Why It Works
- Baking mini bagels on a wire rack prevents their bottoms from browning, keeping them tender and easy to eat.
- Lightly toasting the split bagels will prevent them from absorbing the red sauce, which would make them soggy.
- Diced pepperoni offers better distribution on the mini pizzas, while also matching the look of real Bagel Bites.
To be perfectly honest, my childhood in suburban Kentucky involved more Bagel Bites than legit bagels or pizza. So while it was with great trepidation that I tackled a recipe for homemade bagels, with Bagel Bites I've got the home-court advantage—pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, pizza at suppertime!
Okay, sure. The very notion is probably a crime against pizza and bagels, but only in certain jurisdictions. For those of us who grew up with English muffin pizza, Bagel Bites are a natural extension of that whole kitschy genre of processed breakfast foods turned into cheesy snacks.
By virtue of assembly, an English muffin pizza is at least semi-homemade, whereas Bagel Bites have strictly been a commercial affair thanks to the scarcity of miniature bagels. And with all due respect to those who approve of full-sized pizza bagels the joy of a Bagel Bite is its chubby, chibi size.
Now, you can totally miniaturize any bagel recipe, but time is of the essence. If you don't pizza-fy mini bagels right away, they'll stale within a few hours. Toasting can revive them to a certain extent, crisping them up nicely but destroying their wonderful chew.
Happily, I've cracked the code to bagels that stay fresh for a few days, which makes the idea of DIY Bagel Bites much easier to tackle, since the bagels will keep a day or two in a paper bag.
The dough is mixed up the exact same way, but divided into smaller portions before boiling and baking. The trick is to bake the mini bagels on a wire rack that has been covered in parchment (to prevent sticking) and nestled into a half sheet pan (for ease of use).
This setup slows conduction of heat to their core, keeping the mini bagels tender and moist while preventing their bottoms from baking to a crisp.
The result is a teeny, tiny bagel with a crispy, blistered crust that's especially soft and chewy on the bottom, so that when they're baked again to melt the cheese, they can crisp up without turning too crunchy or hard. (Baking on a wire rack is also a nifty way to keep full-sized bagels tender on the bottom if you plan to split them for sandwiches.)
With the baking out of the way, you've now got a 48-hour window to finish the job. For me, that makes it easy to spread my efforts out over a few weeknights—making bagels one day, baking them the next, then making the sauce, and assembling the Bagel Bites at my leisure. Of course, there's nothing to stop you from knocking it all out in one go if you'd prefer a marathon day of Bagel Bite–baking.
Truth be told, with the bagel part taken care of, you don't really need me to figure out the pizza half of the equation, but there are a few key points to keep in mind. First, you want to briefly toast the split mini bagels to keep them from soaking up the red sauce; they'll stay chewy and crisp instead of becoming soggy. Not so much toasting that they turn hard or brown, but enough to slightly dry the cut surface to form a barrier.
Second, you'll want a sauce that's simple but intense, as the subtle flavors that may shine on a delicate pasta will be lost to the carb-y bagel. I recommend Daniel's recipe for Italian-American red sauce because it's quick and easy, with a classic tomato flavor. Plus, at about five cups, the yield's spot-on for topping 32 mini-bagel halves with a few tablespoons of sauce each.
Top the mini bagels with a big handful of cheese, nearly a third of an ounce each (not that there's any need to measure). I prefer finely shredded mozzarella, because it's so fluffy it actually takes a bit longer to melt, giving the mini bagels time to warm through and crisp along the bottom. Plus, the shreds that fall off turn into the sort of toasty, crispy, lacy bits that form on the edge of a grilled cheese sandwich.
While you can find all kinds of Bagel Bites in the wild, the best sort is topped with diced pepperoni. The little cubes ensure you get a little bit in every bite, while also helping the pepperoni bake faster. Most importantly, dicing gives you Bagel Bites that look just like the real deal.
After just about 20 minutes in a hot oven, you've got yourself a snack no child of the '80s can resist: crispy, cheesy, saucy, chewy, and basically everything I ever wanted in a trashy little canapé. Not that I have to wait for a dinner party, or even a Super Bowl party, to enjoy them—when pizza's on a bagel, you can eat pizza any time.
How to Make Homemade Bagel Bites
For the Mini Bagels: Prepare dough as directed, then divide into 16 equal portions, about 1 1/2 ounces or 43g each. Cup a portion of dough beneath your palm and work in quick, circular motions to form a tight skin around the ball, with only a tiny seam along the bottom. If the seam is large or irregular, continue rounding until the bottom is nearly smooth. Cover with plastic and let rest 15 minutes. Poke a hole into the center of each portion with a damp fingertip, then gently stretch into a 1 1/2–inch ring, wetting your hands in cold water as needed to prevent sticking. Arrange on a well-greased, parchment-lined half sheet pan, cover with plastic, and refrigerate 24 to 36 hours, depending on your schedule.
To Boil and Bake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 425°F (220°C). Nest a wire baking rack in a half sheet pan, then cover with parchment. Fill a stainless steel pot with about 3 inches of water, stir in malt (if using), and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet or cutting board with a thick layer of paper towels. Working with three or four at a time, boil the bagels, about 15 seconds per side. Place on paper towels, then immediately transfer to the prepared half sheet pan. (If left on the paper towels too long, the bagels will stick; if this happens, quickly dip the bagel back into the hot water, and the wet paper towel will peel right off.) Bake until blistered and golden brown all over, about 18 minutes. Cool at least 15 minutes before proceeding to the next step, or store mini bagels up to 36 hours in a paper bag.
To Finish: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 450°F (230°C). Split mini bagels horizontally with a serrated knife, arrange half on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and toast only until their surface is a little dry, about 5 minutes. Top each with a few tablespoons of red sauce, followed by a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and fennel seeds, followed by a generous mound of cheese and a small handful of diced pepperoni. Bake until the cheese is melted and golden brown, about 16 minutes, and serve immediately. Repeat with remaining bagel halves for round two.
3-quart stainless steel pot, food processor, wire rack, kitchen scale, half sheet pan
Thanks to the keeping qualities of my bagel dough, this recipe is great spread out over the course of a few days. So make the dough and sauce whenever you have a chance, bake off the bagels when it's convenient, then assemble at your leisure.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 5g||7%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||11%|
|Total Carbohydrate 15g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||2%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|