The Bagel: A complex, boiled, holed-bun. (“過水麵包圈”)

Ever wondered how bagels are made? Call me ignorant but I never did. (I knew how donuts are made, but not bagels. That’s probably because I’ve never been fond of bagels – Too firm. Too chewy. Too doughy.) But when, through my bread baking adventures, I found out that bagels aren’t just simple buns with holes in the middle, I just had to make some. Who knew you had to boil these things before baking them?

Why? asked the Cooking Nerd. Apparently, the boiling step gelatinizes the flour, forming a seal and giving it that tough, thick crust and the chewy interior. Aha! That’s why I didn’t like bagels! (And now the nerd in me really wants to throw an entire loaf of bread into boiling water before baking it and see what happens.)

Anyway, enough nerdiness. Here is my first bagel experiment:

Bagel Cut

I used some Spelt flour (1 part Spelt: 3 parts AP) in these bagels, not really for nutritional value, but because I thought it would give the bagels a slight flavor boost. They did taste nutty and sweet, but I think Spelt made the dough even more chewy. Perhaps less Spelt and other additions for flavor in the dough the next time. Again, the first rise took a while and the dough wasn’t quite doubled in size before I punched it down. (The next time I use Spelt I think I’ll need more yeast.)

I made 12 little rings using the punch a whole in the middle with a floured thumb method (instead of the rope method). This was interesting as I realized that making smooth looking, symmetrical rings is not a simple task. For the ones with raisins I rolled the raisins into the dough at this point. I made sure the holes are slightly bigger to accomodate for the additional rising/boiling. Here they are just after shaping:


They got a little poofier and only slightly bigger after sitting for another hour on some parchment paper. Then came the funnest part – I took half and boiled them in a pot of simmering water with a pinch of salt added.

Boiling Bagels

They floated immediately after being dropped into the water (I think good bagels are supposed to sink initially for a few seconds and then rise up). They also swelled and grew right before my eyes. I boiled them on one side for about 3 minutes, then flipped them over gently and boiled for 2 more minutes. (I think this was too long. There is no consensus as to how long bagels should be boiled – I’ve found a range between 45 seconds to 7 minutes. Supposedly the longer they boil the chewier they get. Considering these are mini bagels and turned out rather chewy, I will go for a much shorter boil next time.) I took them out and dried them with a clean towel – they now looked like little wrinkled balls who have been in the bath too long. I then brushed over top an egg white wash, and sprinkled over some assorted toppings (I only had cheese, garlic, and cinnamon on hand, no sesame seeds, unfortunately.)

Baked them in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 350F, until tops were brown. (I also turned them over the last 10 minutes or so to brown the bottom.) I would have liked them a darker, more golden brown…I probably should have used a whole egg instead of just the white for my wash. Oh well.

Took them out, cooled briefly on a wire rack, sliced in half, slapped on cream cheese, and enjoyed fresh. The crust was tough and the inside chewy. Pretty decent fresh, even for somebody who doesn’t love bagels. Still too chewy for me. About half a day later they got quite hard. The day after, even harder. After that, inedible rocks. OK for a first attempt. I would, however, make the aforementioned modifications to the protocol the next time I make bagels. 

 Little bagels

Recipe follows…

Recipe – Mini Spelt Bagels

Makes 12 mini-bagels


180g All Purpose Flour

60g Spelt Flour

1.5t Active dry yeast

Few drops of honey, pinch salt

Toppings of your choice


Activate the yeast in water and several drops of honey. Mix flours and salt and add in the wet ingredients. Knead dough for about 10 minutes and let rise 1.5 hours. Follow rest of protocol as described. Preferably make room in your stomach to finish them all fresh.


2 Responses

  1. […] recipe-straying beginner, but I will definitely make these again. They don’t look as cute as the mini-bagels I made before, but I’m just going to say that this is the artisanal look. (Actually, the truth of the […]

  2. Ooh I love this post! I think I will spend my Sunday tomorrow making bagels! It looks so cute.

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