Bagels

I had never even eaten a bagel when I first made these, but a friend who loves bagels tried one and she claimed it tasted just like the best bagel store in town. Since then, I have had a store-bought bagel, and although they are time-consuming to make, I do believe homemade is better.
I have made horribly looking bagels and I have made absolute beauty queens. Because you cook the bagels in water before baking, they can get a little misshapen sometimes. Don’t be disheartened though, they will taste just as good as their prettier brothers and sisters.
Start the dough a day in advance, as a pre-ferment does help the dough and develops more flavour.

Ingredients:

  • 200gr bread flour
  • 8gr dried yeast
  • 100gr water (100ml)
  • 550gr bread flour
  • 10gr salt
  • 20gr honey
  • 250gr water
  • 1 tbs baking soda
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • Poppy seeds (optional)

Makes 12 bagels

Recipe:

Make the pre-ferment by mixing together 200gr of flour, the yeast and 100gr of water (the first 3 ingredients on the list. Knead the dough well until the gluten structure is formed. For more information on kneading bread, see the basic White Bread recipe or in the Techniques section.
Leave the pre-ferment to rest overnight in a covered mixing bowl, at a cool place but not in the fridge.

Add the remaining flour to the pre-ferment, along with the salt, honey and remaining 250ml water. Combine it with a wooden spoon until it comes together nicely, then knead it by hand until the gluten have developed enough for you to stretch the dough and form thin, see-through membranes. See the White Bread recipe or Techniques section for more details.
Form the dough into a ball (see White Bread recipe or Techniques section). Clean out the mixing bowl you used for your pre-ferment and place your dough in it. Cover the bowl and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

After the dough has had its rising stage, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. You can do this by weighing the dough, but I usually use a scraper. I form the dough into a tight ball, then cut it into 4 equal quarters. I cut each piece into 3 equal wedges.
For each bagel, form the piece of dough into a round ball. You can do this the easiest way by pushing out the dough, then folding the sides into the center until it’s a tight dough. Flip the ball over. Shape your hand into an open claw, with your fingers pointing down and slightly inwards. Place your hand over the dough as to form a cage. Move your hand in circles over the countertop, effectively rolling the ball of dough around in its cage. You will get quite handy and quick in this with practise.

Now create the bagel shape. I will give you my method, but in the end any way to get a consistent, round ring with a 5cm hole in the center, will do. My method: Poke a hole in the middle of the dough and work it open. Slide your middle and index finger of each hand in the hole, and move your fingers around each other to open up the hole further. When you have some room to move, make sure the fingers of your left hand are against the back of your right hand fingers (still in the hole). Place your thumbs on top of the dough and stretch and turn it around the 4 fingers on the inside of the dough. Make a ring of dough like this, with an equal thickness all around and a hole of 5-6cm. The hole will look big but the dough will rise.

Place the bagels on oiled parchment paper. Do not forget to oil the paper, as your bagels will not want to let go easily and you will get quite ugly looking bagels, trust me… I have been there. Cover the baking trays loosely and leave the bagels to rise until doubled in size. The rising time depends on the temperature you leave them to rise at. Just keep an eye on them after 30min and you should be fine.

Make sure you have a pan of water at the boil when your bagels are done rising, so either time well or start heating the pot of water when you set aside your bagels to rise. It’s better to have the water idly boiling away than to ruin a perfectly good batch of bagels and letting them be overproofed. Trust me on this one as well. Yup, I have made mistakes making bagels. But I still love making them.
Also, start heating your oven to 240°C, and make sure you read the next part while your dough is rising, so you are prepared.

Ok, so boil a large pan of water, about 2-3 litre of water.  Using a wide pan is useful, as more bagels will fit in the pan at the same time. When the water boils, add a teaspoon of baking soda to each litre of water. When using 3 litres like I do, you need a tablespoon.
Now comes the tricky part. It isn’t exactly tricky, but you will find yourself multitasking like crazy. If using sesame seeds and poppy seeds to coat (some of) your bagels, sprinkle them on plates before you start cooking your bagels, and keep some extra right next to it. The bagels will be sticky and many seeds will stick to them, so you tend to have too little on your plate quite quickly.
Have a tea towel at the ready, spread out over your kitchen counter. Place the plates with seeds all the way at the top, but leave enough space for about 4 bagels. Have at least 1 but preferably 2 kitchen timers at the ready, one of them set at a few minutes.

Place the baking tray right next to your pot of boiling water. Gently pick up the bagels and drop them into the water. You can do this by hand, or with a large slotted spoon. However, with the spoon you cannot feel when you are pushing into your dough, so be very gentle. Depending on how large your pan is, you can fit 2-4 in at the same time. After 30 seconds (pause your kitchen timer) flip them over and give them another 30 seconds on the other side (so a minute per bagel). Take the bagels out with a slotted spoon and place them on the tea towel. Now repeat this with the other bagels.
While the other bagels are cooking, place the bagels into the sesame or poppy seeds (pretty side down, this will be the top) and place them back on the parchment paper with the seeded side on top.

When your baking tray is full (I get 6 bagels per baking tray), slide it into the hot oven and bake for 12 minutes on 240°C (this is what the second timer is for). So don’t wait for that second tray to be full, but bake as soon as possible.

Leave to cool and serve with smoked salmon and cream cheese with dill for a traditional approach, or find menus of bagel lunchrooms online for many alternatives.
Bagels2b

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