Asiago Bagels: pretty cheesy

You like dense, chewy bagels, right?

How about bread stuffed and topped with melted cheese?

Ahhhhhhhsiago bagels! Wouldn’t you just love to pop one of these babies in your toaster oven sometime soon?

You can – and it’s easier than you think.

Back in the day, bagels were plain, poppy seed, onion, or sesame seed – with maybe a marble rye thrown in for special occasions.

Today, we have blueberry, chocolate chip, cranberry-walnut, “everything”… as you well know if you’re an habitué of Panera Bread, the now-ubiquitous bakery/sandwich chain that offers all of the aforementioned flavors, and more – including what might be Panera’s most popular bagel, Asiago cheese.

With chunks of Asiago inside and shreds of the cheese on top, this particular bagel is totally cheesy – in the best of ways.

Yes, due diligence forced me to eat a Panera Asiago bagel, and boy, was it good!

As any self-respecting baker would do, I said to myself, “Self, I can make this at home.”

I visited Panera’s Web site to check the ingredients, as I often do when trying to mimic a restaurant recipe. And here’s what I found:

Unbleached enriched wheat flour (flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, Asiago cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), bagel base (sugar, salt, malted barley flour, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, molasses powder [molasses, wheat starch], yeast, soybean oil, ascorbic acid, enzymes [wheat]), brown sugar, yeast, Asiago cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes).

If you can get past all the parentheses, it’s really not a bad ingredient list. Still, we can do without the “bagel base” and added enzymes; in fact, I know I can make a wonderfully chewy Asiago cheese bagel, packed with flavor, using just five ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast, and Asiago cheese.

And if I can do it, so can you. After all, that’s what we at King Arthur Flour are here for – to take you by the hand, and to show you, in detail, how to create something wonderful from simple, pure ingredients.

And to be there for you whenever you have a question – 802-649-3717 is our baker’s hotline number; keep it handy.

Want to make bagels? Let’s do it.

To make the starter: Measure the following ingredients into a medium-sized bowl –

1/2 cup (2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1/4 cup cool water
pinch of instant yeast (about 1/16 teaspoon)

Stir thoroughly, making sure any dry flour in the bottom of the bowl is integrated (photo, upper right).

Cover the bowl, and let the starter rest at room temperature overnight.

Want to use all-purpose instead of bread flour in this recipe? You can do that. Your bagels won’t be as chewy or have that distinctive bagel texture (which comes from bread flour’s higher protein), but they’ll still taste good. Cut the water in the dough (below) back by 2 to 3 tablespoons.

Next day, ready your Asiago cheese. You’ll need 3/4 cup diced Asiago (about 1/2″ chunks are a good size), and 3/4 cup shredded.

I’ve used a vegetable peeler to get these nice, wide shreds. About 7 to 8 ounces of cheese will do it.

To make the dough: Mix together the following in a large bowl (or the bucket of your bread machine) –

all of the starter
4 cups (17 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 1/4 cups cool water
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 cup diced Asiago cheese

Knead — by hand, electric mixer, or bread machine — to form a stiff but not dry dough. Since we’re using a high-protein bread flour here, you might notice it takes a bit more effort and time to develop the gluten.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large (at least 8-cup) measuring cup, cover, and set it aside to rise for 1 hour.

Gently deflate the dough, and let it rise for another 30 minutes.

While the dough is rising, prepare a water bath by heating the following:

5 cups water (approximately)
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder or brown sugar

Pour the water into a wide-diameter (about 10″) pan; a 10″ electric frying pan works well here. The water should be at least 1″ deep; add more if necessary.

Bring the mixture to a very gentle boil. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the baking soda has dissolved, then turn off the heat.

Gently deflate the risen dough, transfer it to a work surface, and divide it into 12 pieces. A scale makes it easy to divide the dough evenly.

Roll each piece into a smooth, round ball. Cover the balls with plastic wrap, and let them rest for 30 minutes. They’ll puff up very slightly.

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Bring the water in the pan back to a simmer/slow boil.

Use your index finger to poke a hole through the center of each ball, then twirl the dough on your finger to stretch the hole until it’s about 2″ in diameter (the entire bagel will be about 3 1/2″ across).

Place each bagel on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Transfer the bagels, four at a time if possible, to the simmering water. Increase the heat under the pan to bring the water back up to a gently simmering boil, if necessary. Cook the bagels for 2 minutes, flip them over, and cook 1 minute more.

Using a skimmer or strainer, or the end of a wooden spoon, remove the bagels from the water and place them back on the baking sheet. Top each wet bagel with some of the shredded cheese. Repeat with the remaining bagels.

Bake the bagels for about 25 minutes, or until they’re as deep brown as you like.

Notice the bagels on the bottom rack don’t yet have their cheese topping; I was experimenting to see if it was better to add the cheese right at the beginning, or midway through the bake. Cheese at the beginning won, producing a nicer-looking bagel.

Remove the bagels from the oven, and cool completely on a rack.

So, here’s the final result: our Asiago bagels on the left, Panera’s on the right.

Panera’s is fatter, with a smaller hole in the center; if that’s the look you like, simply let your bagels rise for awhile after you’ve poked their holes, rather than simmering them right away.

One caveat: don’t let them rise too much; they’ll become fragile, and might deflate during boiling.

As for the interior – I prefer ours. Those nooks and crannies, just as with English muffins, are awesome for holding melted butter or soft cream cheese…

… or smoked salmon, or capers and chopped onion, or… what’s your pleasure?

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Asiago bagels.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. sandra Alicante

    Well that’s done it. I’ve now got a serious yearning for bagels but it’s Sunday and I have run out (how did I do that?) of flour, so shall have to wait till tomorrow.. they still follow the no shops open on Sunday bit here.

    Doubt I can get Asiago but I assume I need a fairly tasty, rubbery (from the pics) cheese?

    Other cheeses to try: parmesan, pecorino romano, fontina (softer but still melts beautifully), and extra sharp cheddar would all work! Even an aged gouda or gruyere would work here! Happy baking! Kim@KAF

  2. memphisrn

    These look wonderful. The other recipe I have steams the uncooked bagels before baking. Would this work with the cheese. I usually make plain bagels with the steaming method? I guess you could also use other types of cheese?

    Steaming wouldn’t quite produce the thick crust on the bagels as well as simmering does. Also, the water bath technique uses baking soda and malt powder/brown sugar to enhance the brown crust. You are welcome to try steaming them (it wouldn’t affect the cheese so much as the crust). You can also use many kinds of cheeses in this recipe: firm or semi-firm are best (see my response above to Sandra Alicante). Best, Kim@KAF

  3. bobpetti

    Would it be possible to add a little vital wheat gluten to KA All Purpose Flour to make something similar to bread flour?

    It is certainly possible, though the exact amount to add will involve a good bit of trial and error.-Jon

  4. Stephanie

    I used to work for Panera. The reason their bagels have a smaller hole is because they are “pinched” bagels, meaning after the dough has proofed into bagel shapes they then pinch the hole close, add the cheese topping and bake (no boiling required) with about 30seconds to 1 minute of steam. Baking takes about 15-18 minutes. I hope this helps.

    Thanks for letting us know!-Jon

  5. whitefamar

    As I have no Panera Bread I can’t comment, BUT I have had an asiago bagel from another bagel establishment. I will have to give this a try! Have you tried freezing them? With only three at home now and two at college, I just don’t “need” to have extra bagels hanging around.

    These should be pretty easy to freeze once they are baked. I would allow them to thaw overnight and/or bake them for a few minutes to re-heat them!-Jon

  6. btappen

    I am anxiously awaiting the delivery of my first Zo and an wondering how you would change this recipe for the bread machine. Also, being a newbie at the bread machine world, what kid of flour do you recommend for most recipes. I am interested in making sandwich bread completely start to finish in the machine as well as using it to do all the mixing and rising, then backing off in the oven. Lastly, what book would you recommend for a good all purpose bread machine go to?

    Welcome to the wonderful world of the bread machine! You might consider using it in the dough cycle to make the doughs, then you can shape and bake in the oven. We recommend all purpose flour for bread machine recipes – you’ll find most of our bread machine recipes use it. You’ll find a TON of info in the Zojirushi manual, which you can download from the Zojirushi website. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

  7. "Mike Nolan"

    We have a Panera about 6 blocks from us, and a local bagel shop a few blocks further away that IMHO makes a better bagel than Panera but I still prefer to make my own.

    I buy a four-cheese blend (Parmesan, Asiago, Romano and Provolone), it makes an excellent topping on bagels. I sprinkle some on the top of pizzas and lasagna, too.

    Personally, I’m not sure that there’s cheese IN the Panera bagels, and I don’t add it to bagel dough because I usually make 3 kinds of bagels from a batch: Plain, Cheese, and Poppy Seed. (And I put poppy seeds on both sides, unlike most bagel shops.)
    Oh, the bagel-y goodness! Wish I had one now, with a schmear of cream cheese, some diced onion, diced dill pickle and a squirt of yellow mustard. HEAVEN! ~ MaryJane

  8. mstebby

    Could I substitute my sour dough starter? I’m always looking for good ways to use it.

    Sure, use 4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) fed starter – that will work just fine. Good luck – PJH

  9. Opal

    I am eager to try the steaming method of cooking bagels. for yeast I have made bagels by first cooking them, the baking them. they were good for 1 and perhaps 2 days. After that, they would harden. However, I have recently read a book by the former owner of a bagel company that produced bagels that were the best I ever tasted. Since the business was sold, the recipe changed and now they are no better than any other supermarket-style bagel. In his book, the owner said that they steamed the bagels because then they stay tender for more than just one day. thank you the information and recipe for steaming bagels.
    That is great information to share, we appreciate it Opal. Happy bageling! ~ MaryJane

  10. djoatwood

    I made these this week–I’d had the non-diastatic malt powder for awhile and never used it. They were much easier to make than I anticipated.
    What a treat these were. Thanks for your clear directions. I followed the recipe except for getting sidetracked and letting the starter stand an extra day which didn’t seem to have caused a problem.

    Good to hear that the recipe worked so well for you!-Jon

  11. Val

    Could someone please do a blog post about non-diastatic malt powder? I really love it for bagels, but I don’t make nearly enough bagels to use up a pound of the stuff in a year, and I end up with a container of hard taffy. I suspect it would be useful as an additive in a lot of baking, but I don’t know what to try it in or how much to try for various kinds of things. I’d love to hear of other ways to use it.


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I will certainly suggest it! Keep in mind it can be used to replace sugar in most bread recipes as well.-Jon

  12. Victoria

    I made these with regular cheddar and they turned out amazing! Soooo yummy, getting ready to make another batch this weekend. I may try some other toppings this time too.

  13. John

    I am a sourdough sort of person, but time constraints from work and other matters forced me away from my usual recipes and I decided to try these bagels. I did use sourdough for the starter, though. I ad lib’d by substituting spelt flour (100% whole grain) for some of the bread flour. The resulting bagels were slightly less chewy than standard — but that’s the way I like them. The taste was amazing. Brilliant.

  14. Mary

    I make bagels in my bread machine with help from my young grandchildren; they poke the holes and sling the bagels around their fingers to enlarge them to the proper size. Great fun! We prefer boiled to steamed, but I do the boiling in a stockpot and remove the bagels with a spider. It is safer around young children than a flat pan which might be tipped over. I have not used a starter before, but instead mix the dough the night before and put it in the fridge overnight for a slow rise. While I have my coffee the dough warms and is ready for the children when they are awake.

    I’ll try this method the next time they visit. Thanks for all the inspiration!

  15. Sue Drover

    Whenever I go to a bagel shop, I find all sorts of wonderful bagels, and then there are whole wheat bagels. Is there a good reason that one can’t find whole what onion, whole what sound died tomato, or whole wheat asiago bagels? What do I need to do differently to make a 100% whole grain bagel with fun flavors?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Generally the whole wheat bagels you are seeing in shops are not necessarily 100% whole wheat. Usually they are around 50% or less at times; this is because whole wheat flour does not produce a great bagel by itself. This can be done by using vital wheat gluten with your whole wheat or using 50% high gluten flour and 50% whole wheat. The toppings and flavorings can be used on either type of bagel! Jon@KAF

  16. Adrienne Masterson

    I made these these yesterday and the dough took all night to rise. They are sinkers today. I’ve never made bread with cool water to the yeast? Is that the problem?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The bagels made with cool water should still float. Please give us a call on the Hotline, if you want to troubleshoot.~Jaydl@KAF

  17. Kmamm

    My husband said there are more than one kind of Asiago cheese – hard, soft, aged, etc. If so, what kind does Panera (and you) use?
    Thank you.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      I didn’t use hard; it doesn’t melt well. I used mild Asiago, I believe. But honestly, anything will work, even the hard (it’ll just be harder in your bagel). Enjoy – PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We haven’t tried baking this recipe as a loaf, as we love the way the water bath gives the individual bagels a classic taste (which wouldn’t be possible with a loaf). However, if you’d like to give it a try, we recommend using a 9″ by 5″ pan and baking at 375°F for 25-30 minutes. We also have a recipe for Polenta Asiago Cheese Bread, which is designed to be baked as a loaf so you may have better results with this. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  18. Libby Dodd

    I’m trying to get the intense cheese taste of the bagel in a loaf form. I tried 5 oz. of grated Asiago in a 1 1/2-2 pound loaf, but it was too subtle.
    I’ll check out the bread recipe (It has less cheese than I tried. Interesting).
    Many thanks.

  19. Amy

    This recipe is amazing, and the sliced, frozen bagels taste as good as fresh! Mine turned out perfectly and are my daughter’s favorite breakfast before school 🙂

  20. Kenderkin

    I’m making these now, they are rising. I’m curious, there is no butter, or sugar in these… most of the other bagels recipes I’ve tried call for sugar. Maybe to develop a more tangy taste, to go with the starter and the cheese? I guess I’ll see how they turn out (and how long they last before going stale without any fat). I love cheese and cheese bagels, so I can’t wait!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sometimes sugar is added to bagels to help enrich the dough and develop a deep, golden crust. We didn’t find it necessary in this formula since the cheese melts and turns into a delicious, melted cheese crust. However, if you found the flavor a bit flat, feel free to add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar next time. Kye@KAF

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