Breads,  Breakfast / Brunch

Pumpernickel Bagels

I have a secret love for pumpernickel bagels.   It’s really not so secret if you’re within my close circle of friends.  The thing with pumpernickel bagels is that most bagel shops or breakfast diners either do not carry enough and sell out quickly or simply do not offer pumpernickel!  There are always plenty of plain (boring), everything (love it but then again, it’s a plain bagel with sprinkles), poppy seed (don’t smile when eating), garlic (not my favorite morning flavor), chocolate chip (maybe for dessert), blueberry (um, no), onion (same as garlic, not for breakfast), whole grain (healthy, but did they use enriched wheat flour?)

When I lived in Florida there was a small diner I would frequent on the weekends.  One of those out-of-the-way, hole in the wall places with good food and friendly faces to greet you.  It would be pretty much hit or miss if when we arrived early enough that there would be any pumpernickel bagels left.  As soon as the decision was made to go  to that diner for breakfast, my thoughts turned to whether or not I’d get my bagel.  In that short drive around the corner, I would strategize over and over what I’d order if there were no pumpernickel bagels left.  Having to face the possibility of disappointment early in the morning was not a great way to start a day, especially weekends, those long-awaited two days, when all I wanted to plan for was fun and pleasure.

There were a few times when we called ahead just to check before leaving if there were any left and politely begged to have it set aside till we got there…just to avoid my possible let down.

Now, please, don’t read into my personality as one who Has to Have Her Way or pouting sets in.  No, I roll with the punches very well, thank you.  I’ll give, sacrifice and go without for any cause, person or reason.  I just like what I like and want what I want 🙂

Since my move to Atlanta, I found one great little place with pumpernickel bagels that I like.  But it’s not so “around the corner” convenient and the cost for breakfast there is about double.  So I decided to take care of my happiness directly and bake my own pumpernickel bagels.  I’ve played with making bagels before, like my whole wheat pumpkin bagels.  (I just realized they closely resemble each other!)

You know when first tackling something new, it seems lengthy and over involved.  I so dislike following recipes and double checking steps, which was the case when I first began making bagels.  But over time, with practice and patience, making fresh bagels on the weekend is about as routine as my Friday night homemade pizza!

Not only am I one happy, satisfied Spicegirl, but the pleasure I get out of seeing the reaction to finding freshly baked bagels in my kitchen is priceless.  You ?.. made…bagels?  Oh yes, I did!  And now, to toast? or not to toast?  to pull out the insides? or not?  cream cheese?  butter? plain?   I’m always ready to please 🙂

Pumpernickel Bagels

Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day

1 tablespoon barley malt syrup, honey or rice syrup

1 teaspoon instant yeast

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 cup lukewarm water *

2 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon caraway seeds, optional

1 1/4 cup rye flour

2 1/4 cup white/wheat flour

For boiling and finishing:

2-3 quarts water (about 4 inches deep)

1 1/2 tablespoons barley malt syrup or honey

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt optional for sprinkling on top (I prefer to brush the tops first with beaten egg white to make them stick better)

Day One

Using a stand up mixer to knead the dough, stir the malt syrup, molasses and yeast into the lukewarm water.  Add in the flours, salt and caraway seeds.   If making by hand, add the flour into a large bowl containing the yeast/wet ingredients.   Mix on low-speed with the dough hook or stir by hand until the ingredients form a ball for about 3 minutes.  The dough should form a stiff, coarse ball.  If not pulling away from the sides, add in more white/wheat flour.  It is always easier to add in more flour than adding in more water.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Resume mixing with the dough hook on the lowest speed for another 3 minutes or by hand.  Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for a few more minutes to smooth out the dough and develop the gluten.  The dough should be stiff yet supple, with a satiny barely tacky feel.  If the dough seems tacky or sticky add a bit more flour.

Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 hour.

Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper misted with oil or a silicone mat.  Divide the dough into 6 or 8 pieces.  Form each piece into a ball on a dry, clean surface – do not use any more flour.  If the dough slides and won’t ball up, wipe with the surface with a damp paper towel.  You can either form the bagel by poking a hole in the middle of the ball and gently stretch into shape or as the pros do it by making a long rope and forming into a bagel shape pressing the tapered ends together.  I always do the poke method as I’m certainly no pro!

Place the bagels on the prepared sheet pan, mist with olive oil and cover the pan completely.  Refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

Baking Day

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 60 to 90 minutes before you plan to bake them.  Normally 60 minutes is perfect.  Check whether the bagels are ready to be boiled by placing one in a small bowl of cold water.  If it sinks and doesn’t float back to the surface, shake it off, return to the sheet pan for another 15-20 minutes.  When the bagel floats to the top of the cold water, they are ready to be boiled and baked.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Fill a pot with the water, making sure there is about 4 inches deep of water.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer.  Stir in the malt syrup, baking soda and salt.  Gently lower each bagel into the simmering liquid, adding only as many as will fit comfortably.  They should all float to the surface within 15 seconds.  After 1 minutes, use a slotted spoon to turn each bagel over.  Simmer for another 60 seconds, then use the slotted spoon to transfer it back to the sheet pan with the silicone mat or fresh parchment paper that has been lightly oiled.

Reduce the oven temperature to 450  degrees.  Lightly brush each bagel with egg white and sprinkle on desired toppings.  Bake for 8 minutes, rotate the pan and bake for another 8-10 minutes, until the bagels are golden brown.  Cool on rack for about 30 minutes before slicing or serving.  Makes about 8 smaller (as in my photo) or 6 large.

* I always like to use more water and then add in flour as necessary.



I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.


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