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Seattle Style: Orange Poppy Seed Bagels

The kids looked at me silently with big eyes. I strapped them into their car seats and read them the riot act, right out there by Bartell Drugs. As I turned the key, I heard sidewalk murmurs from the passers-by and saw a 40-something squint through his rectangular glasses at the sky above my head. He shouted something but I didn’t listen. I couldn’t get away from the curb fast enough.

The Wallingford QFC, formerly Food Giant, in 2001

Thank god for Spot Bagels, I thought as I drove off.

We’d only just been to the Spot Bagel Bakery, on the corner of 45th in the heart of Wallingford.  We paid the tattooed man and sank our teeth into the most luscious bagels available in Seattle. My daughter raced around on the tumbled stone patio chasing pigeons and shrieking in a way that only a pre-schooler can while my son watched her from his stroller with adoring eyes. I basked in a metal chair, face turned to the brilliant spring sunshine. We munched on orange poppy seed bagels, our favorite flavor. We were unbelievably happy.

And then I made a mistake. I took the kids across the street to the grocery store, the Formerly Food Giant, recently transformed into a QFC. Even now I wonder: what was I thinking?

I had failed to remember one of the basic tenets of parenthood according to Dave Barry: taking small children to the grocery store is like herding goats. The kids grabbed, they pushed, they wandered, they moaned, they stamped, they pleaded and they whined. I gathered up dinner items in a tizzy, paid and got out of there quickly. That blissful moment at Spot Bagel was even then receding into the past.   

As I turned the car toward Meridian I felt a shadow form over my left shoulder, and instantly afterwards came a dull thunk and the smash of breaking glass. The groceries! That whole stinking bag of groceries was on top of the car – in my exasperation I’d forgotten all about it! In my mirror I watched the wreckage scatter and bounce and break as cars tried unsuccessfully to avoid it. It was all I could do to assemble the pieces for the dumpster. The kids gnawed their bagels and fell fast asleep.

All these years later, my children are teens who are more concerned with the latest offering from Starbucks or Urban Outfitters than with great bagels. Spot Bagel has long-since folded and that spring afternoon is only misty memory. QFC has been remodeled yet again. But the taste of those orange-poppyseed bagels from Spot Bagel lingers still – so pungent with orange as you bite into the chewy center, against the crackle of poppy seeds. This recipe is my tribute.


Orange Poppyseed Bagels


Makes 12 bagels

1 medium-sized organic sweet orange

¾ cups boiling water

1 Tablespoon of sugar

26 ounces (5¼ cups) of high-gluten bread flour

3 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons yeast

1 cup water at 100º

2 teaspoons of poppyseeds


1 egg + 1 teaspoon water

Poppyseeds to coat

2 jelly roll pans or sheet pans fitted with parchment paper

Water for boiling


Make the orange flavoring: Wash the orange well to remove any dirt, oil or wax from the skin. With a sharp knife, cut dime-sized pieces of peel that are mostly orange, taking as little white pith as possible. Slice the peel finely. Add the pieces of peel to ¾ cup boiling water, add the sugar and let steep for 15 minutes until lukewarm. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice into the peel water, straining any seeds as necessary.

Sliced orange peel

Make the dough: This is a good dough for a Kitchen Aid mixer if you have one. Put the orange water and peel, a cup of warm water, the flour, salt and yeast into the mixing bowl. Set the spiral dough hook and mix on setting 2 for 10 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds and mix for 2 more minutes. Remove to a lightly floured counter and knead for 5 minutes.

If mixing by hand, put the flour, salt and yeast together in a large bread bowl and mix with the handle of a wooden spoon. Pour the warm water, orange juice and peel into the dry ingredients and mix well to incorporate, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary to make a stiff dough. Knead the dough in the bowl for a minute and then let rest for 20 minutes. After the rest period, knead vigorously for 10 minutes on a lightly floured counter, adding 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds in the last few minutes.

Long rise: Put the dough into an unoiled bread bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. At 65º the dough will take 4 hours; at 75º this will take 3 hours.

Stretch the dough: Once the dough has risen, move it to a work counter and press as much air out of it as you can by creating an elongated dough cigar. Curl the edge of it in on itself along the length to create a length of dough with smooth skin.

Stretch the cigar into a snake of dough around 2 feet long, curling and squeezing out the air. Pinch together imperfections along the length, spiral the dough onto the counter, cover with the inverted bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.

Forming the dough snake

Next, stretch the bagel dough out to nearly 4 feet long, smoothing it by rolling on the counter with your palms. If the dough resists stretching, do not force it – let it rest before continuing. Once you have made a 4-foot long snake, cover it and let rest for a further 10 minutes.

Shape the bagels: With a serrated knife, cut the dough snake into 2 equal lengths. On an unfloured counter, roll each piece with your palms until it is 3 feet long, and cut in half again. Now roll each of the 4 pieces out to nearly 2 feet long and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut each length into three, giving you a total of 12 pieces of dough about 8 inches long, most of which have 2 freshly cut ends.

Take a piece in both hands and stick the cut ends together with your thumbs and bent forefingers, wrapping the dough around your other fingers to keep the hole open. Pinch together as best you can (no worries here, the bond will hold if you don’t pull it back apart) and set each back onto the counter. Once you have shaped all 12 bagels, go back to the first and, holding the cut ends together with one hand, stretch the rest of the bagel with the fingers of your other hand into bracelets of dough.

Note: It takes some practice shaping bagels. The trick is not to hurry the steps as you stretch out the dough, or the gluten will act like a rubber band and contract. Easy does it!

Final rise: Put the bagels onto parchment-lined pans, stretching them out one last time if the hole threatens to close. Let rise at room temperature for 40 minutes, covered with a cloth.

Heat a conventional oven: Heat quarry tiles or a pizza stone on the center rack of your oven at 450º for at least 30 minutes. For more on this, see ‘Baking bread on quarry tiles’.

Bagels in the boiling bath

Make an assembly line: Boil 3 quarts of water. Have a 12-14 inch sauté or frying pan ready on the stove. Put a rack to one side with a pan under it to catch the excess egg and seeds. Mix the egg and water until frothy in a ramekin and have a brush handy. When the bagels have risen for 40 minutes, put the water into the sauté pan and keep at a boil.

Boil and coat the bagels: Put 3 bagels face down into the boiling water, for 30 seconds only. After 30 seconds (no more!), gently flip the bagels with a spatula and boil on the other side for a further 30 seconds. Remove to the rack. Repeat with the other bagels.

After they have cooled for a few minutes brush the boiled bagels with egg wash two times to ensure a good coating. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of poppy seed onto each bagel. Carefully move the bagels back to the parchment before baking.

Bake in a conventional oven: Bake the bagels (six at a time) on the parchment paper directly on the quarry tiles for 9 minutes at 425º, turn carefully around and bake for a further 9 minutes, until the bagels are brown and lovely. Let cool for an hour or more to mature, and then devour!

For baking in a woodfired oven: See Flaming Good Bagels.

Orange Poppy Seed Bagels are great toasted for breakfast or for a snack. And if you’ve got kids around, they’ll really like them too. But I take no responsibility if you try to take your kids to the grocery store after eating these bagels – there’s just no telling what might happen!

Wallingford today, looking north toward 45th Street. Spot Bagel was on the ground floor of the building on the right, and closed in the late '90s.

29 comments to Seattle Style: Orange Poppy Seed Bagels

  • I just finished a conversation about me having unhealthy nostalgia feelings, and now I feel vindicated. I am not the only one;) When I saw the sign down, I almost cried. I didn’t even grow up here! My nostalgia knows no bounds. I hate/embrace technology. Neon signs are a lost art. Thanks for posting this, it made my night.

  • It’s the orange that truly makes this sing. Always appreciate a good bagel recipe as decent bagels are hard to find in the Midwest.

  • They look divine!!

  • Beautiful picture of the bagels. I can taste the orange-poppy seed combo. They look delicious!!

  • beth

    Thank you soooo much for the bagels – how thoughtful – and you brought them to the right people – we love bagels.

    I am eating a one of them toasted as i write this and im glad to be writing my first official bagel review ever
    Keep in mind this is coming form a tried and true east coast jew – who grew up on bagels and lox EVERY sunday morning – my dad and I woud be the only two awake in the house and we would hop in the car together to drive about 20 min. away to ELIS BAGELRY – there would always be a line out the door – syrian jews – a special breed – and the bagels were HOT HOT HOT –

    1. Adding orange flavor to a bagel is like adding orange flavor to a matzoh ball – but its 2010 and its Seattle and ill roll with it.

    2. I like the size a lot – the last batch i would say were too small – but these are great – we are all watching our waistline – so i like the smaller version you have created – i get to have the satisfaction of eating a whole bagel as oppossed to the restricted “ill only eat a 1/2” which is what i usually do – and i always feel jipped after that.

    3.The crust is good and crunchy – i find the qualities of the best crusts is shell-like. A great crust does not blend into the inside – but is rather like a distinct shell you can puncture or break away and separate from the soft interior – the crust is where the seattle bagels all fail – but yours is good Don! and they are not undercooked – thats a big problem too – so good job there

    4. The texture has a spring to it – and yes it could be slightly denser – but dont lose the spring and dont make them too dense.

    Overall id say really well done – dont tell anyone from my family this – but i even enjoyed the orange flavor!

    Thanks again

    (Editor’s note: this was a solicited review after a trial batch. The recipe was tweaked slightly to create better density in the center.)

  • Fred

    The bagel was perfect.

    And I had MINE toasted this morning. Even if it was not onion, it was perfect. The flavor was terrific and you have the texture down pat – but if I fail my drug test, it is your fault.

    (Fred, my neighbor who grew up in the Bronx, left this in email under the heading ‘Damn Fine Bagel’. Enough said!)

  • HeffelCookie

    Mmmmmmm, those were wonderful! I just happened to have some cream cheese
    hanging around the place and slathered some on. Mmmmmmm

    Also tried toasting a quarter of one and then added butter and a little
    marmalade. Mmmmmmmm

    Those can definitely go on my Christmas wish list, Santa!

    (In email from another neighbor)

  • beautiful! I’ve never really liked Bagels, until recently someone got me a really nice one TOASTED. Golly just that extra heat can make such a difference. I am loving it now! Your orange poppy seed sounds heavenly…. I’m thinking maybe its time to find a good bagel place……

  • This totally works! Sweet and savory with a great scent.

  • This sounds so good right now ^_^

  • Thanks for sharing this orange poppy seed bagels. I did not know that you can have to boil them for 30 seconds , then bake them. What is the reason for boiling them in hot water for 30 seconds ? Any difference if it is baked straight away in the oven after they have risen ? Sorry..just have to ask this 🙂

  • No worries, Elin.

    For the true stucture of the crust (or skin, if you like) to develop on bagels or soft pretzels, they need to be boiled and then baked. Not for 30 seconds, but for 30 seconds on each side, which, by the time you flip them is more than a minute. This gums up the outer part of the dough, hydrates it and allows for the skin development characteristic of these two types of bread.

    Thanks for a good question.

  • Perfect picture of the bagels.
    I want to try it quickly…

  • Those bagels look awesome!

  • Home made bagels are just amazing. A little bit of a hassle to make but very much worth it!

  • Lin

    Thank you so much for this recipe!!! I used to love to go to Spot and get these bagels. I’d slather different things on them but especially loved a little peanut butter on top. I loved your Food Giant story too. I do miss the old Wallingford.

  • Love the orange in them! And the presentation is quite stunning.

  • These bagels look so yummy! I always wondered why they needed to be boiled…thanks for answering the question!

  • Beautiful looking bagels. I had no idea there were so many different types.

  • They look gorgeous – what an unusual flavour.

  • wow great bagels love orange

  • I have always thought it was difficult to make bagels, but this recipe made me try it this morning, and it was fun and gave a great tasting result!

    We just had some leftover from this morning, and they are amazing as we put them on toast. The flavor developed a lot more and they are soooo good. We had originally planned to share one as a before-bed snack but we ended up making another to share because one wasn’t enough. Wow!

  • Jay

    I was the one of three founders of SPot Bagel Bakery back in 1989. The Orange Poppy bagel had an interesting origin. In my kitchen where I used to live on 12th Ave NE (near Ravenna Park) two friends of mine Emily and Nancy were chatting and discussing possible bagel flavors, Our idea was remain true to the historical production process but to bring bagels into the 1990s. Nancy said to me “Jay – I love Poppy Bagels – but they are a bit plain. What about riffing off the Orange Poppy Muffin and adding fresh orange zest and juice to the Poppy bagel?”. Well we tried it and from day one it was a hit -especially with the young and young in heart!

    I have lived in San Francisco for 8+ years and recently decided to start a bagel bakery down here. We just decided this weekend to also call this bakery “Spot Bagel”. We hope to be operational in the Spring of 2011!

    Thanks for the great memories!!

  • Gale Sapstein

    I am so-oo excited for you Jay! I want you to send me a dozen Orange Poppyseed bagels!

  • Thanks again…Don, for sharing another heartwarming story from the not so long past, of a wonderful bagel bakery. Your bagel technique, and the uniqeness of the orange, and poppyseed together, sounds heavenly. It looks amazing, and I would absolutely be addicted to it. Not to mention, if I only owned a woodfired oven like you do. That would be an ultimate dream!

  • Betsy

    Thank you! Spot Bagel’s Orange Poppy Seed bagels were my favorites. I’ve missed them so much. It’s very exciting to think I can (possibly) make my own!

  • Yes those orange poppy bagels from Spot Bagel are excellent! They’re opening up in 2011 in the SF Bay Area! http://spotbagel.blogspot.com/

  • I could totally see myself hanging out with these bagels every morning! 🙂 I love the flavors of this bagel… thank you so much for sharing the recipe… I hope that I will have some time this weekend to make them. If I don’t make them, I will just dream about them until I finally have one. 🙂

  • Betsy

    These orange-poppyseed bagels were my favorites. Thank you for posting this!

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A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.