Good old-fashioned New York style bagels are flavorful, modestly sweet, and chewy with soft, shiny crusts. They are made the classic way; boiled in water for a few minutes before baking. You’ll love their slight tang and incredible texture and they are very fun to make!
New York Style Bagels
2 tsp (6 g) Active Dry yeast* (See notes on yeast below)
4-1/2 tsp (19 g) natural cane sugar (or granulated sugar)
1-1/4 cup (300 g) warm (between 105°F – 115°F) (divided into three small bowls
Bowl #1: 1/2 cup (120 g)
Bowl #2: 1/3 cup (80 g)
Bowl #3: Scant 1/2 cup (100 g)
3-1/2 cup (440 g) bread flour** or high gluten flour (plus extra for kneading)
1-1/2 tsp (6 g) fine grain salt
Optional Toppings: (Refer to Notes)
*Notes on Yeast:
If substituting fresh yeast, use 15 g instead of 6 g. It won’t be necessary to proof the yeast with the water and sugar.
If using instant yeast, substitute an equal amount (6 g). There’s no need to proof the yeast here either.
If you prefer a less yeasty flavor, reduce the amount of active dry yeast to 1 tsp in the recipe and double the rising time to about 2 hours, instead.
**Notes on Flour:
Bread flour contains a high protein content, perfect for making homemade bagels that are chewy. All-purpose flour works here too, they will be just as delicious– just not as chewy as ones made with bread flour.
Alternatively, if you can find vital wheat gluten (it’s usually carried at health food stores), add 4 teaspoons to the all-purpose flour, and you should have a good substitute for the bread flour called for in the recipe.
Measure out your three bowls of 105°F – 115°F water.
To Bowl #1, pour in the sugar and yeast. Do not stir. Let it sit for five minutes, and then stir the yeast and sugar mixture until it all dissolves in the water.
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast and sugar mixture (Bowl #1) when it’s bubbly and ready.
Add the water from Bowl #2 into the well. Mix to combine and then stir in Bowl #3. You want a moist and firm dough after you have mixed it.
On a floured countertop, knead the dough for about ten minutes until it is smooth and elastic. If using a stand mixer, use a dough hook on low speed for six minutes. You’re looking for a firm and stiff dough. Add a little flour if it’s too sticky.
Let Dough Rise
Once kneaded, lightly brush a large bowl with oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place (70°F or so) for one hour, until the dough has doubled in size. If using less yeast, this rising time would be about two hours. You can also cover it and let it do a cold rise overnight in the refrigerator.
You will know it has rested enough when you poke the dough with your finger and the impression remains. If it bounces back, the bagel dough has not risen enough.
If you allowed the bagel dough to rest in the refrigerator, allow it to sit at room temperature for about half hour before working with it.
After the rise, punch the dough down, and let it rest, covered, for another ten minutes.
Divide and Shape Dough into Balls
Carefully divide the dough into 8 pieces (I used a scale to be extra precise, but it’s not necessary). Having them be uniform in size is important so that they bake at the same rate in the oven.
After dividing the dough, cup your hand over each dough ball and use the countertop (or whatever work surface you’re using) to shape it into a ball by moving your hand several times in a circular motion. Repeat with the rest of the balls.
The Bagel Hole
Coat a finger with flour and gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball. Then you stretch the rings out to about a third of the diameter of the bagel and place the bagel rounds onto a prepared baking sheet.
Rest the Bagels Again
After shaping, it’s important to let the bagels rest for ten minutes covered with a damp dish towel. This is a good time to start your water to boil.
Boil the Bagels
For a true New York Style bagel, add 1 T of barley malt syrup to the boiling water. This gives it a slightly sweeter quality and a crisp/chewy crust. If you don’t have any barley malt, you can also try a few T of either brown sugar or honey in the water. Others prefer a little salt in the water or putting nothing in the water at all.
Once you’ve brought the water to a boil, reduce to low. You’ll need a slotted spoon or a skimmer to place the bagels into the water. Handle the uncooked dough with the utmost care to preserve their shape.
Boil the bagels 2-3 at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the water. Once the bagels are in the water, it shouldn’t take too long for them to float to the top (a couple seconds). Let them sit there for 30-45 seconds, and then flip them over to boil for the same amount of time on the other side.
If you prefer a chewier bagel, extend the boiling times to two minutes per side.
If you want to add toppings to your bagels, once out of the water, let them rest for 15-20 seconds and then sprinkle on your favorite toppings:
Everything Bagel Seasoning, onion flakes, caraway seeds, cinnamon sugar, coarse salt, minced fresh garlic, minced fresh onion, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or a mix of your favorite flavors.
Bake the Bagels
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Once all the bagels have boiled and topped with your choice of toppings, transfer them to an oiled or parchment-lined baking sheet. Don’t wait too long to get them in the oven or they will start to shrivel.
Bake on a center rack for 10 minutes, and then rotate the baking sheet and bake for another ten minutes or until uniformly golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack.
What to Serve the Bagels With
Schmear (Cream Cheese)
A proper New York-Style bagel always requires a schmear or a generous slather of cream cheese. It’s practically a requirement, especially when these homemade bagels come out of the oven. However, there are multiple ways you can serve them– all of which I have listed within this post.
Add a schmear of cream cheese, top with lox and then a slice of fresh tomato, red onion, thinly sliced cucumbers, and some deliciously briny capers. Perfection!
Or a delicious French butter. Heavenly.
Butter and Jam
Nothing better than homemade butter and homemade jam – a match made in heaven. Highly recommended!
A nice, healthy option. Toast the bagel, smash a ripe avocado on top, season to your liking, and serve it. Bacon is perfect on top, if you’re into that. Leftover guacamole is also delicious.
Egg and Cheese
This is New York City deli / bodega-style. Toast the bagel. Butter it lightly. Make an egg and cheese omelet to your liking. Or fry an egg up, over easy, season it with salt and pepper, top it with cheese and bacon. Add ketchup, if you’re into it; add aioli, hot sauce, sriracha, sambal olek, or a combination thereof if you’d prefer that.
• My bagels aren’t smooth. What did I do wrong?
There’s two factors that come into play here: the way the dough is handled and the water the dough is boiled in. Being gentle is crucial to the formation of smooth looking bagels. The less you handle it, the smoother it will be. If you squeeze the dough roughly, it’ll turn out wrinkly. Like many folks, I bake these bagels a lot, and some batches come out smooth and gorgeous, and on bad days some come out wrinkly. It’s all about how you handle the dough, but in the end- it always tastes amazing!
When it comes to boiling, make sure the water is not at a rolling boil; this will also prevent them from looking rough.
• My bagels stuck to my pan. What can I do to prevent this in the future?
The original recipe calls for simply using an oiled pan (I’ve edited it). Like many folks, I am paranoid about things sticking to pans, so I use parchment paper or a silpat baking mat (as shown in this post). Feel free to do the same. I do oil the parchment just a bit to add a little bit of extra non-stick protection, but it’s not necessary.
• I live at high elevation, what can I do to ensure these come out properly?
I’ve been told by bakers who live at a higher elevation that this recipe works well as is, however I know that high-altitude baking, especially with yeast, can be a headache as dough tends to rise about 25 to 50 percent quicker than at lower altitudes, so do keep that in mind.
A sure-fire way to ensure that the finished product is not very dense would be to reduce the amount of yeast to 1 teaspoon and allow the dough to rise for the recommended time in the recipe. If the dough has doubled in size after 1-hour, it’s good to start working with. If not, continue to let it rise, checking on it every 15 minutes until doubled in size. Your altitude, brand of flour, humidity, and room temperature are factors that would make the rising times vary.
• Can I make the bagels bigger?
You can, just keep in mind that they will need longer to bake, so check on them every few minutes past the 20 minute mark until they are uniformly golden brown.
• How can I make the dough ahead of time? Can I refrigerate the dough over night?
The best means of making the dough ahead of time would be to prepare it, cover its container with plastic wrap, and rest it overnight in the refrigerator. This is called a cold-rise. I often do this and I love this method because it allows the dough to achieve a more complex flavor. If you are doing a cold rise, be sure to allow the dough about 1/2 hour to come to room temperature before working with it.
• Can I freeze the bagels? Do they keep well?
Once cool, out of the oven, you can freeze the bagels without any issues. Slice them and then freeze them in a freezer-safe plastic bag, and let them thaw when needed. If you’re planning on toasting them, thawing them is unnecessary.
• How long do the bagels stay fresh for?
The bagels will keep in a resealable plastic bag at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Adapted from recipes by Sophisticated Gourmet and Jenny Branchflower