Recipe Review

Jennifer Garner Tried This “Really Scary” Bagel Bread, So I Had to Try It Too

published Mar 19, 2021
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Credit: Sara Tane

Jennifer Garner and I share two very important things in common: we both love Mark Ruffalo, and we both recently tried making bagel bread. Celebrities, they really are just like us! But neither of us can take credit for this clever bread-bagel mashup. It’s the brainchild of @melskitchencafe. (And you can see her original recipe here.)

Jen prefaces her video on Instagram by saying that she’s going to try something “really scary,” which refers to the step in the recipe that calls for you to drop a whole raw loaf of bread into boiling water. There is something about the way she narrates this video that makes me feel like a 10-year-old at summer camp who is under the watchful eye of an overly enthusiastic counselor. But if Jen is going to dump a raw loaf of bread into boiling water, then so am I. Here’s how it went.

How to Make Bagel Bread

Despite her upfront warning that making this bread is “really scary,” the process to whip up this bagel bread is quite straightforward. To make classic bagels, you roll your dough into rounds and then quickly boil them in a baking soda bath before baking them in the oven. Bagel bread is similar.

You make the dough with flour, yeast, water, honey, and salt in a stand mixer until everything pulls together, then you let it rest for 10 or 15 minutes. From there, you divide the dough in half. This recipe made two loaves, but you could certainly halve the recipe if you only wanted to make one loaf. I made two so that I could give the other one to my good friend, Mark Ruffalo, but I digress. Once the dough is in the greased loaf pan, you cover it and let it rise for about an hour.

Toward the end of its rise, you preheat your oven and get a boiling water bath going. You’re boiling 4 quarts of water with 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1/4 cup honey, so grab your largest pot. Quickly boiling the dough before baking it gives the bread a thick, chewy crust with a subtle, bagel-like flavor. Once the loaves have risen, you’ll carefully drop them into the boiling water and let them boil for about 1 minute per side, before transferring them to a clean paper towel and patting them dry.

Once dried, the boiled loaves can be returned to their greased loaf pans and baked for about 45 minutes until they’re golden-brown.

Credit: Sara Tane

My Honest Review of Bagel Bread

Making bagel bread was just as fun as it was delicious. While the process of making it might seem intimidating from the video, I can assure you that it was quite simple. The dough is very easy to work with and requires minimal ingredients that you probably already have. There were only two short rest periods, so I didn’t feel like this was a day’s worth of work, either. 

You’re probably most curious about boiling the raw loaves, since that’s the real climax of this recipe. Listen: I would be lying if I said that the forces of displacement did not send some of my water bath out of the pot when I lowered the raw loaf in. I definitely had to clean my stovetop after I was done, because there was some spillage (and remember, the water bath has honey in it, so you don’t want that stuck on your stovetop). The largest pot I have is a 5.5-quart Dutch oven, so it was a tight squeeze with 4 quarts of water and a whole bread loaf in there. In a perfect world, maybe I’d be using a 7- or 9-quart Dutch oven, but my stimulus check hasn’t hit yet and I’m also not the star of the classic film 13 Going on 30, so that’s just not in the budget for me currently.

All of this to say, if you’re nervous about spilling water when you drop the loaf into the boiling water, just know that you probably will. But it’s OK! Just make sure to lower the loaf in slowly, gently, and away from you, so that if any of the water does go overboard, it will spill towards the back of the pot instead of down the front — and potentially all over you.

Fishing the loaf out of the water does require two utensils, like a rubber spatula and a fish spatula, but it came out easily and in one piece. The boiling step makes it pretty much impossible to maintain a smooth exterior, so if you start to see unsightly creases and folds while you’re boiling and maneuvering, don’t sweat it. The final product has a very rustic look, and it really does taste like a bagel. It has a subtly sweet flavor, the perfect amount of salt, and a chewy, crusty exterior.

You can eat these slices plain, or give ‘em a quick toast and a schmear of cream cheese, if you prefer. Either way, bagel bread is a fun and exciting baking project that you can start and finish in under two hours. Or think of it this way: In the time it’d take you watch 13 Going on 30 and cry over some Razzles, you could crank out two loaves. 

Credit: Sara Tane

A Few Tips for Making Bagel Bread at Home

  1. Always grease the plastic wrap. The recipe doesn’t explicitly state this, but I’ve made this mistake too many times to let it happen again. If you’re ever going to cover rising dough with plastic wrap, always grease the wrap that is touching the dough so you remove it easily without wrecking your fluffy, puffy loaf.
  2. Give yourself a pep talk before you dunk the dough. I know it might seem scary, but it’s really not. You can do it! (Both Jennifer Garner and I believe in you!) Just remember to gently lower the dough into the boiling water in one smooth, confident motion, dropping the loaf away from you. Have your two utensils and clean dish towel ready so you don’t have to be running around as the bread bobs around in the vat of water. If you’re like me, some of the sticky water might spill onto your stovetop. Just mentally accept that you’re going to have to clean your burners after this project.