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Homemade Sesame Bagels

Perfectly chewy, golden-brown and topped with toasted seeds, these Homemade Sesame Bagels are best lavishly smeared with cream cheese, layered with smoked salmon and sprinkled with capers.

Today I saw some completely irresistible smoked salmon in the supermarket, which fell, as if by magic, into my shopping basket along with some cream cheese and capers. What is the perfect vehicle for this dream team of ingredients you ask? Oh yes, Homemade Sesame Seed Bagels!

While the bagel has achieved cult status in its adopted hometown of New York, this humble bread ring has a long history originating in the Jewish communities of Poland. Did you know people have been baking bagels since the 13th century?

Who makes bagels at home?

I do! And soon I hope, so will you! Bagels are surprisingly simple to make at home and homemade bread beats store bought any day. My easy recipe produces bagels exactly how I like them: a golden brown crust, a soft but chewy crumb and a topping of lightly toasted sesame seeds.

Made from scratch = you know what’S in them!

If you have been following along with my blog for a while you’ll know that I am positively evangelical about the benefits of baking your very own bread – though I am as guilty as anyone of grabbing a loaf from the supermarket when time is short.

While my homemade bagel recipe contains nothing more than flour, yeast, sugar, salt and honey (all that good stuff, am I right?), commercially made bagels are full of things like xanthan gum (for the chew) and other preservatives and fungicides (truly! check the packet!).

When you make your own bagels you know exactly what goes into them and can avoid all those stabilisers and chemical preservatives. As a bonus, you can also adjust everything to suit your tastes and dietary requirements.

IS BAKING WITH YEAST DIFFICULT?

A lot of people are terrified about working with yeast and unsure if they can bake bread, but I promise you, it is easier than you think and there is something quite magical about seeing all those beautiful air bubbles in the risen dough or taking your first homemade loaf out of the oven.

Yeast is a natural product, so it doesn’t always behave in exactly the same every time you use it. That is part of the fun of baking your own bread or bagels! Embrace it, enjoy it and be proud of yourself for making something unique and delicious.

Homemade Sesame Bagels
You can go with the classics like smoked salmon and cream cheese, or mix it up with a variety of tasty toppings.

how do you make bagels?

Alright, down to business. There’s a couple of steps to making bagels, but it’s very straightforward. To make bagels you need to:

  1. Make a simple dough and allow to rise
  2. Shape and boil the bagels (yes, boil. See below)
  3. Bake your bagels until golden brown and delicious
  4. Smear lavishly with cream cheese, top with salmon and enjoy!

Wait a second… are bagels boiled?

Yes! Bagels are boiled quickly before baking so that they get their deliciously chewy crust. The longer they are boiled the thicker the crust, so think of this as a quick dip for your bagels rather than a long luxurious bath.

Why is there baking soda in the bagel water?

It is the alkalinity of baking soda which gives the bagels their unique flavour and colour. Commercially it is more common to use food-grade lye in the production of bagels, but as that can be a little dangerous and difficult to get your hands on, baking soda or sodium bicarbonate is perfect for home bakers.

Food grade lye is also the ingredient that gives Soft Pretzels their famous colour and flavour.

Pro Tip: shaping your bagels

It’s tempting when shaping your bagels to leave a hole in the middle about the size it should be in the finished product. Resist this temptation!

Much like homemade donuts, bagels puff right up when they are cooked, so make the hole in the middle much bigger than you think you’ll need.

Bagels are a perfect weekend baking project

Bagels are straightforward to make at home, and so tasty! There is nothing quite like the aroma of freshly baked sesame bagels wafting out of the kitchen to make you want to break out the schmear, smoked salmon and capers and have a bagel feast!

I’ve given lots of detail in this recipe to hold your hand and ensure that it is fool-proof, so strap your apron on and let’s get baking.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

I don’t have a stand mixer – can I still make Homemade Sesame Bagels?

Yes, it just takes some more muscle! You can knead the dough first with a wooden spoon until it comes together, and then on a lightly floured work surface for 5-10 minutes.
You may find you need to add a little extra flour to stop the dough sticking to your hands.

Does it matter what flour I use to make bagels?

Not really, the texture may vary. I have made bagels with cake flour, bread flour and all-purpose flour – and it works with all three.

Different flours in different countries will always give different results, but as a general rule flours with a higher gluten content – bread flour / all-purpose / type 550 in Germany will give a chewier, springier result, while cake flour will be softer.

The bagels pictured are made with German 405 flour – similar to Italian ’00’ flour and they are deliciously chewy.

I don’t have any honey! What else can I use?

You can use sugar or light brown sugar as an alternative to honey.

Do I have to put seeds on the bagels?

Absolutely not, you can leave them completely unadorned if you like – though I love the crunch and flavour of toasted sesame.

Can I make Homemade Sesame Bagels in advance? Can they be frozen?

Bagel dough actually benefits from resting overnight in the fridge before it is shaped for the final rise – this gives the bagels some extra flavour and helps them stay chewy.

Simply knead the dough for the required 10 minutes, place in the fridge overnight covered with cling film, then proceed as per the recipe – depending on the temperature of your fridge and your kitchen I’d probably allow the bagels to rise for 45 minutes once shaped.

Bagels are best enjoyed fresh or toasted for up to 3 days, but can be frozen after baking.

What else can I bake With sesame seeds?

I’m glad you asked! My famous No Knead Multigrain Bread is always a winner! Or try my Easy Hummus recipe that uses fresh sesame seeds instead of tahini.


Homemade Sesame Bagels
Homemade Sesame Bagels

Baking bread is good for the soul

When everything seems a little upside-down or stressful I like to bake bread. This soothing ritual begins with the comforting repetition of the kneading of the dough and ends with the warming waft of a freshly baked loaf drifting through the house.

Bread making seemingly speaks to something very ancient and primal in me. Whether you are baking a shatteringly crisp baguette, a soft hamburger bun, or a batch of sesame bagels the fact remains the same: bread baking is good for the soul.

Homemade Sesame Bagels

Homemade Sesame Bagels

Yield: 8 bagels
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Rising Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Perfectly chewy, golden-brown and topped with toasted seeds, these Homemade Sesame Bagels are best lavishly smeared with cream cheese, layered with smoked salmon and sprinkled with capers.

Ingredients

for the dough:

  • 21 g fresh yeast or 7g (1 sachet) dried yeast
  • 500 g (3 cups) plain or all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil, sunflower or olive oil etc.

to boil:

  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • 1 tsp sea salt

for the egg wash:

  • 1 egg white, beaten with 1 Tbsp cold water

for the topping:

  • sesame seeds
  • nigella seeds
  • poppy seeds etc.

Instructions

  1. MAKE THE DOUGH: Stir the yeast into 275ml lukewarm water. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook fitted, stir together the flour, sugar and salt until well mixed. Pour in the water, yeast and oil then knead for 10 minutes. The dough should be fairly stiff so if it is not moving freely around the bowl after 5 minutes, add a little more flour, 1 Tbsp at a time until it does.
  2. ALLOW TO RISE: Turn the dough out onto the bench top, dust with flour, then shape into a ball, place back into the bowl and cover with a clean, damp dish towel or a sheet of plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm area like a sunny windowsill for at least an hour until nearly doubled in size.
  3. DIVIDE AND SHAPE: When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knock the air out, then divide into 8 pieces of equal weight. I find it easiest to weigh the entire piece of dough, then divide that by 8 to get the correct weight - it will be roughly 100-110g each. Shape each piece into a ball.
  4. MAKE THE HOLES: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with flour. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make a hole through the first ball of dough. Either use your fingers to gently stretch the hole out until it is at least 5cm / 2 inches in diameter - it will shrink as the dough rises and as it cooks.
  5. SECOND RISE: Place each shaped bagel onto the prepared tray, allowing room to rise. Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  6. PREPARE TO COOK : Meanwhile, heat the oven to 230°C / 450°F / Gas 8 and line a second tray with baking paper. Lightly grease the baking paper with neutral oil. Prepare the boiling liquid by filling a wide saucepan with 1.5 litres (1.5 qt.) of water. Stir in the honey, baking soda and salt. TIP: Lightly oil the spoon before measuring the honey and honey will slide right off. Bring the water to a gentle simmer, stirring until the honey, baking soda and salt are dissolved.
  7. BOIL THE BAGELS: When the bagels have risen a second time, carefully place two into the simmering water, upside down. Allow to simmer for 45 seconds, then use a slotted spoon or spatula to gently turn them over. Allow to cook for a further 30 seconds, then remove from the water and place on the prepared tray. Brush with the beaten egg white and scatter generously with sesame, nigella or poppy seeds. Repeat with two more of the bagels.
  8. BAKE: Bake the boiled bagels in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until dark golden brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. While the bagels are baking you can repeat with the second batch.
  9. SERVE AND ENJOY: When cool, slice through the middle and serve with cream cheese, salmon, capers, or any other topping that you like.

Notes

No mixer? You can make bagels by hand, you'll just need a large bowl and plenty of elbow grease!

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 bagel
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 316Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1064mgCarbohydrates: 56gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 9g

Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn't alwasy accurate.

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Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author and food photographer. Jay is the author of two cookbooks: 'Tasty' (2017) and 'Simply Summer' (2019). Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

Articles: 263

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