Gluten-free Bagels

If you know me personally (and honestly, most of you who are reading this do) then you know that as soon as I meet someone and try to form a friendship, the oven will be involved.  Michelle remembers the first time I met her, Gabrielle called home to give me a heads up to stick around and my response was “Great! I have a strawberry rhubarb pie going in the oven right now!  Perfect timing!”  Major (and minor) life events are usually marked by some baked good as well; that same pie just came out of the oven a week or so ago as another Goodbye Pie for Caroline, to see her off to Hotlanta just a little bit plumper. And will probably be making an appearance here soon to break in our new oven when it finally gets here and puts me out of my misery.

Another theme in my bake-ery has been taking on nutritional challenges.  I personally am an inveterate omnivore who eats processed sugar, animal byproducts, lactose, strange beasts, preservatives, whatever.  I have cooked vegetarian, vegan, and sugar-free.  So when I struck up a new friendship with someone who is type celiac, I knew that a new challenge had presented itself.  When Alex mentioned how much he missed bagels, the challenge took shape.  To the fancy flour section!

Knowing absolutely nothing about gluten free baking, I poked around on the internet and talked to a family friend that has been down that road a long way.  There are many types of gluten free flours out there, but Alex had warned me about the drawbacks and strange cooking reactions some of them have, like potato starch.  I’m not going to go into them, I am no expert.  The way I dealt with it was to go to Whole Foods and pick up a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free mix, dealing with the side effects by mitigating through multiplicity.  Definitely sift it if you are making a cake – it clumps together.

The other thing I had to pick up was xanthan gum.  This is a bacterium that is basically a sticky-izer. Since gluten isn’t available to provide the structure and keep things all hooked together, xanthan gum steps in to provide texture and keep your baked good from crumbling.

This is what it looks like dry, out of the bag.  Be careful with this stuff!  Try not to spill because like a gremlin, it turns nasty if wet.  It turns from an awesome, fine powder into super persistent uber-slime.  It will not want to uncling from your hand, your counter, whatever.  It does its job. Using both yeast and xanthan gum we felt like chemists.

Besides that, I was advised by a friend to use almond or coconut oil to grease down my pans, as I am a gluten-full baker usually.  Supposedly it will cut the gluten remaining in any pans that weren’t washed in a dishwasher.  Fun fact?  Almond oil tastes amazing.

Shall we start?  The kitchen here is Victoria’s as my kitchen looks like this:


I got trapped in my room because of that plastic. I felt like I was in that scene from ET.


She’s also taking any picture that my hands appear in, obviously.

Gluten Free Bagels

Recipe and advice taken from here, where there are a ton of other great recipes.

Hello, Victoria's kitchen.

3 ¼ c  gluten free flour mix

2 Tbsp yeast

1 ½ c warm water

3 and 4Tbsp sugar, separate

1 tsp salt

2 ½ tsp xanthan gum


Vegetable oil


Stir the 3 Tbsp of sugar into the warm water until it dissolves.  Add the yeast and allow it to proof for ten minutes – it’ll go foamy

Little static electric yeast pills shot all over the kitchen. Work fast.

Victoria, who has done a lot more yeast baking than I have told me that proofing is not necessary with most modern yeasts, but since gluten free baked goods don’t always rise well, we thought anything that could help would be done.

Lightly oil the mixing bowl so the dough can rise without sticking and set a full tea kettle on to boil (or a large stock pot of water).

Add the salt, xanthan gum, and half the flour to the yeast mix. The hand tool is the best tool.


Add the rest of the flour in half cup by half cup until you have…a half cup left. Read that sentence again.  Pour the last half cup onto the counter and knead it gradually into the dough.

Knead until you have a uniform dough – it will be kind of sticky. Do not fear.  It is supposed to be.

Set the dough into your grease bowl and cover it over with a damp kitchen towel.

Pour the boiling water into a baking pan and set it on the bottom rack of your oven – NOT ON. You are only using it as a helpful rising container.  Set the covered bowl on a rack above it.

Leave it alone for an hour.

Remove everything from the oven and preheat it to 400 F.

Prep your cookie sheet: sprinkle cornmeal generously across the top to prevent the bagels from sticking.

This is so, so not enough.

Gently punch down your bagels and divide them into six.  I added some chocolate chips into some of them at this part.

Roll each section into a ball then flatten them slightly and make the bagel hole.

Let the bagels sit and rise for another 15 minutes.  Start a large stockpot to boil. Real bagels are boiled, gluten or no!!    When the water boils, add the last 4 Tbsp of sugar to the water and bring it down to a simmer. Drop a few bagels into the water and let them boil for 4 minutes.  Flip them and cook for another four minutes.

Let the bagels drain on a kitchen towel.  When they are all boiled, arrange them on the cookie sheet.  If you want to add a topping, brush an egg wash on top of them and sprinkle on.

Do not use a hardboiled egg to make your egg wash.


I opted for parmesan and black pepper for my non-chocolate bagels.

Ok, let’s bake! 25 minutes, then flip and bake for 10 more minutes.  Let them cool completely before you eat them or they will not have the right texture and you will regret it.

Oh, remember what I said about the cornmeal?

Don't let this be you.

Now you have bagels!

So go eat them.


3 Responses to “Gluten-free Bagels”

  1. 1 Susan August 25, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    I was lucky enough to eat one of these; it was quite delicious and had a nice “bagel-y” texture, despite being made without gluten. I would’ve had another one — but no such luck. I must think up an exotic food “allergy” for which Desa can bake something to please my palate. Hmmmmm…

  2. 2 Michelle August 30, 2011 at 4:13 am

    You’ve inspired me to try making bagels at some point in the future. Also, I do remember the first time we met and how much I loved you for having pie ready when I arrived. Also, side note, I totally geeked out today while I was telling my physician mentor about the Edible Book Festival and she seemed amused. 🙂

  3. 3 Rose Rossum September 16, 2011 at 4:45 am

    I am so glad about this, I loce bagels especially with strawberries!

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Hey, I'm Desa. I've been bouncing between the Pacific Northwest and Sevilla, Spain in the last few years and from tiny apartment to tiny apartment. I cook mainly for one, which means some potentially boring meals, but here I'll be sharing the food that excites me. Feel free to offer suggestions, commiseration, or desires. And thanks for coming by!


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