Huckleberry Bagels

HUCKLEBERRY BAGELS watermarkChewy on the outside and soft on the inside, studded with little wild mountain huckleberries – these bagels will not be found in the bakery section of your local grocery store! Nope…you’ll have to work for these babies.

If you live near mountains where huckleberries can be found, put on your hiking boots and grab your bear spray, because trust me…they are worth every back breaking, ankle twisting, bear encountering, mosquito biting moment. They truly are!
If you don’t have access to them, frozen huckleberries can be purchased on the Internet. They aren’t cheap, but they’re so flavorful that just a few berries can really make a flavor statement in a recipe. Of course you can substitute blueberries instead, and still have a wonderfully delicious batch of bagels.

Bagel dough is very VERY easy to make, and the rest of the procedure is a lot of fun. This is a bit of a shortcut version, since I’m always too eager to get warm bagels to opt for the “rise overnight” method. I also was a little reluctant to go with the lye bath; nor did I think my readers would want to try that. But either I’m not much of a connoisseur or I’ve never tasted an authentic New York bagel, because these tasted plenty good to me!

Huckleberry Bagels - The Rowdy Baker

To make bagels you take a simple yeast dough, let it rise, divide it into 8 pieces, (or 12 if you like sissy bagels) boil them, and bake them. Of course I had to complicate things a bit by adding huckleberries, especially since I didn’t have dried huckleberries which would have been a slam-dunk. I used frozen huckleberries and had to do some fancy footwork to keep them from turning the bagels purple. Here’s what I did:

Heat berries and strain them. Don't mash!! Be gentle.

Heat berries and strain them. Don’t mash!! Be gentle.

I put a cup of frozen huckleberries in a bowl and microwaved them for 1 minute. After stirring, I microwaved them for 1 more minute. This softened them so they would release some of their juices. The berries went into a strainer over a small bowl until they were cool. The juice was set aside for making huckleberry butter to top the bagels, and the berries (strainer and all) were set in the freezer while the bagels were being made. When I was ready to use them, I took them from the freezer, broke them apart, and dredged them in a tablespoon of flour. They weren’t mixed into the dough, they were added at the very last, right when the bagels were being formed. Worked like a charm!

Not that I wouldn’t have wolfed down purple bagels, of course.

Cream cheese is lovely to top bagels with. Butter is tasty too. But best of all is huckleberry butter. I made my own butter for this, but you are welcome to use regular butter. To make it, add enough water to the reserved berry juice to make 1/4 cup of liquid. Put it in a small pan with 3 tablespoons sugar and bring it to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Turn heat down to medium and continue to cook and stir for 1 minute. Chill. Beat 1/4 cup room temperature butter with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar. Add as much of the chilled berry syrup as you’d like. The color will get pretty vibrant if you add it all, but OH, the flavor! If it isn’t thick enough, add a little more powdered sugar. That’s it!

Cream separating. It's okay - this is what you want! BUTTER!

Cream separating. It’s okay – this is what you want! BUTTER!

Now…just for fun, you could do it my way. I admit, this was less because I’m a purist and more because I was out of butter, but I think I’d do it this way again; the butter is so sweet and good. To make homemade butter, simply put 1/2 cup of heavy cream in a small bowl and beat it on high with an electric mixer until it looks like it’s curdled and liquid appears in the bottom of the bowl. (I used a wimpy mixer and it still only took about 5 minutes.) Strain out the liquid (that’s buttermilk, folks!) and stir with a spoon, pressing and mashing gently. Again, pour out liquid. Cover the butter with cold water, mash a few more times with a spoon, strain out the water, and *voila!* you have butter. Add a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of powdered sugar, and berry syrup and mix until combined.

Oh, beautiful huckleberry butter...where have you been all my life?!

Oh, beautiful huckleberry butter…where have you been all my life?!


Before I give you the bagel recipe, I need to make a disclaimer. If you noticed that my finished bagels were a little dimpled, I have to admit I did something kind of brainless. I knew better, but it’s been a while since I’ve made bagels, and hey – it happens. I put the egg wash on the bagels before they rose, instead of after they came out of their bath. It probably kept the crust from forming, which made them look a little different, but they tasted great and were nice and chewy. Just not as crusty on the outside as usual. So if you like soft bagels, you might want to try my new “method”.

Huckleberry Bagels
Makes 8 large or 12 small bagels
  • 1 cup frozen huckleberries
  • 1¼ cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3½ cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon flour to dredge berries in
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • finely ground cornmeal
  • 1 egg, and 2 teaspoons water for egg wash
  1. In a small bowl, heat berries in the microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Place in a strainer over a small bowl to drain. Don't mash them. When all of the juice has drained into bowl, place the berries in the freezer (it's easiest just to leave them in the strainer) and set the juice aside if you plan to make huckleberry butter. (See below)
  2. In a large bowl (a stand mixer is best) combine the water, white sugar, and yeast. Let it sit until foamy, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Using your dough hook, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and 2 cups of the bread flour. Mix well.
  4. Add the remaining flour and knead by mixer for 7-8 minutes, or by hand for 8-10 minutes. Bagel dough should be very elastic and shouldn't break apart easily when you stretch it.
  5. Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow dough to rise until doubled, about an hour.
  6. Punch down dough and on a lightly floured surface, separate into 8 (or 12 for smaller bagels) equal pieces.
  7. Remove berries from the freezer and dredge them in 1 tablespoon flour, breaking them up as you work. Shake out the extra flour.
  8. Flatten one piece of dough at a time and sprinkle with berries. Bring the edges up toward the center and pinch to close.
  9. Turn the dough over so the pinched side is on the flat surface, and pull the ball of dough towards you, tucking sides under a little as you pull. This will create a very round, uniform ball of dough. Push your finger through the middle to create a hole, and then with both thumbs in the hole, twiddle your thumbs until a large hole is created. Try to keep the bagel as uniform as possible, but don't worry if a berry or two peek out of the middle. Bagels are rustic, not perfect.. Repeat until all bagels are formed, Leave them on the floured surface, covered with a towel, for 30 minutes.
  10. While the bagels are sitting, Preheat oven to 450 F. and lightly grease a baking sheet and sprinkle it with cornmeal.
  11. When the 30 minutes is almost up, fill a very large pot half full of water. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda and bring to a boil.
  12. Drop bagels into boiling water in batches, a few at a time, giving them enough room to move around without touching the other bagels. Let them boil for 90 seconds on each side, then gently remove one at a time with a slotted spatula, let it drip over the pan, and set it on the prepared baking sheet. They can go fairly close together since they won't rise while baking.
  13. Whisk the egg and water together and brush the top of each bagel.
  14. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a rich golden brown.
  15. Move to racks to cool.
  16. ***
  17. To make huckleberry butter, boil ¼ cup of huckleberry juice (add water if necessary) with 3 tablespoons of sugar, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking and stirring for 1 minute. Chill mixture. Beat ¼ cup soft butter with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and add as much huckleberry syrup as desired. Beat until combined.


Dough is ready to rise

Dough is ready to rise

Dough, risen and ready to shape

Dough, risen and ready to shape

Pull edges of dough up over the berries

Pull edges of dough up over the berries

Give it a pinch or two and flip it over.

Give it a pinch or two and flip it over.

Scoot the dough, creating a round ball.

Scoot the dough, creating a round ball.

Poke a hole in the middle.

Poke a hole in the middle.

Use both thumbs and twiddle!

Use both thumbs and twiddle!

A steamy hot bath...

A steamy hot bath…

A little egg wash

A little egg wash

...and bake them to a glorious, shiny brown.

…and bake them to a glorious, shiny brown.

Huckleberry Bagels

Huckleberry Bagels

I love these toasted, with a thin scraping of butter. Oh, who am I kidding? I love these slathered in cream cheese, huckleberry butter, regular butter, or even plain. I’ll eat them stale!

I hope you’ll give them a try. Maybe I’ll see you in the woods!

Will Blog for Bagels!

Perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, bagels are versatile and satisfying. Today I actually may have gone past “satisfying” and be on the road to “sick”, because I just can’t stop at one, especially when they’re warm and tender.  Well, the inside should be tender; the outside must be very chewy.

Fresh from the oven, and irresistible.

I love them toasted in the morning, with a fruit and cream cheese spread. I love them for lunch, piled with turkey breast, tomato, cream cheese and avocado. I love to turn them into little mini-pizzas for dinner. I haven’t come up with a bagel dessert yet, but just give me a moment…

The best bagels take time – preferably with an overnight rest in the refrigerator before being boiled and baked the next morning – but the recipe I am giving you is an easy one and can be completed in a couple of hours. It’s a tough dough and can withstand a little abuse, so you won’t have to hurry, or worry about keeping things chilled, or try not to “overwork” it.

If you are a bagel virgin, you might want to make them plain the first time, just to get the hang of it. Next time (and there WILL be a next time) you can add goodies to the dough: raisins, cinnamon, cheese, onions – whatever you like. The plain bagels can be topped with sesame seeds, cheese, poppy seeds, garlic, or onions, or brushed with an egg wash to make them shiny. They can also be left “au naturale,” which would be my bagel of choice.

Without further ado, I present:

Makes 12 large bagels.

1 package active-dry yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher)
4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon baking soda (for boiling the bagels)

      • In a large bowl, gently stir together the yeast, granulated sugar, and warm water. Let sit until bubbly (about 4-5 minutes.)
      • Stir in the brown sugar, salt, and 2 cups of the bread flour. Mix well. If you’re using a stand mixer, switch to your dough hook. Add the remaining bread flour slowly, mixing well. This will be a very stiff dough, but you don’t want it too dry OR too sticky, so feel free to adjust the amount of flour or add a little more water if necessary to get a nice, elastic dough.
      • If you are working by hand, put the dough on a floured board and knead for 7-8 minutes. If you are using your mixer to knead, allow it to knead for 5-6 minutes.

        Bagel dough, ready to rise.

      • Place the dough in a well-oiled large bowl, turn the dough to coat with oil, cover with a dishtowel, and allow it to rise for approximately an hour–or until doubled.

Bagel dough, ready to roll.

  • After the rise time, punch the dough down and separate it into 12 equal pieces. Take each piece and make it into a ball. It’s hard to explain, but I keep tucking the messy parts under, and kind of “scooch” the ball across the surface of the counter (don’t you hate it when I use these technical terms?) to make it as smooth as possible on the top. You can roll it around like clay, too…whatever works for you. The goal is to get 12 smooth balls that are at least close to the same size! Don’t worry if it takes a while and the first few balls look like they might be growing; that won’t hurt a thing.

“Scooching” the dough into a ball.

  • Oil or grease two cookie sheets. Lightly coat one sheet with cornmeal. (Keep the cornmeal out – you’ll need it eventually for the other cookie sheet.)
  • Ready? Flour your thumbs. Uh huh, that’s what I said. Poke one thumb right through the middle of a dough ball, put your other thumb through the hole from the other side, and…twiddle your thumbs so they’re going around each other, stretching out the bagel hole. Now stretch the bagel gently to make the dough as even as possible all the way around. Make the hole big– at least an inch and a half across–because when the bagel bakes it will puff up and most of the hole will disappear.

    Make a hole with your thumb.

    Twiddle those thumbs!

    Stretch the dough out evenly.

  • Place each bagel on the cookie sheet without the cornmeal. Cover with a dishtowel and allow the bagels to rest for 10 minutes. In the meantime:
  • Heat the oven to 450 F.
  • Fill a large stockpot more than halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the baking soda.
  • Drop a few bagels in at a time, making sure they have plenty of room to bob around. I can comfortably cook 4 at a time in my stockpot. Let them cook for about a minute and a half on one side, then flip them over to cook on the other side for another minute and a half.

    A plump bagel, dropping to its doom.

    Dance, Bagels…dance!

  • Using a slotted spoon or a “spider” (see picture), place each bagel gently on the cornmeal covered cookie sheet.

    Lifting the bagels onto the cookie sheet, using my “spider”.

    If you are adding any toppings (sesame seeds, cheese, poppy seeds, etc.) sprinkle them on while the bagel is still wet. If you decide to skip the toppings and want a shiny appearance on your bagels instead, brush them with an egg wash (one egg and a teaspoon of water, mixed well) at this time. You will put 6 bagels on each sheet, so when the first cookie sheet is filled, sprinkle cornmeal on the other cookie sheet as the bagels disappear into the pot of boiling water and space becomes available.

  • Bake for approximately 15 minutes, turning the pan once halfway through the bake time. They should be a nice light golden color when ready. Cool on a rack.

Want to see what happens when you space out and let the bagels bake for 5  minutes too long?They’re still yummy, but definitely too dark. 15 minutes should be just right!

Well, I refuse to cook dinner tonight because I’m stuffed from “sampling” bagels. Hey, it’s an occupational hazard. Not sure that’s going to fly with the spousal unit; (who is pathetically eating a slice of cheese right now because he “HAS to eat SOMEthing”) but I say…let him eat bagels!