Sesame Seed Bagels

I haven’t had a bagel since December.

It’s been a hard year. Admittedly, it was a self-imposed bagel fast. I resolved not to buy bread from a store in 2011, and because until today I didn’t know how to make bagels, I’ve been relegated to toast for my crunchy breakfast carb.

But no longer! In chapter 1 of The Bread Bible, there are “Levy’s Bagels”. Now seemed like as good a time as ever to face my bagel making fears head on. It took me about 36 hours from beginning to end, but I spent most of it sleeping, working or reading up on the differences in retail flour brands. This book has an endearing trait of specifying the exact type of flour to be used for each recipe, including the brand. I never buy brand-names, but after reading her chapter on flour I understand why she specifies one brand over the other. White flour is made from the endosperm of wheat kernels, and different types and brands of flour vary the percentage of the endosperm extracted during milling and also the percentage of protein in the finished flour. For example, in bread flour: Gold Medal is about 12.3% where as Pillsbury ranged from 11.5% to 12.5% and King Arthur is exactly 12.7%. In all purpose flour there can be a relatively large swing in protein content with Gold Medal down at 10.5% and King Arthur at 11.7%.  Now, as long as you use the right general type of flour (all-purpose, bread, cake etc) your recipe will probably turn out fine. However, since there are no laws regarding the labeling of flour, you really don’t know what you’re getting with a generic brand. Since I’m trying to learn from this book, I caved and bought four new bags of brand-name flours to experiment with.

I made these bagels with King Arthur bread flour, and I hate to say it, but I think I’ll be forking over the premium price for this in the future. The dough ball came out of my mixer so smooth with such beautiful gluten structure, I had to call the Mr. over to look at it. Needless to say he was a little puzzled about what was so exciting about a ball of dough. It’s ok,  not everyone is as excited about gluten formation as I am.

Here’s a handy trick when making bread of any type. To tell if your dough has risen enough, gently poke it with your finger. If the indentation fills back up, let it keep rising. If the indent stays, you’re ready to go onto the next step of the recipe.

These bagels were worth buying name brand flour and a strange ingredient called barley malt syrup. It looks vaguely like molasses and I found it at Whole Foods in the baking isle. I’m not sure which one of the steps throughout four risings, boiling, glazing, and baking gave them their flavor, but they really taste like authentic bagels. I hardly knew how much I loved bagels until I had this one.

There might be a lot of this in my future. Fortunately, I’ve found that this book offers very reasonably sized quantities. I made the half recipe of these because the full volume might have burnt out the motor of my mixer, and I couldn’t live with myself if I killed my beautiful pink mixer for a bagel. The half recipe gave me a very reasonable 5 bagels.  Enough to make them worth making, but not so many that they turn into hockey pucks before they can get eaten. In the future, I might make them twice and then wrap them and freeze them for later.

Sara Lee’s got nothing on this.

Make your own bagels. It’s worth it.

Out of respect to the author, I will not be posting any of the recipes unless I make significant changes to them. This recipe comes from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum and is available at bookstores everywhere or possibly in your local library.



  1. ddd,
    AMAZING, just like you!

  2. this reminds me of when I used to work near a bagel shop. I’d go get a hot sesame bagel in the morning with cream cheese. I can smell your bagel picture from my iPhone! lol

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