Bagels (a dedication to the late Murray Lender)

Most Americans were introduced to bagels through the frozen bagged bagels by Lender’s. In all honesty the bagels in a bag weren’t all that great, but they made the doughnut shaped breads a household staple. People no longer had to search for a Jewish bakery to find them. Today Murray Lender died and in honor of the man who put the bagel on the American map, we are sharing our recipe for making bagels at home. They are crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside and so easy to make.

Preheat the oven to 450° with a pizza stone on the top rack. (Yes, this is different than the book.)

Also have ready a cookie sheet lined with a clean kitchen towel that is dusted with flour.


Form several 3 ounce balls of dough, as you can see they are about the size of a head of garlic. I used the Master recipe here, but you can also use the Bagel recipe, Montreal Bagels, Whole Wheat or any other non-enriched dough from the book for this. Cover the balls loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for about 20 minutes or until they no longer feel chilled.

While they are resting bring to a boil:

8 quarts of water

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

Have ready:

Sesame seeds, poppy seeds or any other toppings you may want for your bagels.  There were strong opinions expressed on Twitter about the toppings for bagels, let us know what your favorites are.


Once they have rested, dust the ball in flour and poke a hole in the center using your thumbs.


Continue to stretch the hole and add more flour if the cut part of the dough gets sticky.


You want to stretch the hole quite a bit,


because it will shrink back like you see above.


Place the bagels in the water, get as many as will fit without crowding. Boil for 1 minute, then flip over and boil for another 30 seconds.


Scoop out the bagels with a slotted spoon and allow the water to drain off.


Place on the towel covered cookie sheet. Continue the last 3 steps with the rest of the bagels. If you are doing more than 2 boiling batches, you will need to get those first two batches in the oven and then continue with the rest.


Carefully lift the boiled bagels and dip them on both sides with your topping. If you are using something that may burn easily like onions or garlic then only coat the top of the bagel and dust the peel with flour. If you are using seeds then you don’t need the additional flour on your peel.


If you are using seeds then you don’t need the additional flour on your peel.


Slide the bagels into the preheated oven, add the water to a broiler tray to create steam. bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.


Serve them slightly warm with anything you like!  A bagel cutter can be a helpful and safer tool for cutting bagels than using a knife.

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315 thoughts on “Bagels (a dedication to the late Murray Lender)

  1. I’ve never worked up the nerve to try bagels. My mom tried them a couple of times but we always ended up with hockey pucks!
    There’s nothing better than freshly baked bread. IMO. I usually can’t wait until it’s cool to cut the end off and slather it with butter!

  2. Love baking bread! My children 8 and 6 will not even touch store bought bread anymore! I use my bread machine and kitchen aid mixer. I would love to try your recipes! Pick me, pick me!!!

  3. I have loved the smell, the feel of the dough and the memories surrounding this ritual of giving, since I can remember the house being filled with it’s tantalizing aroma. My mother went through different phases of baking bread at home, but it was usually mainly dinner rolls or biscuits until she got into whole grain bread before I left home. Her bread was always the highlight of the meal for me. After leaving home I discovered my own love of cooking and in particular baking and haven’t looked back since. I have had different periods of time when bread making was only professionally done and now I have come to make it as the center of our home, as my husband really doesn’t care for store bought bread any more. I made a starter from fermenting grapes, flour and water from the grapevines covering the patio of the art school in Tuscany where I met my husband 7 years ago when I worked as their cook. So it is with great care that I nurture this starter and find that I make all of our breads for our consumption and our guests at our B&B and it is always a double blessing. First in the satisfaction of the making and the satisfaction of the breaking of my bread together with others. It nourishes my body, heart and soul.

  4. I’ve got a couple loaves of wheat waiting to go in the oven as I type. Something about bread baking makes everything in the house a little softer. It’s very hard to be mad with that aroma wafting through.

  5. Hi guys, your recipes are awesome! My mother got into bread-baking recently and she’s doing fairly well. However, I’d like her to get her your book. I searched high and low for it translated in Italian. Does that even exist?

    I have no problem in getting her the original, but that’d require me to translate (and convert) all of the recipes, which I’d do gladly for her, but you know, it’d be awesome if there was already a translation approved by you. If there isn’t one, are you ever going to have one done? Just wondering. One way or the other, I’ll buy your book 😉

  6. I’m like a pioneer with a gourmet kitchen. I love the bread making…I did the whole wheat and added sunflower seed..really good.

  7. I just found your website and your book definitely has my interest piqued!! I have been making rolls in my bread machine (which still takes some planning ahead). My family loves homemade bread, rolls, bagels, etc. (so do I!) The smell of freshly baked bread makes my children’s mouths water!! Thanks for the chance to win!

  8. Hi. Just let you know how popular your book is in an international sense, I am leaving this comments. I have heard about your book from a blog made by a Korean lady who lives in US (apparently, in Austin,TX). She has made wonderful breads so couldn’t help but letting other Korean know such simple but wonderful recipes. I have followed her ways and ended up with your blog, which is genuine. I admire you guys. You helped those who were hungry for “artisan” bread, not the ones dying on shelves in supermarkets.

    By the way, I live in London. See, how global your reputation is now? Well, I may need to let the British know.. 🙂


  9. We just bought our first home-so exciting but most of all I am excited to have a working kitchen-it has been over 3 years. So needless to say your bread is at the top of my to-do list I am dying to try it I just need the proper tools and your super book would sure help!

  10. Jef and Zoe, congrats on a great year!! I for one have been thankful for your wonderful book, looking forward to the next one, too.
    Baking bread started soon after I was married (1967) and just became a part of my life! During the holidays my Gramma Byron’s (my husband’s mother)cloverleaf rolls were a must. She always said they came out better when I made them. They were lightly baked and served hot with tons of butter, everyone wanted one or two, and I had to make enough for them to take them home with them, too. Over the years, I found many bread recipes that became my “ritual” for each holiday. Today, the breads in your bread book are the ones I make because they are so easy and delicious and I experiment with them, making dinner rolls, too. I have now held two bread baking classes and the ladies leave here so excited to be able to make bread. Each participant makes a different bread recipe and immediately divides
    them up into one pound loaves, then they share their dough with each other, go home with lots of different breads to try. There have been 11 and 12 participants in the classes…that’s lots of different breads. I am so grateful for the book and the ease of making bread. Oh, yes, sharing the bread with family and friends is a great source of joy, too.
    Many thanks again,

  11. Hi again, Lu here. I made the bagels today. Guess what lunch was? My question is regarding the change from the book, which I noted in your post above. I did use the 450 degree/top rack method as you describe here, but wonder why you like it better (or do you?) than the book’s instructions for 400 degrees on middle rack?

    Just curious about the science of it all…

    Thanks again,

  12. Hi Lu,

    I noticed in a lower oven, with the rack in the middle that the bagels were taking much too long to bake. By the time the crust was the desired color the bagel was baking for far longer than I wanted.

    By putting the temperature up higher and the rack up more the crust browned without drying out the bagel.

    This may also be an issue with my oven, but I’d heard the same thing from other people so I started to play.

    What do you think?

    Thanks, Zoë

  13. Good morning,Zoë! I think they turned out great on upper rack at 450. I could try the book method next time, but I really like the crust on the ones I made yesterday. I think you were right to switch it up. I am thinking the next batch might be cinnamon raisin bagels.

    I think I created a monster, though. 🙂 This morning, the Mr. said: “You’ll always have these in the house for breakfast, right?”

    We love them.

  14. Dear Zoe & Jeff-
    Last night I made pizzas with 9 day old European Peasant bread dough from your book.
    The moderately sourdough tang created by this dough, combined with my toppings, was a HUGE hit at my house. I just found my new pizza dough recipe! Your recipes are great! Can’t wait for the new book coming in 2009!
    Thanks for all your hard work bringing us the most amazing way to create a whole host of really delicious baked goods!

  15. Thanks so much for the kind words Dolly. That’s what I make my pizza from too! European Peasant is my workhorse dough, because it can masquerade as just about anything. Roll in caraway seeds? Rye bread. Flatten it? Pizza or focaccia. Bake in a loaf pan? Sandwhich bread.

    You get the picture!

  16. Living in Brooklyn in the 1940
    we had a bagel factory in the basement of the bakery, there was a window the opened up to the street. I remember standing there and watching the bakers rolling bagels of off a long snake of dough, placing them on a wooden plank
    sliding them into a large pot of boiling water, then turning
    them with a long dowell, then picking them up with this dowell placing them back onto this plank and then sliding them into the oven. The aroma
    of this is inbeded in my memory. All this for 2cents a bagel. Now I live in Florida and it boggles my mind
    when I pay 85cents a bagel.Soo
    I started to bake my own using the recipe from your book. I am waiting for your next book to come out.

  17. Congrats on your anniversary! Your bagel post has me thinking about whether I could make obwarzanki. (Picture something halfway between a bagel and a soft pretzel.) I ate them pretty often the summer I was in Poland, and I miss them! I’m told the process is very similar to that of a bagel, although I haven’t been able to find a specific recipe…

  18. I forgot to mention: I also used the basic dough to make steamed buns: savory ones with pork & scallion and sweet ones with red bean paste inside. That was a ton of work, but definitely worth it, and it would have been MUCH harder without a handy bowl of dough in the fridge!

  19. Jess: How about our pretzel recipe, but do it with enriched dough?

    Friends have done the steamed dough and it works great. Maybe a post on this in the future.

    Thanks, Jeff

  20. how do I find out who won your book? I looked at 11/19 postings, but it only showed me 11/19 postings. No mention of winners. I clicked on Winners have been chosen see 11/19 post, but it only brought up the same page.!!!

  21. Memories…Although my mom was not a bread baker, I became interested in the amazing miracle of bread- rising and the unmatched smell of it baking even if it was just plain ole white bread. Later, at 18 when visiting my older sister near the Canadian border of upstate NY, we decided we would make bagels! Well we had to go to the county extension home economist to get a recipe! They actually tasted pretty good. But i am so excited about artisan breads. As you know the home baker has never made a decent crusty loaf, and so i gave up trying. Now we can proudly make wonderful bread…now if i just had your book… Thank you for revealing the secret to the home bakers.

  22. Hello,
    I just finished the last of our bagels that I made the other day. They are FANTASTIC and almost fool proof! I made them “everything” by using a combination of: dried onion, caraway seeds, poppy, sesame and some minced garlic. They are getting rave reviews. They did, however, not stay puffed up and actually flattened after a couple of days when I put them in the fridge (so they would last longer). Is there any way to stop this from happening? The bagels we buy in the store must have some sort of additive (yuck) that makes them not flatten.

    Also, do you have you tried making them with whole wheat? Or other additives (i.e. Cranberries, raisin and cinnamon, etc.)?

    Anyway, thanks and Happy Hanukah and Merry Christmas to you and your families.

    Nikki in CT

  23. Probably have preservatives. My guess would have been that any uneaten bagels will be perforated hockey pucks the next day! They never last in my house but I’d guess that freezing would be a better bet than the fridge.

    Whole wheat works, it’s in our second book (12/09)! Very different character, but lovely. The ingredients you mention are also good.

    Happy Holidays and thank you so much for sharing your experience… Jeff

  24. During the cold months, my kitchen is often cold. Will the dough rise in the time given in your recipe? I have an electric oven, so there is no pilot light to warm the oven to help with the rising. Thanks for so many great ideas – I can hardly wait to make my first batch of dough.

  25. Nina: I have electric too… take your broiler pan and fill it with hot water, and set it near the bottom of the oven. Put your loaf in there to rest. I turn on the oven for one minute, then shut it off (don’t walk away from it!!). The heat stays in there for a good while, and this really speeds the rest.

  26. Thanks so much Jeff I never would have thought of that. Since you are a doctor and I am a diabetic (2), how about coming up with a low carb bread 🙂

  27. Jeff, we have a vacation home about 3 hours from our home. We live in San Francisco and are good to really great bread. There are no good artisian breads in that area – even from the two expensive bakeries in the area.

    I don’t have time up there to wait 2 weeks for the dough, as we are often up there for a few days or a week or two.

    For weekend stays, I can bake it at home, but for longers stays, a week or so, can I transport the dough from home and how do I keep it for the drive up. In the summer, it is a hot drive, and of course in the winter it is much cooler???

  28. Nina: Sad but true, that bread is a carbohydrate-based food. That said, the American Diabetic Association is really big on whole grains right now, which may be a little safer than white bread. The carb content is a little lower and all the other elements in whole grains seem to help in diabetes. But eat any bread in moderation, even whole grain. The more whole grain, the lower the carb, especially if you start adding in low carb vegetables (like in our next book).

    I frequently bring dough up to a friends’ cabin in the trunk or the passenger compartment. Mix before you get in the car in a roomy container.

    In the summer, try to keep the dough in the car. Maybe mix with cool water if you can’t. In winter, try to have the dough already fermented before you put it in the trunk.

    And as always, you don’t have to wait two weeks… what we’re saying is that the flavor becomes more complex over the course of two weeks. I love it anytime after a day or so. But I’ll eat it when it’s two hours old. Jeff

  29. Thanks Jeff. I didn’t quite understand what you said.

    I was planning to bring already fermented dough up with me even if it has only fermented for a few days as we are often only there for a weekend and I would love to freshly baked bread.

    I want to remove dough from my fridge, that was made a week or so earlier, and was not mixed just before we leave home. A two day wait would put it about the time we are returning home.

    Can it go from fridge, to car, to fridge again until I use it? If the temp is low enough, can I just put the container in a car cooler with blue ice to keep it? Sometimes it would sit in the car/cooker for 3-4-5 hours.

  30. It all depends on the temp when you get in the car. The dough can stand a little room temp (3-5 hours) so long as it’s not 90 degrees. There’ll be some over-fermentation if it’s too warm, and they dough would lose some rising power. The “younger” the dough, the less this is a problem.

  31. On warm days it would probably be 80-90 degrees once we leave San Francisco. During the other months, it would be somewhat cooler. If the car is cool, can we leave the dough in the trunk or in the car itself.

    In the warmer months, would keeping in in a cooler help? and possibly in he cooler months too. Would the cooler with blue ice imitate the temp in the refrigerator or be too cold?

    Thanks for taking the time to answer all of my questions.

  32. Nina: In warm months, cooler sounds like a good idea, I don’t think it will be too cold. It sounds like it will approximate the refrigerator, then you’ll need the usual rest/rise after shaping when you get to the destination.

  33. Thanks Jeff for taking all of this time to answering my questions. I’ll be trying it in a few weeks. I can smell the baking bread now!

  34. Hi there

    We’ve had such fun with the book and have converted all the recipes we like best to using starter rather than dried yeast.

    I’ve just embarked on bagels (with starter) and they’re wonderful. However, I hate having to use so much water every time I want to make them and I don’t want to make too many at a time because they’re so delightful fresh from the oven.

    Have you tried/do you think it would work to make the bagels through the boiling stage and then freeze them? This would allow you to do all of the boiling in one pot, saving water, but still allow delicious hot bagels one at a time.


  35. Laurel: I’m sure that would work, though I haven’t tried it. Wrap them well– they’ll be prone to pick up freezer smells with all that surface area.

  36. I used to live in Montreal and was thrilled to find the recipe for Monteal Bagels in the book – there’s nothing like them!
    I can’t find Malt Powder locally but can order it online from King Arthur. Do I want Diastatic or Non-Diastatic? Their site says both are used for bagels.
    Many thanks.

  37. My bagel tops are bumpy — how do I get the smooth, shiny tops for plain bagels? They seem to wrinkle when I simmer them…….

    1. Hey Jan… I can’t get perfectly smooth tops either! I think it’s because our method uses “wet” dough; I’d guess that a drier dough wouldn’t behave this way. But then, you couldn’t store the dough. That’s the trade-off. Jeff

  38. Hi Jeff and Zoe,
    I am putting together a King Arthur order. I am getting the caramel color to make pumpernickel bread. I was thinking of getting some deli rye flavor and some non-diastic malt powder for regular bagels. I made some rye breads, but they just didn’t have the oooph I wanted. They were ok, but a “9” on a “10 point scale” (ten being fabulous). And I would love to have a good bagel anytime.
    Your recipes don’t call for deli rye flavoring or non-diastic malt powder, but would they help? If so, how much would I use per cup of flour?

    Oh, I had fun at the Farmer’s Market. The organizer of the event just went crazy over the master dough boule! She used to live in Little Italy before coming to TN. She’s excited about getting fresh bread of her favorite, is telling everyone about my breads!!

    Thanks so much,
    Judy, TN

    1. We don’t routinely use rye flavoring or malt powder, but they’re worth a try. We were trying to keep this process as simple as we could.

  39. I have managed to get relatively smooth bagels. When they come out of the water, one side is usually smoother than the other. I put that side up when they go into the oven. There is some oven rise and that tends to smooth them out a little, by stretching the surface. They aren’t bagel-shop-smooth, but they look OK. Of course, the bottom side is a lumpy mess. But, they have never lasted long enough for anyone to complain.

    However, I made some raisin bagels (which my husband says are great–I like raisins and bagels, but not together). The raisin ones never got very smooth. They were lumpy and pock-marked. Again, they didn’t stick around very long, so I don’t worry about it.

    1. We have whole-grain cinnamon raisin bagels in the next book (click link above to see Amazon’s Pre-Order if interested) and I’d agree– the raisins make it impossible to get them smooth. As you say, no one lets them sit long enough to notice. Jeff

  40. I tried the bagel recipe for the first time this week, and it was GREAT!!! I missed the errata for that recipe, so I baked them at 400 instead of 450, and it took closer to 40 minutes, but they still turned out beautifully. I’m looking forward to trying it with the correct instructions tomorrow.

    I buy bagels for breakfast almost every weekday morning, so this is going to save me a lot of money (taking everything into account, about $500/year!). Plus, my bagel shop’s everything bagels haven’t been the same since they took the salt out of the topping.

    p.s. thanks for the tips on obwarzanki. I found a document from the Polish ministry of agriculture & development that designates them as a traditional food, and it specified what ingredients are allowed if you’re going to call them “krakowiaki obwarzanki”. The document does mention including fat & sugar, so your tip on using an enriched dough is right on. I’ll let you know how those turn out.

    1. Jess: The temperature difference may be more style— the higher-temp ones will be crisper, and actually may seem less familiar. See what you think.

      Loved hearing that this is saving you $500/year… Jeff

  41. has anyone tried bagels with the 100% whole wheat dough from the Healthy Bread in 5 book? that’s what i have in my fridge right now, but being new at this i didn’t want to have a messy failure, only to have someone comment, “oh, that dough doesn’t work as well b/c…”

    1. hi Kit,

      Have you made the bagels with other doughs? The trick is not to over boil them or they will fall apart. It really only takes about 2-3 minutes for the boiling.

      Enjoy, Zoë

  42. My wife and I love cinnamon sugar bagels and we thought that we could coat them in cinnamon and sugar like the seeds in this recipe and toss them on the stone in the oven – not advisable. We had big pools of melted sugar (hard as a rock when cooled) on our pizza stone. 🙁 Just a warning to anyone who has the same “bright idea”.

    1. Hi Bill,

      If you have a metal dough scraper you can just scrape that sugar away. Next time try to bake the bagels on a sheet of parchment on the stone.

      Thanks for the warning! Zoë

  43. Hi Zoe and Jeff,
    I bought your book about a year ago, tried one loaf that didn’t turn out that great and put it away until recently. Since I have taken it out again we have had great success with the master recipe and also the olive oil dough for focaccia and pizza crust (maybe unbleached flour really does make it that much better?). Next up are the bagels-I have poppy seed for my hubby, but our two year old is in love with the chocolate chips bagels we pick up from our bagel shop. Any ideas on how to incorporate chocolate chips into your dough? Can they just be mixed in before the dough rises before boiling, or would the boiling ruin them? I am wondering about baking them on parchment also, like the cinnamon and sugar you mentioned above. I am pretty new to this bread thing, so it makes me a little nervious. Thanks!

    1. Glenda: Correct, our recipes don’t work with bleached flour (dough is too wet).

      Parchment always makes things easier to deal with– but I’m guessing that that chips will be a mess. The ones near the outside will melt and float into the water. You COULD deal with this by trying to poke the outside ones deeper into the bagel. Might work, but risky. Could be fun…


  44. I just made bagels this morning with the date and oatmeal dough found in HB. They turned out really yummy. The only problem is that some of them fell apart as I was taking them out of the boiling pot. I have made the bagels with other doughs and this did not happen. Is it just the dough and is there something I can do to tweek it a bit, or did I do something wrong? Any suggestions would be helpful. Anyway, thanks for all the yumminess. My family and friends also thank you!

    1. Hi Amanda,

      The only thing I can recommend is that you try boiling them for a bit less time. The dates and oatmeal make that dough a little less sturdy than some of the other doughs in the book.

      Thanks! Zoë

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