Plain Bagels

The snow seems to be following me around the country. I get back to Rochester, MN and am greeted by 8 fresh inches. Watch out Seattle. I’m coming for ya Wednesday.

I have extremely high standards for bagels. Cedar Mill Safeway Bagels in Portland, OR are the best I know of, and my homemade attempt came nowhere near that state of perfection. However, I also deviated somewhat from the recipe, which may be the reason my first batch turned out suboptimal. For one, I had no high-gluten flour (and it rather disturbs me to know that bagels are traditionally made with high gluten flour, hello Type 2!) Also, I did the sourdough starter switcheroo for yeast, and something there was screwy, I suspect. Barley malt syrup is the stickiest substance I know of. I found it in the healthy natural food store, and had a comical ten minutes with it trying to get it kneaded into the dough.


Plain Bagels
Baking Illustrated

4 cups high-gluten flour (King Arthur’s website says it’s about 14% protein)
2 teaspoons table salt
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup or powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast 1 1/4cups water (lukewarm, 80 degrees)
3 tablespoons cornmeal, for dusting baking sheet
1/2 cup topping ingredients (optional), see step 7 for suggestions

1. Mix flour, salt, and malt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Add yeast and water; mix at lowest speed until dough looks scrappy, like shreds just beginning to come together, about 4 minutes. Increase to speed 2; continue mixing until dough is cohesive, smooth, and stiff, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Turn dough on to work surface; divide into eight portions, about 4 ounces each. Roll pieces into smooth balls and cover with towel or plastic wrap to rest for 5 minutes.
3. Form dough balls into dough rings place on cornmeal-dusted baking sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (12 to 18 hours).


4. About 20 minutes before baking, remove dough rings from refrigerator. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Fill large soup kettle with 3-inch depth of water; bring to rapid boil. To test the proofing of the dough rings, fill large bowl with cool water. Drop dough ring into bowl; it should float immediately to surface (if not, retest every 5 minutes).

5. Working four at a time, drop dough rings into boiling water, stirring and submerging loops with Chinese skimmer or slotted spoon, until very slightly puffed, 30 to 35 seconds. Remove rings from water; transfer to wire rack, bottom side down, to drain.
6. Transfer boiled rings, rough side down, to parchment paper–lined baking sheet or baking stone. Bake until deep golden brown and crisp, about 14 minutes. Use tongs to transfer to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
7. To Top: Topping ingredients stick to the bagels best when applied to the dough rings just as they come out of the boiling water, while still wet and sticky from boiling. Options include: raw sesame seeds, poppy or caraway seeds, dehydrated onion or garlic flakes, or sea or kosher salt. You can also combine toppings. For example, use 2 tablespoons each of sesame and poppy seeds and 1 tablespoon each of caraway seeds, sea or kosher salt, dehydrated onion flakes, and dehydrated garlic flakes.


I would give these 3 stars. It is impressive, the process, the boiling, the dough that smells of and feels like handling Play-Do. But I’ll stick with Safeway. Mom, could you bring some along when you come visit me in Seattle in a few weeks?

6 thoughts on “Plain Bagels

  1. Rachel’s standards are very high when it comes to bagels and maple donuts so that fact that these have 3 stars means they are pretty good. I thought they were great.

  2. I cannot believe that Safeway makes the best bagels you’ve ever had! Do they source them from a special bakery, or are their in-house bakers just incredibly talented? What’s their secret?! 😉

    1. I do not know the secret, but God as my witness, next time I’m home I’m stopping by to ask. I do know they are fresh from the oven around 4:15am and are worth the early rise to enjoy them fresh.

      1. Mind-blowing. I will never think of Safeway the same way from now on 😉 Yes, go investigate next time you’re home! Do you get to make a stop in Portland when you go to Whidbey this month?

  3. P.S. I was thinking of you when I heard on the news this morning about all the snow falling in Rochester. I’m glad you were able to make it home! You certainly are the snow fairy 🙂

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