Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Making bagels

It's hard to find bagels where we live. We can find industrial bagels in the supermarket, but they're not as good as those made in a real bagel shop. Paris has a few bagel shops, but that's hours away. And they're not quite the same as the bagels I remember in New York, Montréal, and San Francisco. I had bagels in Montréal (at St. Viateur) in 2016 and they were delicious!

Three sesame, three poppy, and two plain bagels cooling on racks after baking.

So, I've learned to make my own bagels. They're called water bagels because they cook in boiling water before they're baked. It takes some time for kneading and rising, but it's not difficult at all. I set aside a few hours on Tuesday morning to make a batch. With the recipe I use, a batch is eight bagels. That's a good amount for us. Any more would need to be frozen (which we've done, and they freeze pretty well). The dough (4.5 cups flour, a little sugar, salt, 1.5 cups warm water and 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast) gets mixed and kneaded before it rests and rises for one to four hours. It can even rise over night in the refrigerator, but you need to let it get back up to room temperature the next day before making the bagels.

Boiling the bagels. The hole almost closes, but not quite.

After the first rise, I shape the bagels by making eight equal balls of dough and pushing my thumb through the center of each. Then, after a second, shorter rise, the bagels cook in simmering water for about six or seven minutes. Before they're simmered, they look a little small, but as they cook they puff up to a good size. Then they get topped (with sesame or poppy seeds or anything else you like) and go into the oven to bake. Once cooled, they're ready to eat! On Tuesday, we ate some for lunch with cream cheese and smoked salmon. This morning, we each had one toasted with just a schmear. Yum.

If you're wondering, "schmear" comes from the Yiddish word for "spread," so a bagel with a schmear is a bagel spread with cream cheese. I think it's a New York thing.


  1. They sound yummy, I might give them a try, I have a breadmaker which can prepare the dough.

  2. Interesting. I am not fond of bagels and never understood the appeal. A lovely fresh and crusty baguette or a butter laden croissant I do really get.

  3. They look fantastic. I'm always amazed to see them in boiling water -- that feels so odd for a bread product ;)

  4. Once you taste a "real" bagel you won't be satisfied with less and making your own is probably the best way to go - I have made them too. I love the toothsomeness of them.

  5. Ah, good, fresh bagels. Every so often I'll see "bagels" here, but they're more like rolls. I had a friend in NYC in the '70s who decided to try his hand at bagel-making. They made great lead sinkers for fishing.

  6. I LOVE bagels and miss them since I developed/discovered my gluten intolerance. I may just have to try making a gf version!

  7. Ah, bagels wit a schmear. That was my first reaction, so glad to see you were thinking along the same lines.
    With fresh strawberries (in season) as well as cream cheese, yummo.

  8. stella, that would make it much easier!

    andrew, did you not have bagels in NY or in Canada on your last trip?

    judy, I think that's what makes bagels different from other breads... just guessing!

    sillygirl, it's disappointing to bite into a bready bagel. They just don't have the same oompf!

    mitch, that was my impression of Paris bagels (rolls). Mine aren't "sinkers," but they're better than those roll-type bagels. And I never thought much of Noah's bagels in SF.

    jean, and they taste good, too!

    breenlantern, good luck! Let me know how it works out.

    emm, now I'm looking forward to strawberry season!


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