Everything you love about nutty, earthy deli-style rye bread in the form of deliciously easy rye bagels. Made with an organic medium rye flour and caraway seeds, these rye bagels are perfect for serving up rye bagel Reubens and BLTs, though they're also great toasted with cream cheese.
This recipe for easy rye bagels is just as simple as my other homemade bagel recipes. It uses a blend of medium organic rye flour and bread flour, but the rye flavor — or what we usually think of as "rye" flavor — actually comes mostly from the caraway seeds mixed into the dough.
I generally avoid making recipes that call for speciality flours. But when I found a bag of King Arthur Baking's new medium organic rye flour on the shelves at my local Wegman's and saw that it was available to buy through Amazon I decided that made it accessible enough to finally start developing this rye bagel recipe that had been floating around my brain.
Most rye bagel recipes are marbled or full-on pumpernickel bagels. (Fun fact: pumpernickel flour is basically just the whole wheat version rye flour.) I wanted a recipe for plain, simple, good 'ol fashioned rye bagels. Classic, deli-style seeded rye bread, but in bagel form. So that's what these rye bagels are.
This recipe feels particularly special to me because my initials also spell "RYE." I've always liked that my initials spell a word, though in pastry school I quickly learned to label my doughs "RE" instead of "RYE" because my chef-instructors got confused as to why there were doughs labeled "rye" that didn't have rye flour in them. These bagels definitely use rye flour though, so no confusion here.
These bagels use a blend of rye flour and bread flour
Most rye bread recipes don't use 100% rye flour in the dough. Because rye flour is so low in gluten it's not great at developing the strength and structure needed to support a whole loaf of bread. It's often mixed with other types of flour. In the case of rye bagels, it works best mixed with a high gluten flour like bread flour.
As per PJ Hamel's recommendation, I started by testing my plain bagel recipe with 25% rye flour. I tested a few other ratios, but ultimately found that 30% rye flour and 70% bread flour* was the perfect blend for these bagels.
Bread flour, with its higher protein content, is the more traditional option for bagel recipes because it results in chewier bagels. If you've read my other bagel recipes you know that generally I find all-purpose flour works well enough for bagel making and that bread flour is only necessary if you're chasing perfection. But since rye flour is a low-gluten flour, you really do want to use bread flour here for best results.
*NOTE: If you're new to baker's percentage, this just means that, of the total amount of flour in the recipe (the amount of flour is always considered 100%), it uses 30% rye flour and 70% bread flour. Every ingredient can be calculated this way using the total amount of flour as 100%; for example, with 300 grams of water to 500 grams of flour, this recipe is a 60% hydration dough.
how to shape a bagel
Because rye flour doesn't have a lot of gluten in it, the dough needs to rest after you divide and shape it into rounds — I found that about 10-15 minutes was plenty of time in my kitchen. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen you might find you need to let it rest a little longer, maybe 15-20 minutes.
Basically you're looking for the seam on the bottom to have mostly sealed back together before poking the hole through the middle. Other than that the shaping steps in the gifs below are exactly the same. And if the seam hasn't completely sealed back together, that's okay. Use your thumb to push the seam inside when you poke the hole through.
Divide the dough into equal portions. If you're combining a few pieces together to make a portion, stack the smaller pieces on top of the bigger pieces. Tuck the edges up so the dough is smooth against the counter with a seam pinched together on top. Repeat until the dough ball feels fairly tight. Don't tear the dough, just stretch it.
Then, flip the dough over so the seam side is down against the counter. Cup your hand around the dough and slide it toward you. The dough will take on an oval shape. Rotate it 90 degrees and repeat to turn the oval into a round circle.
(Or, cup your hand around the dough with your pinkie-side flush against an unfloured counter and your thumb and forefinger making an O- or C-like shape above the dough. Move your hand in quick circles without picking your pinkie off the counter, and the dough will quickly shape itself into a nice smooth ball of dough.)
Once the dough has been shaped into balls, coat your hands in flour and stick a thumb through the bottom seam of the dough. Slide your other thumb in and gently squeeze and stretch, rotating the dough through your hands until the bagel hole is at least the same width as the sides of the bagel if not bigger. You may want to repeat the stretching process again before boiling to keep the hole from closing up in the oven.
a few quick recipe notes
- Caraway seeds can be tricky to find in grocery stores, which is why I usually order them from The Spice House, which sells a ½ cup flat pack (with free shipping!) for about $5.
- To get the caraway seed flavor super infused in these rye bagels this recipe uses a trick I learned from Chef Jody at Cambridge School of Culinary Arts — using the water in the recipe to make a tea with the caraway seeds. Using the caraway seeds plus the caraway-infused water in the dough means every single bite has that classic rye flavor in it.
- To amp up the caraway flavor you can toast the seeds in a dry skillet before making the tea. I found the caraway seed tea on its own was enough, so didn't include this as a step in the recipe, but it's an option if you want it!
- If you have an electric kettle with heat settings, use the lowest temp possible to make the caraway seed tea. If you can't set the temperature on your kettle, you can either stop the kettle before the water is boiling or use very very hot tap water. My electric kettle's lowest temp is 160F so that's what I use for the tea. It takes about 10 minutes in the fridge to get the temperature down between 90-110F, the ideal temp for use in this dough.
- Water boils at 212F, so you'll need to let the tea cool a bit longer if you're starting with boiling water. If the tea is over 120F when you add it to the dry ingredients, you'll kill the yeast and have sad bagels. If you're not sure what temperature your tea is, you can use an instant read thermometer to check it.
You can buy medium rye flour online here. It's also available at some Wegman's locations and on the King Arthur Baking website. I can't check every grocery store chain, but I did a bit of Googling and it looks like it might also be available at some Weis and Vons locations. There are a lot of rye flours out there, but I've only tested this with King Arthur's, so really do recommend using that if you can.
I haven't tested this recipe with dark rye flour or white rye flour. If that's all you can find, just know you'll likely have to adjust the amount of water the recipe calls for — sprinkle an extra ½ tablespoon of water onto the dry flour bits in the bowl, giving the mixer plenty of time (at least a minute) after each addition to incorporate before deciding if you need to add more.
Yes — and no. Bread flour really will give you the best results here. You can use all purpose flour and it will "work" but you'll end up with slightly tougher, denser bagels that don't rise quite as nicely. Bread flour will give you the chewiness you're looking for in bagels, and will give you a more reliable rise and make a dough that is much easier to work with. If you use all purpose flour you might need to extend the rest time in the shaping stages because AP doesn't have the same amount of gluten and needs to work harder to build structure and strength than bread flour does.
Yep! Arrange on a sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap and do a cold rise in the fridge overnight. This will also intensify the flavor of the bagels. In the morning you'll just need to boil and bake.
If you only have active dry yeast then use 9 grams. Add it to the lukewarm caraway tea and let it sit for 5 minutes before adding to the dry ingredients in the mixer bowl.
easy rye bagels
- 300 grams water (1¼ cups, see recipe notes for heating)
- 14 grams caraway seeds (2 tablespoon)
- 350 grams bread flour (a scant 3 cups)
- 150 grams King Arthur Baking Organic Rye Flour (1 cup, slightly packed)
- 25 grams sugar (2 tablespoon)
- 4 grams diamond crystal kosher salt (1½ teaspoon)
- 6 grams instant yeast (2 teaspoon)
- Make the caraway tea. Heat water in an electric kettle or on the stove until it reaches a low simmer (160°F). Pour 300 grams water over the caraway seeds and let steep in the fridge 8-10 minutes until lukewarm to the touch (90°-110°F).
- Combine dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine bread flour, rye flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Make sure the yeast and salt are not touching in the bowl.
- Add the caraway tea. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the caraway tea and caraway seeds into the center of the dry ingredients. Increase the speed to low-medium, pausing occasionally to push the dry ingredients into the center of the bowl with a spatula. If the dough hasn't come together with no dry bits left in the bottom of the bowl after 3 minutes, sprinkle additional ½ tablespoon of water onto the dry bits and let the mixer run for another 30-45 seconds. Repeat again only if needed.
- Knead. Once the dough has mostly come together on the dough hook with minimal dry flour in the bottom of the bowl increase the speed to medium and knead for 3 minutes until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is smooth and slightly tacky to the touch.
- Rise. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise 1 hour until just about doubled in size. When you press a finger into the dough the indentation should fill back in just slightly.
- Punch down. Punch the dough down in the bowl to knock any large air bubbles out of it. Cover and let rest an additional 10 minutes.
- Divide and shape. Use a kitchen scale to divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. On a clean, unfloured counter, shape each one into a ball: Stack any smaller pieces on top of the biggest piece. Gently flatten the dough, then tucking the edges up, flip the dough over and cup your hand around it in a claw shape. Keep your pinkie on the counter and move in tight circular motions to build tension on the top of the dough and smoosh the edges together underneath. If that doesn't work for you: Cup your hand around the dough and, with your pinkie on the counter, pull your hand straight toward your body. The dough will tighten up into an oval shape. Rotate 90° and repeat to pull the oval into a circle shape.
- Rest. Cover the dough balls and let them rest 10-15 minutes. Rye flour is low in gluten so needs a bit of time for the seams on the bottom to close up. Depending on the temperature and humidity in your kitchen, you may need to let them rest an additional 5-10 minutes here.
- Preheat the oven and water bath. While the bagels rest, preheat oven to 425°F. Fill a wide, straight-sided skillet with about 3" of water and bring to a low boil. Line a sheet pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
- Poke the holes. Dust your hands lightly with flour (regular AP or bread flour is fine). Poke your thumb through the bottom of each bagel round, pushing any edges or seams into the center. Gently squeeze to stretch (don't tear!) the bagels — you want the hole to be about the same width as the sides of the bagel. Rotate the bagels through your hands, squeezing to slowly stretch them.The bagels will shrink slightly when they boil and bake, so if you prefer a bigger hole just stretch them a bit bigger.
- Rest. Cover the bagels with a damp paper towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Boil and bake. Working in batches, boil the bagels 1 minute and 30 seconds per side. Use a wire spider to remove the boiled bagels to the prepared sheet pan. Brush with egg wash and bake 20-22 minutes until lightly browned on top.
- Cool. Let bagels cool on the sheet pan 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
- Heat the water for the caraway tea FIRST, then measure it. That way you don't lose any water to evaporation while it heats.
- Volume measurements provided are estimates only — for best results, use a kitchen scale.