Why are Bagels Boiled?


Bagels are not just baked, nor are they only boiled. 

But, why are bagels boiled? A bagel, like the true goddess she is, likes to be pampered in both a bath and a hot oven. The boiling step gives the bagel its exterior crust. Without both of these steps, your bagel will miss out on its characteristic chewy, perfect texture.

The “Science” Behind the Boil

Unlike pastas and rice, when you boil a bagel dough, the water doesn’t fully penetrate the dough and hydrate the dough entirely. Instead the starch found in the bagel dough creates a gel-like casing around the bagel, essentially “setting” the crust before baking. This gel-like casing actually creates a clear, glossy protective coating around the bagel – giving it that classic shine we all know and love.

There are a couple things to consider when boiling bagels…

Factors that affect the Bagel’s “Bath Time”

1) Time

The longer the boil, the chewier the crust. I like to boil my bagels for a total of 90 seconds (45 seconds each side). I find this chewy crust level to be utter perfection. 

While the main purpose of boiling a bagel is to set the crust, it does affect the interior structure of the crumb. The longer the bagel boils, the thicker the crust gets and therefore the denser the interior will become. Because the crust is set before going into the oven, there isn’t “room” for the bagels to grow and expand in the oven.  So…

Longer boil = thicker crust = less rise = denser bagel.

2) Ingredients

You can alter the taste of your bagels by adding ingredients such as honey to the water. This additional sweetener mimics the Montreal-style and adds a really beautiful taste to the bagel. 

If you add baking-soda to the bagel bath, you increase the pH-balance of the dough. The higher pH-balance allows the bagels to brown quicker when baked. This is called “alkalization”. Alkaline water has a high pH (potential hydrogen) level. So remember, a higher pH-balance of water means for a quicker brown in the oven.

Ready to start baking bagels with me? 

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