MANY people love bagels, but very few of us have ever learned how to make them at home.

The origin of the bagel? Well, the jury is out for this traditionally Jewish chewy delight that was imported to the US.

One of the most accepted stories is that of a Polish general named Jan Sobieski.

When the good general saved Vienna from the Turkish invasion in 1683, the townspeople clung to his stirrups as he rode through the town.

As a tribute to his heroism the king commissioned a baker to make a bread in the name of a stirrup, called Breugel.

Bagels are in fact an eastern European import – real bagels, that is, not the shiny bread rolls with holes in the middle that pass for bagels we see in the shops today.

In the UK, unless you're prepared to roll up your sleeves and make them yourself, just think of this as a starting point on your road to bagel excellence.

A bagel dough finds welcome companions in untold sweet and savoury combinations.

Unlike our rustic bloomer, slumped languorously across its baking tray, or even a batch of misshapen floury baps or a sandwich loaf in its tin, bagels don't seem like the kind of bread that could be made at home.

Perhaps it's the fact that they're twice-cooked, or the careful shaping that sends most people to the bread aisle instead of trying to make them by their own hands.

The hole in the middle is no mistake, in fact this bread was baked with holes so vendors could slide them on to dowel rods, making them easy to transport to wherever they would be selling them that day.

Why are they boiled before baking? Boiling bagels sets the crust before it goes into the oven which keeps longer and gives the bagel a nice outer sheen and crusty chewy protective crust.

It is very difficult to list all the types of bagels that are available, but the best sellers have to be plain, cinnamon and raisin, sesame, multigrain and my favorite onion and chive.

Standard fillings never go out of style: when it comes to how you like to eat your bagel, the sky's the limit, and according to research the most popular bagel fillings are cream cheese, butter, jam, eggs, deli meats, peanut butter and bacon.

Do you want to continue eating tanned, cloggy loo seats?

If you do find a few hours over the weekend, give them a go, you'll find bagels perfectly straightforward even for a bread-making novice wanting a hole in one!   

Plain Bagel

makes eight


500g/1lb strong bread flour 

1 teaspoon salt 

2 teaspoons sugar

300ml/11oz warm water

20g/1oz fresh yeast or 2 teaspoons dried 

1 tablespoon olive or sunflower oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar or granulated to add the bagels distinctive colour  

* Spices and fruits can also be added to the dough along with onions and chives. 


1. In a large mixing bowl add the flour, salt and sugar.

2. Mix the yeast into the water, add the oil and pour into the flour mixture to form a soft dough. 

3. Knead well for 10 minutes on a floured surface until smooth. Return back to the bowl and cover with a tea towel leaving to rise for an hour.

4. Once doubled in size, divide the dough into eight pieces, roll out into balls, and place onto two parchment-lined baking trays to prove somewhere warm for 30 minutes. 

5. Once well risen, push a floured forefinger through the centre of each ball to form a ring. Gently rotate or twirl the ring on your finger to make the hole larger, stretching it to a diameter of 3cm/1 inch - it will close up as it bakes. 

6. Preheat the oven to 220c/Gas Mark 7 and set a side large pan of water to boil with a tablespoon of brown sugar.

7. Poach the bagels two at a time in gently simmering water for one minute on either side, removing them with a slotted spoon. Drain well before sprinkling over your favourite toppings.  

8. Return the bagels back to the baking tray and bake for 20/25 minutes till golden.