very warm water 120-130 F
- 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 egg white lightly beaten
- In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine 1½ cups flour, white sugar, salt and undissolved yeast.
- While beating slowly, drizzle in warm water. Mix by hand for 4 minutes, or with stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape bowl as needed.
- Add ½ cup flour and beat rapidly by hand for 3 minutes, or with stand mixer on high for 1 minute, scraping bowl.
- Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough, usually around 2 cups. If you're adding flavors, now is the time to mix them in.
- Turn onto lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (around 10 minutes), or knead with the stand mixer for 5 minutes.
- Place dough in UNGREASED bowl, cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in warm, draft-free place for 25 minutes. (Note: dough will not double in size!)
- Punch down dough and turn onto a lightly floured board.
- Lightly shape dough into a rounded 12-inch long log.
- Cut 12 equal-sized slices from the dough log. Push your thumb through the center of each slice to make a hole, and use your fingers to shape the dough around the hole into something that looks like a bagel.
- Place on a lightly floured baking board and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in warm, draft free place for 20 minutes. (Note: dough will not double in size!)
- While dough rises, fill a large shallow pan with water up to 2 inches in depth. Bring to boil, and stir in brown sugar.
- Also while dough rises, preheat oven to 375 F.
- Lower heat on stove to a simmer, then add 3 bagels to water at a time. Simmer for 3 minutes, flip, and simmer for an additional 3 minutes.
- Remove bagels from water with slotted spoon and place on a rack to cool.
- Grease two cookie sheets or line with Silpat mat.
- When all bagels have cooled for 5 minutes, transfer them to cookie sheets, keeping them around 1 inch apart.
- Bake bagels at 375 F for 10 minutes.
- While bagels bake, combine egg white and 1 tbsp. cold water in small bowl.
- Remove bagels from oven and brush with egg white mixture. (Note: if you want to top your bagels with onion flakes, poppy seeds, garlic powder, Kosher salt or other goodies, now's the time.)
- Return bagels to oven and bake an additional 20 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove bagels from oven and cool on wire rack.
Flavored bagels: Mix in your flavorings during step four. Some I’ve used with success are blueberries and strawberries, both chopped fresh ones and thawed from frozen (with most but not all of the juice drained out); homemade garlic powder; onion powder; caraway seed; and crumbled bacon.
Baked-on toppings: Add them in Step 12 after brushing with egg white. Some toppings — like minced onion and additional bacon crumbles — go from golden brown to burned rather quickly, so keep checking in the final few minutes and pull them out of the oven before they burn.