Why Does My Bagel Hole Close and How to Avoid it?

Fresh, homemade bagels are a tasty treat, regardless of how they end up looking. If, however, you want a great-tasting bagel and you want it to look legit, then honing your bagel skills and understanding the process is a step in the right direction. While a closed-hole bagel will taste just like an open-hole bagel, open isn’t so bad.

To ensure you get an open-hole bagel, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Shaping the dough correctly making sure to leave a large whole beofre proofing, boinling a backing
  2. Proofing time, under-or over-proofing will impact the shape

Understanding the ins and outs of why and how proofing and shaping will help you in your journey to a more open-hole, classic-looking bagel.

Shaping is Key

Allowing your dough to rest a little bit in between steps gives the dough a chance to “learn” or get used to its intended shape. You’re basically guiding the dough towards the desired shape.

The How-To of Shaping from Ball to Bagel

  • After you have mixed your dough divide it into individual pieces ( each piece will be a bagel )
  • Roll each piece into a tight ball and let it rest for about 45-60 min ( your want the dough to approx double in size )
  • After balls have expanded flatten them out like pita bread, grab the dough on opposite ends and stretch it out into an oval shape.
  • Roll the dough tightly from the top down or from the bottom up whichever is easier for you.
  • You should now have dough sausages.
  • Now roll out the sausage-shaped dough to stretch it out a bit.
  • pickup the dough with one of the ends in the palm of your hand, wrap the bagel around the back of your hand and have the second end ( tip ) of the dough back in the palm of your hand.
  • Squeeze the two ends together to make them stick and roll the seem flat on the table with the palm of your hand.
  • This should create a nice open whole shape for your bagel.
  • Let it rest and get its final proof before boiling and baking.

Make the whole bigger during shaping than you want your final hole to be after baking

Don’t forget that after shaping your dough it will shrink back some. So make sure that the size of the whole you get is larger than what you imagine your final whole size will be. If you have small hands and the whole you created is too small just give the bagel a few tugs and stretch it out a bit. Don’t worry if the how seems a bit large, the dough will shrink back a bit during proofing and the whole will close even more after you put it in the oven and the dough will get its oven spring.

How does Proofing Impact a Bagel Hole?

As in any bread recipe, following the recipe as precisely as possible is quite indispensable. Different recipes will call for different proofing times. You may also be aware of other factors that can affect proofing dough – like ambient temperature, altitude, and even the type of flour used (and where they’re from) can each influence the proofing time. Most recipes will remind you to tweak according to the season, during the summer, for example, you will want a shorter bulk-proof than in the winter. Make sure to read through your recipe. 

Bagel dough tends to be more stiff and firm – letting the dough rest for too long in between steps will lead to a softer dough. Bulk proofing for about half the time that one would with other bread recipes helps prevent under- or over-proofing (anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes). A lighter, fluffier dough isn’t very likely to handle the boiling process.

Once removed from the water, over-proofed bagels will inevitably flatten, so you will want to avoid this. This flattened, boiled dough can give the appearance of a more closed hole, especially once baked.

Under-proofing can cause a closed-hole bagel due to a more robust oven spring once the bagel hits the boiling hot water. In addition, the same results are found when using too much yeast – most bagel recipes call for no more than 3% yeast.

A Little More on the Boiling Process

Boiling and bagels go hand in hand. The entire essence of the bagel is based almost completely on the fact that it is boiled. Yes, the shape adds to its character, but it’s the boiling that really distinguishes the bagel from other types of bread. Boiling causes the starch found in the grain of flour to become gelatinous; absorbing water, expanding and then breaking and eventually becoming stiffer, particularly the exterior of the bagel.

You want the water hot really hot when boiling bagels so it’s important to keep the boiling water boiling. This means that in between batches, you will want to allow the water to get back up to boiling temperature before dropping the next batch in.

Most of the yeast is killed off during the boiling process, this results in less growth during the baking process. If you want to keep some of the yeast alive for some expansion in the oven, you will have to keep in mind the key is timing – which will also depend on the size and type of bagel you are making. A larger, thicker bagel will require a longer boiling time than a thinner small bagel. To keep some yeast alive, you will not want to boil for longer than two minutes, and even that might be stretching it. Boiling for 40 seconds to 1 minute on each side should more than suffice.


Hi, my name is Amit. I started baking at a young age at my father's bakery. I hope I can answer some of your questions and hopefully you will find some hidden gems to help you out with your home baking skills.

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