Technical Support

Everything Bagel: Fun Facts and Technical Insights

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David Kovacic, Director of Technical Service
A bagel made with BeneGrain Sprouted Wheat flour and topped with quinoa.
Bagel Fun Facts
Bagel Formula

 In general, a bagel formula is very simple, requiring only the four basic ingredients of flour, water, yeast and salt. Other ingredients such as sugar, shortening and malt are optional, depending on the desired characteristics of the bagel being produced.

Ingredient Bakers %
High Gluten Flour 100
Water 50-55
Yeast (compressed) 0.5-2.0
Salt 1-2
Shortening/oil 0-3
Sugar 0-3
Non-Diastatic Malt 0-2
Dough Conditioners As Needed
Creating the bagel shape

After mixing, the bagel dough is taken directly to the bench to be cut into larger strips which are fed into a divider. In larger operations, the dough may be hoisted into a hopper and “chunked” into pieces that feed the divider.

The divider portions the dough into individual pieces depending on the desired size of the bagel. This dough piece is then rolled under a pressure plate into a cigar shape. This cigar shaped dough piece enters a round forming tube. The tube can be horizontal or vertical and forms the dough around the center mandrel, pinching the ends together to form a ring.

While the most popular bagel flavor is plain, they are often coated in various seeds and grains.

While the most popular bagel flavor is plain, they are often coated in various seeds and grains.

Boiling vs. Steaming

In general there are two production methods for making bagels: boiling and steaming.

A bagel is the only bread that is boiled before it is baked. Boiling does two things: One, it sets the structure of the bagel so that it retains its shape and volume during baking. Without boiling (or excessive steam in the case of steamed bagels), the bagel will expand during baking and lose its hole and traditional round shape. The second reason bagels are boiled is to give the bagel a glossy shine and thick chewy crust. It does this by gelatinizing the starches on the surface of the dough.

Bagels are typically boiled about one minute per side in water approximately 200°-212°F. Some bakers will add malt or sugar to the water bath, but it’s not necessary. They are then removed from the water, allowed to dry briefly, and then baked.

Steaming bagels can replace the boiling process by injecting large amounts of steam into the oven at the beginning of the bake cycle. The high volume of steam sets the bagel structure and gives it a shiny crust, similar to the boiling process. Rack ovens are the choice for steaming bagels.

Steamed bagels give the appearance of being boiled, albeit with a less distinct hole, a less chewy texture and a softer crust. Sometimes referred to as a Midwestern bagel, steamed bagels will require some formula adjustments, particularly in yeast levels.

Bagels are boiled, or steamed, to maintain the hole during baking. It also gives the finished product the look and bite we expect in a bagel.

Bagels are boiled, or steamed, to maintain the hole during baking. It also gives the finished product the look and bite we expect in a bagel.

Why do some bakers retard (refrigerate) their bagels overnight?

A retarder is the baker’s term for a refrigerator. The low temperature will “retard” or slow down yeast activity and fermentation. It is not a freezer. Retarders typically are set at 35-40°F and a relative humidity of 85%. At these conditions, yeasted doughs can remain inactive or stable for hours or even days.

The lower temperature of a retarder favors lactic acid bacteria fermentation over yeast fermentation, producing a desired flavor and aroma to the bagel.

It is the individual, pre-formed bagel that is retarded, not the whole dough mass. Bagels are typically retarded at 35-40°F for 12-18 hours. Dough relaxation also occurs during retarding, through the action of enzymes in the flour (and dough conditioners if used) and through the bi-products generated by yeast fermentation.

 What’s the best flour to make bagels?

Although there is not just one flour type that is ideal for bagel production, high-gluten flours have been the preferred flour to produce authentic bagels. High gluten flours, milled from hard red spring wheats, have a protein content of 13.0-14.5%. It’s the high protein content of the flour and the resulting dough that gives bagels their well- known dense crumb and chewy texture. Bay State Milling’s Bouncer is the premium high gluten flour preferred by many bagel bakers.

Protein quality is always more important than protein quantity when it comes to flour performance, but lower protein spring wheat flours (12-13%) can also be used, producing a less chewy, and more bread like texture to the bagel.

Bagels also lend themselves well to be baked with toppings such as the popular sesame and poppy seed, onion, garlic, caraway, dill, salt and the “everything” topping. Toppings are added after boiling and before baking. In the case of steamed bagels, they are topped prior to entering the rack oven.

Bouncer Premium High Gluten Flour is a favorite of bagel bakers.

Bouncer Premium High Gluten Flour is a favorite of bagel bakers.

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