Week #3 Last Night I Dreamed of Some Bagels

Bagel sliced openIn 1986 there was a popular Madonna song called “La Isla Bonita”.  I loved to turn the volume way up on my car radio when it came on and sing along at the top of my lungs.  The first line went, “Last night I dreamed of some bagels…”    It was only several years later that someone heard me singing along and corrected me.  The real lyrics are, “Last night I dreamed of San Pedro…”  Funnily enough it never seemed odd to me that Madonna was singing about bagels. Which brings me to this week’s challenge – bagels!  Click here to listen to the song and tell me what you hear!07 La Isla Bonita (Be patient – it takes a minute to load)

I have to admit I was very excited for this one.  At last, something I had a frame of reference for.  The breads in the first two challenges, Anadama and Christopsomos, I had never eaten before.  But bagels I know.  I grew up in Toronto.  In my opinion the ultimate bagels in Toronto come from Bagel World.  Their twister bagel is unbelievable.  It has a hard crust on the outside with a chewy, dense but moist interior.  I haven’t quite figured out how they twist the dough but this could be my next baking project. 

My joy in eating a Bagel World twister was only slightly dampened several years ago when I learned that one twister bagel is the equivalent of 12 points at Weight Watchers.  For those not in the know, that is about 60% of your daily recommended calories!  But trust me, it is worth every calorie.

The bagel recipe from the Bread Baker’s Apprentice comes very close to  Bagel World’s regular bagel (not their twister).  I was blown away with the taste and texture of the bagels I made.  They were pretty incredible.  I took 12 of them out of the oven at 5:30 last night and by 7:30 there were only two left.  My family devoured them.  It takes two days to make these bagels but trust me, you will not regret a minute of the time you spent making them.  They are that fantastic.  The recipe can be found in Peter Reinhart’s wonderful book, “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”

The process begins with making a sponge.  This is a mixture of high gluten flour, instant yeast and water.  A little primer on flour here:  All wheat flour contains gluten.  Gluten is the protein found in flour.  The higher the level of gluten, the tougher or more elastic the dough will be.  At the bottom of the scale there is Cake and Pastry Flour with a protein content of 9%.  This is good for tender baked goods like sponge cakes and pie dough.  Next is All-purpose Flour with a protein content of 11%.  Most cakes and cookies use this flour.  Next is Bread Flour with a 12 % protein content.  Finally there is high gluten flour, with a protein content of 14%.  This is what you want for bagels to make them chewy. 

I could not find any high gluten flour here in Ottawa so I ordered some from King Arthur Flour.  This is a great on-line source for bread bakers.  They are located in Vermont.  If anyone out there knows where I can get high gluten flour in Canada, let me know.  It could save me a bit of money in exchange rate, shipping and taxes.

Malt options

Malt powder all over my floor


The sponge sits on the counter for 2 hours.  Then more flour, yeast, salt and malt are added.  It is the malt that gives the bagels their “bagel shop ” flavour.  Malt comes in two forms,  a powder and a syrup.  I bought both.


Of course when I got home I thought, “I’ll never use all this up.  Why did I get both?”  But, lucky for me, when I opened the powder, I accidentally spilled about half the bag on the floor.  So no worries about using it all up!


The book warns you that this is a stiff dough.  I tried mixing in my Kitchen Aid, but within about 2 minutes the bowl started popping off  and the machine rattled horrible.  Okay then, time for hand kneading. Before kneading the dough is a shaggy ball. 

Dough ready for hand kneading

Peter says it will take about 10 minutes of hand kneading to get the dough to an internal temperature of 77 degrees F.  It took me about  about 15 minutes and it’s a great workout!  After kneading, the dough is smooth and satiny.   

After 12 minutes of hand kneading

Now the fun part, forming the bagels.  The dough is divided into 12 equal pieces.  Use a scale!  Each piece is rounded into a smooth ball and then they are covered and rest for 20 minutes.

Bagels after being rolled into balls

Poking thumb throughStretching dough into bagel shapeThen you poke your thumb through the ball to make a hole and gently stretch , using your thumb inside the hole to form a bagel, about 2-3 inches in diameter.  The bagels are then allowed to rest for 20 minutes and then you do the float test.


 Put one bagel in cool water and if it floats, the bagels are ready for the next step.  Mine floated after about 10 minutes.  It was exciting.  I felt like I’d passed the swimming test at summer camp again!   


They float!Then the bagels take a nice long cool nap in the fridge overnight or up to 2 days.  It is this extended period of cold fermentation that makes an exceptional bagel.  The flavours are given a chance to develop.  I left mine in the fridge for about 30 hours.  Next it’s time to boil the bagels in a water bath before baking.  Some baking soda is added to the boiling water to coat the bagels and make them shinier and more golden when they are baked.  They spend about 1 minute in the boiling water, then they are flipped and go for another minute.

Boiling Bagels Next the bagels are topped.  I used poppy seeds sesame seeds and fleur de sel.  Into a hot oven and 10-12 minutes later, you have bagels.


Bagels out of the oven

We patiently waited 30 minutes and then devoured them.

smoked salmon and capers


Smoked salmon cream cheese tomato and lettuce on bagel

26 thoughts on “Week #3 Last Night I Dreamed of Some Bagels

  1. Angela

    The bagels turned out beautiful! I so remember that Madonna song & loved it as well!

    Don’t you just love your thermapen? its a lifesaver in the kitchen…

    =) Angela

  2. Hélène

    Love the pictures. Can’t wait to make bagels. I’ve never seen high gluten flour anywhere in Canada. So I’ll be using unbleached AP flour.

    1. saltandserenity

      Try using bread flour with a little bit of vital wheat gluten. Heather (in our BBA challenge said she used 1 teaspoon of vital wheat gluten for every cup of bread flour and had good results with her bagels.

  3. sallybr

    Yours turned out simply perfect!

    I am a bit jealous…. 🙂

    I really should try to make another batch soon, trying to learn from my mistakes

  4. Audrey

    Weren’t these amazing! Yours look perfect, and I love your step-by-step. And thank you for your nice comment on my artos. I’m neither, student or teacher, but I guess I am a student of bread now!

  5. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    The poking the hole worked best for me too.
    It is really mind blowing when you take something out of your oven that tastes even better than the so called ‘Pros”! Your song is great fun and your bagels gorgeous.

  6. Kayte

    This is such a great post..funny, informative, and the photos are really wonderful for someone who has not a clue what she is doing in this group and is hoping someone like you will provide instruction like this. I will take it all to heart except for the spilling on the floor part…I think I will leave that part out. LOL. Great looking bagels!

  7. Kelly

    Loved the Madonna story- LOL! Your bagels turned out beautifully – wow! I love all of the in-process pics, too! Great job.

  8. Anne

    I’ve just added you to my favourite feeds!

    I’m not part of the BBA challenge since I don’t have the time or inclination to make a batch of bread every week. But I’ll be following the challenge closely. I’ve had this cookbook for several years, and have a number of favourite recipes (Portugese sweet bread, ciabatta, focaccia). I’m curious to see how these turn out for other people (my ciabatta is fantastic, but never ciabatta-ish in shape).

    Anyway on to my main reason for replying. I’m an Ottawa resident, too. I don’t know about high-gluten flour specifically, but you might be able to get Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat gluten at Farm Boy. Since it’s 75% gluten, you’ll just add some to regular bread flour to up the protein. You could also check out Bulk Barn for gluten or high gluten flour. Kardish or Natural Pantry might be sources, too.

    Happy baking!

  9. jshively

    I must have been the only one who greedily consumed them while they were still burning hot from the oven. Heck the butter just melted over them.

    Nicely done and I thanks because that song is now stuck in my head 🙂

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  11. Sam

    A very late reply, but hopefully useful to someone…

    Regarding getting high gluten flour, don’t discount Peter’s suggestion to go to a bagel shop and ask to buy a few pounds of their flour! I’ve had great luck chatting up the folks at local shops and getting some of their materials, especially if they know your face because you are in a lot. Just show up during a slow time (late morning on a weekday?) with your own bag, and unless the manager is a particular dick, they’ll happily sell you a few pounds of flour for a few bucks.

    This works for many hard-to-get ingredients for baking and brewing – most bakers and brewers started because they had a passion for it, and will happily share flour, yeasts, etc., with a friendly amateur.

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