How to Make Whole Wheat Bagels from Scratch

Yummy, slightly chewy, especially wonderful when toasted ---- BAGELS!  Ooooh, don't you want to try these, too?  They're delicious!

Like many whole grain breads, the soaker and biga pre-doughs need to be prepared the night before.   Soaking the whole wheat flour overnight helps with digestibility and also makes the bagels taste better... if you've ever eaten a "grainy" tasting whole wheat bread, then you know what I mean.  Soaking the wheat overnight adds to the taste of the bagel, making it a bit smoother tasting. 

You'll like it, and it's not that hard, I promise!

I used freshly ground, organic hard white wheat for these bagels.  If you haven't already, you may want to read my post about why using freshly ground wheat is your best bet

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads...  I can't recommend it enough!

100% Whole Wheat Bagels

Here's what you do:

Soaker (the night before):

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (we use freshly ground, but you don't have to)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c plus 2 tbsp water

2 tbsp honey

Combine all and mix until hydrated. That's all.  Cover loosely at leave out on the counter overnight.

Biga (the night before):

1 3/4 c whole wheat flour

1/4 tsp yeast

1/2 c plus 2 tbsp room temperature water

Mix together. Using wet hands, knead dough in a bowl for two minutes. Dough should still feel tacky. Let dough rest for about five minutes, then knead again with wet hands for one minute.

Transfer to a clean bowl. cover, and refrigerate overnight.

*In the morning, about two hours prior to mixing the final dough, set out the biga so that it can return to room temperature.

Final Dough (the day of baking):

All of soaker

All of biga

Approx 7 tbsp whole wheat flour

5/8 tsp salt

2 1/4 tsp yeast

2 tbsp water at room temperature

poppy seeds or sesame seeds for garnish, if you like

2 teaspoons baking soda

Chop or tear the soaker and biga into 12 smaller pieces, and dust with flour so that they don't stick back to each other.

Combine soaker and biga pieces in a bowl. Dissolve yeast in the two tbsp of water.  Add yeast mixture to soaker and biga in a large bowl, then add salt and knead with wet hands for about three minutes. The dough should be fairly firm and not sticky; use more flour or water for adjustments if necessary. Different flours absorb different amounts of moisture.

Knead for 3 more minutes. Form dough into a ball and let it rest for five minutes while you prepare a lightly oiled bowl.

Resume kneading the dough for one minute. Form the dough into a ball and place it into the prepared bowl. Cover loosely and let rise at room temperature for 60 minutes.

When the dough is ready, sprinkle a work area with flour and divide the dough into six balls.  Roll each piece into an 8-inch rope and shape it into a circle around your hand.  Seal each one well by squeezing it where the two ends overlap.  You should have about a two inch hole in the center of each bagel.

Place the bagels onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and misted with pan spray.  Cover loosely with a cloth towel.  Let rise for about twenty minutes or so while you continue on to the next steps.  This is what it will look like:

Preheat the oven to 500.

Bring four or five inches of water to boil in a wide pot.  When it comes to a boil, add the two teaspoons of baking soda... watch out, though, because it may bubble and fizz a bit.  Lower the heat just enough to maintain a steady simmer.

Using a large slotted spoon, or skimmer, carefully place one or two bagels into the water at a time.  They should float within 30 seconds.  After thirty seconds, gently turn them over and allow them to boil an additional 30 seconds.  They will be in the water for about one minute total each; repeat this for each of the bagels, returning them to the baking sheet when their minute is done.

Apply toppings, if using. 

Place the baking sheet on a middle shelf, and lower the temperature to 450. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake another 10-15 minutes, until bagels are a rich brown.

Place bagels onto a cooling rack and let cool for about twenty minutes before serving.

Absolutely delicious!

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  1. That looks great! I'm not one for making bread by hand (I always "cheat" and use the dough function on my bread machine! lol) but for some reason, this doesn't seem too bad :) Thanks!

  2. We've made home made bagels and love them - but have never tried them with 100% whole wheat flour. I've got this bookmarked for my next rainy day experiment!

  3. Hi! I got your link from kellythekitchenkop. Those bagels look amazing! My kids love bagels. I will definitely be making some soon.

  4. NO WAY! They look so Fabulous! Better than Panera Bread or Bruggers! Way to go!

    Here's my 12 new things post:



  5. This sounds positively delicious!=)

  6. WOW! your bagels look simply amazing, I am so impressed. I just posted my bagel process today, yours look so much better!!! :)

  7. Wow - these look awesome and your photos are terrific. The soaker and biga process makes me a little nervous but I'm such a bagel lover I just might try to make these! Thanks for sharing.

  8. I was confused about the two parts... the biga and the soaker. Do you mix those together, or are they two different mixes? It doesn't sound that difficult overall, but I was confused about this. Thanks!

  9. @Anonymous, the soaker will be in one bowl, the biga in another. They will both go into one large bowl on the day of baking, along with the other "final dough" ingredients.

    The soaker and biga should only take about 10 minutes the evening before baking day; they sound complicated but are actually pretty easy once you think the process through.

    Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions :)

  10. This looks wonderful! Can I use instant yeast?

  11. What exactly does it mean to 'cover loosely'? I put a dishtowel over the soaker, and when I went to use it (about 16 hours later), the top was crusty and wouldn't absorb into the dough when I was kneading. I ended up having to pick out all the hard parts. Did I not cover tight enough? Did I leave it too long? Or is this normal?

  12. Amanda, I cover it loosely with plastic wrap, and I also do it late at night, so it ends up only sitting about 8-10 hours. Maybe that had something to do with it, too? It's usually soft and a little gooey, never hard or crusty. Hope that helps.


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