Whole Wheat Bagels

Dear Caitlin,

I brought you the cinnamon-raisin version of this bagel this fall.  And, as I think I mentioned then, this is the kind of recipe that I hate to discover.


It’s ruined store bought bagels for me.  These homemade bagels don’t even play in the same league as packaged bagels.  They’re equal parts tender and chewy.  They’ll make your house smell like brunch.

They’re also a ton of work.  That’s the disappointing part.  They’re vastly superior to other bagels, and yet they play hard to get.  Surely there’s a Shakespeare play somewhere in here.

Anyway, when you bake these, do it in huge batches, because they freeze well.  It’s also a good project to do when you’re doing other things around town and around the house, because there’s a lot of sit-and-wait time.

Before beginning, you should know this is a two-day recipe.  The first day is time-intensive.  The second day is pretty low-commitment, such that you can roll out of bed and have these on the table in a half hour.


The first step is to make the “sponge.”  It’s a standard water-yeast-flour combo.  You know how it goes.


Let it set.  If you can cover it with adorable dog-themed tea towels, well, all the better, then.


When it’s ready, it should have about doubled in size.


When the dough is ready to be finished, add the remainder of the ingredients and knead.  This could easily be done without a stand mixer, and of course, then you get to combine baking with working out.  Multi-tasking win.


I kneaded it with the stand mixer for about ten minutes.  I imagine twenty minutes to a half hour would be sufficient by hand.


The dough rests again, and then gets divided into balls.


Then, form the balls into bagels.  This is the stage that intimidates me, but there’s no good reason for that.  I mean, I know what a bagel looks like.  And I have some play-dough experience.


The bagels will need to rest before they’re refrigerated over night.  You’ll know they’re ready if, when put into a bowl of water, they float.

The next day, boil water with baking soda (to prevent discoloration).  The bagels get boiled for one minute on each side.  Leave enough room for them to float around a bit, so that they don’t stick to each other.


Sprinkle with cornmeal before baking.


Then, impress any guests you might have.  We had these when Laura visited recently for George Washington’s Birthday.  Also, I now live in a town where George Washington’s Birthday is like Mardi Gras… you know, a guest-visiting occasion.  Anyway.  When you need to celebrate George Washington’s Birthday, have a bagel.

Modified from Smitten Kitchen’s Cinnamon Raisin Bagels (the website also has a much, much more expert description of bagel making.)

1 teaspoon Yeast
4 Cups White Bread Flour
2 1/2 Cups Water (original recipe calls for room temperature, I usually use a touch warmer than that)

1 teaspoon Yeast
3 3/4 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
4 Tablespoons Sugar
3 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon Honey

For Boiling/Baking:
1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
About 1/2 Cup Cornmeal

First Day

(1) Combine yeast and flour for sponge.  Slowly add water.  Cover and leave and room temperature to rise until it has approximately doubled in size, about two hours.

(2) Once sponge has risen, stir in additional yeast.  Then add flour, slowly.  Add sugar, salt, and honey.  If the dough doesn’t come together, you might need a little extra water.  Add extra water with caution.  The dough will come together quickly.

(3) Knead dough for approximately 10 minutes by stand mixer, or 20-30 minutes by hand.

(4) Divide dough.  We generally make 16 bagels with this recipe, which are approximately the size that our local store brand are.  If you want adorable hotel free-breakfast sized, you can double that, or half it, if you’re feeling particularly robust.

(5) Cover and let rest for thirty minutes.

(6) Form dough balls into bagel shapes.  Try to make it as even as you can.  Mistakes here will not go away in later steps.  No pressure.

(7) Spray bagels with oil (or nonstick spray).  Let rest for thirty minutes to one hour.  The original recipe calls for twenty minutes, but I’ve found when using whole wheat flour, it takes much longer.

(8) Test to see if the bagels are ready to be put to bed for the night.  Place a test bagel in a bowl of water.  If it’s ready, it will float to the top within a few seconds.  If it’s not ready, let them sit for a little longer and try again.

Second Day

(1) In a wide-mouthed pan, bring water and baking soda to a boil.

(2) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

(3) Prepare (at least) two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Lightly oil the parchment paper, and sprinkle with cornmeal.

(4) Once water is boiling, place as many bagels as will comfortably fit.  Boil for one minute.  Using a slotted spoon, flip the bagels and boil for one minute on the opposite side.

(5) Using the slotted spoon, remove the bagels and place on the baking sheet.

(6) Prior to placing in oven, sprinkle bagels with cornmeal.

(7) Bake for five minutes.  Then, rotate pan 180 degrees.  Bake for up to another five minutes, or until bagels are that deep-brown bagel color.  I find three to four minutes is sufficient after rotation.

(8) It’s bagel time.  Doot.  Doot.


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