With a crisp outside and chewy inside these boiled gluten free plain bagels are more than just a roll with a hole. No fancy ingredients required!
A New York bagel, of a kind
When I first started developing recipes for bagels, I was inclined to make a true New York bagel: one that has a relatively tight crumb, and is intensely chewy.
That’s the kind of bagel I grew up in NY eating from the local bagel store in town. The kind where teens worked after school. The kind that is required at a proper gluten free breakfast or brunch.
When I lived in New York City, I ate at places like Ess-a-Bagel and H&H Bagels. They had bigger, puffier bagels.
They were still chewy, but they also had a much more airy crumb. To me, they tasted fluffy. But they’re not truly fluffy. These gluten free plain bagels are like those bagels of my young adulthood.
They’re not the roll with a hole that you get from somewhere like Dunkin Donuts (bless their hearts). No one aspires to that sort of bagel, not even Dunkin Donuts.
Same goes for all the packaged gluten free bagels you can buy—at least all the ones I’ve tried. They are bagel-shaped bread.
These bagels are amazing fresh out of the oven. Pile a chunky chicken salad on one, and try to conceal your pleasure before you even take a single bite.
They’re also awesome toasted. First, why would anyone do that with a true fresh bagel?
But if you’re planning to toast your bagel, you may as well make a big batch, let them cool completely, slice them through the middle, and freeze them. Defrost at room temperature, and toast to perfection.
How to shape a bagel
Bagels are sometimes shaped by rolling out a cylinder of dough, about 1 1/2-inches thick and then joining the ends together to create a round. That is not the way I shape or recommend shaping bagels.
If you shape your bagel like that, the edges may separate during boiling or even during baking. Plus, a bagel tastes no different if it’s shaped that way. Maybe it’s just for showing off? We do not need that.
I prefer to shape my bagels the easy way. Create a round of your portioned piece of dough as you would any other round of dough.
A smooth round piece of bread dough is shaped by cupping your hand around the dough, with the pinky edge of your hand resting on the surface and your hand in a C shape (or a backwards C if you’re right handed like I am). Move your hand around in a circle, maintaining contact with the surface on the side of your hand at all times.
Then, poke a floured finger into the center and rotate the dough around that finger in concentric circles. If you’re a visual learner and are sighted, watch the how-to video. You’ll get the hang of it.
Why bagels must be boiled and then baked
After the shaped pieces of dough rise just enough (you only want it to rise to be about 1 1/2 times its original size), you’re going to boil them in a molasses bath. That’s just 6 cups water with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses brought to a rolling boil.
If you have a cakey bread dough, no amount of boiling is going to give you a chewy dough. But if you have the right recipe with the proper balance of regular pantry-style gluten free ingredients like this recipe, boiling your shaped and risen bagels will keep them from rising too much in the oven.
When the bagels’ oven rise is just a bit restricted, you are rewarded with a chewy bagel. Be sure not to let them rise too much once they’re shaped, or your bagel dough will soak up water like a sponge and disintegrate during boiling.
Ingredients and substitutions
The dairy in this recipe comes from butter and milk powder. The milk powder you use can be nonfat dry milk or whole milk powder. Whole milk powder makes a slightly richer result.
To replace the milk powder with a dairy-free alternative, coconut milk powder should work. I like Native Forest brand, but there are many others available now, including Anthony’s brand.
In place of butter, vegan butter should work. I like Miyoko’s Kitchen or Melt brand vegan butters best.
If you can’t have egg whites, you can try replacing the egg white with an equal amount, by weight, of aquafaba, which is the brine from a can of chickpeas. Try beating the aquafaba until foamy with a whisk before adding it to the dough.
In place of the egg wash on the outside of the bagels, try using melted butter or cream!
There is no other starch that I can recommend as a perfect substitute for tapioca starch/flour. It provides structure, stretch and a smoothness to the dough that I’ve really come to rely upon in many bread recipes.
There is no substitute for yeast in a yeast bread recipe like this. But if you don’t have instant yeast, you can use active dry yeast in a larger quantity.
The conversion is to multiply the weight of the instant yeast (here, 9 grams) by 125% (9 grams x 1.25 = 11.25 grams; just use a tiny bit more than 11 grams).
All purpose gluten free flour
Please follow the link in the recipe for a full discussion of the all purpose gluten free flour blends will and will not work in my recipes. This is particularly important in bread recipes.
I always get a lot of comments and emails from readers who have used a gluten free flour blend like Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur Flour, or Namaste, complaining that the recipe doesn’t work as written. You cannot use these blends in my recipes and expect consistent, if any good, results.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the flour, xanthan gum, tapioca starch/flour, milk powder, instant yeast, and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the salt, and whisk again to combine. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the egg white, butter, and warm water, and mix to combine well. Place the bowl in the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed. The dough will clump at first. Once it begins to smooth out, increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough takes on a whipped appearance. Transfer the dough to a container with a lid, cover, and chill for about 30 minutes (and up to 2 days) to make the dough easier to work with.
When you’re ready to shape the rolls, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, spray it lightly with cooking oil spray, and set it aside. Sprinkle a surface lightly with tapioca starch, and turn out the chilled dough onto it. Sprinkle again lightly with more tapioca starch, and turn the dough over a few times to smooth the surface. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, divide the dough in half, then each half into 4 equal pieces to make 8 pieces total. Working with one piece at a time, sprinkling very lightly with additional tapioca starch to prevent sticking, press the dough into a roughly shaped round, pinching together any cracks. Shape the dough into a round by placing it flat on the shaping surface and moving a cupped hand around in a circular motion to coax it into a round. Sprinkle the top liberally with more tapioca starch and poke a floured finger into the center. Move that finger in a circular motion to create a hole about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Place the shaped dough on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Cover the baking sheet with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and set aside to rise until the bagels are about 150% of their original size. Rising could take as little as about 40 minutes, or it could take much longer. It depends upon the environment in your kitchen. If you see the surface of the bagels begin to become very uneven, with craters forming, stop proofing immediately. Preheat your oven to 375°F.
As the bagels are nearing the end of their rise, place the ingredients for the molasses bath in a heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Place as many of the bagels in the bath as you can fit without crowding them at all, and boil for about 45 seconds total, turning the dough over for even boiling. Remove the bagels from the bath with a slotted spoon or strainer, and return them to the baking sheet. Brush the bagels generously with the egg wash.
Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet in the oven and continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown all over and a thermometer inserted into a bagel reads 180°F. For a thicker crust, increase the oven temperature to 400°F and bake for another 7 or 8 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the bagels to cool until they’re no longer too hot to handle before serving.