The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bagel Crust not Quite There

khabbaz's picture

Bagel Crust not Quite There

Hey all,

So I'm out of the States for a year living abroad, and I was craving bagels so I decided to try my hand at making them.  I am, however encountering a problem with the crust.  Everything else about the bagel is good: chewy and dense, but the crust is just super soft.  When I take them out of the oven and tap on the bagel the crust is hard, but after a couple minutes it becomes super soft such that I can poke it with a finger quite hard, the crust will indent like a pillow, and then rebound once I release my finger.

The bottom of the bagel, where it touches the pan, has the mot perfect crunch, but I cannot seem to get the desired crunch on the outside.  The recipe I use is as follows, with variants in parentheses:


  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • (1 tbs brown sugar)

Water bath:

  • 4 qts water
  • (2 tbs honey)
  • (2 tbs brown sugar)
  • (1.5 tbs baking soda, which got me pretzel like bagels)

Egg Washes

  • (Eggwhite with 1 tbs water)
  • (White and Yolk with 1 tbs or 2 tbs water)
  • (Yolk with 1 tbs or 2 tbs water)

I knead for 8-9 mins until I have a nice firm dough, then I let it rise for about an hour.  I punch the dough down, let it rest for about 10 minutes.  I then form them into balls, then into bagels using the poke method, then let them sit for about 10 minutes).

I then place them in the boiling water that I turn to a simmer.  I like chewy bagels so I boil them for about 1.5 mins each side although I have tried: 30 seconds, 1 min, 1.5 min, 2min per side as well.

I eggwash, cover with toppings, place on a slightly oiled baking sheet in the middle rack and bake at 500 degrees for about 15 mins (rotating half way through).  I've tried baking at 500 for 10 mins, then down to 425 for another 10; or 500 for 10 and then 450 for 10, etc.  They come out with a hard/crispy crust but then become soft.

Im not looking for the crust of a rustic loaf, but the bagel crust should be quite firm and definitely not as soft as the ones I am producing.  I'm so close but yet so far!  I must have made about 8-10 batches with slight modifications.

One theory I have is that I am waiting too long after the bagels come out of the boil before they go in the oven.  I make about 8 bagels at a time, but boil them 2-3 at a time, so by the time I boil them all, egg wash them, top them, and put them in the oven they've been out of the boil for up to 15 minutes.

In any event, thanks in advance for your help!

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I wonder if shaping the bagels, then putting them in the fridge overnight would affect the crust? I boil mine in a large electric skillet so I can do eight at a time; that really helps the timing!

gary.turner's picture

I stopped using any sugar in the boil because of sugar's hygroscopic qualities. Initially, after the bake, I'd have nice, thin and slightly crisp crusts, but the sugar in the crust quickly absorbed moisture from the air and the crumb. I didn't mind the crust becoming softer, but the tactile moistness was annoying.

Instead of sugar (malt), I switched to lye to get the crisp. The 3% solution used for pretzels, which is responsible for the pretzel's unique taste, is too much IMO. I use a 1% solution. There is only a hint of pretzel-ness. If that is too much for you, drop to a 0.5% solution or plain water.

Bagels have a short shelf life. Moisture from the crumb will migrate through the crust and soften it. If you're not eating them, still warmish from the oven, reheat for a few minutes in the oven or toast them.


MichaelLily's picture

1. Why are you egg washing? The bagels are already wet when coming out of the boil and you can top them immediately. I don't think egg washing helps your issue.

2. Maybe you should try flipping your bagels.  Traditionally, bagels are baked on bagel boards in a deck oven and then flipped after a few minutes of baking.

3. I think you should refrigerate your shaped bagels at least for 10-20 minutes to form a skin before boiling.

4. As Gary says, use lye.  I use a .015% solution for boiling (yes, that low, and for 1 gallon of water that means about 5 grams of lye salt).

Lye is incredibly powerful and does magic with crusts.

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

3 quarts water, 2 tablespoons barley malt syrup, bring to hard boil, boil raw bagels for 30 seconds each side, flip them once. Place onto cake cooling rack.  When 

No egg wash.

To Boil: Bring the poaching solution to a boil. When the dough has had a chance to warm and rise for 45 min then, using two hands, gently lift the bagels (if the dough is tacky then you wet your hands from the tap and then pick up the raw bagels) from the parchment (they should come off easily) gently transfer one at a time, gently into the boiling liquid and let them poach 30 seconds then using the strainer, flip over for 30 seconds then flip back to right side up and remove with strainer to cake rack to allow them to drip off excess solution then place onto the parchment paper on the baking pan.  Do this for all 8 bagels.  This is the place where you may sprinkle some poppy seeds, sesame seeds or rehydrated chopped dried onions onto the surface of the wet bagels. I don’t use any, they just make a mess when you try to cut the bagels. The Baking: Place bagels into the 500-degree hot oven, upper rack, for 8 minutes. Pull the pan out and rotate it around 180 degrees, front to back, also flip the bagels over. Place them back into the same oven for 6 minutes. Remove the tray of bagels and flip them over once again, right side up. Look at them, they may need another 2-3 minutes at 450 or on convection at 425 to get nicely browned and crispy. I like my bagels nicely browned just shy of a char, if they are not browned as yet, I let them bake longer.  Remove with tongs to cake cooling-rack and allow to cool completely. 

khabbaz's picture

Thank you all for the recommendations!

So ive removed all sugar from the recipe and also did not egg wash them. 

I think threw them in the fridge for about 20 mins to let a skin form, boiled them 1.5 mins each side, then baked at 500 for 8 mins, flipped them over, rotated the pan 180, bakes for an addition 8, then flipped over again for another 3 mins to brown the tops...and success with the crust! However I now have another problem/question:

The bagels came out rather...rotund and seemed to rise quite a bit at some point in the process. Before I undertook the refrigeration experiment, they had the appropriate density and there wasnt a  difference between the size of the bagels immediately after the boil and when I took them out of the oven (just a soft crust). Now they seem to rise quite a bit, I think mostly during baking but also (maybe) when I take them out of the fridge to warm them before boiling.

I have two theories:

im not letting them warm enough after I take them out of the fridge, so they are too cold when I boil and thus the 1.5 mins is not enough for the gelatinization process to occur to the extent I want it to (but I'm afraid they will rise too much after I take em out of the fridge but before they boil).

or I'm letting them warm for too long and I should throw them in the boil while still cool.

thoughts? And thanks again for all your help!!

pmccool's picture

Here's a recipe for traditional, New York style bagels.  It includes the typical process for a cold ferment after shaping and then boiling prior to baking.  Compliments of Norm Berg, a baker from the golden age of New York Jewish bakeries and TFL member prior to his death, and Stan Ginsberg, his co-author.