The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bagels shrivel and get lumpy after boiling.

errer1984's picture

Bagels shrivel and get lumpy after boiling.

I'm an amateur baker working in a home enviornment so I do not have access to a commercial oven,etc.


I've follwed the Reinhart's directions and used the poke method to shape the bagels. I get pretty well shaped bagels while resting before I Retarded them (and another trial not retarding them). Once I pull them out of the frig they have shrunk and slightly shriveled but will slightly puff back up if I let them rest for 20 mins....

No matter if I retarded them or not my bagel shrivel and get lumpy after boiling.


Here is the recipe and ingredients I've been using. 

.11oz active dry yeast

18oz unbleached whole white wheat flour

20 oz room temp water


then for the dough:

1/2 tsp active dry yeast

17 oz bread flour

.7oz salt

1ts malt powder

1ts bread enhancer


When I boil I use 1T baking soda and keep it boiling while the bagels are in it. 


These are after boiling and baking at 450 for 10 mins. 

after baking


I used envy all the bagels I see from other people and want to make some like that. Should I be using the King Arthur Sir Lancelot flour or is the unbleached whole WHITE wheat flour okay? Should I get malt barely syrup? Do I really have to retarded my bagel dough?


any advice 


gnglueck's picture

It seems to me the problem you are having is that the bagels are over rising in the refrigerator. The first thing I would try is using less yeast, maybe try .06-.09 oz. by weight and see how that does. Another thing I would look out for is to make sure that you have enough flour in your dough. Unlike other doughs bagels need to be very stiff almost hard when you go to shape them. Lastly if your kitchen is at all warm make sure you get them in the fridge fast! It also makes a difference how often you go in and out of your fridge during the time that they proof. I think that if you cut back on the yeast though your problem should be solved.


errer1984's picture

Great tip, I'll try that. Now should I be using .06-.09oz for the sponge only or in total? The dough portion I used 1/2ts. Come to think of it I kept thinking that my dough felt like my bread loaf dough. I've done fairly well measuring my flour with the scale but maybe I am using too much water?.....

I know sea level has a lot to do and I am 10 ft above sea level and in the most deep part of South Georgia (fl/ga boarder) and although I try to keep my kitchen cool it's not always. 

Elagins's picture

You're using way too much yeast. The fresh yeast equivalent of 0.11oz (3g)+1/2 tsp (= 3.5g) of active dry yeast is 13g. This works out to about 1.3%, which is 4-5x what bagels call for, since that long retard will both increase the sugar content and yeast population of the dough . I routinely use 2g of fresh yeast for 650 g of flour, which is roughly 0.3%, and my bagels never over-leaven.

You're also using too much water. Standard bagel hydration typically ranges from 50% to about 53%. Even with the whole wheat flour, which is thirstier than patent flour, I'd cut the water to 18-19oz. (525 ml) or so.

Finally, you can drop the "bread enhancer." The long retard, as well as the enzymes present in both the flour and malt will promote the conversion of starches to sugars and promote gluten formation.

You can also try using honey or malt in your boil instead of baking soda: the sugars promote browning, while the effect of the boil itself, which is gelatinizing the surface starch to produce the shine.

Stan Ginsberg


errer1984's picture

Thank you for your tips! I guess I need to drop some of the yeast. Would you suggest instead of using the dry active, use instant yeast?

I'll cut the water like you suggest and hopefully that helps. Being 10 ft over sea level and in the deep south where it's always super hot and humid, how will that affect the rest time and the rise time in the frig?


Although they are not pretty to look at they had the bagel consistancy thankfully. 

theprudenttart's picture

Did the bagels pass the float test prior to boiling? How long did you boiling them?

While I had issues with the seams holding when using what Reinhart outlined as the professional bakers method, in following Reinhart's recipe they retained their shape and actually increased in mass during the boil.

The recipe I used can be found here and here.  

errer1984's picture

Yes. I tried carefully putting the bagels into the water without ruining the shape and optimistically thought they'd turn out okay. I boiled them for about 60 secs on each side. I used the poke method but might give the rope method a try in hopes of making the dough smoother. I love the first links picture tutorial and LOVE the second links recipe. 

The starter in the first link reminds me of the starter for our french dough... same concept? 

now others are saying I need to use less yeast, do you assume like I am right now, that they are referring to the start/sponge that I am doing NOT the yeast for the dough? 

theprudenttart's picture

I think they're referring to the starter. I've used a pinch, which is roughly 1/8 teaspoon, in my starter. For the Reinhart recipe I followed, I used 1 teaspoon (which i think equals .16 ounces), but it didn't require a starter.

The dough is sort of like french bread, but has a much lower water to flour ratio to encourage a very stiff dough.  After the dough is kneaded, it should be hard and feel somewhat dry to the touch. I'm thinking that you may be using too much water. 20 ounces = 2.5 cups. I used roughly 4.5 cups of flour for 1.25 cups water. I don't use a scale, so my rough calculation may be incorrect.

Good luck! 


dabrownman's picture

for tjhe boil is too long.  Every time i do it that long I get bagels that look like yours.  I do 20- 30 seconds a side  min - max.  I remember a comment Stan made once where He said you just want to wake them up from their long cold retard.

Elagins's picture

Like retiredbaker, I boil them until they float. The time it takes depends on the percentage and freshness of the yeast, malt/sugar content of the dough and retard temperature. I've never had a problem with overproofed bagels, as long as I pay attention to the yeast amount.


dabrownman's picture

I know they are going to float.  I cheat by using a dough ball.  I take it out of the fridge in the morning with the bagels.  The bagels go in the boil when the dough ball floats :-)  Works every time.  I use your SD recipe with 3 changes.  I let the bagels proof on the counter for 45 minutes before refrigerating them, put a small amount 10% of whole rye in them for flavor and up the hydration to 58%.  They almost always float right out of the fridge or shortly thereafter.  I get a great blistered and crisp crust with the chewy middle.  Best NY style SD bagels ever in my book - thanks to you.  Now that I know to flip them in 3 minutes they will be better.  Thanks Stan -here is picture of the bagel ball and a bagel,

Teddyk's picture

I've been having the same problem with my recipe , dough looks too leavened , flattens out when I retard , .... Your bagels look amazing , can you share your technique and recipe? 

Thank you!

retiredbaker's picture

The formula that i have always used and one that holds up to long retards and freezing is below

100% hi gluten flour

1% instant yeast

1% salt

3% sugar or 5% malt ( I have used powdered diastatic malt with great success)

45% to 50% cold water


mix flour, salt, sugar and yeast

add water and mix just to combine

autolyze for 20 min.

mix to full development.

form bagels  I use the rope around hand method and deposit on cornmeal dusted peels.

give desired proof

drop into boiling water.  When bagles rise to surface turn over give a little more boil and remove.

Top, pan and bake at 450 for about 12 min or until desired color

thebagellady's picture

I've been using PR's bagel formula for the last three years to make bagels for sale at our local market. They get rave reviews, and I do nothing to the formula itself. The problem you're having is caused by the yeast being overactive, either from letting the bagels sit too long after you've shaped them into balls or bagels, or your fridge being too warm.

I have found that at room temperature (72-80 degrees), the bagels need far less time than PR calls for in the recipe. I let mine sit for 12-14 minutes after I shape them into balls (you get better surface tension if you shape them into balls then poke holes in the middle--doing the rope can also make them a bit flatter).

In the summer, I put them in the fridge as soon as they're shaped into bagels, when the room is about 80 degrees, and in the winter I wait until they float, which can take as long as 35 minutes in a cool room (64 degrees). The key is watching for when they are a tiny bit puffy but not overrisen. They also seem to rise considerably more in the fridge in warmer months, so even though they seem barely risen when i put them in, they complete a rise overnight.

I have also in the past put half the flour in the freezer (the half you add to the poolish), which takes the dough temperature down enough to make rising times in the recipe more accurate, and doesn't require as much familiarity with the dough.

Good luck!