The Bagels You Know are a Lie

There are few foods out there that are more near and dear to my heart than the bagel.

Growing up in New York this was the breakfast of champions! 

The only way to eat a bagel is with a smear of cream cheese and a pile of nova the size of the empire state building.

Last year my wife and I were fortunate enough to take a two week trip to Israel Jerusalem Bagelswhere we traversed the entire country; this is where bagels were ruined for me forever. On an already exciting day we took a trip to the old city in Jerusalem. We hopped off the bus and meandered down the Jerusalem stone paths where there was a tiny shop with a smell that was so intoxicating, we had to stop and see what they had to offer. What we found was astonishing; by all definitions what they had was a bagel, but instead of small and round, it was an oval almost the size of my torso!


The bagel was served with a middle eastern spice called Za’atar, which was meant for dipping pieces of your bagel. The first and every subsequent bite was amazing. With a slight crunch on the outside and soft doughy interior, combined with the herbaceous flavors of the Za’atar, I was in heaven.

Jerusalem Bagels with Za'atar

It is for these reasons the bagels we have all grown to love are a lie.

We have been deprived of these delectable bagels for too long.

It is here I urge you to bake these in your own home using the recipe below. Let us know if this changed bagels for you like it did for us.

Jerusalem Bagel

recipe courtesy of that’s some good cookin’

2 Cups warm water, divided

1 Tbsp yeast

Pinch of white sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup powdered milk

2 tsp salt

6-7 cups bread flour (If you do not have bread flour, all-purpose white flour may be used, but will give a somewhat different texture to the bagels.)

1 egg + 2 teaspoons of water, lightly beaten to make a wash

sesame seeds

Za’atar (optional but highly recommended)

A recipe for Za’atar can be found here. However, you may be able to find Za’atar in your local supermarket


  1. Dissolve yeast and a pinch of white sugar in 1 cup warm water.  Allow to sit until yeast has activated (gets very bubbly and has risen).
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer put the activated yeast, the remaining cup of warm water, honey, olive oil, powdered milk, salt and 5 cups of flour.
  3. With dough hook attachment in place, begin mixing the ingredients. When ingredients come together, add 1 cup of flour a little at a time, allowing the flour to be incorporated. The dough will probably be cleaning the sides of the sides of the bowl, depending on the moisture content of the flour. Add just enough flour, a little at a time, to make a mildly stiff dough. It is better to ere on the side of having a softer dough than to have a heavy dough–you don’t want to make brickbats, right? The dough should be easy to handle and hold its shape well. It’s a dough thing…do your best ;).
  4. Allow the mixer to knead the dough until smooth and elastic (the dough, not the mixer).
  5. Gather the dough into a ball. Place in an oiled bowl, turn once so that the top of the dough is very lightly oiled. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Put bowl in a warm place and allow the dough to rise until double in bulk.
  6. Punch dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured counter-top. Knead dough a few times to work out the gas bubbles formed by the yeast.
  7. Divide dough into six equal portions. Gather each portion into a ball, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and allow to rest for 7-10 minutes.
  8. To form a bagel out of each ball, press your thumbs through the center of the dough ball. Pick the dough up and with it resting in your upward turned palms, fingers through the center hole and thumbs around the outside of the dough; enlarge the hole by gently pulling and squeezing the dough with your hands. Continually work your way around the dough while enlarging the diameter of the circle and pulling it, gently into an oval.
  9. Place the dough onto either a parchment-lined cookie sheet or an oiled cookie sheet, if you don’t have parchment paper. (Two half-sheet cake pans will also work well.) You will only be able to fit two bagels side by side on each cookie sheet with the long portion of the oval running lengthwise in the pan. The bagels should be nearly as long as the pan. There should be several inches at the widest part between the two sides of each oval. Be sure to leave space between the ovals because they will need room to rise.
  10. Brush each bagel with the egg wash, then sprinkle with sesame seeds (or za’atar). Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until approximately double in size.
  11. Uncover and bake in a 350-degree oven until golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. If baking two pans at once, be sure to rotate them half-way through the cooking time. Remove from oven and allow to cool before eating.
  12. Serve with a little olive oil and za’atar for dipping. My son in-law ate these dipped in mustard, as you would do with a pretzel. Good idea.

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