The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bagel Problems!

Blue Moose Baker's picture
Blue Moose Baker

Bagel Problems!


I have been on a quest to make bagels.  I have tried many recipes with the exception of Peter Reinhart's.  The only problem with my bagels is that, although they taste delicious, they have been turning out a bit flat.  I have checked the recipes thoroughly and believe that I am measuring all ingredients perfectly.  Any thoughts on what could be causing this.  The recipes I have used are as follows:

The recipes advise to let the dough rest before poking a hole in them.  The trouble is, that my shaped bagel balls seem to spread out a bit while they rest and seem to rise a bit.  When I go to enlarge the hole they defate just slightly.  Could my dough be to wet.  All of my measurements are correct.  Should I be using a flour with a higher protien content?  Currently I am using Gold Medal Bread Flour and King Arthur Bread Flour.


Thanks for your advice! 





mrfrost's picture

Yes, your dough is too wet(still). Just add more flour, a tablespoon at a time, to make the stiff dough the recipe calls for.

My experience with KA recipes is that they are very consistent(if you weigh the flour and water). Most, if not all, KA recipes are based on a cup of flour weighing 4.25 ounces. If that is followed, although some flour/water adjustment may be necessary, it is usually not much.

If you have a scale, weigh your ingredients, especially flour and water. You can susally toggle most KA recipes to list ingredients by weight. Then the key is adjusting the dough ball to the consistency the recipe describes; firm, soft, tacky, etc.

Blue Moose Baker's picture
Blue Moose Baker

Thanks for your thoughts Dwight!  However, I did way the ingredients with my digital scale that I use frequently in my baking and normally yields consistent results.  Should I just continue to add flour to the desired consistency.  At the moment the dough just clings slightly to the base of the mixer bowl when I am kneading.  What should I be looking for?

giertson's picture

It has been my experience that the traditional method of hand twisting yields far better results in this department. After I started handroll/twisting to form bagels I noticed that they were fat, rounded and more aesthetically pleasing to look at in general. Its a bit more practice but just follow the guide in BBA and you should be fine. You'll really see what I mean once they come out of the boiling pot of water. They expand wonderfully. Also, I have experimented with multiple styles of poaching and I wholly endorse putting enough barley malt syrup into the water to color it like strong tea. Great shine and color.

LindyD's picture

I'm a purist when it comes to bagels.  I use only hi-gluten flour (King Arthur's Sir Lancelot) mixed with diastatic malt powder, salt, yeast and water at 58% hydration (Jeffrey Hamelman's recipe from Bread - also Dan DiMuzio's formula from Bread Baking at 60% hydration).

The dough is hand rolled into a log, then the ends are sealed with a bit more rolling.  This produces a firm, smooth skin.  The bagels are retarded overnight, then boiled for a minute or so in water which has been darkened with barley malt syrup, chilled in ice water for a few minutes, then baked at 500F for 15-18 minutes.

Mr. Hamelman writes that this is the traditional method for making good bagels.  They taste as good as any bagel I've had in NYC - maybe even better.  The recipes are foolproof if you follow them and weigh your ingredients (ditch the volume measurements).

I've tried making them with bread flour and even added vital wheat gluten to try to increase the gluten.  They were okay, but certainly not what I would call "good."  I thought they tasted more like bread doughnuts when compared to bagels made with hi-gluten flour.  

Nor do I add sugar.  The malt powder and syrup add sufficient sweetness without piling on more sugar.  

Yes, KAF's Sir Lancelot is expensive, but it is a wonderful and consistent flour.  I love bagels (as do my family and friends), make them often, and I figured the flour costs about 35 cents per bagel.  Where can you buy a super fab, chewy, tasty hand rolled bagel for under 50 cents?   You can't.

Finally, I do the mixing in my KA Artisan - carefully and attentively.  I've been known to put an ice pack on top of the mixer for cooling purposes, as this is a very stiff dough.  Haven't blown it up yet.

Skylar, I suggest you scale your ingredients and use hi-gluten flour.  Try either the Hamelman or DiMuzio formulas.  I think you'll be quite pleased with the results.

Elagins's picture

no matter what the hydration or the gluten content of the flour, bagels that haven't been flipped simply will flatten. the old-time bagel bakers put the boiled bagels on wet canvas or burlap covered planks (topping side down) for the first few minutes of the bake to set the bottoms, then flipped them over to finish. with boards, it's virtually impossible to get a flat-bottomed bagel.

also, All Trumps, which is virtually identical to Sir Lancelot (and about half the price) is what the bakers used and still use.

Stan Ginsberg

Blue Moose Baker's picture
Blue Moose Baker

Good thought, but even with flipping my bagels still seem on the flat side.  I think it may be more to do with the shaping.  Do you shape in the coil method or by stretching a hole in the dough.  Do you have a good recipe in your experience?


Elagins's picture

less water than either Hamelman or DiMuzio, no oil, no sugar, just hi-G flour, malt, yeast, water and salt.

i shape by hand. unfortunately, the publisher won't let me say more, since we're devoting a lot of pages to bagels in the book Norm (nbicomputers) and I are writing about Jewish baking. however, you may be able to find some of my older bagel posts before we signed the contract.

try reducing the hydration and yeast, and let the retardation do the work.


mrfrost's picture

I have made two KA bagel recipes. KA's whole wheatbagels(to which I kneaded in bluberries), and the mini bagels. One using KA bread flour, the other using White Lily bread flour(11.7% portein) + KA white whole wheat. Both turned out very chewy, crispy bagels. Both types came out looking just about as pictured and described in the recipe.

The key is to make a firm to stiff, but well, thoroughly kneaded dough, to develop the gluten. The dough should be very elastic, almost resistant, requiring quite a stretch to enlarge the hole, if doing the poke method. Even though I thought I stretched my mini bagels, the hole still closed up, because of the dough's rising and elasticity. But otherwise, I think they came out about like they were supposed to.

These have been my only attempts at bagels. Just started baking this past April. Also, KA has a step by step, blog tutorial on the minis. Maybe on some othe types also. Their blogs are very educational.

First attempt, KA mini bagels: poke method used.


KA white wheat bagels with bluberries kneaded in: poke method, and rope methods used.

verminiusrex's picture

Use less water/more flour, the dough should be slightly stiffer than typical bread dough.  My recipe has 16 oz high gluten flour with 2 Tablespoons olive oil and 8 oz water.  Some mixers can't handle the stiff dough, and you can up the water another ounce if needed.  If the dough is sticking to the mixer bowl at all, it's too wet. 

After the first rise (90-120 minutes) divide the dough into the balls, let rest about 15 minutes, poke a hole in the ones you are about to boil, let them rest a minute or two (that's all it needs), then stretch before putting in the water face down (so when you flip them for the second half of the boil they are face up to be deposited on the sheet pan). This has given me good results.

candis's picture

whty are you avoiding the Reinhart recipe? The BBA one makes the most delicious bagels I've ever tasted.


Blue Moose Baker's picture
Blue Moose Baker


Not avoiding the Reinhart recipe, it is next on my list.  I just couldn't bring myself to wait out the overnight fermentation in the refrigerator.  Not a big deal really! I make croissants and danish and that can sometimes be a two day procedure.  I guess I am just impatient to see bagels out of the oven.  I'll give the Reinhart recipe a go this week!  I have just tried a recipe from Wayne Gisslen's "Pro Baking."  The dough was much stiffer and the results were improved considerably.  I still need to work on my shaping though, his recipe used the coil method for forming the bagels.  They looked pretty good.

xaipete's picture

PR's latest book has a great bagel recipe too. It's pretty foolproof as long as you don't overproof.


candis's picture

you'll find it's worth the wait. if you are feeling extravagant, buy yourself some smoked salmon and cream cheese while you are waiting. good luck! candis (a new yorker sitting in a field in oxfordshire, england, feeling homesick for a new york bagel and lox.)

Blue Moose Baker's picture
Blue Moose Baker


The Bagels did come out better with the Reinhart recipe, and their flavor and texture were delicious.  They did, however float, as soon as I put them in the water, as opposed to rising to the surface after 10 seconds.  Some of the bagels seemed to deflate slightly after boiling.  Do you think that they may have been overproofed?  I followed the resting and proofing times exactly.  Also, I think I could do slightly better with my shaping the next time around.  Perhaps I will try the coil method to get a slightly more rounded bagel.



bonnibakes's picture

Today I made my third batch of mainly Peter R's bagels and they looked wonderful when they came out of the oven. Two hours later some of them had flattened down from their originally high rounded profile. This never happened with the first two batches and I'm scratching my head.

The only difference I can think of is that I accidently let this batch rise for an extra hour. Here in Florida, where Halloween is in the 90's, means the dough can easily rise in half the "normal" time. Could that be it? The exterior is delicious & crunchy and the interior had some holes, reminescent of sourdough, rather than an even crumb. Any advice?

michaelcernak's picture




   Below is a bagel recipe and procedure that I have used many, many times with perfect results...


4 cups bread flour

1 Tbls sugar

1 1/2 tsps salt

1 Tbls vegetable oil

2 tsps instant yeast

1-1/4- 1-1/2 cups of warm water.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. You don't have to worry about soaking the yeast when you use instant yeast (most yeast sold these days is instant yeast). The dough should feel stiff, but add the extra water if it's really stiff, or you can't get all the dry flour incorporated.

Plop the dough down onto the counter, and knead for about ten minutes, or until the dough is uniform and smooth.

Cut the dough into 8 equal sized balls, and let rest for 10-20 minutes.

Pre heat your oven to 425.

Now, take each of the dough balls and using two hands, roll it into a little snake on the counter. When the snake is longer than the width of your two hands, wrap it around your dominant roiling hand. The dough rope should be wrapped so the overlapping ends are together at your palm, near the start of your fingers. Now take the two overlapping ends, and use your palm to squish/roll these two ends together. Once the dough is fused, you should have a perfectly circular bagel-to-be! This is the only part of the process that can take a little practice before your bagels will look really professional. Don't get discouraged if they don't look perfect, it just takes practice!

Let your bagels rest on the counter for about 20 minutes, and meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil, and grease a large baking tray lightly. You can just rub a splash of vegetable oil and rub it around.

After the 20 minute wait, your bagels will start to look puffy, and it's time to get them boiling! Add them as many at a time as you can to your boiling water without crowding them. Boil for about a minute, turn them over, and boil for another minute. Take them out a let dry for a minute and then place them on your oiled baking tray. Repeat until all the bagels are boiled.

Add the tray to the oven, and after 10 minutes, flip the bagels over, bake for another ten minutes; and they're done!

Let them cool for at least 20 minutes, get the cream cheese ready, and feast on what's got to be one of the best weekend brunch treats possible!

You can add any toppings you like to these. To make sesame, onions, poppy seed, caraway etc. etc. bagels just have a dry plate ready with the seed or spice topping spread out on it. After the bagels have come out of the boiling water, place them face down onto the seeds, and then place the seed side up onto the baking tray. Bake and flip as for plain bagels.

candis's picture

well done, blue moose, they look DELICIOUS. i think it would be a mistake to shape them even better...people will think you bought them. Even if you keep to the rising time exactly, there are always variables...temperature for example. my kitchen is freezing in the winter. just congratulate yourself on your first effort.

JoPi's picture

I noticed that when I have baked bagels, the few times that they didn't rise and become round when baked was when I did not have a stiff enough dough.  If you dough is sticky when you shape your bagels, I found that they become flat. A firmer dough makes a rounded bagel. 

I have also tried the recipe for Montreal Bagels. The recipe does not require salt as they don't know if the original recipe  had the salt omitted by accident. I add salt.  They are simply delicious.   Make sure your dough is not sticky!

rudy26's picture

Yes, I agree on the stiff dough part, they should be an effort to roll out into your coil.

Also, when mine flatten out, I've found it is mostly a result of overproofing. Better results have come from reducing rising time ( I let mine rise for maybe 5 -10 minutes before refrigeration, and my kitchen in Maine is usually 64-80 degrees).  One could also alter the amount of yeast used.

  Mine are best when rising in the boiling water after about 20-30 seconds. After a minute, dense and chewy doesn't begin to describe them.