Whole Wheat Bagel Recipe

by katerina on July 22, 2009

Whole Wheat Bagel Recipe

These may be the best bagels I have made yet, they are also very different in technique then others I have made. I bought myself Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor book last Christmas and have already made many delicious things from it including raisin bread and focaccia. However, when J commented the other day that, the island, (where we currently are and our cabin is) has no good bagels, it got me craving them too.

So here we are, this recipe is delicious and produces soft beautiful bagels using 100% whole wheat flour, but it is definitely a time investment because it includes a biga, a soaker and two days. Plus, if you have no dishwasher then you will be washing dishes non-stop making this. I made a double recipe and am glad I did.

Print Recipe

Whole Wheat Bagels

(6 bagels)
Adapted from Whole Grain Breads

227 grams whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon room temperature water
227 grams whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons honey
1 soaker
1 biga
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons room temperature water
5/8 teaspoon salt
56.5g whole wheat flour
toppings of choice - sesame seeds, rock salt, poppy seeds, nigella seeds etc.
2 teaspoons baking soda


Mix all biga ingredients together until it forms a ball. Using wet hands, knead the dough for 2 minutes to make sure all ingredients are fully incorporated. The dough should be tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minute and then knead again for another minute. It should still be tacky but less so. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours to 3 days. Remove from fridge 2 hours before forming final dough. This will allow it to come to room temperature.


Mix all Soaker ingredients together for 1 minute or until all flour is picked up and it forms a ball. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave out at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.


In your mixer bowl combine water and yeast and attach dough hook. Chop up the biga and soaker into 12 smaller pieces each using a knife or dough scraper. Add the biga, soaker and salt. Mix on slow speed for one minute. Once it has formed a ball add the flour and continue to mix on stir or low speed for 3 to 4 more minutes until all pieces incorporated. Add more flour or water as needed, the dough should be firm and not sticky.

On a floured board knead the dough for 3 to 4 minutes, adding as much flour as needed to get a stiff dough. Let it rest for 5 minutes and prepare a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Knead for 1 more minute, it should pass the windowpane test. Transfer to the bowl, cover loosely with plastic and allow to rise for 45 to 60 minutes or until increased in size by 1 1/3 times.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board, and divide into six or seven 4-oz pieces. Roll each piece into an 8" rope, wrap around your hand and roll the seam to attach the ends. The hole should be about 2" in diameter. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and form the remaining bagels.

Preheat oven to 500F and boil water in a wide pot, about 4 inches deep. When water comes to a boil add the 2 teaspoons of baking soda, careful it will bubble. Bring to a steady simmer.

The bagels are ready to boil after bout 25 to 30 minutes, so when the oven is hot and the water is simmering you are ready. Prepare another parchment lined sheet which has been sprayed with pan spray, if you have a silicon mat use that instead.

Try adding a bagel, if it floats the water is ready, boil the bagels for 30 seconds on each side. You can do 2-3 at a time. When the bagel is done boiling transfer to the oiled sheet and add your toppings. Repeat for all bagels.

Put the bagels in the oven and reduce the heat to 450F. Bake the bagels for 15 minutes, turn the tray 180 degrees and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until browned on both sides.

Prep Time: 60 minutes | Cooking Time: 20 minutes | Total Time:80 minutes
Calories(approximate per serving): 335

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Elle July 22, 2009 at 4:06 pm

They're beautiful! I still have to try my hand at making bagels. It seems o intimidating. Nothing like freshly baked bagels, in a cabin on an island!


L July 23, 2009 at 12:39 am

They're so pretty! Do you have any pictures from the pre-cooking stage? I'd be interested to know the size difference. And…umm…stupid question – what's a biga?!


Christie's Corner July 23, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Lovely shot of the bagel stack. This looks like the kind of recipe you make when away at the cabin. I'm now craving a whole wheat bagel.


Mags July 24, 2009 at 4:31 am

I've made his bagels from the Bread Baker's Apprentice, but now I'm ready to take them whole grain. Lovely looking bagels!


Katerina July 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Elle – try my other bagel recipe, way easier, you can even make it after work.

L – this recipe doesn't poof up too much. When I form them you leave a 2" diameter hole in the middle, so between rising, boiling and baking that almost entirely disappears. Bigas are a type of pre-ferment used to create a deeper flavour. There are also soakers, sponges etc which have similar purposes.

Charmian – thanks!

Mags – I am trying to decide whether it is worth getting that book too, since they seem to feed into one another.


wildflower July 28, 2009 at 3:38 am

These look fabulous! I've been dying to try a 100% whole wheat bagel. Just one question to make sure I do it right – I make the soaker, wait 12 – 24 hours then when it's done, I make the Biga and then mix them with the remainder of the ingredients to make the dough – is this correct?


Katerina July 28, 2009 at 4:53 am

wildflower – good catch, that wasn't very clear was it? You want to make both the biga and the soaker the night before and have the biga in the fridge. The biga needs to gel for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days in the fridge. I have updated the post.


Anonymous September 13, 2009 at 10:55 pm

im super excited to make these but what is the windowpane effect? And on the last step, do i turn the oven temp down to 180 or do i just rotate the pan? thank you! they look delicious!:)


Katerina September 13, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Hi Anon

Sorry, that should be turn the bagels 180 degrees, as in turn around. Don't change the oven temperature.
As for the windowpane test, there is some good info here:http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/07/gluten/


Anonymous September 14, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Thanks so much that was very helpful!


nita.k October 24, 2009 at 6:50 pm

56.5 whole wheat means what?


Katerina October 25, 2009 at 12:15 am

nita – it should read grams. I have updated it.


Catherine January 29, 2010 at 7:46 am

Hello! This recipe looks great (found it while searching for whole-wheat bagels on Foodgawker) and I made both the biga and soaker last night. I haven’t ever made a biga before, though, and was wondering how you know when it’s ready to be removed from the fridge, given that it could take anywhere from 8 hours to 3 days. Since I made the biga and soaker at the same time, I’d like to use the biga after it’s been in the fridge for 24 hours (since the soaker will be ready after 12-24 hours) but wanted to see how I’ll know if the biga is ready, as I don’t want to screw it up. Thanks for your help!


katerina January 29, 2010 at 8:25 am

Catherine – I am no bread expert but I think your plan is just fine. The time given is just guidance to when it is usable. Generally the longer the flavour develop (within the window) the better, however you will have wonderful bagels. :)

If you want more info about bigas and soakers, I suggest you check out thefreshloaf.com. Great information on bread baking there.


anon February 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I just finished making these and they are the best whole wheat bagels i’ve ever had! They rose up great in the oven and my whole family loved them(especially with honey)thanks so much!


Yvonne July 16, 2010 at 10:31 am

I made these yesterday and they are great. The prep seems long–with the biga and the soaker, but it is not hard and worth it because the bagels are amazing. I’ve made bagels once before and they came out a little hard and didn’t have the right flavor. These have great flavor and texture. I will make these again.


katerina July 16, 2010 at 10:35 am

Yvonne – Awesome!


jay December 31, 2010 at 6:26 pm

I feel like I’m missing something. I was making the biga, but 227g whole wheat flour = 1 3/4 cups. Using just 1/2 cup water is nowhere near enough to get all the flour wet. What am I not seeing? I really want to try this out


katerina January 2, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Hi Jay – people have made this recipe successfully, just try it?


M March 7, 2011 at 5:41 pm

I am a 13 year old who loves cooking/baking and ADORES bagels. I literally just finished making these 10 minutes ago. Even though they were not the easiest and prettiest things I have ever made, I am eager to try them!! :) Thanks for the recipe!


katerina March 8, 2011 at 9:13 pm

M – I am so glad you liked them! I have an easier bagel recipe, but these ones really are worth it!


Karen September 5, 2011 at 3:57 am

These are, by far, the best bagels I have ever made. I have tried lots of recipes and mixes only to be disappointed in the outcome. What is unfortunate is that after all the work is done you only have six bagels.
However, they are rather large and I can only eat half at a time. I had never heard of a biga or a soaker, so this was a true learning experience for me. Thanks for posting!!


katerina September 6, 2011 at 9:28 am

@Karen – glad you liked it! Feel free to make more, smaller ones :)


epfresita November 22, 2013 at 3:43 am

Great looking bagels! Love the recipe! The process seems quite interesting. I’m def. going to give it a try.


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