Bagels with Rabbi Jonathan

I recently spent some time making bagels with Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein of Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs. I am not Jewish, but my amazing wife of 20 years is – and so I have been a member of the Temple Sinai community for about 16 years. You can read about the importance of the Temple in our family life here in the post about Challah.

slice-of-heavenFor the last 12 years, Jonathan and his wife, Rabbi Linda Motzkin (also of Temple Sinai – yup, a husband and wife team!), have led a project called Bread and Torah. While Linda, an amazing scribal artist, focuses on the Torah, Jonathan runs Slice of Heaven Breads out of the Temple’s kitchen.

Slice of Heaven produces many kinds of bread: challah, bagels, specialty breads, cookies, and more. Jonathan invited me to join him to make bagels. We used a recipe that he has used for years (the recipe included in this post is a different one – it is a basic bagel recipe from my Mom’s Breads From Betsy’s Kitchen). We prepared the dough on one day, refrigerated it overnight, and finished up the following day.

Click the images below to see larger versions along with captions.

Welcome to Solomon’s Kitchen

It was an honor to bake with Jonathan. We enjoyed some fine stories as we worked, and I got to learn some things about baking I hadn’t known (like how to get the super chewy texture of NYC bagels).

Shaping the Dough

When you’re making 4 dozen bagels, kneading the dough by hand just isn’t practical. We let the large dough hook in the Hobart mixer do the heavy lifting.

Boiling the Bagels

The recipe accompanying this post calls for sugar to be added to the boiling water. You may also want to experiment with other ingredients. Jonathan added both baking soda and honey to the water.

Into the Oven

Here is the introduction to the bagel recipe from my Mom’s book:

“Bagels were made famous by early Jewish immigrants who sold them on the streets of New York City. Bagels are doughnut shaped, but the center almost grows back together. These bagels are refrigerated for 12 to 24 hours, which gives time for the flavors to develop. If you’re in a hurry, you can leave them at room temperature and let them rise for 30 minutes. However, the longer version produces a more flavorful bagel with a firmer crust. Poaching in sugar water before baking gives them a wonderful soft-textured inside with a very chewy crust. These are marvelous spread with cream cheese, then layered with thin slices of lox (smoked salmon), thinly sliced ripe tomatoes, and onions.”

5 from 1 vote


These bagels are refrigerated for 12 to 24 hours, which gives time for the flavors to develop. If you’re in a hurry, you can leave them at room temperature and let them rise for 30 minutes.
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 36 bagels
Author Mark Oppenneer


  • 2 scant tablespoons (or 2 ¼-ounce packages) active dry yeast
  • cups warm water about 110 degrees
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons barley malt syrup or powder
  • 7-8 cups unbleached flour
  • cornmeal for dusting pans
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 quarts boiling water
  • Glaze - 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk
  • poppy, sesame, coarse salt or caraway seeds (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, stir yeast into water to soften. Add salt, barley malt, and 4 cups flour. Beat vigorously for two minutes.
  2. Gradually add flour, ¼ cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.
  3. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Bagel dough should be kneaded for at least 15 minutes. Add enough flour to make the dough stand in a firm ball on the work surface (should be more firm than regular bread dough).
  4. Put dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Divide into 32 equal pieces of dough. Shape each piece into a ball. Insert your finger or thumb through the center of each ball and stretch to make a 1½-inch hole. Place on baking sheets that have been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover lightly with plastic wrap then a tightly woven tightly woven towel. Both covers are essential! Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
  6. About 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator.
  7. In a 12-inch Dutch-style oven or large cooking vessel, dissolve the sugar in the boiling water. Keep the water on a slow boil.
  8. Drop three or four bagels, one at a time, into the water. Do not crowd. Turn them over and simmer for three minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Place upside down on a well-greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Turning them upside down (the upside is the one that was under the water the longesproduces a better crust.
  9. Just before baking, brush each bagel lightly with the glaze and sprinkle with seeds or salt, if desired.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes, or until browned.
  11. Immediately remove bagels from baking sheets and cool on a rack.

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