Most bagels in the store aren’t real bagels, so here’s how to make your own

I love bagels. They are the best breakfast bread.

A warm, toasty bagel with a generous layer of whipped cream cheese is the best way to start the day. That’s why it saddens me so much to realize that so many people have never eaten a real bagel.

Sure, they might have bought a bag of round loaves with the word “bagel” on the front, but most of what’s commercially available at grocery stores and mass retailers aren’t really bagels.

They might taste delicious, they might be great toasted with cream cheese on top, but they’re probably just doughnut-shaped bread and not bagels.

For some reason, large-scale bread makers have managed to sell these holey rolls and call them bagels. In creating their faux-bagels, they skip a very important and crucial step: boiling.

Real bagels are boiled before baking.

This creates that chewy crust and tight crumb that real bagels are known for. While I’m sure it speeds up the process and saves money, so many mass producers, and there are otherwise highly respected brands included in this, skip the boiling step.

I found a brand, 1st National Bagel Co., that boils their mass-produced bagels. They’re based in Minneapolis, and you can find their bagels in the refrigerated section of a store or two in Aberdeen.

But the other way to ensure a more authentic bagel experience is to make your own.

I was intimidated by the idea of ​​making my own bagels before trying it. That’s because there’s a passionate following of what a real bagel is.

Some people refuse to believe that anything baked outside of New York is a bagel, but bagels definitely have roots that go beyond the founding of New Amsterdam. The earliest known record of bagels dates back to 1610, in text found in Krakow, Poland, according to an article found in “The Atlantic.”

Bagels are a very simple dough – flour, sugar, salt, yeast and water. It’s the treatment that turns everyday bread into a bagel.

Start with a gluten-rich flour, like bread flour or even gluten-rich flour, which has even more protein. All-purpose flour simply won’t have enough elasticity to create the necessary structure.

The rest of the bread-making process is quite simple, until the boiling water tank is introduced. Boiling the dough creates a crust and prevents the bread from expanding further.

It’s what creates that chewiness that defines a bagel, rather than just baking a bun disguised as an unfrosted donut.

Malt syrup is added to the water, but brown sugar is an adequate substitute. This adds a bit of sweetness and helps create the crust.

My favorite type of bagel is an all-purpose bagel – this mix of sesame seeds, onions, garlic, and poppy seeds add just the right amount of flavor. One thing I don’t like is having half of the seasoning all over the table and probably on my clothes, rather than in my mouth.

So, I stole an idea from the 1st National Bagel. It works the seasoning into the batter, rather than just sprinkling it on a regular bagel.

This means that the season takes place exactly where it is supposed to take place. Get all the bagel seasoning pre-made or mix some from separate spices.

Top the bagels with a light sprinkle of seasoning or just a little kosher salt, but it won’t be possible to confuse them with anything other than bagels.

When they’re so easy to buy, making homemade bagels is a bit of a flex, especially when served at brunch or other gatherings.

Katherine Grandstrand, taste columnist

All bagels


  • 3 ½ cups bread flour.
  • 2 tablespoons seasoning for any bagel.
  • 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar.
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) instant dry yeast.
  • 1¼ cup warm water.
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • 3 liters of water
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar or malt syrup.
  • 1 egg.
  • 1 tablespoon of water.


  • In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a bread hook, combine the bread flour, all the bagel seasoning, salt and yeast.
  • Work the dough together with the dough hook or by hand until smooth, seven to 10 minutes.
  • Add the olive oil to a clean bowl and place the dough on top, coating the dough. Cover with a damp towel and sit in a warm place for an hour.
  • After an hour, knead the dough and divide it into eight pieces. Pinch the dough into balls.
  • Place the balls of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Prepare a large pot of boiling water, add three liters of water and three tablespoons of brown sugar or malt syrup.
  • Make a hole in the center of the ball of dough.
  • Place first bagel in boiling water, set time for one minute. After the minute, add another bagel and flip the first one. Set the timer again for one minute.
  • At the end of this timer, add another bagel, flip the second and remove the first. Repeat this process until all the bagels have been boiled.
  • Brush the tops of the bagels with an egg wash, made with the egg and a tablespoon of water.
  • Finish by sprinkling with all the bagel seasoning or kosher salt, or just egg wash.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Recipe adapted from Maria’s Mixing Bowl on

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