Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown

Bagels from Scratch

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 21 hr 35 min (includes resting time)
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: 1 dozen bagels
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Special equipment:
Digital kitchen scale, Digital instant read thermometer, Stand mixer, preferably a 6-quart pro-series mixer (see Cook’s Note), with dough hook, Tall 2- to 4-quart container or 8-cup liquid measuring cup, Rubber Band, Ruler, Cutting Board, Kitchen towel, Chef’s knife or bench scraper, 2 half sheet pans, Parchment paper, Wire rack, Large, wide pot such as a Dutch oven, Slotted spoon
  1. Combine the flour and water with 20 grams (1 tablespoon) of the malt syrup, 25 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) of the salt, and all of the yeast in the 6-quart bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer and mix with the hook attachment on the stir setting until the mixture forms a shaggy dough. Increase the speed to low and knead until the dough is no longer sticky and springs back when pressed with a finger, about 10 minutes. It may still be slightly tacky, which is okay. If the dough gets stuck on the hook at any time during the mixing, stop the machine and pull the dough off the hook, pushing it to the side of the bowl so that it can continue kneading.
  2. Move the dough to the counter and shape into a ball. Place in a tall 2- to 4-quart transparent container, pressing down the top to flatten the dough. Mark the dough height on the outside of the bowl with tape or a rubber band. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise at room temperature until the dough is about 1 1/2 times its original size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Meanwhile, line two half sheet pans with parchment paper and have standing by.
  3. When the dough has increased to 1 1/2 times its original size, punch the dough down and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 12 (4-ounce) pieces and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Working with one piece at a time, roll each into a 16- to 18-inch-long snake, making sure to pop any large air bubbles, and then wrap around the palm of your hand twice to form a tight circle. With the seam side down and the snake still around your hand, roll your hand across the counter to seal the ends together. (Sometimes my wood board gets so dry, the dough just slides. If that happens, moisten the surface lightly with water. A spritz bottle is perfect for this.) Continue rolling on the counter to seal the seam all the way around the bagel. Transfer to the prepared pans and repeat with the remaining dough, evenly spacing 6 bagels on each tray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, preferably in the coldest part of your fridge, for 18 to 24 hours. (Tip: I place metal ramekins, the kind you might serve melted butter in, in the corners of the first pan so that I can stack the second pan on top of it without crushing the bagels below. This will save a lot of refrigerator space.)
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and place a rack in the center position. You’ll be boiling, then baking the bagels, so you’ll need to set up a work area around your cooktop. You’ll need to drain the bagels as they come out of the water (a wire rack over a pan or even a kitchen towel will suffice) and you’ll need a fresh piece of parchment to put them on for baking.
  5. Remove one pan of bagels from the refrigerator and set by the cooktop until they soften and register between 60 and 65 degrees F, about 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, bring a gallon of water to a boil over high heat in a wide pot, along with the remaining 80 grams (1/4 cup) of malt syrup and 50 grams (3 tablespoons) of salt. Once the water boils, reduce the heat to a gentle, not rolling, boil. At this point, remove the second pan of bagels from the fridge so they can warm up while you cook the first batch.
  7. Check the temperature of the first pan of bagels. If they’re at 60 degrees F, carefully place three into the boiling water, making sure they don’t overlap. (Use your fingers for this.) Boil for 1 minute, flipping if they rise to the surface in 30 seconds or less. (Don’t worry if the bagels don’t fully rise to the surface.) Remove the bagels with a slotted spoon and set them on the rack to drain and cool. Repeat with the other three bagels. As they drain, replace the parchment on their original pan (trust me, they’ll stick if you use the old paper again) and then move the bagels back to it.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan and continue baking until the sides of the bagels are golden brown and the bottoms are firm, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the bagels to a cooling rack.
  9. Repeat the same steps with the second pan of bagels.
  10. Let all of the bagels cool at least 10 minutes before serving. If you’re not planning to eat all of them in one sitting, slice the cooled bagels, then wrap in plastic wrap, transfer to a gallon-size zip-top freezer bag, and freeze until ready to eat. To reheat, wrap frozen bagels in a paper towel and microwave on high to thaw, 30 seconds to 1 minute, then toast if desired.

Cook’s Note

This recipe will work in a standard 4-quart mixer, but you will want to be careful not to overheat the motor. You will also need to pull the dough off the hook several times, pushing it to the side of the bowl so that it can continue to knead. To knead the dough by hand, combine the water and flour with 25 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon) of the salt, 15 grams (2 1/4 teaspoons) of the malt syrup, and all of the yeast in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until you have incorporated as much of the flour as you can. With a dough scraper, scrape the dough and any loose flour onto the counter. Knead until the dough is no longer sticky and bounces back when pressed with a finger, 15 to 20 minutes. It may still be slightly tacky and that is okay. Continue with the recipe at step 2.

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