The Building Blocks of a Great Bagel

What makes the perfect bagel? The ideal bakery-fresh bagel will have a dark, blistered, and crackly crust and a chewy, not bready, texture. The unique shape, taste, and texture of a well-made bagel differs greatly from any other bread product.

There are a few important elements that go into making a truly great bagel. These include the right protein ratio in the flour used, the amount of hydration, correct shaping, and the time given to fermentation and boiling.

Flour

The flour you choose to use in your bagel recipe will add to the taste and texture of your baked goods. A good chewy bagel is made using high-gluten flour with a protein percentage around 14% or more.

Bread flours with around a 12% protein percentage can also make a great bagel. However, they will have a more open crumb and a slightly less chewy texture. The higher the protein content, the more gluten in the dough, the chewier the bagel.

Water Content

Proper dough hydration is key to forming a bagel’s crispy crumb structure. Bagel dough is stiffer and dryer than other bread doughs. The hydration range can be from 55 to 65% instead of the 65% or higher of sandwich or crusty bread dough. This lower water content helps give the bagel a tighter crumb structure and more of the chew we love.

If your recipe calls for more water, the result will be a breadier bagel, with a more open crumb, and the dough will also be easier to mix and knead. A higher hydration level does also mean that the bagels will not stale as quickly. This will not, however, give you as much of that dense, chewy, signature bagel texture.

Shaping

When it comes to creating a perfect texture and structure in a bagel, the way dough is shaped plays a big part. Some of the chewiness actually comes from the tension built up during shaping.

There are two primary methods to shaping a bagel: the first is creating a rope that then loops around into a circle, and the second involves rolling a ball of dough and then pushing a hole into the center. The first method involves more dough manipulation, which creates more tension. The second method is gentler on the dough. If your aim is a chewier bagel, the rope method should help you achieve this result.

Boiling

For the tastiest, chewiest bagels, pre-shaped dough should rest in a refrigerator overnight or even for a couple of days before boiling. The cooler temperature of the fridge will slow down the yeast activity as your dough rises. Giving your bagels time for a slower fermentation will add a more tangy flavor to the final baked product.

Once your shaped bagel dough is fermented, it should then be boiled. Boiling the dough gelatinizes the starch, expands the dough, and keeps more liquid inside. This will also create a thicker, shinier, and chewier crust. Without boiling the bagels for a couple of minutes before baking, you would just end up with a bagel-shaped bread roll. Often salt, barley malt, or honey are added to the water before boiling, increasing the bagel’s shine.

Baking

After boiling, bagels are baked in a hot oven until crispy. The oven should be between 450 and 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Often New York-style bagels are baked on wet cedar or pine boards lined in burlap or on perforated pans with water. The aim is to keep the bagels cool and moist as they bake.

A pizza oven is also a great choice to bake your bagels in. The high heat can give the same effect as using a professional baking oven.

Frozen Bagels

A great bagel maker strives for perfection. While your bakery or food business may indeed be able to create an excellent bagel by keeping in mind all of these important elements, there is also the possibility of trusting the expertise of high-quality wholesale bagel suppliers. Your bakery or restaurant can cut down on a lot of time, training, and experimentation by buying frozen ready-to-bake bagels from a trusted commercial source.

These frozen bagels will have all of the taste and texture of those made in the best from-scratch bakeries. High-quality frozen bagels from frozen bagel dough suppliers will not be the same as an off-the-shelf baked good full of preservatives. Your bakery or restaurant can regularly have frozen bagels delivered, adjusted to your needs. The ability to bake on demand will not only save time and labor, but you will also avoid food waste and overproduction.

While different bakeries and chefs may have different opinions on what makes the perfect bagel, it’s well agreed on that a truly excellent bagel should have a crispy outside and a chewy, flavorful center. Achieving this takes careful chemistry, planning, and execution.

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