Ratio Rally – Gluten Free Bagels

by Jenn on May 2, 2012

in Flops,GF Ratio Rally,Gluten Free

GF Bagel Sandwich

It’s time for more ratio rally fun!! This month’s challenge kept us all up to task, making bagels!   Living in Europe bagels have not been something easy to find, let alone gluten free ones, so coming up with a bagel recipe we could be happy with would certainly prove very useful.  Both of us miss being able to have a toasted bagel in the morning with cream cheese, and bagel sandwiches are one of my favorite lunchtime meals.

This month’s challenge was hosted by Morri of Meals with Morri, who gave us some great recipes to start working off of – it seems there are a number of variations in bagel recipes, so there isn’t so much a defined ratio as with other baked goods.  So let’s get to it!

I decided to try out modifying a bagel recipe on Ruhlman’s blog, by Bruce Ezzell – It was written in units of weight and seemed fairly straightforward to convert.  I’ll admit I’ve only made bagels once in my life before, and that recipe did not require a sponge beforehand, so I wanted to also try this to see how proofing a sponge would affect a gluten free version.  His ratio for the sponge was 1 : 1   flour : water with just 3 g of yeast.  And then the rest of the bagel was another addition of 1 part, consisting of 90% flour and 10% syrup/honey/salt.  I was really attracted by its simplicity decided to give it a go, especially after all of the rave reviews for this recipe on Ruhlman’s site.

One thing I know about bagels is that they are dense, and yet still have airy pockets inside.  The whole point of the sponge according to Ezzell is not only to proof the yeast, but also to develop and maintain the gluten structure.  This being said, I knew my flour mix had to do its best to mimic the integrity of a strong network of gluten.  Being gluten free of course, this usually isn’t a trivial task :)

For my flour mix, I decided to incorporate some higher protein flours.  After all, gluten is a protein, and I was thinking that by adding more proteins into my flour mix (rather than relying mainly on starches) maybe I could help provide some better structure to the dough.  My mix consisted of the following:

  • 1/6 Chickpea flour: I incorporated a little chickpea flour because I know bean flours tend to be high in protein (though not too much, because bean flours tend to have a strong taste that I don’t really like). I know nut flours are also high in protein, but we only have access to nut meals here, and I didn’t feel they were ground finely enough to work so well in this case.  Likewise, I have access to quinoa flour, but did not think the texture of the particular brand we have would be the best.  So a bean flour was my choice.
  • 1/6 Millet flour: I recently was sent some wonderful millet flour from my friend Flo of Makanai Bio just because she’s a sweetheart, and knew I wanted to incorporate it.  Back in the States millet was one of my favorite GF ingredients to use, and I was super excited to have a chance to work with it again.  Millet has a similar protein content as wheat but without the gluten.  I also really like the flavor of millet :)
  • 1/3 Starches: I usually like to include starches in about a third of my flour mix. I’ve tried various ratios of starches in numerous baked goods before, and I’ve learned 1/3 is generally a good starting point for decent results.  For this mix I split the starches 50/50 between tapioca and potato starch.
  • 1/3 Rice & corn flours: Rice and corn are generally my building blocks of a gluten free flour mix, and I typically include them in most of my flour combinations.  Maybe I should put more thought into whether or not / how much to use them, I’m not sure.
  • Guar Gum: As I’ve learned in the past, while some items do not need an extra binding agent (for example cakes, quickbreads, pancakes, waffles, brownies, and most anything else I’ve baked in some type of shaped pan), in my experience free form baked goods tend really benefit.  I use a couple tbsp. of guar gum because it’s the binding agent that I have on hand.  Other binding agents include xanthan gum, or psyllium husk powder for example.

So with my mix made up, I split it in half and used half for the sponge and reserved the other half for later.  I had decided not to let my sponge go for the whole 4-12 hours as recommended, because my yeast were going nuts and I was fearing overproofing them.  So I cut it off around two and a half hours.

Instead of malt syrup to add in after (malt syrup is not gluten free), I decided to add in two egg yolks – I was hoping the eggs would help with the binding and by not using any whites I could keep the dough from expanding too much, since egg whites are really great at making things light and fluffy and I wanted dense chewy bagels.  At this point I also added in some dried herbs and sundried tomatoes for some flavor.

So how did it go??

GF Parmesan Bagels

Everything looked great until I put them in the poaching water.  I kept the water just at the barest simmer, because I didn’t want the bubbling to agitate the dough enough to encourage it to split apart.  But it made no difference, the dough quickly became waterlogged and I knew I was in trouble.  I think the poaching step is the moment of truth for gluten free bagels, because without the gluten to hold the dough together, all the carbohydrates in the dough are going to try to dissolve into the hot water and the integrity of the dough is at risk.  I tried to combat this using some higher protein flours, eggs, and a binding agent, but in this case it was not enough.  I took out my waterlogged bagels and a bit defeated, resolved to bake them anyways to see how they’d turn out.

I sprinkled grated parm on top (I really was craving a wonderful savory bagel sandwich), popped them in the oven and said a little prayer to the gluten free baking gods, and hoped for the best. The result? Meh.  They expanded like crazy in the oven, splitting apart and in some cases even breaking.  They tasted fine, but were too dense (even for bagels) and tasted more like a bread than a bagel.

GF Parmesan Bagels Coeur de Boeuf Tomatoes

I made my sandwich anyways.  With smoked mozz, avocado, bacon, tomato slices, and a little arugula for garnish. It was quite satisfying, messed up bagels and all.

What went wrong? It could be a number of things.  My mix, my sponge proofing, the decision to add egg yolks, my overall inexperience with making bagels.  What I do know is that last time I made bagels they came out much better. I think my next attempt will be a mere conversion of that previous recipe from volume into weight measurements, and then I’ll work from there.  Because THOSE were some good looking bagels – don’t you agree? 😉

Bagels, Gluten Free

Thanks again to Morri for giving us such an exciting challenge, and be sure to check out everyone else’s links!  I’m sure there will be some great bagel recipes to try :)

Brooke | B & the boy    Peanut Butter & Jelly Bagels
Jenn | Jenn Cuisine     Sun-dried Tomato Parmesan Bagels
Mary Fran | FrannyCakes     Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
Adina | Gluten Free Travelette     Garlic Egg Bagels
Heather | Discovering the Extraordinary     Gluten-Free Bagels, with variations 
gretchen | kumquat     Cinnamon Raisin Teff Bagels
Jean Layton | GF Doctor Recipes Gluten-Free     Sourdough Bagels
Meaghan | The Wicked Good Vegan     Vegan Gluten-Free Bagels
Meg | Gluten-Free Boulangerie     Classic Poppyseed Bagels (Vegan/Food Allergy-Safe)
*Morri (Me!) | Meals with Morri     Blueberry Oat Bagels
TR | No One Likes Crumbley Cookies     Classic Gluten-Free Bagels
Angela | Angela’s Kitchen     Gluten Free Bagels with variations
Caleigh | Gluten Free[k]     Orange and Caraway Bagels
Caneel | Mama Me Gluten Free     Just Plain Bagels
Pete and Kelli | No Gluten, No Problem     Faux Pumpernickel Bagels

This post is also linked to Gluten Free Wednesdays


Flo Makanai May 2, 2012 at 11:16 am

I would have loved to bite into that bagel sandwich!
It’s very useful to read how you went exactly, and yes this recent batch does not look as perfect as the last one.
It’s interesting for me to read about your trials, because I have yet to find why many of my breads are too crumbly too.
P.S. : I absolutely love to see “my” millet in your bagels :)

Jenn May 2, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Thanks so much Flo!! Yeah, crumbly textures I think are very common in GF goods, it would be great if I could figure out exactly what causes it and how to remedy it…

Rosa May 2, 2012 at 11:40 am

What beautiful bagels! That sandwich looks really tempting. No matter if the recent batch isn’t perfect. I’d gladly have anytime.



Jenn May 2, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Thanks Rosa!

T.R. May 2, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Wow! I really love the appearance of the texture in that bagel! Awesome job and article!

Jenn May 2, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Thanks TR!

gretchen May 2, 2012 at 2:54 pm

jenn, this flavor profile sounds heavenly. and i think that’s the prettiest tomato i’ve ever seen. delish…

Jenn May 2, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Thanks Gretchen :)

Morri May 2, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Even with your “flops”, you make me want to travel abroad and eat them anyway. :)

Seriously though, this is an amazing variation. Beautiful coloring and great flavor combinations are two things I find synonymous with your recipes.

Thank you for participating and being awesome!

Also, what type of tomato is that? It’s gorgeous!

Jenn May 2, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Thanks so much Morri!! The tomatoes are coeur de boeuf, or beefheart tomatoes – I love them :)

Adina | Gluten Free Travelette May 2, 2012 at 5:56 pm

I had a lot of trouble with my bagels exploding in the boil – I added about 100g extra flour mix to the Ezzell recipe and did a really limited boil, only 40 seconds total. It was definitely a challenge to find just the right recipe and process for bagels. Love your idea of the parmesean on time – I may have to try something similiar with pecorino romano.

Jenn May 2, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Thanks Adina – yeah I couldn’t let them stay in the full couple minutes either…

Kankana May 2, 2012 at 8:34 pm

It’s funny how at times the same direction we take lands up in different final result :) The bagels you made earlier definitely looks amazing and the sandwich sounds delicious!

Jenn May 2, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Thanks so much Kankana!

brooke @B & the boy! May 3, 2012 at 4:11 am

sun dried tomato are my favorite bagels, and these look fabulous. and you described what I got most accurately-bread like. tasty, but all the same…

Jenn May 3, 2012 at 8:26 am

Thanks Brooke!

Shirley @ gfe May 3, 2012 at 4:18 am

Jenn–I love that you have shared your one experience and still ate your sandwich even though the results weren’t perfect. Still looks tasty to me! :-) And yes, those last bagels look great!


Jenn May 3, 2012 at 8:26 am

Thanks Shirley! Yeah I’m always willing to share what doesn’t work out so well, maybe someone else can learn from my mistakes and use it to create a great recipe :)

Betsy @ Gluten Free Betsy May 3, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Ooohh! Those look fantastic! I have yet to really begin using the ratio rally method of baking, so all of these posts are so helpful to get me started!

Jenn May 3, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Thanks so much!! Definitely check out everyone else’s posts, there are some beautiful bagels there!

Meaghan | The Wicked Good Vegan May 3, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Yes—I’m with everyone else about cheering on the spiteful sandwich eating. =) Thanks for going for it, and for throwing it up here despite. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, no? And those pre-rally bagels do look delicious—is that sun dried tomato in there?

Jenn May 3, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Yep, I used sun-dried tomatoes then too, I love them in bagels!

cookingrookie May 5, 2012 at 11:11 pm

this must be delish!

Jenn May 15, 2012 at 8:49 am


Simone May 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Wow Jenn! They look pretty good. Not sure how it would taste compared to a ‘regular’ bagel as I’ve never tried anything gluten free before but I’ve decided to give it a go myself. Am just curious..;)

Jenn May 15, 2012 at 8:49 am

Thanks Simone! Will be interested to know how your trials turn out!

InTolerantChef May 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm

What about using rice malt syrup?

Jenn May 15, 2012 at 8:50 am

Hmm interesting idea – I’ve never found rice malt syrup in a store, but yeah I wonder if that would help keep things together….

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