Peter Reinhart’s Bagels

A Variety of Bagels

Week three of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge has ended and I have to say that I am sad to say goodbye to these bagels!  I would happily make these once a week for the next year if there weren’t so many other tempting breads coming up.

Bagels are one of those things that I always assumed you had to buy from a bagel shop if you wanted the ‘real thing.’  I’m certainly not a connoisseur, but I’ve had wonderful, chewy bagels in both New York and Los Angeles that put every other bagel I’ve tasted to shame. It’s certainly seems to be true that the real deal can’t be found just anywhere.  I’ve had decent bagels in San Diego, but nothing to get overly excited about.  However, I can now tell you that it is possible to make a great bagel at home, even in San Diego, because these babies rivaled anything I’ve eaten before.

In the book, Peter Reinhart tells us that his wife Susan, who grew up in Philadelphia, and some of his friends from New York all agree that this formula produces, “…a bagel for the ages.”  And though I grew up in Central California eating donuts rather than bagels on the weekends, and therefore have no real frame of reference, I’m going to have to agree.  This is a bagel for the ages.

Peter Reinhart's Bagels

So how does one go about making these wonderful bagels at home?  Well first, you need to buy Peter Reinhart’s book. Trust me, I’m only three recipes in and I already feel that this is one of the best cookbook purchases I’ve ever made.  But after that, your next step might be to weigh out your ingredients.

Since many American home bakers still prefer volume measurements to weight, the book helpfully gives both options.  But I’m finding myself reaching for my digital scale more and more often these days.  Pouring 18 ounces of flour into a bowl that’s sitting on a scale is so much faster and simpler than measuring out four cups of flour.  With the helpful ‘tare’ function on my cute red digital scale, I can cancel out the weight of the bowl and just add flour until I reach the correct weight.  It took about five seconds.  And I also found it easier to weigh the water, since the scale was already out.  Yes, I weighed it in the measuring cup.  I just wanted to see if the weight and volume of the water both equaled what was listed in the book.  It did.

Weighing Ingredients

The flour and water I weighed were for the sponge.  Just like the other two bread recipes I’ve tried so far, these bagels start with a sponge made of flour, water, and yeast.  I measured the yeast using a teaspoon rather than the scale, since it was such a small amount.

Bagel Sponge

The flour, yeast and water were mixed up until it resembled a thick pancake batter.

Mixing the sponge for bagel dough

I covered it and let it sit at room temperature for a couple of hours.  Apparently, the sponge has fermented enough when it bubbles and swells to nearly twice it’s original size.  After two hours, mine had started bubbling but it definitely needed some more time.  Unfortunately, I had a conference call coming up and needed to get my bagel dough finished by a certain time.  So (as I often do), I cheated and continued with the recipe.

Bubbling Sponge

The next step is to stir in some additional yeast before adding the rest of the flour.  I added the yeast…

Adding yeast to the sponge

Stirred it all in…

Stirring in the yeast

And then realized that I was going to need a bigger bowl if I planned on adding almost four more cups of flour.  Let me introduce you to my bread bowl.  I like to call her Big Bertha.

Switching to a larger bowl

So I scraped the sponge into Big Bertha and added the rest of the bagel dough ingredients:  lots more flour, some salt, and a spoonful of barley malt syrup.

Adding flour, salt and malt syrup

Of course I had my trusty dough whisk nearby, but I quickly found that it was pretty much useless when confronted with the beginnings of a bagel dough.  I could tell immediately that this dough was going to be very stiff.


There was really only one thing to do.  I tossed that silly whisk aside and dug in with both hands!

Mixing the Bagel Dough with my Hands

It took quite a bit of muscle to get it to to this point, but the flour still wasn’t completely incorporated (and I still had more waiting outside the bowl to be kneaded in).

The Bagel Dough is Coming Together

So I worked harder.

Kneading Dough in the Bowl

Eventually, I ended up with a shaggy mass of dough that was ready for some serious kneading.

Rough Ball of Dough in the Bowl

I dumped the dough out onto my floured board, and got to work.  I had quite a bit of flour that still needed to be worked into this dough, which was already feeling stiffer than any bread dough I’ve made in the past.

Rough Ball of Dough on the Board

I kneaded and kneaded and kneaded.  After ten minutes, I had managed to incorporate about half of the extra flour.  The dough was getting somewhere, but the gluten hadn’t developed enough to pass the windowpane test.

Kneading the Bagel Dough

I kept kneading and kneading.  Finally, after about 20 minutes (longer than I’ve ever kneaded any bread dough), it seemed to be ready.  And this time, it did pass the windowpane test.  What a relief!

After 20 minutes of Kneading

Now it was time to shape the bagels.  I knew the dough should yield approximately 12 standard-sized bagels, so I started dividing the dough.  First, I cut it in half.

Dividing the Dough for Shaping

Then I cut each half into two pieces.  I weighed each of the four pieces to make sure that they were divided equally.

Scaling the Dough

Next, I dived each of those pieces into three pieces, weighing them to make sure they were equal.  I wasn’t too picky about it, but wanted them to be close to the same weight so that my bagels would be of similar size and bake evenly.

Scaling the Dough for Shaping

Once I ended up with twelve fairly equal pieces, I quickly rounded them (I shaped them just like I shape dinner rolls), and lined them up on a baking sheet lined with silpat (can also use parchment that has been lightly misted with oil).

Twelve Equal Pieces of Dough

Next, I was supposed to cover them with a damp towel, and leave them alone for 20 minutes.  But I was still in a hurry, so they only rested for ten minutes.

Cover with Damp Cloth

Now for the fun part!  Unfortunately, it was really hard for me to take photos while I shaped the bagels.  But it’s very easy to do.  I simply flattened one of the dough balls, and punched my thumb right through the very center.

Shaping the Bagels

Once you have a hole in the middle, just gently stretch it out, using both hands, until the diameter is approximately 2 1/2 inches.  The holes should be bigger than you think they need to be, they will shrink back up a bit later on.

Shaped Bagels

I used two sheet pans (one lined with lightly greased parchment and one lined with Silpat), and was able to fit six bagels on each pan.  I covered each pan with lightly greased plastic wrap.

And then I made a mistake.

At this point, we are supposed to let the bagels rest for another 20 minutes and then check to see if one of them floats in a bowl of water.  Once they pass the ‘float test,’ the trays can be put in the refrigerator and left overnight.  But I completely skipped the resting period AND the float test.  It was an accident, but I wouldn’t have had time to do it anyway.  I finished shaping the bagels only five minutes before my conference call was supposed to happen!

Cover Bagels with Greased Plastic Wrap

So, they went into the fridge and there they stayed for about a day and a half.  The bagels need to be refrigerated for at least 8 hours, but like most bread dough, they can hang out in there for 2-3 days if necessary.  When I finally found the time to bake them, this is what they looked like:

After 24 Hours of Refrigeration

They had risen a bit, the holes were slightly smaller, and they looked great to me!  So now for the test.  Would they float in the boiling water?  I was a little worried, since they never got a chance to prove their ‘floatability’ earlier on.  But I forged ahead.  The bagels were to be boiled in a big pot of water that had been laced with a tablespoon of baking soda.

Boiling Water with Baking Soda

Guess what?  They floated!  I was able to fit three bagels in the pot at a time.  They needed to be boiled for one minute per side, so it didn’t take long to get through the entire batch.

Boiling the Bagels

After adding the bagels to the water, I sprinkled some cornmeal on the baking sheet.

Sprinkle Baking Sheet with Corn Meal

After boiling, I removed the bagels with a slotted spoon, and placed them right back on the baking sheet, on top of the corn meal.

Return Boiled Bagels to Sheet Pan

The toppings need to be added right after boiling, while the bagels are still wet.  These were my ‘everything bagels.’  I topped them with a combination of dried minced onions (re-hydrated), dried minced garlic (re-hydrated), sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, and sea salt.

Sprinkle Wet Bagels with Desired Toppings

After adding all the toppings, the bagels are ready to be baked!  The oven should be preheated to 500 degrees and the sheets should go on two oven racks placed close to the center of the oven.  Unfortunately, this was the day that  my oven decided it didn’t want to heat to 500 degrees.  Not even close, actually.  So instead of baking them for ten minutes as suggested, my bagels stayed in the oven for close to twenty minutes.  I just kept rotating the pans and checking on them.  They didn’t brown as much as I would have liked, but they still looked beautiful to me!

Baked Bagels

Even with all of my mistakes and cheats, these bagels were absolutely wonderful.  I took them fresh from the oven over to my sister’s house where we ate them with cream cheese as a Sunday brunch.  I don’t know if there’s any better way to eat a bagel.

Later that night, I took some other bagels over to Amanda and Tyler’s house, where we used them as buns for these delicious grilled turkey burgers with cheddar, basil, and roasted red pepper.  That was a close second.

Bagel Burger

The Next Bread

This week we will be making Brioche!  The instructions begin on page 123 of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  You will need to allow two days (or one very long day) to complete the brioche as the dough requires a four-hour (or longer) fermentation in the refrigerator.  You will be using bread flour for this recipe, and all the other ingredients are easily attainable.  There are three different versions of Brioche to choose from: Rich Man’s Brioche (tons of butter), Middle-Class Brioche (moderate amount of butter), and Poor-Man’s Brioche (least amount of butter, although still a lot!).  You only need to bake one of them to participate in the challenge, but are welcome to bake all three if you wish.  Due the high butter content and delicate nature of the dough, you will probably want to use a stand mixer for the Rich Man’s Brioche or the Middle-Class Brioche, otherwise you’ll be stirring everything in with a spoon rather than kneading by hand. But if you have a strong arm, go for it!  The Poor-Man’s Brioche can be mixed and kneaded by hand.  Good luck and happy baking!

Want to Bake Along With Us?

There are several ways for you to join in the fun!  First of all, you need a copy of Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  Read the first section of the book carefully, as this will prepare you for the bread recipes in the second section of the book.  Then just jump in and bake some Anadama Bread! But first, please visit The BBA Challenge Page for more details on how to participate in the group!

If you haven’t already, you might want to bookmark the BBA Challenge Page.  From there you can see which breads are coming up soon, find answers to Frequently Asked Questions, visit and/or add yourself to our World Map, see the BBA Challenge Blogroll, and check out the continually updated slideshow of BBA Bread photos from our ever-expanding group of bakers!

Want to Win a Free Book?

Deborah from Italian Food Forever is giving away a copy of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice! To enter, visit Italian Food Forever and leave a comment that relates to bread (talk about your favorite bread, a story about bread baking, etc). That’s it!  You can enter as many times as you want until June 15.  A winner will be chosen randomly.  Good luck!

Bagels from other BBA Bakers:

For those of you who are participating in The BBA Challenge, how did you like these bagels?  What toppings, if any, did you use? Did you learn anything new while using this formula?

And remember, if you wrote a blog post about Bagels, or have photos available online, please leave a comment and share your link!

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  1. Cindy

    Beautiful bagels and photos. I also loved these bagels so much I made them again last weekend, this time with cheddar and jalapeno. The cheddar slightly oozes out and forms a crust on the bottom of the bagel. I also topped them with a bit of cheddar and so that made a top crust. They were unbelievable. Thanks again for dreaming up this challenge. Without it I never would have made my own bagels. And thanks to Peter for the wonderful recipe.
    My bagel adventure can be found at:…of-some-bagels/

    6:08 pm  Jun 2nd, 2009
  2. pam

    This is the best bagel post ever! Seriously, it is a fabulous tutorial. With your great pictures, I think I am ready to attempt bagels.

    4:21 am  Jun 3rd, 2009
  3. lesley

    I just popped in to see what’s cooking…
    making bagels is something I’ve yet to attempt, I’ve always enjoyed them with smoked salmon & cream cheese, but to actually get into the kneading is a problem for me ( weak wrists) is there no way round this?

    7:00 am  Jun 3rd, 2009
  4. Sean

    I did the kneading in my KitchenAid mixer and it worked ok. Definitely got a bit warm, and I think I’ll do it by hand next time, but if you can’t do it by hand I think it’s a decent option.

    7:14 am  Jun 3rd, 2009
  5. Phoo-D

    These look wonderful! I agree that the bagels were quite forgiving and had an incredible flavor. I couldn’t find the malt syrup and then forgot to add in the alternatives and despite that thought they were some of the best tasting bagels I’ve ever enjoyed. Here’s my post about them:

    7:44 am  Jun 3rd, 2009
  6. Phoo-D

    Oh I forgot to mention, I used KA Bread flour too but added in vital wheat gluten (Bob’s Red Mill brand, surprisingly found it at Walmart) Worked like a charm.

    7:47 am  Jun 3rd, 2009
  7. Nicole

    Leslie: Some people were able to knead the dough using a stand mixer, but it’s so stiff that it tends to be hard on the machines. It can be done, just be careful 🙂

    Phoo-D: I feel like an idiiot because I have some vital wheat gluten in my pantry and completely forgot about it. I’ll try it next time!

    8:18 am  Jun 3rd, 2009
  8. Kate

    Your bagels look great. Mine looked darn good too! And, as a person who grew up in New York, I say these are really super bagels. The only crit I have/got from tasters is that they should have been a bit deeper in color (my fault) and shinier. Next time — egg wash. I left some of mine plain and topped some with rosemary garlic salt. SO good! And really pretty easy–much easier than I anticipated.

    12:01 pm  Jun 3rd, 2009
  9. nico

    very nice as always, I really enjoy reading your posts. I made my brioche already so this weekend I think I gonna repeat the bagels and some brioche since my father in law is coming and he loves those.

    6:28 am  Jun 4th, 2009
  10. Rebeca

    Looks great! Here’s mine:

    9:20 am  Jun 4th, 2009
  11. Judy H,

    Kneading the dough was a real workout, but boy was it worth it. I will definitely make these again. I topped some with poppy seeds and left some plain. I threw a bunch in the freezer to take up to Toben and Sarah this weekend, so we’ll see how well they freeze and thaw. They are definitely the best bagels I’ve ever eaten, including the ones from New York.

    12:42 pm  Jun 5th, 2009
  12. Judy H,

    Whole Foods carries Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour. I didn’t add it to the bagel recipe, but I add it to some of the other breads I make to make them easier to work with. It is good if you are adding coarse grains or other things to your dough. I might try adding some next time I make bagels.

    12:57 pm  Jun 5th, 2009
  13. derf

    great recipe
    cannot wait to try it
    i like to use 1 1/2 times the barley malt syrup called for to get a sweeter taste and a little darker color
    if you can get new york city water for the boiling, it makes a difference

    check out this site for other great recipes and places to buy awesome baked goods:

    7:42 am  Jun 7th, 2009
  14. Laurie Ashton Farook

    Love Big Bertha! And your bagels turned out great, too. 🙂

    Mine are a failure of sorts, deformed and mutant. The post is up at for everyone to laugh at. 🙂

    8:02 am  Jun 8th, 2009
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  16. Green Bean

    Love it. I just made bagels a week or so ago. They were actually much easier than I thought they would be! Except mine were different sizes. Guess I’ll have to weigh them like you did. Very nice.

    5:21 pm  Jun 9th, 2009
  17. Di

    Your bagels look awesome! And I have to agree, measuring is so easy with a digital scale. I’m keeping up with the baking, for the most part, but am behind on my blogging. I finally got my bagel post up:

    12:13 pm  Jun 14th, 2009
  18. Barbara

    I tackled my bagels last night (I’m catching up to the group with my two breads per week schedule but, boy, we have a LOT of bread). My experience was not nearly as lovely as yours and many of the other posters. Here’s a description of how it’s gone so far: I love your descriptions and the pictures really help to visualize the process and the outcome. Thanks!

    8:53 am  Jun 20th, 2009
  19. Barbara

    I finished my bagels…You can see the sad results here:

    3:33 pm  Jun 22nd, 2009
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  21. Danielle

    Hi Nicole,

    For a non-bagel fan, I’m pretty delighted with this recipe. I found it pretty straightforward and simple to make. Good on you for tackling the dough with your whisk and hand-kneading it…I’ll have to keep that for next time! I used KA’s high-gluten flour and malt powder and it worked like magic. I’ve posted about it here:

    4:22 pm  Jul 6th, 2009
  22. AP269

    Hi, your bagels look great. I just finished mine. Here’s the post:

    12:38 pm  Aug 22nd, 2009
  23. Bob

    So I’m a bit behind. Making the bagels this weekend. Peter’s book is great, but I read and re-read your post before and during my baking. Thanks for the great information, advice, letting us know about your “mistakes” and the great photos. I have the laptop in the kitchen comparing my dough to your photos.

    I can’t wait for the Brioche next. I’ve NEVER thought to even try.

    Oh and can I just say the Artos, toasted with a spread of Nutella. Great bed time snack. Also thanks for the French toasts suggestion. That’s how I started my Sunday.

    5:41 pm  Aug 26th, 2009
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  25. Abby

    Trying to catch up….Here are my bagels, which I boiled and baked this morning:
    I totally agree with you…I would make these once a week if there weren’t so many other breads to bake! =)

    11:47 am  Sep 13th, 2009
  26. Carla McGarvie

    I just tasted my bagels fresh from the oven. So glad to read that you had trouble getting the flour incorporated, too. I kneaded for a total of thirty minutes including the ten minutes it took to use all the flour. The dough seemed dry but the bagels are great. Thanks so much for organizing.

    8:50 pm  Sep 20th, 2009
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  30. Malea Kneen

    I just made the Cinnamon Raisin Bagels this weekend. Really good! Very easy to make and great flavour and texture – I am looking forward to seeing how well they freeze. Anyhow, there was a moment of horror as I was showering while waiting for them to cool when I realised that I had forgotten to add the 5 tbsp of sugar (this variation only) into the dough – anguished howls from the bathroom. I reasoned that the 2 cups of raisins should provide sufficient sweetness to make things OK and, indeed, that turned out to be the case. My 8 yo bagel devotee actually complained that they were “too raisiny” and I think that I would, next time, drop the raisin quantity back by a third or even a half (but this time add some of the sugar – I don’t like them too sweet), even though the rest of the tasting committee thought the raisins were good. A big success. I would never have believed that I could make such great bagels at home.

    9:17 am  Jan 24th, 2010
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    1:53 pm  May 12th, 2010
  32. Dar

    Your bagels look awesome! I just finished trying this recipe.. well the second time around. Your bagels look super smooth, I didn’t incorporate all the flour and might not be kneading mine enough.. and maybe that’s why they look lumpy and a little skinny. I did cheat a little and didn’t use the window pane test. Ah well, me being lazy.
    Anyways, they still turned out good! and I posted it up on my blog.

    6:18 am  Jul 18th, 2010
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  36. Walt

    Obviously very late to the party. lol

    I did this based on his Artisan’s Bread Everyday recipe. Fantastic. First time I used the syrup in both the dough and the bath. Second time I used the powder in the dough and the syrup in the bath. Reasoning was purely aesthetic. The syrup left the dough a very dark color.

    Both time had excellent results in regards to taste. And being from NJ I am a tough judge!

    6:28 am  Feb 25th, 2016
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