I'm practicing bagel baking, using the "mother dough" recipe from Milk Bar, by Tosi & Chang. The taste & texture are pretty good, but I want a nice, crisp, blistery crust, which has eluded me so far. My question is: what are the most important factors in crust production for bagels? Is it the poaching, the baking, or both? So far, here's what I've done:

  • following an Epicurious recipe, poached the bagels in water with baking soda, salt, & honey (technically it should be barley malt, but I didn't have any)
  • preheated oven to 500F and then lowered to 450F when the bagels go in (again, following a recommendation on Epicurious)
  • I have tried both a baking stone and a sheet pan; the sheet pan gives marginally better results

Should the oven be hotter? Should the poaching water be differently prepared? Something else?

  • Are you introducing any steam into your oven? – ElendilTheTall Sep 22 '15 at 13:19
  • Honey as a source of sweet is not the same as malt. Honey won't "dry" like dried sweeteners will. – Escoce Sep 22 '15 at 13:37
  • @Escoce So is dried malt part of the bagel crust? – crmdgn Sep 22 '15 at 14:01
  • @ElendilTheTall No, but I'd figured that since the bagels were still wet from poaching there would be some steam. Not so? – crmdgn Sep 22 '15 at 14:02
  • @crmdgn barely any steam will come off slightly damp bagels. I would try heating a pan along with oven, then pouring boiling water into it when you put the bagels in. – ElendilTheTall Sep 22 '15 at 14:18

The secret to a nice chewy crust on a bagel is to dip them in lye. Lye is sodium hydroxide, and quite caustic, so gloves and glasses are recommended when using it. There are plenty of instructions online of safely using lye with bagels and pretzels.

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