Homemade Bagels

April 5, 2012

Homemade Bagels

It wasn't until recently that Matt and I got into the habit of picking up a bag of bagels from the Costco bakery. Normally our Costco visits are limited to the usuals: toilet paper, vinegar, baking soda, cat litter, butter, fish, pasta, basmati rice and garlic (It's a short enough list to type out, but just long enough to be awkward). And as much as we love their giant packs of assorted muffins and croissants, we always manage to keep ourselves in line as we walk through the bakery. Impressive, I know.

But a few months ago, we decided to splurge on a bag of bagels here and there. I say "splurge" because we generally try not to buy pre-made baked goods. After baking our own bread for a couple years now, it genuinely feels odd. So naturally, once we decided that we liked having bagels around the house, I set myself to the task of finding a good recipe for a homemade version.

It took three tries before I finally realized that the specific recipe doesn't matter that much. The idea is to make a super firm dough, which is where I failed in my first two tries. They weren't bad, but they definitely lacked the shape and texture that I achieved on my third try. In any case, I didn't mind making these over and over. The smell of boiled dough is something I'm really fond of. It reminds me of the way the mall smelled by the pretzel shop back when I was a teenager and spent, like, all of my time at the mall.

Homemade Bagels
Makes 8

1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar (I used maple syrup)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 – 4 ½ cups bread or all-purpose flour

Combine the water and the active dry yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer or bread machine. Stir and let sit for five minutes until the yeast has dissolved.

Add the malt syrup or sugar, the vegetable oil, and the salt, and stir until combined. Add the flour gradually, and knead for about 10 minutes on a low-to-medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. The dough should be very firm, and it shouldn’t stick to your fingers if you touch it. Cover the dough with a damp tea towel, and let rest for 20 minutes.

Punch down the dough, and divide into 8 equal portions. Place one portion on the surface of a wood cutting board (the dough should be firm enough that you don’t need to flour your surface) and flatten it by smacking it with the palm of your hand. Once flattened, roll the dough up tightly. Then, beginning from the center, roll the dough back and forth until it forms a snake 8-10 inches long. 

Homemade Bagels Homemade Bagels
Homemade Bagels

Take the two tapered ends and overlap them by an inch or two to form a circle. To secure the circle together, place three fingers in the middle of your circle, and roll back and forth over the tapered edges until uniform in size. For a video reference on this process, visit this link

 Homemade Bagels Homemade Bagels
Homemade Bagels

Repeat this process to shape the remaining seven portions of dough, and then cover with a damp tea towel and let rest for another 15-20 minutes, or until the dough has risen and become puffy.

Preheat your oven to 425◦F. Line a cookie sheet with cornmeal, semolina, or parchment paper.

Bring to boil in a large pot:

4 quarts water
1 tablespoon malt syrup or sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Once the water has come to a rolling boil, drop the dough rings into the water, making sure you give each bagel ample space. Let them cook on one side for 45-60 seconds, and then flip them over to cook another minute. Remove from water and place on the cookie sheet. Once all of your bagels are on the cookie sheet, brush the tops with an egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).

Homemade Bagels

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops of your bagels are golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking.


  1. Must be something in the air, we just made test batch number 3 last night at our house. Still looking for the perfect recipe, but it has been great trying our hand at bagels!

    Pretzels are on the list too!

    Happy baking!

  2. How very fascinating to see how you make the bagels. Thank you for sharing the fact that it took you 3 times until you got it right. I might give recipes a better chance in the future. I have an English Muffin Toasting recipe that is rising right now (too slow)and am hoping it turns out.

    Happy Easter to you and Matt...Fluffy kitty too! xo

  3. Oooh I love making bagels at home, and playing around with the toppings- sesame seeds, grated cheese, jalapeño....

  4. Oh Lindsay. This has actually made my day. I love bagels - we have them most weeks, and all the other methods I have found have taken a day or so of proving. It just didn't seem worth it, but now, now I will make my own. Thank you for the step by step pictures too.

  5. These turned out great! Thank you for doing all of the troubleshooting for us. I substituted 2 cups of whole wheat flour for two cups of the regular and they were good. Needed a bit more moisture(I added water by the tablespoon as they were mixing). Next try, we are adding fruit.

  6. Sending this to my resident cook. Hopefully your beautiful photos will convince him to make millions for me.