The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bagels puffing up like balls and cracking

beygls's picture

Bagels puffing up like balls and cracking

I make bagels that taste good, have a subtle crunch to the exterior and a chewy but not hard density inside. But I'm getting massive oven spring, so the holes always close, they go from donut shape to almost a ball, and they crack (in the hole, or where the hole had been, and on the underside).

Why is this happening???

I proof them almost 24 hours in a fridge (no warm or room-temp proof). The look a little thin coming out of the fridge, then plump up to the perfect size and shape in the boil/bath.

They also look perfect in the oven (at 482ºF / 250ºC) for the first 4-5 minutes. But then they puff up into a ball and start cracking.

I bake in a convection oven on revolving trays.

I proof the bagels for anywhere between 16-24 hours in refrigeration, then go straight to the boil, and the bake shortly after.

After mixing I briefly refrigerate the dough to cool it off and then do a punch-down before shaping. I don't proof the dough or the bagels at room temperature at all.

I did try upping the salt in the recipe and the bagels kept their shape when baked but tasted way too salty. I reduced the yeast a little but no luck. Maybe reducing the yeast even more would do the trick?

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Hmmmm, that's an odd one. You probably could reduce the yeast. Also, it's not clear if you do a bulk ferment (you say you mix the dough, then refrigerate it, then punch it down and shape it). Perhaps let the dough rise for a bit before shaping? I make sourdough bagels, so my technique might not help, but I mix the dough then let it ferment for around 4 hours before shaping the bagels. They sit at room temperature for an hour or two before I put them in the fridge for the night. I then boil and bake them the next day. I make the holes really big on shaping because they will, of course, close up to some extent, but I'm sure you already do this.

pmccool's picture

of your formula and process?  The snippets provided so far only give part of the picture, which makes it difficult to assess what's happening.


beygls's picture

OK. See big post below.

ds99303's picture

Maybe it's as simple as making the hole in the center bigger. If the hole in the center is too small, it's going to close up. How do you shape your bagels? Do you cut them out like doughnuts or do you take a strip of dough and shaoe it into a ring?

beygls's picture

I make the hole huge, but the dough is so elastic that the hole (and the bagel) are small again within 2 minutes. I go from a ball of dough to the donut shape. No cutout or strip.

ds99303's picture

If the dough shrinking back, try letting the bagels rest for about 15 minutes or so and then stretch them out again. I know if I'm trying to roll out dough and it keeps snapping back, the only thing I can do is just walk away and come back later when the dough is relaxed and less elastic.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Could your water source be warmer than before due to room temp rises or seasonal changes?  This may also be raising the flour temperature for overall dough temp.  Try using ice water in the mix to counter act some of these changes. 

beygls's picture

Thank you — I tried your suggestion, but it didn't seem to change the end-of-bake puffing.

Doc.Dough's picture

The description of puffing up late in the bake cycle sounds like the boil is not long enough to deactivate the yeast in the core of the dough. 

Really do need a photo and a full process description to do much more than guess.

beygls's picture

I think I'm boiling long enough — in fact, I see cracks start to form on the unboiled side because I'm almost going too long.

beygls's picture

I started out mixing flour, salt, powdered malt extract, and a touch of sugar. Then I mixed instant yeast* into the (coldish tap) water, waited about 5 minutes, and then mixed that into the dry ingredients for 10 minutes in a spiral dough mixer.

(*Turns out I was originally using instant yeast meant for sweet/pastry dough, by mistake. I hadn't read the fine print.)

The dough ball gets divided into 3-4 smaller balls, put in plastic bags, and goes into the fridge for 20 minutes.

Then I punch down, and then use a knife or scissors to cut the dough into pieces of equal weight.
These are shaped into balls, placed on trays, covered with plastic, and back into the fridge for 20 minutes.

Then I shape the balls into the round bagel/donut shape. These are placed on trays and covered with plastic.
Originally, they went straight into the fridge for 24 hours, but recently I've tried leaving them out for 20 minutes before refrigerating, and it seems to help slightly in reducing the puff-ball effect.

The other change I've made is replacing the original instant yeast (meant for sweet dough) with SAF Instant and getting rid of the tiny bit of sugar. That definitely helped slightly reduce the puff-ball effect as well, though it also changed the flavor somewhat. And I just mix the yeast into the dry ingredients without mixing with the water.

After the 24-hour proof, I boil in water + malt syrup + salt + baking soda. Then once all the bagels have been boiled, we bake on 482F / 250C, though the oven temp drops as low as 419F/215C with all the movement of the trays.

After 2 minutes, I flip the bagels to prevent cracking.

In addition to the puff-ball/cracking problem, there's another weird thing happening: some of the bagels come out nice and shiny and brownish and crunchy outside, some blistered but pale and soft. It seems to go one way or another for a whole tray… I think maybe the ones I boil first, which sit out for 30-60 minutes after boiling and before baking, look the nicest.

gary.turner's picture

Each time you've described what's happening, I get my perception of under proofing reinforced.

Rather than compare and contrast step by step, I'll simply describe the way I make bagels. I usually mix and shape in the afternoon or evening and bake the next morning.

For your consideration:

Scale the ingredients.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.

Add the dry ingredients to the water already in the mixing bowl (I hydrate @55%)

Mix on low speed 'til a shaggy mass (about three minutes for my Assistent)

Let rest for 5-10 minutes, covered. This is to even the hydration.

Use the hook with KA type mixers until a smooth ball. I haven't found  compelling reason to prefer the hook or roller over the other in my Assistent, so stay with the roller. Assistent time varies between five and twelve minutes, depending on the mood of the gods.

Turn out onto the bench, cover and rest for twenty minutes.

Shape (I use the old method of wrapping around my hand and sealing the ends together) and lay out on parchment lined baking half-sheet.

Place the baking sheet in a plastic bag and move to the refrigerator.

In the morning, preheat the oven and baking stone.

Make a 0.5% lye solution (5g lye per liter of water) and bring to a boil. Use a SS or enamel pot. Lye eats aluminum.

Drop in as many bagels as you can, without crowding, into the boiling water. If they sink, most likely, nudge them to avoid their sticking to the bottom of the pot and when they float and turn a creamy yellow, or light beige color, remove them. Rinse in cool water and layout on your wet bagel boards. (Rinsing is critical if you're baking on aluminum clad baking sheets.)

Bake and flip after five minutes, then bake another fifteen minutes, give or take. Watch the color.

Hoping I've helped,


beygls's picture

Thank you, Gary, for sharing that. I've been hydrating at 52% and today I even reduced that slightly because I think there was some ambient humidity in the flour, which made the dough sticky.

(Is your dough sticky, tacky, dryish? Light, tough, rubbery?)

My mixer doesn't have speeds, but still it would be interesting to see if the 5-10 minute pause after 3 minutes has any effect. How do you know when you're done mixing?

My bagels always float, they don't sink — sinking would be a sign of under-proofing, wouldn't it?

No punch-down? How do you go about shaping the rope for the hand-wrap method? And do you use water to seal the joint?

What's your oven temp?

I salute you for the authenticity of using wet bagel boards… but do they make a specific difference over parchment-lined metal baking sheets?


gary.turner's picture

Hydration: At ≤60% hydration, the dough will be fairly dry with little to no tackiness. Are you weighing your ingredients? 55% by volume would give you a very sticky dough. By the time I'm shaping them, the dough is like a stiff, thick rubber band. So feel free to cover and let the dough rest occasionally.

Are you using a spiral mixer? My Electrolux/DLX/Assistent/Ankarsrum has a similar action but the speed is continuously variable. With stiff doughs as in bagels, I stay in the slow range. The first mix is for combining the ingredients. It's done when you have a shaggy mess/mass. The second mix is for aligning the gluten. In a stiff dough, look for a satiny smooth ball to form.

The rest after you have a nice ball relaxes to dough for easier handling, and as Stan Ginsberg puts it, lets the little beasties get frisky.

There's no punch down as such until you start shaping the bagels. In my case, I cut thick strips off the main dough ball. Rolling the strip down to the diameter of my thumb serves to break up the large bubbles into small bubbles. I wrap the small roll (about 10" long) around my hand, pinch it off and roll the joint under my hand to seal. It is not a particularly strong seal, but it will seal better as moisture migrates while in the fridge.

For your poke and stretch bagels, I'd pat the scaled dough balls pretty much flat before shaping.

Since they've been pretty much degassed while shaping, my bagels sink initially then rise as they're warmed in the boiling water.

If your bagels continue to be floaters, turn them a few times during the boil to be sure they're evenly done. Sinkers are ready to remove when they rise.

I preheat my stone to 500℉ then lower the control to 425℉. I think I saw that you use a convection oven. That could be an issue as it will dry the surface before the bagels have fully sprung. I think the bagel boards and my conventional electric oven are an improvement. I do plug the vent. The board keeps one side and the micro-environment surrounding the bagels wet until flipped. After flipping, the wet dough on what was the bottom is on top and is free to spring. Bagels done with boards are more circular in cross section.