Tag Archives: Bagels

Delicious Gluten Free Bagels… An Oxymoron?

ready to eat 625 sq 2I consider myself to be something of a bagel aficionado. Partly because I have eaten my fair share (and perhaps several others fair shares as well) over my life span, and partly because I have baked hundreds of bagels myself, after learning the craft when I participated in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge.

I will not delve into the hotly contested debate of New York vs. Montreal style bagels, because really, that argument is laden with trash talking and never ends well. For those not familiar with the difference between the two styles, a little bagel primer here.

Montreal bagels are thin, a little sweet and quite chewy. They are boiled and then baked in a wood fired oven. They are really only good within the first few hours of being baked. After that, they get quite tough and leathery. New York bagels are bigger, doughier and fluffier than Montreal style bagels. They are also boiled first and then baked, but not usually in a wood fired oven.

montreal bagels labellednyc bagel labelledOne’s bagel preference is imprinted on them early in childhood and it’s extremely tough to shake it.   Personally, I do not care for either Montreal or New York bagels. I grew up in Toronto, and for me, bagel bliss is a Bagel World Twister. Weighing in at 8 ounces, these behemoths are chewy in the center and heavily seeded with poppy to create an extreme crunch on the outside. Twisters are spiralled by hand; the dough is literally twisted before the loop is closed to form the bagel. The result is that the baked bagels tear apart in beautiful little sections. All the better to slather on salted butter.twister 625Bagel World realized that it is a hazard to your health to eat twisters on a regular basis, so they created Twister flagels (flat bagels). I do not care for them quite as much as a regular twister since the chewy middle part has all but been eliminated. Sadly, I no longer live in Toronto and here in Ottawa bagels are made in the Montreal style. Blech!

I’ll be so bold as to bring a different species of bagel into this discussion: The Gluten-Free Bagel. Are delicious gluten-free bagels possible, or is that an oxymoron? Up until about 5 years ago, I would have said that gluten-free bagels should not even be allowed in the same conversation as regular bagels. We put out youngest son on a gluten free diet about 12 years ago, and one of the hardest things for him to give up were bagels. I tried buying commercially made gluten-free bagels and truthfully, they were awful. The vast majority of them were made from a combination of rice flour and tapioca starch. The texture was quite gluey.

Then, a friend of mine, who suffers from Celiac disease, gave me a recipe for gluten-free bagels that he discovered in the magazine “Living Without.” I was sceptical, but when I read the list of ingredients, I was intrigued. These bagels incorporate 6 different types of flour (Garbanzo-fava bean flour, brown rice flour, arrowroot flour, potato starch, tapioca flour and amaranth flour) to create a multi-grain flour blend.  In addition, the recipe also calls for flax meal (ground up flax seeds). All these ingredients combine together to create a bagel with some heft and chew. I will be honest and tell you that they are best toasted, but if you are unable to have gluten, these really are a delicious substitute.

I make them regularly for my son and decided to blog about it, since gluten-free diets seem to be gaining in popularity. Today I made a batch of seeded (poppy and sesame) and a second batch of cheddar jalapeno gluten-free bagels. The dough for regular flour bagels needs to spend a night or even two in the fridge to allow the gluten and flavours to develop. Since these are gluten-free, they can be made quite quickly.

This is quite a sticky dough, so it is best made in a stand mixer. Start out with the paddle attachment and then switch to the dough hook after several minutes of mixing. A plastic pastry scraper will make it easier to get the dough out of the bowl and a metal bench scraper makes portioning the dough easier.essentials labelled

jamie's bagel mixadding liquidcutting dough with bench scraperrolling balls of dough 2making the holestretching dough boiling bagelsThe seeds are sprinkled on after boiling and before baking.seeded bagels ready for ovenFor the cheddar jalapeño bagels, I mixed in some shredded cheddar and finely diced pickled jalapeño peppers. After 10 minutes in the oven, they get topped with some additional cheddar, for the the last 10 minutes of baking.

adding cheese topping after 10 minutes of bakingcheddar jalapeno bagels done

bagels in wooden dough bowlClick here to print recipe for Gluten-Free Seeded Bagels.

Click here to print recipe for Gluten Free Cheddar Jalapeno Bagels.with cream cheese and jam

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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