The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bagel water- how much baking soda (is too much)?

Almal's picture

Bagel water- how much baking soda (is too much)?

I've read a few different recipes with varying amounts of baking soda in the water that the bagels are boiled in. Considering the alkalinity of baking soda, how much is TOO much? Similarly, does this change if you bake your baking soda before using? 

And would you rinse the bagels out of the boil and prior to baking?


MichaelLily's picture

I use a small amount of lye for bagels, so I don’t think you can use too much baking soda. You do not rinse after boil and prior to baking.

gary.turner's picture

Not sure you can get 'too much'. A saturated solution is pH 8.2, not much above neutral pH 7. Add more, and it doesn't dissolve in the water, thus no stronger.

Even a 0.5% solution* of lye (which I use for boiling bagels) is considerably more basic.


* 5grams per liter of water

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

Don't bake it.  I tried that once and never again.

One tablespoon baking soda to 3 quarts of water is what I use.

Almal's picture

What happened? Why'd it go so bad? And thanks 

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

It totally ruined my crust.  I had a decent crust, maybe not the most crunchy but pretty good, so, I thought I might improve the crust.  It didn't.  it made it worse.  Soft.

Bagels, #8, The Most Perfect Recipe


Source:   stu borken


Description: This is the best recipe for bagels.  Unfortunately it only makes 8.




1medium size nesting/rising bowl, weigh it and record it's weight

1/2Tablespoon evoo for rising bowl, oil it after mixing dry ingredients in it

2-Cup Pyrex measuring cup to proof the yeast

1Kitchen Aid Pro 600 Heavy duty stand mixer with lift bowl and rubber edged paddle attachment

1dough hook attachment for kneading dough AFTER the paddle used

1Can non-stick spray, regular, not the “for baking” kind

9.1 oz  spring water no chlorine or fluoride in the water

1rimmed baking sheet, thick bottomed, 17" X 13.5" which holds 8 ~ 3/2 ounce raw bagels

1Sheet parchment paper cut to fit the baking sheet, lightly sprayed with non-stick spray

1large pot to hold 3 quarts water bath and to hold and flip bagels

1Chinese skimmer or cheese curd skimmer to flip the boiling bagels and to lift and drain them to a cake rack prior to placing them on the parchment on which they will bake

1set tongs to lift baked bagels from baking tray to cooling rack

1cake cooling rack large enough to hold the 8 baked bagels after removing from oven

2whisks 1 large to mix dry ingredients and 1 smaller to dissolve yeast in warm water

1good kitchen scale

1       bench scraper



                         WET INGREDIENTS

9.1Ouncespring water brought to 110 degrees, no chlorine or fluoride, not distilled water

1Teaspoon barley malt syrup mixed into the above warm water

1Teaspoon Instant Yeast dissolved into the warm water plus barley malt syrup



                      DRY INGREDIENTS

16ounces King Arthur Sir Lancelot Flour

1Teaspoon diastatic malt powder from King Arthur

2 1/2Teaspoon Morton's Kosher salt, not pickling salt



3Quart sink water

2Tablespoon Barley malt syrup (this is what a bagel making company, “Rise Bagels”, uses in their boiling water bath, only this alone is what they told me, I use the next two ingredients in my boiling solution)

1Tablespoon Non-diastic malt powder

1Tablespoon Baking soda 







Makes 8 bagels, ~3.2 ounce dough balls, 2.9 ounce baked bagels.

Use a scale to weigh water,flour & raw dough segments to make equal size bagels.   

Shaping the bagels; 2 techniques may be used; 

1) make a ball and push a finger into the center all the way to the other side then twirl it around 2-3 fingers stretching the hole.  

2) If you watch uTube videos of bagel making you will learn how to make a rope and wrap it around 3 fingers of your hand with an inch of dough overlapping in your palm, then rolling the overlapping ends on a bread board, which will seal the ends together.  



Weigh & notate the weight of a medium size nesting proofing mixing bowl.

Set up a~17” X~13.5” baking sheet with parchment.  Lightly spray with non-stick spray.


In 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup place the 9.1 ounces of spring water and the 1 tsp of barely malt syrup, then bring to 110-degrees in a microwave.

Add yeast to the 110-degree water and stir with small whisk.

When yeast foams, it’s alive.  If dead, start again with fresh spring water, syrup and proof the yeast.  If alive, mix with the small whisk and then pour it into the bowl of the stand mixer.


In medium bowl on a scale, weigh out 16 ounces of Sir Lancelot flour.  

Add the diastatic malt powder and the 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.

Mix these dry ingredients well with large whisk or spoon.


Pour flour mixture into bowl of stand mixer with the yeast-liquid.

Attach the paddle.  

Turn on the KitchenAid to setting #2 and let it mix until ALL the flour is wetted.  Remove the paddle and attach the dough hook.  Again, set the motor to setting #2 and allow it to knead the dough for 7 minutes.  Wash out the flour inside the measuring bowl, dry it well then oil it with oil.  

The bagel dough will be soft and not tacky.  Remove the dough to a bread board (use flour on the board if needed) using a bench scraper. Knead it a few times which will help do something with the gluten strands, then you shape the dough mass into a ball.  Place the dough top side down into the oiled bowl move it around then flip it over and cover bowl with plastic wrap tight across top of the bowl and not touching the dough.

Place the dough into a warm, proofing oven for 1 hour, the dough will rises to double in size.


Weigh the bowl with the dough in it.  Subtract the weight of the bowl which you measured at the start of the recipe.  You now have the correct weight of the dough.  Divide this weight by 8 and you will have the correct weight of each raw dough pieces with which you will make equal size bagels.  The weight of each piece will be about 3.1 to 3.3 ounces.  You are not to cut the dough as yet…keep reading….


Have wet/damp paper towels or wet dish towel handy to cover the main dough mass and the dough segments so they should not dry out during the weighing and shaping.  


Remove the dough from the bowl to a cutting board (do not knead) and cut into half, then into 4ths then into 8ths.  Keep covered with wet towels.  Place each piece onto the scale to get the correct weight, cutting off some if too heavy or borrowing from another piece if too light.  Do this to get all 8 of equal weight of ~ 3.2 ounces.  You will have exactly 8 equal weight dough pieces.


Shaping the bagels:  Remember, there are two ways to shape.  

Put one piece at a time onto the bread board with the “skin” side or outer side down and the pointy side up just slightly pat it into a crude disk (skin side down) then gather up the 4 sides and pinch together.  Turn over so the skin side is now facing up, and with the sides of your hands pinch the bottom to make a nice ball.  Cup your hand over the ball and move it against the board for about 5 seconds in a circular motion to close the bottom seams.

Using your thumb or finger, press down in the ball center all the way down to the board.  Lift the ball with your thumb still in place and with your other thumb break thru the hole and twirl it with 2 or 3 of your fingers in the hole to open the hole pretty large.  Place the bagel onto the parchment.  To this for all 8 pieces.  I then pick up each one and spread the hole one more time with twirling 3 fingers.  Spray lightly with nonstick spray and cover with wet/damp paper towel then with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 8-24 hours.  

Remove from the refrigerator and let sit in a warm rising oven or warm room, still covered for 45 minutes.  

(If you forget to use the spray on the raw bagel dough, then the paper towel will stick to the dough and NOT come off which will tear the bagels and deflate them and spoil the dough.  If you happen to have forgotten the spray and you do deflate the cold bagels, you can save them by putting the dough all together again into one mass, and, re-cut and re-weigh and re-shape and let rise for 1/2 hour, then do the boil).

Make your poaching liquid.

When you remove the cold bagels from the refrigerator set the oven to 498 degrees (500 if you can).


To Boil:

Bring the poaching solution to a boil in a large enough pot to hold 2-3 bagels at a time.

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 the cake rack to drain then to 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:

Preheat your baking oven to 500-degrees.  

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.  


To Serve:

The plain bagel gives you a great bagel flavor and chew.  Or, you may cut it in half and toast it.  The way I do it, is, I cut the bagel in half, I leave the two halves together, not separated, and toast the bagel in a toaster oven long enough to put a browned crust on the surface.  That way the outside gets real crispy and the center is soft and moist.  Most people like to separate the two halves and toast each half.  Serve with butter, jam, or classically, cream cheese, lox, a slice of tomato, capers and chopped or very thinly sliced purple onion.



Serves: 8

Serving Size: 1

Yields: 8

Prep Time: 30 min

Idle Time: 10-24 hours

Cook Time: 20-25 min

Total Time: 24 hours