The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bagels with Smooth Skin

Sactown Battinses's picture
Sactown Battinses

Bagels with Smooth Skin

I've been baking bagels at home, loosely following Jo Goldenberg's recipe that I found on I've replaced the sugar with malt syrup and have been boiling them in lye following Stefania's 2/25/09 post on this forum.  I have been proofing overnight in the fridge after about an hour on the counter top before shaping. For shaping, I roll out the portioned balls of dough, wrap around my hand, and roll the edges together to create the bagel shape. The results have been great regarding taste, texture, crumb, but the skin of my bagels always splits while baking, as seen in the attached picture. I think the splits form along wrinkles in the dough from rolling out the dough balls.  What do I need to do to prevent this from occurring? Is my issue that the dough is too wet?  Should I be working the dough more to develop more gluten?  Should I be using a higher gluten flour?  Any suggestions would be helpful!  Thanks!

bikeprof's picture

A few things that might be going on:

1. insufficient proofing

2. insufficient boiling

The bagels continue to expand in the oven after the crust starts to set, so some (more) of that expansion needs to happen before they hit the dry heat of the oven (either in the proof and/or the boil) - so they can do that without tearing open.

Not sure how much the lye might have to do with this phenomenon...but it might also play some role (they look like the nice bursts you often see on pretzels, which get a lye treatment).  But even without changing the lye treatment, #'s 1 & 2 above are likely relevant to address.

vtsteve's picture

where you let it rise in bulk for an hour after mixing, then degas, divide, shape, and fridge immediately. Boil (in malt solution) for 30 seconds/side, plunge into ice water to halt fermentation, top and bake.

So, try bulk before shape, fridge directly after shaping, and quench in ice water post-boil.

What's with all the pretzel bagels anyway? REAL bagels are boiled in malt, real pretzels are dipped in a *cool* lye solution. :-)

gary.turner's picture

First, regarding lye: I always use lye, but at a much lower concentration than you would use for pretzels; 0.1% 1.0%, or 10g per liter of water in the boil. Using malt seems to cause the surface to attract moisture from the air, as do invert sugar, honey and molasses. That's good for shelf life but not for short lived bagels.

Addendum 3/5/19: Back in 2014, my recommendation was for 0.75% lye plus some form of sugar, e.g. malt, honey or molasses. For reasons noted above, I deleted the use of sugar and upped the lye ration a bit. ~g

Second, the amount of IDY is much lower than you'd use for most breads, about 0.3% instead of ~1% or more.

Third, after the hydrating mix, knead for about 10 minutes. Dough should be stretchy.

Four, split the dough, roll into 2in thick logs and let rest for 20 minutes or so. Shape and lay out on a cornmeal or parchment covered baking sheet. Cover or bag in plastic and refrigerate immediately.

Now for the important parts.

Preheat the oven and baking stone. I bake at 450°F. YMMV. When heated, place as many cold bagels in the boiling lye water as you can without crowding. They will probably sink. To avoid them sticking to the bottom of the pot, give them a light nudge with a wooden or stainless steel spoon. Once they float, or you've flipped the non-sinkers over (you'll see the dough changing color to an amber), scoop them out and onto a rack to drain. If you don't have SS baking sheets or drain racks, dip the bagels into a pan of cool tap water first. Lye is not friendly to aluminum. Sprinkle on toppings, if any.

Lay out your bagels upside-down on wet, bagel flipping boards. Bake for three or four minutes.  You can watch the oven spring round out what will be the bottoms.  Flip onto the stone and finish baking right-side up for another dozen or so minutes. Look  for them to become a tasty looking brown. Learn the timing for your own oven. I used to bake in two different ovens  and used the same thermometer to check each. Temps were the same, but one baked rolls and other small loaves faster than the other.

My experience is that starting with wet bagel boards mean the tops can stretch due to  the high wetness factor which lasts throughout the oven spring even after flipping.  I seldom get any sort of breakout. Pretzels get the breakouts because they're scored and any steaming is less strong.