It’s easier than you think to make homemade bagels, and by adding layers of colored dough you can create a rainbow bagel. This bagel recipe can be used for any other bagel flavor.
How I recreated these Rainbow Bagels at home
Last summer I took my daughter to NYC for 2 weeks to celebrate her HS graduation. We did museums, all the tourist stuff, saw a ton of shows and ATE ALL THE FOOD!
Before we went I created a map and spreadsheet of all the food places I wanted to hit and while we didn’t get everything on the list we did get QUITE a bit done.
One of the top items on my list was the rainbow bagels! BUT a few months before we went the rainbow bagel store was closed because of not paying taxes, ugh. THANKFULLY there was another downtown shop that made these beautiful bagels.
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Rainbow Bagel with birthday cake cream cheese! Classic NYC lunch with a colorful twist. Def making these at home! #rainbowbagel #timessquare @libertybagelsmidtown #nycbagel #travelnyc #nyctravel #nycfood #travelfoodie #motherdaughtertrip #culinarytravel #foodietravel #travelfood #ashleemarietravels #travelblogging #instatraveller #travelholic
Now they taste JUST like normal bagels so it’s not about taste (I mean NYC bagels are already the best). It’s about how pretty they are.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t super fun to make and eat! Thankfully my kids love bagels as much as I do, so while I made 3 batches in one day they didn’t last long!
Just take me to the Rainbow Bagel Recipe already!
If you’d rather skip my tips and tricks for homemade bagels, along with links to other bread recipes and get straight to this delicious rainbow bagel tutorial – simply scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card.
How to make homemade bagels
Bagels dough is super similar to white bread dough. It just has a little more flour for a denser feel.
So you start with a dough and do the first rise. Then you shape the bagels and let them rise a second time.
Finally you boil the dough for a min then bake!
How to shape bagel dough
There are a few options for shaping bagels. One way is to use a doughnut cutter. This is my least favorite way because of the waste of dough.
The two ways I recommend are this:
- Make a ball, stick your finger in the ball and swirl it around your finger to stretch out the hole
- roll the dough into a rope and wrap it around your hand. Let the dough overlap by about an inch and cut/rip the dough. Roll the area the dough overlaps between your hand and the counter (this is what I did for these bagels, you can see how I did it in the video)
Why do you boil bagel dough?
Boiling the bagels it what gives it a more golden color and a thicker crust. The longer you boil the bagel the thicker the crust will be and it will prevent the bagel from rising very much in the oven, which results in a denser bagel.
I’d start with boiling about 30 seconds per side and see how you like the final bagel. If you want a thicker crust then try 60 seconds per side and go up from there.
Do you add baking soda or honey to the boil?
Some recipes call for adding Baking soda or Honey to the boiling water. While I def use baking soda in the water for pretzels I didn’t personally bother for bagels. I feel it tastes more “pretzely” when I do.
As for honey or sugar in the water will help give your bagels a subtle glaze and slight caramelization. I use it when I remember but I forget most of the time.
How to store homemade bagels
I never recommend refrigerating breads because it will dry them out quickly. I keep them in the freezer or on the counter.
If I’m going to eat them within a few days I keep them in a paper bag so the crust stays crisp. If you want them to last more than a few days on the counter then I use plastic – they’ll last for 5-6 days.
But I usually only keep out enough bagels for a few days and freeze the rest. They are east to toast and enjoy so I don’t feel the need to keep a ton out on the counter.
When to freeze homemade bagels
The great part about bagels is you can make a huge batch and freeze what you don’t eat to enjoy later. You can freeze before either rise or after they’ve baked.
When it’s a ball of dough or after shaping. Personally I prefer after they are shaped. I lay them on a baking tray on parchment paper and freeze them on the tray.
Then once they are frozen I put the shaped dough into freezer bags. You can have dough in the freezer for 2-3 months in an airtight bag.
When your ready to bake some take them out and lay them on parchment paper on baking sheets and let them thaw/rise.
But usually I bake them all (so I don’t have to get the boiling/baking stuff out again), let them cool and freeze the baked bagels. I recommend slicing before freezing for ease. They can be frozen for 3-4 months.
You can take out one bagel at a time and toast it and eat it right away or let it thaw first.
What is the difference between active dry yeast or instant yeast?
Active dry yeast – You need to activate this yeast before using it. Heat the liquid (water or milk, both work great) to 110-115 degrees. Add the liquid to the yeast with a tsp of water and let sit for 5-10 mins. During that thime the yeast will bloom; meaning it will get foamy. This will let you know that the yeast is working and now you’re ready to make bread.
Instant yeast – You just add this with the dry ingredients and once you add liquid (at any temperature) it will start to work. You use 90% less yeast, and but the rise time down. BUT the flavor will be different.
To make these Rainbow Bagels you’ll need
- bread flour
- active dry yeast or instant yeast
- stand mixer – I use a bosch universal mixer with dough hook
- gel food dye – I recommend at least 3 colors. I used red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple
- bowls for dough rising
- parchment paper
- large pot for boiling water
- baking sheets
Homemade Rainbow Bagel Recipe
If you love these homemade bagels as much as I do, I’d love a 5 star review. Be sure to share on social media and tag me if you make it @ashleemariecakes! If you want to stay updated on new recipes sign up for my newsletter and join my Facebook Group!
If you love homemade bagels you’ll love these other homemade bread recipes!
Homemade White Bread | Buttery Crescent Rolls | Homemade Pizza dough
Hot Chocolate Monkey Bread | Cornbread | Homemade Beignets
To watch me make these rainbow bagels in a live cooking show play the video in the recipe card.
You can find all my cooking show style recipe videos on YouTube, or my short recipe videos on Facebook Watch, or my Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.
Rainbow Bagel Recipe
- bosch universal mixer
Homemade Bagels – make one batch per color
- 1 3/8 C water warmed to 112
- 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 1/2 C bread flour
- 4 drops gel food dye
Birthday cake funfetti cream cheese spread
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- 3/4 C white cake mix
- 1/3 C powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp milk
- 1/4 C rainbow sprinkles
Rainbow bagel dough
- Place warm water, 1 tsp sugar and yeast in your mixing bowl
- Let bloom 5-10 mins
- Add the rest of the sugar, salt, and ½ the flour
- Add the food color mix until the color is even – adding the color here will help with a pure even color
- Add the rest of the flour ½ C at a time, giving time to mix in the flour each time
- Add flour until it cleans the side of the mixer Knead until the dough is has great bounce and stretch
- Grease a bowl and place the dough inside, rolling the dough around to get it covered in the oil
- refrigerate or freeze (to slow the rise) while you make all the other colors
- repeat the above steps for each color you want to make – I recommend 4-6 colors
Assembling The Rainbow Bagels
- Once all the colors are done bring the bowls out and let rise until doubled in size
- Knock back the dough and stretch out to a rectangle, placing on parchment paper
- Repeat, layering each color
- Cut in half and layer again so you have double the colors
- Cut a slice, then cut a strip
- Roll about 1 inch thick, twist and wrap around your hand, letting the dough overlap about 2 inches,
- roll again across the overlap to seal and place on a tray with parchment paper
- let rise 20 mins until poofy
- Preheat the oven to 375
- Bring water to a boil and boil each bagel about 1 mins – the boil gives the crust the chewable quality and shine
- Place on baking tray with parchment paper
- Bake 20-25 mins – they will be slightly golden on the top
Birthday cake funfetti cream cheese spread
- beat the cream cheese and cake mix, add milk as needed for texture, fold in the sprinkles
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