Learn how to make this overnight bagel recipe with a step by step video
This homemade overnight bagel recipe makes a dozen delicious, chewy bagels. The traditional bagel recipe proofs in the refrigerator overnight to produce a rich, flavorful product! Plus, you'll learn the science (the how & the why) behind the bagel making process. These homemade bagels are plain, so you can dress them up with any bagel topping you prefer!
Bagels may just be one of the most iconic breakfast foods. Let's face it - who doesn't love a good bagel?!
This year has been full of people baking at home. What better way to embrace home baking than by making our very own overnight bagel recipe? I'm going to walk you through the entire process of how to make homemade bagels, so don't be scared.
There is even a video if you'd prefer to watch the process instead of reading through this post. Or, if you'd prefer to bake with a sourdough starter, check out this overnight sourdough bagel recipe.
And you probably know by now, I’m going to be doing way more than just showing you how to make this overnight bagel recipe at home. I’m going to walk you through the complete process for making bagels from scratch - start to finish. There are some secret tips and tricks along the way that will help you get superior homemade bagels. I promise you WON'T be disappointed!!
Let me also remind you also at this point that baking takes practice. So even if you try these out and they don't turn out exactly right the first time...try again! Baking is all about trial and error - testing things out until you get it right!
Equpiment for Homemade Bagels
When it comes to making homemade bagels, there is some equipment that will help you throughout the process. I want to walk you through the purpose and value of each piece of equipment so you know exactly why it's necessary in the baking making process.
Kitchen Scale: When it comes to baking, the most accurate way to measure is by weight. Especially since the bulk of a bagel recipe is flour. Let me explain. When measuring flouring, the correct way to measure is to fluff up the flour, gently spoon the fluffed up flour into a measuring cup with a spoon, then level off the top of the measuring cup by removing the excess flour with a knife.
Even if you measure the flour using the correct procedure, you still have a chance of being off from the original recipe. That's why using a kitchen scale is SO helpful! It gets you the correct measurement by weight EVER. SINGLE. TIME.
Instant Read Thermometer: A thermometer is important to test the water temperature when proofing the yeast. The active dry yeast we're using in the recipe needs to be rehydrated in lukewarm water (about 110°F). The instant read thermometer will ensure you reach this exact temperature while making sure the water does not go over 138°F, as that temperature will kill the yeast.
Bench Scraper: This is a useful tool, especially if you do a lot of baking projects that work with dough. It also comes in handy when transferring veggies off a cutting board to a hot pan or pot.
A bench scraper is essentially a wide, dull knife that bakers use to portion dough. It's useful in our overnight bagel recipe because it helps us perfectly portion each bagel to the correct size of 113 grams. This particular bench scraper also has a ruler on the end, which comes in handy to check that we've stretched the bagels to the correct size.
Baking Stone: You know that delicious crispy crust on the outside of a bagel? Well, it takes some effort to achieve that crust in a home oven. There's a couple of tricks we'll take about throughout the baking process, but using a baking stone really helps with the process.
We'll heat up the baking stone up while we preheat the oven (at the HIGH heat of 450°F). The baking stone creates a crunchy exterior on our bagels due to the direct high heat it receives throughout the baking process on the stone.
Stand Mixer: A stand mixer is going to help make the process of the dough coming together SO much easier. If you're not ready to make this big investment, see if a friend has one you can borrow. Just be sure to read the directions carefully so you don't break anything!
Sheet Pan(s): You probably have some sheet pans laying around. Those will do! Just make sure they are small enough to fit in your fridge. We'll be storing the bagels on the sheet pans overnight in the refrigerator.
Overnight Bagel Recipe Ingredients
Moving right along to the ingredients we need for bagels! Now I know you're probably thinking "it's basically just water and flour." And yes, it is. But there's more to it than that. In order to get a nice, chewy bagel, there are some special ingredients you'll need to use.
High Gluten Flour: A high-gluten flour is critical to achieving the correct bagel texture. What does high gluten flour do? Well, in general, a higher protein flour will result in a chewy, crusty product like these bagels, or even a French baguette. Generally, a high gluten flour has around 13.5-14.5% protein.
As I ventured out into the world trying to find high gluten flour, I quickly realized it was going to need to be specially ordered because I couldn't find it in any local store. So instead, I opted to work with bread flour (I like King Arthur), which has a protein content of around 12%.
Don't be tempted to use all-purpose flour. The protein content is less (usually around 10%) and will result in a less favorable product. Generally, here's what you should remember, the softer and more tender you want a baked good, the lower protein content in the flour.
Active Dry Yeast: Obviously, this is an important part of any yeasted bread, including bagels. The way active dry yeast is produced it lies dormant and can be stored for several months. When we prepare our dough, we will rehydrate the yeast with some water.
Molasses: Typically, barley malt syrup is used in place of molasses, but again I wanted to find an ingredient that was accessible to everyone!
The molasses (or barley malt syrup) enhances the overnight bagel recipe in many ways. It aids in the proofing process, adds a mild sweetness to the recipe, and helps give a rich brown crust on the bagel.
How to Make Bagels from Scratch
I love digging into the how and why behind a recipe, especially with baking. There are so many steps required in baking, and it's helpful to know why you're following those steps and how they make the recipe work. Let's get to it!
Scaling the Ingredients
Have you heard of 'mise en place'? It means 'to put in place' or basically have your ingredients all measured out before you begin working on a recipe. I love using small bowls to hold things like salt or yeast, and large glass bowls for flour when scaling the ingredients.
I should also mention it's always a good idea, especially with baking, to read the recipe in full before you start.
The most important thing when scaling your ingredients for bagels is making sure you properly measure out your flour. Like we talked about above, the correct way to measure is to fluff up the flour, gently spoon the fluffed up flour into a measuring cup with a spoon, then level off the top of the measuring cup by removing excess flour with a knife. If possible, get a kitchen scale so you know it's accurately measured.
Proofing the Yeast
Up next we need to proof our yeast, and make sure that it's alive. As we talked about, active dry yeast needs to be rehydrated to "wake up" since it lies dormant. Proofing the yeast not only activates the yeast, it also helps ensure we have yeast that's still good (and hasn't sat on our shelf too long).
To do this, we need to gently heat the water up to 110°F. I prefer to heat it up over the stove. It's a gentler way to heat the water so it doesn't become too hot and kill the yeast.
Then, add the water, molasses, and yeast to a bowl and allow to sit for about 5 minutes until the mixture is bubbly and foamy on top. That's how we know the yeast is active and ready to go. If it doesn't foam, give it 5 more minutes to activate. If you still don't see foamy bubbles, you'll need to go to the grocery store and get more yeast because yours is dead!
Mixing the Dough
Mixing the dough is easiest with a stand mixer. Trust me, your arms will thank you later for using a stand mixer. If you don't have one, see if you can borrow one from a friend, or use the recipe notes for hand kneading.
We'll start by placing the dough hook on the mixer, and mixing the flour and salt together. Then, add in the yeast mixture and place the mixer on low until a saggy dough forms. It takes a hot second for a dough to form, so don't give up, it will come together. Scrape down the sides as needed, and you can even increase the speed as more of the flour starts to combine.
After the dough starts to come together, start a timer for 10 minutes, and turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. During this time we are developing the gluten. It's hard to over mix bagel dough. The more likely problem you'll run into is under kneading your dough. If this happens, you will produce bagels will little rise, few blisters, and in some cases even improper texture.
So how do we prevent this? There are ways to test your dough to see if it's ready. If you watch the step by step video, I'll show you an example of what the dough looks like at the 2 minute, 5 minute, and 10 minute mark.
What we're looking for in our bagels is a flexible and bouncy dough to the touch. To be extra safe, grab a piece of dough between your fingers, stretch it, and see the web fibers that have developed. If your dough rips as soon as you start pulling, you need to keep kneading the dough. You want your dough to be able to stretch rather than tear.
Once you have the proper dough consistency, place the dough in a clean bowl, covered in plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a draft-free, warm place for about an hour, until doubled in size.
If you want to test that the dough has risen enough, you can gently stick a a finger in the risen dough, about up to your knuckle. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for the next step. If not, it needs more time to rise and you can repeat the test until it's ready.
Shaping the Bagels
Once your dough has doubled in size, it's time to move on to shaping our bagels. Be sure to punch the dough down (gently) before moving on to shape the bagels.
The reason we punch down the dough is to release some of the gas bubbles that were formed during the rising process. Ultimately, it helps produce a finer grain on your baked good by redistributing the yeast cells so they can rise during the proofing stage.
In order to shape the bagels, you'll need to measure out 113 grams of dough and shape that into a ball. I think it's easiest to weight/shape all the dough at one time, and then move on to the shaping process.
Once you're ready to shape, grab a ball of dough. Gently, push through the center of the ball using both thumbs to make a hole. Then, continue to stretch the bagel out until it reaches about 4 inches across. Be sure not to flatten the bagel too much throughout this process.
Make sure to check the size of your bagel throughout the process (I measure mine with my bench scraper ruler). If you make the bagels too small, the hole in the middle will close up during the boiling/baking process.
Throughout this whole process, be sure to keep the dough covered with a tea towel to prevent the dough from drying out.
Proofing the Dough
Now it's time to proof our bagel dough. This is the final rise before baking. Make sure to place down some cornmeal on your baking sheet so the bagels don't stick. The cornmeal also gives the bagels a nice texture on the bottom.
In terms of the dough proofing process, this is where bagels differ from many other types of bread. Good, quality bagels are given the time to slowly ferment in a cold environment. To do this, we allow the bagels to proof overnight in the refrigerator. This helps release additional flavor into the bagel.
During this process, make sure you tightly wrap the bagels with plastic wrap. Failure to do this will result in a hard crust on the dough (you can see an example in the video), and we definitely don't want that!
After you've allowed your bagels to sit in the refrigerator overnight, we need to test them to make sure they're ready to go. Because we allowed them to proof overnight, this shouldn't at all be an issue. However, to test that they're ready, you can fill a bowl with lukewarm water. If it floats, the bagels are ready to go. Pat the bagel dry and return it back to the covered baking sheets until the water begins to boil.
If it sinks, the dough needs more time to proof. Remove baking sheets from the refrigerator and allow the bagels to sit at room temperature, still covered, until they float. Check every 15 minutes until they float.
Boiling the Bagels
The iconic step in the bagel making process is the boiling! So, why do you boil bagels? The boiling process helps give us that classic shiny, chewy texture on the outside of the bagel. The longer you boil the bagel, the thicker and chewier the outside crust will be.
The boiling time also affects the interior texture of the bagel. More time in the boiling water will result in a denser inside. I prefer to boil bagels for 30 seconds on each side to get the perfect chewy, but not too tough, texture.
Make sure that the water has a steady boil, then add in enough molasses to turn the water a dark brown (also like a black tea color. At this point, you can begin to boil your bagels - just make sure the boil is strong enough. If needed, allow the water to come back to a boil in between batches.
After they're all finished boiling, you can add your desired toppings. Some easy and delicious bagel topping ideas include:
- Sea salt
- Poppy seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Everything seasoning
- Minced onion seasoning
Baking the Bagels
Finally, we're able to start baking our bagels. To get that nice browned, glossy top on your bagels, you'll need to have a high oven heat. I've found that using a baking stone helps get that crusty outer texture that we all look for in bagels. Make sure to preheat the baking stones so they have enough time to properly heat up.
In order to make sure the bagels get evenly browned, be sure to rotate in the oven. Most home ovens have hot spots - areas of the oven where the heat is stronger - so moving the baking stones around help prevent too much browning or burning.
Last, but not least, allow the bagels to properly cool on a rack at room temperature. Even though it's tempting to slice into a hot, fresh out of the oven bagel, give it time to completely cool. This ensures the internal structure can settle and evaporate any excess moisture.
From here you can eat them, or freeze them for later (something most people forget they can do). Check out this guide for full bagel storage instructions.
Overnight Bagel Recipe
- In a small saucepan, warm water over medium-low heat until it reaches 110°F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer water to a medium bowl. Whisk in the yeast and 17 grams of molasses until both are dissolved. Allow the mixture to sit until it’s foamy on top, about 5 minutes.
- Whisk together flour and salt in a stand mixer bowl. Fit stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Combine the yeast mixture with the flour on low speed, just until a shaggy dough forms. Scrape down the sides and increase speed to medium as needed until the majority of the loose flour is incorporated into the dough. Once a shaggy dough is formed, increase the speed to medium high and set a timer for 10 minutes to allow the dough to knead. During this time, keep an eye on your stand mixer to ensure it doesn’t wiggle off the counter or overheat. If at any time your mixer becomes too hot, take a break or begin hand kneading (see notes). You know your dough is done kneading when it is flexible and bouncy to the touch. To be extra safe, grab a piece of dough between your fingers, stretch it, and see the web fibers that have developed. You should be able to pull the dough thin enough that light shines through. If your dough rips as soon as you start pulling, you need to keep kneading the dough. You want the dough to be able to stretch rather than tear.
- Turn oven to 200°F. Place the dough in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise on top of the warm oven (not in the oven) for 60 - 90 minutes until it’s nearly doubled in size.
- While the dough is rising, prepare two baking sheets generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Set aside.
- Punch down the risen dough a few times to release some of the gas that formed. On a clean, unfloured surface, remove the dough from the bowl. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into pieces weighing about 113g each.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, and keeping the others covered with a tea towel, roll the dough into a ball. Push through the center of the ball using both thumbs to make a hole. Then, continue to stretch the bagel out until it reaches about 4 inches across. Be sure not to flatten the bagel too much throughout this process. Place completed bagels about 2 inches apart on the previously prepared baking sheets and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat until all pieces of the dough have been shaped.
- Securely cover the bagels with plastic wrap. Allow dough to proof overnight in the refrigerator for 12 - 18 hours.
- Arrange the oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Place a pizza stone on each of the racks, then heat oven to 450°F. Allow the oven and pizza stones to preheat for at least 30 minutes.
- Fill a large dutch oven about halfway full with lukewarm water. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator. They will have puffed up slightly overnight. To test that the bagels have proofed long enough, gently place the bagel on the lukewarm water. If it floats, the bagels are ready to go. Pat the bagel dry and return it back to the covered baking sheets until the water begins to boil. If it sinks, the dough needs more time to proof. Remove baking sheets from the refrigerator and allow the bagels to sit at room temperature, still covered, until they float. Check every 15 minutes until they float.
- Once the bagels float, begin to boil the water over high heat in the dutch oven. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add in molasses, a tablespoon at a time, until the water is dark brown.
- Gently place as many bagels into the boiling water as will comfortably fit without over crowding the dutch oven. Allow the bagels to boil for 30 seconds on the first side, then flip and boil for an additional 30 seconds on the second side. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bagel from the boiling water and place on a wire rack to cool. Repeat until all of the bagels have been boiled.
- Carefully, remove the hot pizza stones from the oven. Transfer the cornmeal from the original baking sheets to the hot pizza stone to prevent sticking. Place bagels on the stone about 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 -19 minutes, rotating shelves halfway through, until bagels are deeply browned and shiny on top. Keep an eye on your bagels (without opening the oven door) to make sure they're not getting too dark. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Additional Bagel Resources
Want to master this overnight bagel recipe or even create your very own recipe? These resources will be just what you need!!
- I really enjoyed reading this article from the Institute of Culinary Education on '10 Tips for Making Schmear-Worthy Homemade Bagels.'
- An interview with Daniela Moreira on how to make better bagels at home. Super interesting and an easy read!
- Another good article on the secrets of bagel making.