Bagels are typically made from wheat and yeast dough that is boiled before baking to give them their unique shape. The donut-shaped bread is an everyday breakfast staple, sandwich base, and snack. Variations of the traditional yeast-leaven bagel include sourdough, rye, wholewheat, and multigrain. Some bakers also use additional toppings like poppy seeds, cinnamon, sesame seeds, chocolate chips, onion, cheese, and blueberries.
Usually available at bakeries and grocery stores, bagels can be consumed right away or toasted. Fresh bagels should last about five to seven days before they go stale and lose their soft texture. Bagel bakers recommend consuming them within two or three days for optimal taste and flavor. They also tend to get stale after three days. To preserve bagels for longer than a week, they can be kept in the freezer.
Bagels: Freezer vs Fridge
Bagels, just like other types of bread, freeze well when done correctly. It is best to freeze bagels when they aren’t consumed within 48 hours. They can be frozen for up to six months before they get freezer burn and lose their freshness. Similarly, bagel dough can also be kept in the freezer and thawed before baking.
When placed in the refrigerator, bagels are prone to drying out and become crumbly within 48 hours.
Freezing Bagel Dough
For homemade bagels, the dough can be frozen before baking for up to three months. However, there are several adjustments to keep in mind before freezing bagel dough. First, the amount of yeast needs to be doubled because freezing will kill up to 50% of the leaven.
Secondly, using flour with a high protein content is recommended because freezing weakens the gluten structure. Gluten is a type of protein that affects the final texture of the bread. Since most flours contain 11% protein, using flour with 12.5% to 15% protein would be ideal for frozen dough. Flours such as rye, oat, and almond have a low gluten content and are not recommended for bagel dough stored in the freezer.
It is best to freeze bagel dough after its initial rise. After the dough has risen, punch it down to release all the air bubbles. This is a critical step because trapped moisture in the air bubbles form crystals when frozen and results in freezer burn. The dough can be stored as a whole, but dividing and shaping the dough will make the thawing and baking process more efficient.
Next, wrap the bagel dough with cling film and then with aluminum foil. Date and label the bagel dough before storing it in the freezer. Before boiling and baking the dough, it can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator.
How to Freeze Baked Bagels
Freshly baked bagels should be completely cooled down before freezing. Place bagels in a single layer on a baking sheet and place the tray in the freezer for an hour or two. To protect them from freezer burn, wrap the bagels tightly in plastic and then put them inside a freezer-safe container with an airtight seal. Bread can also easily absorb odors from the freezer so ensure that the container is sealed correctly.
Date and label the containers before placing them in the freezer.
There are four ways to defrost bagels.
First, they can be thawed at room temperature or placed in the refrigerator overnight. After the bagels reach room temperature, they can be reheated or toasted.
For immediate consumption, bagels can be defrosted using a toaster. Slice the bagels in half and sprinkle them with some warm water for moisture.
Another quick method is to defrost a bagel in a microwave oven. Place a moistened paper towel on top of the bagel or add a glass of water next to it for moisture. Place the bagels onto a microwave-safe tray and heat them on the “high” setting for at least three 10-second intervals.
Lastly, bagels can be defrosted and toasted in the oven or a toaster oven. Defrost the bagels for about five minutes before placing them in the oven set to 350°F. For those who prefer crispier bagels, preheat the range from 400°F to 425 °F and spray the bagels with cool water before re-baking them for about 15 minutes.
Bagels that have not been frozen well or reheated after six months of storage tend to harden because of their gluten content. The lengthy fermentation or loss of air can make the bagels tough and chewy after reheating.
Some bakeries preslice bagels. Flash freeze the bagel halves so that the pieces don’t stick together when frozen. This will also help the bagels maintain their shape.
Can Frozen Bagels Go Bad?
Yes, freezer burn can occur and alter the taste and texture of the bagels. To make sure that the frozen bagels will have a similar taste and texture to freshly baked bagels, check for discoloration, mold, dry spots, or other signs of spoilage. These are signs that the taste and texture have changed, but the bagels are still safe for consumption within the six-month freezing period.
Frozen bagels can be consumed after six months but will no longer have a desirable taste or texture compared to freshly baked bagels. They can also go bad from being frozen for too long or when they are left to defrost in the refrigerator for more than two days.
Some bagels are made with milk, butter, and egg yolks. The shelf life of bagels made with eggs and dairy may be shorter than six months, depending on the freshness of the ingredients. In general, fresh milk can be safely stored in the freezer for up to six months. Butter can be frozen for up to four months, and egg yolks stay fresh in the freezer for up to one year.
Can I Refreeze Bagels?
Bagels can be refrozen, but thawed bagels become soft and chewy, meaning, refreezing them will compromise their texture and taste. However, thawed bagel dough can be refrozen without compromising its quality much.