Secrets To Baking A Perfect Bagel

So Maine might not be known for bagels, right?

When it comes to bread, there are a few rules every novice baker should know.

Whether you’re trying to create a traditional New York Bagel, or simply looking to reinvent the Montreal-style bagel in your own kitchen, get some expert tips from an expert baker, Executive Pastry Chef Robyn Ray from TIQA Bagels in Maine.

TIQA Bagels

If you head to the bakery, the sourdough is worth getting too!


Recipe for TIQA Bagels

We start our bagels with a pre ferment known as a sponge.


1/2tsp active dry yeast

265g (a little more than 1 ½ cups) room temperature water (it should never be hotter than body temperature!)

234g (about 1 ¾ cup) bread flour

15g (about 1/2Tbs) molasses

Mix all of these ingredients together, loosely cover with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate overnight.

The next day remove your sponge from the fridge and let sit at room temperature for about ½ an hour.  While your sponge is warming up combine the following in the bowl of a stand mixer:

182g (about 1 ½ cups) bread flour

1/2tsp yeast

10g (about 1/2Tbs) granulated sugar

9g (about 1/2Tbs) kosher salt

Stir the above ingredients to combine.  Add your sponge and, using your dough hook, knead your dough until it has developed a strong gluten structure.  This will take about 5 to 6 minutes.

(are the bagels ready yet?  Nope….)  Place dough into a lightly-oiled container, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning remove your dough from the fridge and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes (just enough time to take the morning chill off your dough.  Do NOT let it sit for too long, though, because your dough will get too soft and will not hold a proper bagel shape.  They will be flat).  While your dough is warming up, fill a large, wide mouth pot with about 6qts of water.  To this water add

2Tbs granulated sugar

2Tbs kosher salt

1Tbs baking soda

Bring your water to a boil.  Grab a sheet pan and line with a piece of parchment paper.  Spray with pan spray.  Set your oven to 375 degrees.

Divide your dough into 6 equal portions and shape into a tight ball.  Create a hole in the center of the ball by placing it between your thumb and your forefinger and pinch through the dough until you have pierced through.  Stretch the hole with your fingers (gripping it kinda like you would a car steering wheel) until you have a substantial hole in the middle.  I like to slide the bagel up my arm and wear it like a bracelette for a hot second.  That’s how I know my bagel hole is big enough. Let your bagels rest on a floured countertop for 15 minutes, covered with a tea towel.

Once your 15 minutes is up and your water is boiling, turn your water down to a light boil/high simmer.  (You want some movement in the water, but you don’t want a full rolling boil.  That’s too much stress on your fragile bagels!)

Drop your bagels into the hot water and boil for 2 minutes*.  Flip them and boil another 2 minutes.  Remove each bagel with a slotted spoon and brush with your favorite egg wash and top with your favorite spices.  (Here at Tiqa we enjoy a nice za’ater spice mixed with a little sea salt.)

*Do not crowd your bagels in the pot.  They should have room to swim around.  During this boiling process they will expand!  If you can only comfortably boil 2 or 3 bagels at a time, it is okay to boil them in shifts OR, do what we have done here in the past and set up multiple pots on your stove.

Pop your bagels in the oven and bake until they are a nice golden brown and the centers of your bagels are no longer “doughy”.  This will take about 14 to 18 minutes, depending on your oven.  If your oven has a tendency to bake unevenly, I suggest rotating your sheet tray half way through baking.

Voila! Bagels!  Easy-Peasy!

If you want to make these in a single day, you can make your bagel sponge, cover it lightly, and leave it in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours. (I suggest leaving it in the makeshift proofer I outline below).  It is ready when it has grown in size and has visible bubbles on the surface.  Mix your dough as directed.  Once dough is mixed, let the dough ball rest, covered, in a warm place for another hour (again, create a proofer in your oven).  It is ready when it doubles in size.  Shape as instructed.  This method is perfectly acceptable, but you will not get the depth of flavor that you normally would with the overnight rests.


Pro Tips:

-Create your own bread proofer at home using your oven!

Most bread recipes will ask you to “let your dough rest” or “Proof your dough”.  This is a resting period for the yeast to work and the gluten structure to rest.  This resting is best done in a warm, moist environment.  Professional bakers use a fancy piece of equipment called a proof box.  They are bulky and impractical for the home baker; however, you can make a temporary proof box using your oven, a kettle of boiling water, and a 9”x13” casserole dish.  Place your dish on the very bottom rack of your COLD oven.  Make sure your oven is OFF and has been off for a while. (We are trying to create a Warm environment for our breads where our yeast can thrive; we are not trying to cook our bread!)  Bring a kettle of water to a boil and pour it into the casserole dish.  Place your proofing dough on an oven rack right above the steaming water and quickly close the oven door.  Allow your breads to rest for the full proofing time, undisturbed.  Continuous opening and closing of the oven door will allow the steam to escape and your “proofer” to cool down.

-Create your own steam injected oven!

Right before preheating your oven to bake bread, place a cast iron skillet in the bottom of your oven.  Allow oven to come up to its proper temperature.  Right before you are going to pop your bread in the oven, carefully dumb 2 cups of ice into the cast iron skillet.  The steam will keep the bread from forming a crust too soon, which will allow for more “oven spring”.  It also helps to create the most delicious crusty breads!

Quick tip:

-Remember: Yeast are a living organism, and like most living organisms they need to be happy in order for them to do their job.  If yeast are too cold, they will go into hibernation and will stop eating the sugars in your bread’s flour.  When this happens, your bread will have no rise.  If yeast get too hot (any temperature above 110 degrees) they will die.  Optimal, happy yeast temperatures fall between 75 and 90 degrees.


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