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Hamelman Bread challenge: the quintessential bagel

LindyD's picture

Hamelman Bread challenge: the quintessential bagel


"A bagel is a round bread made of simple, elegant ingredients: high-gluten flour, salt, water, yeast and malt. Its dough is boiled, then baked, and the result should be a rich caramel color; it should not be pale and blond. A bagel should weigh four ounces or less and should make a slight cracking sound when you bite into it instead of a whoosh. A bagel should be eaten warm and, ideally, should be no more than four or five hours old when consumed. All else is not a bagel."

So wrote Ed Levine in The New York Times.  Having tasted (and baked) various bagels,  the elegant simplicity of Jeffrey Hamelman's formula, both in ingredients and technique, perfectly fits Levine's description.

Prep time is about ten minutes to scale the ingredients and complete the calculations for the desired dough temperature (76F).   Figure another couple minutes to very lightly oil two sheets of parchment (wiping off any excess oil), which are then placed on two baking sheets.  This is your insurance policy to make sure your bagels won't stick to the parchment after the retarding period.  BTW, these two sheets can be used over and over again.  Just let them dry out before storing them and lightly re-oil before using again.

The dough is then mixed for three minutes to incorporate the five ingredients, then five to six more minutes in a stand or planetary mixer.

Now, about mixers.   Over the past year I've been using my KA Artisan mixer to mix this 58- percent hydration dough.   It easily handled the first three minutes of mixing at speed one,  but began to heat up during the second mixing stage at speed two.  I resorted to strapping an ice pack on top of the mixer to keep it cool and even shut it down for a few minutes if I thought the mixer was straining too much.  That worked and my KA Artisan has survived mixing 30 pounds of Sir Lancelot high gluten flour for bagels, but I've paid very close attention to it every minute of the mix.  

Not wanting to push my luck any further because my KA grain mill and food grinder attachments are important tools, last month I found a Bosch compact stand mixer for sale.   After mixing two batches of bagels, I remain amazed that the little Bosch (which I can hold in one hand) doesn't even get warm while mixing this very stiff dough.  


Once the dough is mixed, it is bulk fermented for one hour, then divided into 13 (a baker's dozen) four-ounce pieces (roughly 112 grams).  Each piece is rolled into a log shape with blunt ends to a length of 10 to 11 inches.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video worth a million or more, here's a link to a great video by Ciril Hitz demonstrating the same shaping method described in Hamelman's Bread.

It takes about a minute to divide, weigh, and shape each bagel.  Divide the 13 bagels between your two lightly oiled parchment sheets, bag the pans or cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least six hours or overnight.  I prefer at least 12 hours.  Retarding is important because it slows down the fermentation of the dough and encourages lactic acid to develop, as well as that lovely crust.  The bagels remain in the refrigerator until you are ready to boil and bake them.

The next morning preheat your oven (and stone) to 500F and add three to four inches of water to a large pot, which will be brought to a boil.   While waiting for the oven to preheat, assemble a large bowl to contain ice water, a plate and cake rack to hold the bagels after their ice bath, a spider or slotted spoon, and another plate to catch any droplets of malted water as you move the bagels from the boiling water to the ice bath. You'll also need a couple sheets of parchment and your peel.


Add enough barley malt syrup to the water (before it begins to boil) so that it's the color of dark tea.  Once the water is at a rolling boil, dump a tray of ice cubes into the large bowl and add water.  Remove one tray of bagels from the refrigerator, uncover, and place two or three in the boiling water for around 45 seconds.   They'll pop right up and float.  The syrup adds a touch of sweetness and color; boiling begins to gelatinize the starch and creates the glossy crust, but boiling too long (some authorities say a minute is too long; others say two minutes) can cause the dough to collapse or  develop patches of yellowed, thickened crust.   

Remove the bagels from the boling water and immediately place in the ice water bath to chill for a couple of minutes. I don't use bagel boards, so I move the chilled bagels to the cake rack for about a minute, then to the parchment on my peel (after adding toppings, if any).   Once all the bagels from that batch have been boiled, chilled, and moved to the parchment covered peel, into the oven they go for 15 to 18 minutes.  Proceed with the final batch and enjoy while still warm.

The results: authentic, elegant bagels that even Ed Levine would love.



This recipe is my first bake of The Bread Challenge


hansjoakim's picture

Your bagels look outstanding, Lindy!

What's your preferred mise en place when it comes to devouring these little cuties?

I'm confident the Hamelman-challenge judges will approve and find that you passed the first test with top marks :)

LindyD's picture

Nirvana is a warm bagel, fresh from the oven, adorned with cream cheese - but just about anything tastes good with a bagel!

Thank you for your good marks!

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

I'm baking these as soon as I get back into my house! I'm certainly not going to try boiling and shaping these cuties in an RV kitchen. Way too much space involved, me thinks.

Tell me, how do you like you KA mill? And what do you use your food grinder for? I have a grinder that has yet to be opened, thinking about using it for turning cheaper cuts of meat into hamburger (what happens to storebought hamburger just turns my stomach and is so expensive) when I get back into the house.

I have a gift certificate to Sur La Table and would like to buy a grain mill but the only one the store carries in Kitchen Aid. I was hoping for a Nutrimill but don't really want to spend the cash right now.

I just haven't seen anyone else using the KA mill except you so far!

Nice bake!

LindyD's picture

Thanks for your comments, Tracy.  You are wise to wait until you have some counter space to work with, not so much for the mixing and shaping, but for the boiling, icing, topping, then baking.  

I like my KA mill.  Don't know where you saw a claim that it flings flour around - maybe it will if the operator isn't bright enough to put a bowl underneath - fortunately I haven't gotten that forgetful and the grains I grind fall nicely into the container.

I use it primarily for making rice flour and to grind small amounts of rye.  A cup of grain yields about 1 1/4 to 1 1/5 cups of flour.  The hopper is filled with grain, then the mixer is turned on at speed 10 and away you go. The manual is very clear about milling only at speed of 10, nothing lower.

The manual also warns to not grind more than 10 cups of flour at one time, and after grinding 10 cups, to allow the mixer to cool for 45 minutes.  I've no need to grind such large amounts and have had no heating issues.  My KA Artisan survived mixing bagel dough for the past year (albeit looking like a candidate for the ER with its ice pack covered motor head) and it handles my grinding needs quite well.

The food grinder is terrific.  I refuse to purchase ground meat from any source and refuse to eat ground meat served in any restaurant because I don't know what's in it, or what was ground before it.  So I grind my own, as well as chicken and turkey.

A tip I learned that works well is to trim and rinse whatever you plan to grind, then cut it into strips an inch to two inches wide (and however long you wish), then move the strips into the freezer for about 20 minutes.  The food grinder is also very easy to clean, which is a plus.

While the KA grain mill might not fit your needs, I think you will like having the control over your own ground meat.

SylviaH's picture

Your bagels are absolutely Gorgeous!  Everything about them and I especially loved the crumb shot.   What a beautiful crumb.  Wonderful writeup and photos.  You have pushed another one of my bagel buttons...I had my husband running to see these beauties.


LindyD's picture

You’ve got to get that bagel button in full gear and mix up a batch!

dmsnyder's picture

Magnificent bagels, Lyndy!

I'm amazed at the crumb, especially since there is no proofing, as I understand it. All those lovely little cream cheese traps. The bagels go directly into the fridge right after shaping. Right?

Next stop on my bagel journey will be Hamelman's, I think.


LindyD's picture

Yes, there’s no proofing  after the bulk ferment; they go straight to the cooler after shaping and I think that’s where the diastatic malt does its magic.  Then it’s from the cooler into the boiling water - shock therapy for the yeast as they really puff up - then into the ice bath.

The crumb on the photo was a bit more open than previous batches.  I missed the dough temperature by one degree. The dough was 77F instead of 76F.  I had mixed the dough the full six minutes and probably should have stopped at five.  Maybe that was a good thing. 

I think you will not only love the result, but the simplicity of the process, and hope to hear your opinion.

JeremyCherfas's picture

Even after watching that video though, I think I'm going to stick with the poke-a-hole method!


arlo's picture

I certainly love this recipe as well, and your bagels really capture how great they can be following this formula!

weavershouse's picture

Your bagels are just perfect. I'm sure they tasted as good as they looked.

Great job.


LindyD's picture

The Hamelman formula is pretty much foolproof and they taste so good!

Marni's picture

Picture perfect!  Such a great write up too - you've inspired me, I've really got to try bagels!


ananda's picture

Hi Lindy,

These look absolutely lovely.   There have been some fine postings on bagels recently, and these are right up there.

Contraversially, I dared to say I'm not the biggest fan of the bagel.   However, what I've always thought is that the Hamelman formula is the one I would be most tempted to use.   Your work suggests my instincts are right.

Fantastic work


LindyD's picture

Hi Andy -  thank you for your very nice comments.  

I never ate a bagel until I moved to Manhattan many moons ago.  Then, as Levine noted, Sunday breakfast became a ritual of bagels, coffee, juice, and the NY Times.

That was before strange things started to be added to the dough, like sugar, chocolate chips, or other oddities, such as streaks of purple (purportedly blueberries). Had those bagels been my first taste experience,  I would have hated them.  

You are right on about the Hamelman formula.  I was happy when I saw it in Bread and overjoyed when I tasted them.  Do try it; you just may change your opinion.

LindyD's picture

I bet if you try them, you'll love them.  Thanks!

wally's picture

I suspect Jeffrey would be proud of those!


LindyD's picture

Thanks - and I sure hope so, Wally

I'm so thankful for the great bakers who offer their formulas and teach us.  It's a continual learning experience.  Sometimes frustrating, but always positive.

Sedlmaierin's picture

Those look amazing!

jennyloh's picture

Lindy - lovely bagel,  I've got my book,  and this is so tempting,  I probably will put this on my priority "to try" list.  I love bagels!

LindyD's picture

You won't be disappointed, Jenny, and I'd love to hear how they turn out for you!  

As Christine (Sedlmaierin) noted - they are pretty amazing.

Truffles's picture

Your bagels look fantastic and you show really helpful video links. I'm going to watch all of Ciril's videos.


LindyD's picture

I appreciate your comment.  Ciril's videos are great - so are Mark Sinclair's, which you can find at the video link on top.

Truffles's picture

Thanks Lindy. I see that you were interested in the Rofco oven etc. and wondered if you have ever heard if they will sell here etc.


mpiasec's picture

just made hamelman bagles and followed the receipe to a tee did 1 hr. counter rise and then shaped the bagles and  refrigerated over night.  Took out in am, boiled water then put bagles in, problem was bagles did not float.  Book states bagles should go into boiling water then ice water. Bagles were good, but my concern is the bagles did not float like in some receipes.  Should bagles sit on counter for awhile or be put in boiling water right away?   thanks mike

LindyD's picture

I posted on the board about the yeast issue, Mike.

Pay no attention to other recipes - the floating thing is Peter Reinhart's technique.

We bake Hamelman's.  :-)


saltandserenity's picture

Lindy, Ed Levine would be proud!! Beautiful bagels.

LindyD's picture

It's really a wonderful formula.  I spent two weeks in NYC this summer and ate a lot of bagels.  Some were pretty good, some were not so good.  Hamelman's formula really captures the essense of bagel tradition.