How to Make New York-Style Bagels
Follow my step-by-step tutorial on how to make homemade bagels! New York-style bagels are chewy and dense with a unique cooking method. Trust the process for an incredibly traditional bagel experience that’s so much better than store-bought.
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Techniques Used: The Sponge Mixing Method for Bread Making
A good bagel is one with a thin, crackly crust and a soft but chewy interior. New York-style bagels have a very unique yet recognizable texture.
I have been working on this recipe for years- testing many different ingredient ratios and techniques. I am now ready to share with you my recipe, tips, and tricks to achieve authentic New York-style bagels at home!
What makes New York-style bagels so unique
- These bagels have a crackly crust and chewy center, which sets them apart from store-bought bagels that typically have the same soft texture throughout.
- The dough for bagels is a low-hydration dough, meaning it has a small amount of water in it compared to most other bread doughs. This gives bagels their iconic dense texture.
- New York-style bagels are boiled before baking which sets the exterior and gives them their unique texture. (This differs from Chicago-style bagels which are steamed.)
- They’re made with barley malt syrup and are a bit larger and saltier than other bagel variations (like Montreal-style bagels which are sweeter and made with honey).
Ingredients and Substitutions
Bread Flour: High protein flour is essential to the structure of this bagel dough and yields chewy, dense bagels. I do not recommend substituting all-purpose flour in this bagel recipe. However, if all-purpose flour is all you have on hand, you can use it for your bagels with the understanding they will not have as much chew.
Water: Use room temperature water – about 68–72°F (20–22°C). This will allow your sponge to ferment slowly and develop the most flavor.
Yeast: Use active dry or instant yeast in this recipe. Bagel dough made with active dry yeast requires a slightly longer resting time than dough made with instant yeast (also known as rapid-rise or quick-rise yeast). If you’re interested in using sourdough starter to make sourdough bagels, this video explains the process of how to turn any yeast dough recipe into a sourdough recipe.
Salt: Salt is a crucial ingredient when working with yeast because it helps to control the rise of the dough and stabilizes the fermentation rate. Any bread dough made without salt would not only taste bland, but would overproof much more quickly.
Barley Malt Syrup: For sweetness and authentic New York-style flavor, use barley malt syrup in this bagel recipe. If you can not find barley malt syrup at your grocery store, substitute the same amount of molasses or honey. I prefer using molasses as a substitute because it adds a light golden color to baked goods. Montreal-style bagel recipes call for honey, and while they are very delicious and slightly sweet, in my experience, the bagels are pale in color.
After boiling the bagels, immediately add toppings while the dough is still wet. Do not wait until all of the bagels have been boiled. Toppings will not stick to dry bagels.
- Sea Salt (even if I’m making plain bagels, I add a little sprinkle of sea salt)
- Poppy Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
- Everything Bagel Seasoning (contains garlic, onion, sesame seed, poppy seed, and sea salt)
- Shredded Asiago Cheese
- Jalapeño Cheddar: Add 2 tablespoons of diced jalapeños (fresh or pickled) to the final dough before kneading. Top each bagel with a handful of shredded cheddar cheese before baking.
- Cinnamon Raisin: Add 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 112 grams (¾ cup) raisins to the final dough before kneading.
How to Make New York-style bagels
This recipe utilizes The Sponge Mixing Method. The ingredients are mixed in two steps – the first step is to create the sponge, also known as preferment.
The pre-ferment is a combination of all of the water, half of the flour, and most of the yeast. This is allowed to sit to develop flavor before the rest of the dough is mixed.
Make the sponge
In a large bowl, combine the bread flour, water, and yeast for the sponge. Stir with a silicone spatula until you no longer see streaks of flour throughout. Cover the bowl with a towel, plastic wrap, or shower cap (my preference) and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours. The longer this sits, the more depth of flavor your bagels will have.
For fresh bagels in the morning, make the sponge the night before and let the mixture ferment overnight. This creates a more intense flavor.
Make the final dough & Knead
To the bowl with the sponge, add the rest of the bread flour, yeast, salt, and barley malt syrup (or molasses). Use clean hands to mix and bring the dough together. Once the ingredients have come together to form a rough dough, transfer it to a clean work surface and knead by hand for at least 8 minutes and up to 15 minutes. The more you knead, the chewier the bagels will become.
You’ll notice this is a very stiff dough – which results in dense, chewy bagels. Unless you have a very high-powered stand mixer, knead this dough by hand. My KitchenAid stand mixer is not powerful enough to knead this stiff bagel dough.
Divide the dough
After kneading, divide the dough into 8 equal portions. The easiest way to ensure equal pieces is to use a kitchen scale. Weigh the entire dough ball and divide the total amount by 8. Each piece of bagel dough should weigh that amount. This is typically around 130-135 grams of dough each.
To shape, pull the edges of a piece of dough all towards a center point to create a round piece of dough. Place the piece of dough seam-side down on an un-floured part of the countertop. Cup your hand over the dough and roll it under your palm to form a smooth dough ball. Repeat until all 8 portions of dough are rolled into balls.
Cover the dough balls with a clean kitchen towel and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes if using instant yeast or 30 minutes if using active dry yeast.
Shape the dough
After the dough has rested, shape one dough ball at a time. For the easiest shaping method, pick up the ball of dough and gently press your thumb through the center to create a hole. Stretch the dough so that the hole is about 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) wide. Stretch the hole to about 2 inches (5 cm) wide.
The most traditional way to shape a bagel is roll the piece of dough into a rope and then connect the two ends together, rolling it under your palm to seal. Some claim this makes the chewiest bagels, however, I don’t find there is a noticeable difference between the two methods.
Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and spray them with non-stick spray. Place each shaped bagel on the parchment-lined baking sheet (ideally 4 bagels per sheet pan, no more than 6 per sheet pan). Cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let the shaped bagels rest for 10 minutes if using instant yeast or 20 minutes if using active dry yeast.
While the dough is proofing, preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C and prepare the boiling liquid. Fill a large skillet or dutch oven with water mixed with barley malt syrup. Heat over medium heat until rapidly simmering.
Once the water is rapidly simmering and the dough has proofed, gently pick up a bagel and drop it into the water. Add as many bagels to the pan as will fit. Boil for 45 seconds. Use a fork or tongs to gently flip them over (flip away from yourself so that you do not splash yourself with hot water). Boil for another 45 seconds. Carefully remove the bagels with a slotted spatula and place back onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.
Add toppings and bake
Sprinkle your toppings of choice onto the bagels as soon as they come out of the boiling water.
Bake both baking sheets at the same time for about 20 minutes until golden brown. If your oven temperature is uneven, swap the trays halfway through. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
What are New York-Style Bagels?
New York-style bagels are the most popular type of bagel made in the U.S. Originating from the Jewish community of New York City, they have a crackly crust with a chewy, dense interior. They should be so chewy that they’re almost a struggle to bite into.
The secret to their chewiness is in the cooking process. New York bagels are boiled (not steamed!) in water with barley malt syrup. Boiling the dough sets the exterior before it bakes so that it has a crispy outside and a chewy center.
Can I use All-Purpose Flour?
I don’t recommend using all-purpose flour for bagels. To achieve their authentic chewiness, high-protein bread flour is the best option.
What should I serve with bagels?
Bagels and cream cheese go hand in hand. If you’re feeding a crowd, set up a cream cheese bar with a variety of mix-ins (honey, chopped strawberries, herbs, chives, etc.) and have each person create their own cream cheese flavor.
For a classic New York bakery experience, make a bagel and lox. The word lox comes from the Yiddish word for salmon, “laks.” Slice a bagel in half and serve open-faced topped with cream cheese, lox (a thinly sliced salmon fillet), red onion, and capers. It is traditionally served open-faced.
Create your own bagel sandwich! One of my favorite breakfast meals is a bagel sandwich with eggs, melted cheese, and crispy bacon. Customize your own sandwich with sausage or ham and a variety of cheeses, or loaded with fresh veggies and a layer of cream cheese.
How to store homemade bagels
Room Temperature: After baking, let the bagels cool completely. Store any leftover bagels in an air-tight container at room temperature. Do not pre-slice the bagels so they stay fresher longer. They are best enjoyed within 2 days of baking (at most 3-4 days).
Refrigerator: I do not recommend storing homemade bagels in the refrigerator. Bagels stored in the refrigerator will dry out and stale faster than at room temperature or in the freezer.
Freezer: After baking, let the bagels cool completely. For ease of toasting and enjoying in the future, pre-slice the bagels. Wrap each bagel half in plastic wrap or parchment paper and store together in a zipper bag. Freeze homemade bagels for up to 3-4 months. To refresh, place each half directly into the toaster.
MORE RECIPES FROM BAKER BETTIE!
If you enjoyed this bread recipe, you might like to try these other recipes – perfect for making breakfast sandwiches.
For the Sponge
- 330 grams (2 ¾ cups) bread flour
- 400 grams (1 ¾ cups, 420 milliliters) water, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
For the Final Dough
- 330 grams (2 ¾ cups) bread flour
- ¼ teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
- 15 grams (1 tablespoon) salt
- 8 grams (1 teaspoon) barley malt syrup*
To Boil the Bagels
- 1,362 grams (6 cups, 1,440 milliliters) water
- 42 grams (2 tablespoons) barley malt syrup*
- Make the sponge: In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread flour (330 grams/ 2 ¾ cups), water (400 grams/ 1 ¾ cups) and yeast (1 teaspoon) for the sponge. Stir with a silicone spatula then cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour and up to 10 hours.
- Make the final dough: Add the rest of the bread flour (330 grams/ 2 ¾ cups), yeast (¼ teaspoon), salt (15 grams/ 1 tablespoon), and barley malt syrup (8 grams/ 1 teaspoon) to the bowl with the sponge and use clean hands to mix and bring the dough together. Once the ingredients have come together into a rough dough, transfer to a clean work surface and knead by hand for at least 8 minutes and up to 15 minutes. The more you knead, the chewier the bagels will become. This is a very stiff dough which is desirable to make dense chewy bagels.
- After kneading, divide the dough evenly into 8 portions. I like to use a bench knife and a kitchen scale to ensure they are all the same size. To shape, pull down on the sides of the piece of dough and pinch underneath to seal the seams. Place the piece of dough seam side down on an un-floured part of the countertop. Cup your hand over the dough and roll it under your palm to form a smooth piece of dough. Cover the dough balls with a clean kitchen towel and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes if using instant yeast or 30 minutes if using active dry yeast.
- Prep 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray. Set aside.
- After the dough has rested, pick up each piece and press your thumb through the center to create a hole. Stretch the dough so that the hole is about 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) wide. Place each shaped bagel on the parchment-lined sheet pans that have been sprayed with non-stick spray. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes if using instant yeast or 20 minutes if using active dry yeast.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C and prepare the boiling liquid. Set up a large skillet or dutch oven filled with water (about 1,362 grams/ 6 cups) mixed with barley malt syrup (42 grams/ 2 tablespoons). Heat over medium heat until rapidly simmering.
- Once the water is rapidly simmering, gently pick up a bagel and drop it into the water. Add as many to the pan as will fit. Cook for 45 seconds, then use a fork or tongs to gently flip them over, flipping away from yourself so that you do not splash yourself with hot water. Cook for another 45 seconds and then remove the bagels with a slotted spoon and place back on the parchment-lined baking sheets.
- If desired, sprinkle toppings like sea salt or sesame seeds to your bagels as soon as they come out of the boiling water.
- Bake both trays at the same time for 20 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
*If you do not have barley malt syrup, substitute the same amount of molasses.
Sources: Many different bagel recipes were tested and used as references in developing this recipe. Most noteably Peter Reinhart's Bagel Recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Rose Levy Barenbaums Bagels from The Bread Bible, and Claire Saffitz Bagel Recipe published on New York Times Cooking.