How To Make Rainbow Bagels

Rainbow bagels

I was baking with my daughter’s Rainbow troupe this week so what could be better to make than these rainbow bagels? Here’s how to make some of your own.

Ever since we saw the video above about the famous New York rainbow bagels I’ve been meaning to give these a go. They’ve been such a hit Stateside that NY’s Bagel Store has people queuing around the block. London has been getting in on the act too. Colourful food really appeals to the senses; whether it’s multicoloured meringue kisses, a tower of rainbow macarons, a French patisserie full of eclairs or a loaf of bread covered in gold leaf (Luis!). I think Instagram plays a part in our attraction towards colourful food these days but from what I’ve learnt through lots of discussions with food historians, colourful food has always formed a key part of feasting.

Picnic pie

Much of my baking is on the light to dark brown spectrum (and delicious it is too) but I also try to bring colour into my savoury baking, for example, with the different layers in my Expedition Pie, pictured above. This is one of the recipes featured in my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself (available for only £9 on Amazon here). This week was British Pie Week and it was a reminder of how varied the pie category can be (even in my own book), from my key lime pie recipe to my beef Wellington, featured in this article. But I haven’t tended to use much colour in my breads before these bagels. My recipe for harissa bread is a lovely reddish colour from the tomatoes in it. However, the colours in the rainbow bagels are made using my trusty Wilton gel colours, that I usually use for fondant or making rainbow layer cakes. N.B., Wilton colours are vegan and certified kosher too.

let's bake
This week was the perfect opportunity to give these bagels a go as I was invited to my eldest daughter’s Rainbow troupe to help the girls earn their baking badges. Last year I went along and made the traffic light jam tarts from my recipe book with them but there were quite a few new Rainbows yet to earn their badges this year. I’d really recommend these as a fun baking activity with kids and they certainly make having fresh bagels for breakfast a bit more exciting than a bowl of Rice Crispies! I pre-made the dough and we shaped them together during the baking session with everyone getting a go at making them. The girls really loved them. If you’re a keen baker yourself, why not get in touch with your local Guide or Scout organisations and volunteer to help Rainbows / Brownies / Guides / Beavers / Cubs / Scouts near you. These organisations exist thanks to the support of committed volunteers and it’s not only rewarding but also loads of fun.

Rainbow bagel

Rainbow Bagel Recipe

Ingredients (makes 20-24 bagels depending on how you roll them)

Make in 4 batches – these quantities are per batch

  • 250g strong white bread flour, plus a little more for kneading
  • 1tsp dried yeast
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2tsp caster sugar (plus more for boiling the bagels)
  • 135ml warm water with food colouring dissolved in it (red, yellow, green and blue Wilton gel colours used in each of the 4 batches)
  • 1tbsp olive oil, plus extra to oil the bowls


  1. Measure the flour into a bowl and add the yeast to one side and the salt to the other. Add the caster sugar and mix the dry ingredients together with a spoon or silicone spatula
  2. Measure out the water in a jug, add the olive oil and the food colouring (about 1/4tsp) and mix thoroughly until the food colouring is completely dissolved. I start with making the yellow batch, then the green, then the blue, then the red
  3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and bring together with a spoon – don’t put your hands in at this stage or they’ll get stained
  4. Once the mixture has come together, tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 5-10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic
  5. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook you can leave the dough to knead while starting on the next mix – this will save you a lot of time
  6. Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise. I use these size bowls
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 for the next three colours, placing each coloured dough in a separate bowl. I’ve kept this recipe to four colours as any more than that and you may struggle to find enough bowls to put your doughs in!
  8. Once you’ve made your fourth dough, leave all the doughs to rise for a good hour until they have at least doubled in size
  9. After an hour, pour a little olive oil out onto your work surface. Tip out the red dough and fold it in on itself two or three times to knock out the bubbles then stretch it out into a rectangle of about 20 x 30cm. This will take a bit of patience to stretch it out but it will go
  10. Take the yellow dough and lay it on top of the red dough. Press it down gently to knock out the air bubbles then stretch out to cover the red dough
  11. Repeat with the green and the blue doughs, then oil a sharp knife and cut the dough in half, as in the picture belowrainbow dough
  12. Lay one of the doughs on top of the other, as in the picture below double dough
  13. Gently oil the surface of the dough, cover with cling film and leave to relax for 20 minutes (the dough, not you!)
  14. While the dough is relaxing, put 3 litres of water in a large saucepan, add 3 tbsp of caster sugar and set to boil
  15. Line two large baking trays or sheets with baking parchment and preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7
  16. To make the bagels, oil a long, sharp knife and slice a 1cm strip of dough from your short edge
  17. Roll this on a clean surface into a sausage shape about 30cm long (or shorter if you prefer a smaller hole in your bagel). Cut this in half then for each half, roll into a taper at each end and shape into a ring. Shaping these will take a little bit of practice
  18. Repeat until you have used up all your dough
  19. In batches of three or four, boil the bagels for 30 seconds on each side, turning with a slated spoon or fish slice. Then place onto the prepared baking trays, leaving enough room between each bagel for them to rise in the oven
  20. Once all your bagels are loaded onto trays, bake for 20 minutes until risen and firm
  21. Take out of the oven, allow to cool, then skip around with childlike joy at your new favourite breakfast!


One thought on “How To Make Rainbow Bagels

  1. Pingback: Christmas Gift Guide for Bakers | Richard Burr

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