The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Adding to water for bagels--a question

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Adding to water for bagels--a question

So, in the last few weeks I've started trying out the pretzel formula from Jeff Hamelman's Bread, with very pleasing results.  One modification I made was to boil the pretzels instead of cold-dipping them, and use 1tbsp baking soda per cup water instead of lye.  The result: a lovely mahogony colored, crispy thin yummy crust. 

Now I'm wondering if I ought to try a similar approach with my bagels.  Normally I boil them 1 minute per side, with just 1 tbsp baking soda in the whole pot of water (maybe 6-8 cups).  The results are always good, but there's room for improvement on the crust.  However, I'm not sure whether that wonderful "pretzel-y" flavor on the pretzels came from the dough, the baking soda, or the amount of time in the water.  Its a great flavor, but I wouldn't want my bagel tasting like a pretzel!

Has anyone experimented with various concentrations of baking soda in bagel water?  I've also seen it recommended to put malt in instead.  Any idea how much?  In Hamelman's bagel recipe he says to add enough to make the water look like "strong tea", but that's not terribly informative (especially since I'm working with a black non-stick pot).

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

alconnell's picture

I use 2 TBS of malt in my water when I make bagels.  You could also try going another 30-60 sec. on each side and see if that helps.  My current favorite bagel recipe is from P. Reinhart's BBA.  It involves an overnight retarded rise and I think it makes the bagels taste much better.

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Thanks :)  Roughly how much water are you using with that much malt?  (I also use the BBA formula--hence why I'm pretty happy with everything but the crust).

xaipete's picture

I added malted barley syrup (1 tablespoon) to my boiling solution and it turned out great. --Pamela

arzajac's picture

In Montreal, dry malt extract is added to the dough and the bagels are boiled in water with a little honey in it - no baking soda.  You get a nice color and a little char like this:


mredwood's picture

I use one or both, malt and soda to boil my bagels. A tbs of malt, a tsp of soda. About a minute on each side. They have to look right. I use BBA's reciepe thru retardation and Benard Clayton's technique for baking. Boil, seed, bake on board on stone a few minutes, turn out on to the stone.Finish baking.