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Max’s Bagels

A few days ago, the familiar “on this day” photo memory collage popped up on my iPhone. This particular one was dedicated entirely to Max’s adventures in bagel-making. In the early days of quarantine, as we watched all of our spring and summer trips get canceled one after the other, we turned to the only comfort we could find – carbs. Max turned our kitchen into a one-man bakeshop, and every day I wondered what new type of starchy-goodness I would get to sample. We ate our way through the obligatory banana bread phase, and tried every creative topping we could think of for our homemade pizza dough, but nothing was more popular in this house than a good ole New York style bagel.

Full disclosure, I haven’t a clue what makes a bagel “New York style”. You see, Max is from New Jersey and a self-proclaimed bagel expert. I’ve heard him bitch remark about Atlanta’s lack of a good bagel place since he moved here nearly a decade ago. So if he thinks he’s recreated his beloved New York style bagel, then I’m not inclined to ask any further questions.

Personally, I’m more of a coffee-and-silence for breakfast type of gal, but even I have to admit that these are the best bagels I have ever had. Plus they are super easy to make and freezable so you can save for later. See below for the technique, and scroll all the way to the bottom of the post for the full recipe!

Step 1 – Prepare The Dough

The dough is the most important part, but also the easiest. I love that it only requires a few simple ingredients: warm water, yeast, flour, sugar, and salt. There are a few important notes to keep in mind:

  • When initially researching how to make bagels at home, everything said we needed to use bread flour. Well, if you remember, nearly all flour of any sort was sold out in the early days of the pandemic. We were lucky to get our hands on all-purpose flour, so that’s what we’ve always used. Tastes pretty good to me!
  • We like to use both brown and white sugar, but the recipe will be just fine if you only have one type.
  • Use active dry yeast as opposed to instant yeast.

Once you’ve got all of your ingredients combined in your stand mixer bowl, make sure you’ve attached the dough hook and not the regular whisk attachment. When properly combined, the dough will be extremely sticky and moist. It will look like the photo below.

After you’ve mixed the dough, you’ll knead it by hand for a few minutes before setting it out to rise. Make sure you don’t forget to grease the bowl or you’ll be in for a sticky mess when it’s time to take it out! We usually let the dough rise for at least an hour and half, but it’s okay to leave it out for longer.

Dough after hand kneading
Dough after rising

Step 2 – Shape The Bagels

After the dough is fully risen, you’ll shape it into bagels. There’s no exact science to this, just tear off a piece of dough, roll it into a ball, and use your finger(s) to poke a hole through the middle. Place each bagel on parchment paper after you’ve shaped it. The dough should yield about 8 bagels, but feel free to go larger or smaller if desired!

Step 3 – Boil ‘Em

Boiling the bagels is the most important step. It’s what makes them shiny (there’s a science-y reason for this that has to do with starch, but I won’t pretend to know about it) and it cooks the outer layer so they hold their shape. There were a lot of conflicting opinions about how long you should boil the bagels when we were doing our initial research. We found the best timing to be about 4-5 minutes each, flipping the bagels over halfway through so that they cook evenly. You don’t have to do them one by one for this step, you can put as many as your pot will hold while still allowing them a little breathing room to move around and expand.

When they’ve finished boiling, carefully remove each bagel with a spatula and place them on the drying rack. We put a wire rack on a baking sheet so that it catches any water – or egg and toppings from the next step.

Step 4 – Add Toppings and Bake

Allow the bagels to cool for a bit, then lightly brush with egg wash and sprinkle with toppings. You can put whatever toppings in whatever quantities you like, or you can leave them plain. Transfer the decorated bagels to a new baking sheet and bake at 425 for approximately 25 minutes. You can broil them for the last minute if you like extra crispy bagels.

Et voilà! Eat and enjoy! You can also slice and freeze them for up to 3 months.

homemade bagel recipe


Max's Bagels
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp regular sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg for egg wash
Prepare the Dough
  1. Whisk warm water and yeast together in stand mixer bowl. Allow to sit for approximately 5 minutes.

  2. Add flour, sugars, and salt and beat with the dough hook attached on low speed. The dough will be very sticky when combined.

  3. With floured hands, remove the dough from mixing bowl and knead for approximately 5 minutes.

  4. Lightly grease a large bowl with cooking spray and place the kneaded dough in the bowl. Turn the dough so as to grease it with the cooking spray.

  5. Cover the dough and let rise for approximately 1.5 hours. It is okay to allow it to rise longer.

Shape and Boil
  1. After the dough has risen, punch it down to release any trapped air bubbles.

  2. Tear off a piece of dough and shape it into a small ball with your hands. Use your index finger to pierce the middle of the ball in order to make the center bagel hole.

  3. Place the shaped bagel form on a sheet of parchment paper and repeat the previous step until all dough is gone. You should have about 8 bagels, but feel free to go larger or smaller as desired.

  4. Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil.

  5. Carefully drop bagels one by one into the boiling water. Depending on the diameter of your pot, you can do a few at a time as long as you account for room for expansion.

  6. Boil each bagel for 4-5 minutes, turning over halfway through.

  7. Place bagels on a wire rack to cool and drain any excess water.

Add Toppings and Bake
  1. Once the bagels are mostly cooled, brush lightly with egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tbsp of water).

  2. Add toppings as desired.

  3. Bake bagels at 425 degrees fahrenheit for approximately 25 minutes. You can broil for the last 2 minutes if you like them extra crispy on the outside.

  4. Eat immediately or freeze for up to 3 months!

By Paces West

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