The "Pyler says" series explores excerpts from Baking Science & Technology, a textbook that teaches readers a range of baking and equipment concepts. The following passage is from Chapter 8: Formulating.

Although bagels are shaped like donuts, their formulations and processing methods are quite different, but they do share the hole. Bakers originally made bagels in the shape of a stirrup, but simplicity prevailed, and the stirrup became a ring. The bagel’s shiny, chewy crust and dense crumb structure set it apart from other hard rolls, and the crust accounts for most of the product’s overall flavor (Meloan and Doerry 1988)

As a hard bead roll, the bagel ranges in size from mini-bagels at ¾ to 1 oz (20 to 28 grams) up to “bull” bagels at 4 to 7 oz (110 to 200 grams), the most common sizes are in the range of 2.5 to 3.5 oz (70 to 100 grams).

Bagel formulation varies from very lean (or tough) to very rich (or tender), and the basic formula consists of high-gluten flour, water, sugar or malt, salt, yeast and topping ingredients. To make a richer, or more tender, bagel, the baker can add more sweetening and/or softening agents, which Petrofsky (1986a) identified as sugar, fat, eggs, malt, honey, molasses, soy flour and so forth. He noted the minimal amounts of these more expensive ingredients do not radically raise production costs but do allow greater merchandising latitude with respect to food value as perceived by the customer. And bakers have taken great latitude with formulating, offering these rolls now made with ingredients as diverse as raisins, dried cranberries or blueberries, corn, rye, pumpernickel, jalapeño peppers, cheese, pumpkin puree, spinach,  onion bits, garlic, apple bits, nutmeats and even chocolate chips. Toppings also run the gamut from caraway, dill, poppy and sesame seeds, garlic bits, salt, grated cheese to cinnamon sugar. Considerable regional variations characterize the bagel market (Ebert 1998), with Easterners preferring hard, chewy styles, while their Midwestern and Western cousins liked softer styles, yet Montreal customers opted for very dense, very sweet, very thin, bracelet-like bagels.

The flour chosen for bagels should be a good clear spring wheat, treated with potassium bromate and with a content averaging 13.5% to 14%. Lower protein flours, however, may be used as long as the baker supplements the formula with vital wheat gluten. Salt is present at 1.5% to 2.2% to retard fermentation, especially after boiling, to enhance flavor and to toughen the gluten. The sugar addition is relatively low (0% to 4%, flour weight basis) and can be in the form of sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup, or high-fructose corn syrup. Sugar’s function here is to provide fermentable sugars for the yeast and to contribute to crust browning. Honey or molasses also may be used as sugars and for the addition of natural flavors. Meloan and Doerry (1988) evaluated the contribution of each ingredient, along with alternate oxidizers, crumb softeners and dough strengtheners, to bagel quality.

Supplementary ingredients include defatted soy flour, 0% to 3% (flour weight basis), to increase dough absorption and improve crumb body and resilience of the bagel. Vegetable oil 0% to 5%, lubricates the dough and increases crumb tenderness.

When making egg bagels, whole eggs are added up to 12% to provide both natural color and flavor. Use of dried egg ingredients for this variety was investigated by Doerry (1994). He determined that whole egg solids, used at levels up to 3.7% (flour weight basis) contributed little bagel quality and seemed to aggravate “shelling” of the crust near the center hole; however; egg yolk solids reduced that effect and, because of the relatively high fat content of the yoke, tended to improve the taste and eating quality of the bagels.

Meloan E., and Doerry W. 1988. Update on Bagel Technology. AIB Tech. Bull 10 (4)

Petrofsky R. 1986a. Bagels. Proc. Am. Soc. Bakery Engrs. 62: 143.

Ebert, J. 1998. Bagels: formulation and regional differences. Proc. Am. Soc. Bakery Engrs. 74: 99. 

Doerry W. 1988. Egg bagels. AIB Tech. Bull 16 (11)