You won't find a bagel shop in the Tri-State Area without pumpernickel bagels: they'll be hiding out in a bottom bin, waiting for those who know the delights of their deep rye flavor. Here's how to make your own pumpernickel bagels at home.
Like Randy Newman, I love L.A. There's nowhere I'd rather live outside of Israel than my adopted hometown. The standard digs at Lalaland just ding right off me, even the ones about bagels, which happen to be true. But I just blithely bake my own and then smugly have them with my coffee out on the patio in the sunshine in February, because, you know, I can.
I've yet to spot a kosher pumpernickel bagel here in paradise, so making them myself was high on the baking list. I'm happy to say I've come up with a recipe that has the virtue of being relatively easy for homemade bagels—the rise time is fairly shortm about 2 hours total—and comes out just like a fresh, hot, New York pumpernickel bagel.
If you've never baked bagels before, it's definitely a project bake, but a doable and rewarding one (especially if you don't live in the New York area, where superlative bagels are a figurative dime a dozen). I have a complete walkthrough in my Homemade Bagels post, where I talk about equipment, ingredients, and method. But basically, you don't need anything special to make bagels apart from malt powder or syrup, which you need for adding to the water that you'll use to boil the bagels in, getting their signature crust and the correct chew. Otherwise you tend to get, disappointingly, bagel-shaped rolls. It helps if you have a baking stone, and bagel boards are nice (you'll see them in action below), but you can also bake bagels on a regular sheet pan.
Ingredients for pumpernickel bagels
For pumpernickel bagels specifically, you'll need rye flour, which can be a challenge to find. You can buy it online with kosher certification from King Arthur Flour, Bob's Red Mill (here on Amazon), or Arrowhead Mills on Amazon (all organic—I used the King Arthur's for these bagels, but I've also baked with Bob's and like both). Pumpernickel, for those wondering, just indicates rye. The reason for why rye bagels are referred to as "pumpernickel" is shrouded in mystery with possibly hilarious etymology, if you're a 7-year-old boy, which I happen to have two of. But for our purposes, pumpernickel basically means rye colored with something, in our case a small amount of cocoa powder, to make it resemble the long-baked Westphalian loaves of yore.
In addition to rye flour, you have some optional ingredients you can choose to add for their flavor: molasses and/or ground caraway. The caraway is a traditional flavor pairing with rye and give the finished bagels a distinctly savory, deli kind of taste, while the molasses adds a bit of sweetness and color. I also like them without either, just plain, and still very pumpernickel-y.
A quick bagel baking overview
Bagel-making has four basic steps:
- Mixing and rising the dough - You can mix the dough using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, or by hand using a lot of elbow grease. The dough gets its bulk rise, for these bagels, before getting shaped.
- Shaping and rising the bagels - After the dough rises, you'll divide it according to the number of bagels int he recipe (in this case, 8) and shape it by rolling into a tapered rope and joining the ends around your fingers, forming the hole.
- Boiling the bagels - An essential step that gives the bagels their signature crust, this is done by boiling water with malt powder/syrup and floating the bagels in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes per side.
- Baking the bagels - Bagels generally get baked at fairly high heat for a relatively short amount of time. For these pumpernickel bagels, you can probably bake them all in one batch.
Working with pumpernickel bagel dough
The dough for these pumpernickel bagels, like all bagel dough, is stiff, non-sticky, and generally easy to work with. These have more yeast in them than my plain bagels, which get an overnight rise in the fridge, so the bulk rise of the dough (right after mixing) is only 1 to 1 ½ hours.
After that first rise, you'll divide your dough into 8 even pieces. Working one at a time, roll each section into a tapered rope, joining the ends around your fingers, which will create the bagel's signature hole. After they're shaped, the bagels get another half an hour to puff up further, during which you can preheat your oven. (Meaning: bagels are coming soon.) A small tip here: if you're using bagel boards, arrange your oven racks with plenty of space to flip the bagels (see the photo below in the section on baking).
Boiling the bagels
After the shaped bagels have risen, the next step is to boil them. (Note: before you start boiling, make sure your oven is preheated, because the boiled bagels go right into the hot oven.) To boil bagels, you'll need a large stockpot filled with enough water for the bagels to amply float. A few tablespoons of malt powder or barley malt syrup get mixed into boiling the water, and then the bagels go in. They're only boiled for a few minutes on each side, so they'll be mostly raw when you remove them from the pot. However, this crucial step helps create the right texture of crust.
In the photo above, I'm using bagel boards to transfer the bagels into the oven. You can read more about bagel boards, again, in my Homemade Bagels post, but they're not necessary for making bagels; you can simply transfer the boiled bagels to your baking stone with tongs or a peel, or place them on a lined sheet pan and bake them that way.
Baking the bagels
This recipe makes 8 bagels, which you miiiight be able to squeeze onto your baking stone or a single sheet pan, or not. (As you can see in the photo above, I just managed.) If baking without boards, don't flip your bagels. If you do have boards, bake your bagels upside down for 5 minutes on the boards (they're upside down there on the board in the photo), then use the board to flip them out right-side-up onto your baking stone (or a sheet pan). The temp for these guys is only moderately hot, 425F / 220C. Because of the lower temp, they bake for about 25 minutes. You can take their temperature with an instant read thermometer if you want to gauge their doneness, looking for a temp of 190F / 90C or higher.
Storing your bagels
Store any fresh bagels that you don't eat right away in the freezer, just like you would bakery bagels. Left at room temp, they'll lose their great texture, and these will go bad especially quickly if not kept in the freezer. Warm them for 20 seconds in the microwave, slice in half, then toast for near-fresh levels of bagel goodness.
Looking for more project bakes?
- Famous Original New York Pizza
- Yerushalmi Bagel - An Airy, Sesame-Crusted Bagel
- Classic New York Black & White Cookies
Pumpernickel Bagels (parve)
- Baking stone (optional)
- Bagel boards (optional)
- 2 ¾ cups bread flour - 340 g
- 1 cup rye flour - 100 g
- 1 Tbsp diastatic malt powder or syrup - or brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp cocoa
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp ground caraway - optional
- 1 Tbsp molasses - optional
- 1 ¼ cups 280 g water
For the water bath:
- 8 cups water - 2L
- 2 Tbsp malt powder or syrup
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
Mix the dough:
- In a stand mixer bowl, combine the bread flour, rye flour, malt/brown sugar, salt, instant yeast, and molasses and/or caraway, if using. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and begin kneading on lowest speed. Pour in the water and continue to knead until the mixture forms a stiff dough.
Rise the dough:
- Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover tightly. Leave to rise in a warm spot until visibly risen, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Shape the bagels:
- Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll into a thick rope with tapered ends. Join the ends around your center fingers and roll gently to seal.
Rise the bagels:
- After all the bagels are shaped, cover them with plastic wrap and leave to rise until puffed, about 30 minutes. While the bagels are rising, preheat the oven to 425°F/ 220°C.
Boil the bagels:
- In a large stock pot, bring the water, malt powder, and sugar to a boil. Place the bagels in two batches into the water, cooking for 2-3 minutes per side.
- Place the boiled bagels onto bagel boards (upside down) or onto a lined sheet pan (right side up).
- Bake the bagels for 25 minutes, until set but not hard. Cool on a rack.