March 8th, 2013
12:00 PM ET
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One of a bagel’s greatest virtues is that it's a single serving of fresh-from-the-oven bread, baked just for you.

Even better: if you do the baking yourself, there's usually at least 11 more just like it cooling nearby, creating a perfect excuse for a weekend get-together.

Bagel lovers, especially New Yorkers and people of Eastern European descent, have strong opinions about what makes a bagel great - or not so great.

For the owners of Surfside Bagels in Far Rockaway, New York, the hand-rolled boiled and baked bread should be dense and chewy. Its exterior, shiny; its interior, yeasty but not too sweet. Fortunately, they’re willing to spread their knowledge.

Plain Bagels
(Recipe adapted from Surfside Bagels; makes about 12-18 bagels depending on size)


2.5 lbs (approximately 9 cups) flour
1 cup warm water (about 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit), plus more as needed
1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup (can substitute molasses)
4 teaspoons salt
Optional: dough conditioner

Dissolve yeast in the tepid water until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a stand mixer with the dough attachment or by hand, mix the remaining ingredients until the dough comes together. (If the dough is too dry, add a little more water. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.)

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 10-12 minutes. This will allow the bagels to expand but not overwhelmingly so; the plastic wrap also helps prevent a skin from forming.

Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

After the resting period, the bagels are ready to roll. Divide the dough into pieces of equal size (about 2 to 3 ounces each). Roll each piece of dough on a floured work surface into a ball, then each ball into a rope that is long enough to wrap around three fingers (about 6-8 inches). If the dough isn't pliable enough, slightly wet your hands or the work surface.

Wrap the rope around your hand and join the ends together. Roll the dough in the palm of your hand across the work surface to seal off the ring shape. Place on the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough. Again, cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. In batches, boil the bagels; they're ready when they float, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, place the bagels back on the prepared baking sheet.

Place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake the bagels for 5-10 minutes. Flip the bagels and cook for another 20-25 minutes until they reach your desired level of brownness.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Note: With Passover just around the corner, bagel making is a good way to use up flour before all chametz must be stripped from the home.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. gardenstater4143

    I've been making bagels for years, using the Cook's Illustrated recipe. This looks like a decent recipe, though I must agree it sounds like way too little water (I use 1-1/4 cups to 4 cups of flour when I make them, and often need to add more!). The other thing that puzzles me is the lack of any kind of rising time. When I make bagels, I let them rise overnight in the refrigerator.

    That being said, I'll give the recipe a try. After all, what do I have to lose?

    March 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • gardenstater4143

      OK, I tried it. As I suspected, the recipe calls for way too little water. Probably need more like two cups. Let them rise overnight in the refrigerator. The flavor is below par, IMO. This is an OK recipe, but the Cook's Illustrated recipe is way better. You don't need to subscribe: Just Google "Cook's Illustrated Bagel Recipe" and you'll find it.

      March 17, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  2. Ivy

    Not sure why there are problems here. I haven't tried this recipe yet, but have made bagels. I also make sourdough everything, cakes, etc. This recipe looks fine to me. When slow-rising dough, I NEVER use sugar, and I have the most dense, chewy breads.

    March 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  3. Sunny

    Ohh that bagel looks yummy. Now, where is the garden veggie cream cheese? :)

    March 12, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  4. The Norm

    I actually used the recipe to make some very good bagels. My five quart kitchen-aid mixer with dough hook did not even crack a sweat mixing it up; the dough did come close to filling the mixing bowl, however. If your mixer is smaller, I'd try cutting the recipe in half (it should scale nicely). It did take an additional 2 cups and a tablespoon or two of water to get the mixture to a good shaggy mass that just cleaned the bowl. I let the mixer run a little longer as a kneading step after the mixing was complete(I don't think that this added much value to the process, however). I did substitute the molasses for the barley malt syrup as my shopping options are very limited here in the sticks. The result was some excellent tasting bagels with the texture that a good bagel is supposed to have.

    March 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Sarah LeTrent

      So glad you tried! Thanks for the feedback!

      March 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  5. Burgeoningfoodie

    Has the recipe been updated? Also had this been a true bakery everything would be by weight and not volume.. come on CNN.

    March 11, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Sarah LeTrent

      I assure you the shop is a professional operation. We used the measurements that we did because not everyone at home has a scale; we want to make it accessible to any and all home cooks willing to give it a shot.

      March 11, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I'm with Sarah on this. We don't use weight on the site when a cup measurement will work just as well. I realize that more home bakers have scales now, but they're definitely in the minority and we don't want that to stand between them and deliciousness.

      Heck – I go over to plenty of friends' homes to cook and they don't even have measuring spoons or cups. But they deserve nice baked goods as well, no?

      March 11, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  6. Haywood Jablomey

    This recipe not intended to be a factual statement.

    March 10, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  7. dickgreenleaf

    You can substitute molasses for barley malt syrup but it wont taste right. If you do not have the right ingredients for a recipe, DON'T MAKE IT!!

    March 9, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  8. rrock

    Trust me, this will not work with 1 cup of water. You will need about 2 cups.

    March 9, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  9. Mary

    I bake a lot and make bagels. There is a problem here: 1 cup of water is not nearly enough for 9 cups of flour - 3 cups is much more reasonable. Anybody tried this recirpe?

    March 9, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Sarah LeTrent

      Hey Mary, I actually made this recipe and it worked for me. I dissolved the yeast in 1 cup of water, but did have to add extra to the dough (about 1 cup more) as I was mixing it since it wasn't coming together. I noted that in the recipe. Does that help? Let me know if you try it and how it turns out!

      March 11, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  10. sisterchef

    Suggesting that this can be accomplished with anything other than a professional grade mixer is very misleading. There is a reason we have Bagel Shops.

    March 9, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Valerie

      Oh really? What do you think people did before electricity?

      March 9, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
      • Valerie

        The secret is proofing the dough for 12 hours (approximately)....this is what was done for hundreds of years. No need for an electric appliance to do that. From: me (polish girl!) ....oh, and you're welcome. ; )

        March 9, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  11. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Looks like an albino dog took several dumps on the table.

    March 9, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  12. et

    This whole recipe doesn't seem right. I've never made bagels, but I do know about yeast doughs and flags were going off at most every step. I just cruised the standard recipe sites and all the bagel recipes I found, and like the previous commentor mentioned, called for at least half again as much water to one half the amount of flour, (meaning this recipe should be asking for at least 3 cups of water) Also, there seems to be too little yeast, other sites called for @ 2 tsps per 4 cups of flour, and you always proof yeast with sugar! there is no food in plain water to activate the yeast. Next, when is the dough kneaded? Kneading develops the gluten and creates a uniform consistency, which makes bread chewy (important for making bagels)? Again, all the other sites had some amount of kneading before shaping. finally, when is the dough raised? Other sites had anywhere from an hour to two days(!) of raising, again to develop those glutens. I'm cynical enough that, seeing how many problems are in the recipe, that this is not so much a favor as a calculated ploy to cause folks to ruin a sack of flour and a morning with friends, and give up to just go buy bagels. If there are bagel pros out there who know better, I would be glad to learn! I love them, and wanted to make em, but never have the time! This recipe seems too good to be true.

    March 9, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • sean

      Agreed 100%! All I learned from this recipe is that I should NEVER, EVER order bagels from Surfside Bagels. 25% hydration? No rise at all? Molasses instead of malt (and no malt in the boiling water?) This won't make bagels, it will make flat, round, flavorless rocks. If anyone actually follows this recipe as written, I doubt if even the birds would eat them (let alone call them bagels!)

      March 11, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  13. Miriam Hamsa

    And New Yorkers of eastern european descent probably know that a really authentic bagel is made using potato water.

    March 9, 2013 at 1:46 am |
    • Elena

      Actually, we know that a really authentic bagel is made with New York water.

      March 9, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
  14. sean

    This recipe needs about twice as much water.

    March 8, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
  15. alr

    Clarification on the recipe: When is the yeast mixture added to the flour mixture? The recipe just states mix remaining ingredients until the dough comes together. Other than that, this looks like a great recipe to try.

    March 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Sarah LeTrent

      Hey there! You add it in with other ingredients. That is, all the dough ingredients go in at once (after the yeast has dissolved). Let me know if you have any more questions.

      March 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
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