Bagels have been on my to bake list FOREVER! Inspired by a recent episode of The Great British Bake Off (new series and I’m guessing everyone else is totally addicted to it like me too?) I uncovered my wonderful (signed) copy of Thoughtful Bread ‘Bread Revolution’ for a recipe I could begin late one night. (I’ve even tweeted @thoughtfulbread to let them know I was baking from their book and got some lovely late night baking encouragement.)
We were treated to a short history lesson on bagels by the Great British Bake Off. Although they are more recently considered to be an American bread, they were originally brought from Poland to England and then on to America. They are typically Jewish Food with a wonderfully chewy crust from the poaching of the dough before the bake. (My favourite bit!)
A spot of late night preparation was in order to get this dough on the road. I mixed together the flour, dried yeast and a little salt to0. I ran out of strong white flour so made up the difference with brown strong flour, so these bagels were almost healthy too.
Then to add the water. I had to add a little more water as I worked with the dough, probably due to the slightly drier brown flour I used.
When I started kneading the dough I was determined to reach the elusive ‘window pane’ stage where the gluten in the flour has become all stringy and elastic and stretches out when pulled to create a transparent window when held up to the light in the dough. Alas after the allotted 10 minutes of kneading the rather tough dough by hand I was still windowless. A further 10 minutes of kneading (tracked by my faithful hamburger timer) and I was STILL windowless… I asked Chris to have a go with his brute strength and STILL no window. So I gave up comforted slightly that the dough had been kneaded at least twice as long as it was supposed to be and it did bounce back when prodded with my finger.
I think I need lower work surfaces for bread making as I always have to resort to balancing on my tip toes to get the full impact of the kneading…
I left the ball of dough to prove and double in size over night in a greased bowl covered with greased cling film. Et voila! The next morning I awoke to beautifully risen dough.
Punching it back I kneaded it thoroughly again (it’s a good job I do yoga press ups!) dividing the dough into 12 (equal-ish) portions I left it to rest for 5 minutes whilst I arranged the next stage. Water bath!
Taking my largest soup pan I filled it about half way with water from the kettle.
Then to shape the bagels. I tried a few different methods to see which worked best and I think I prefer the traditional method. Roll a long sausage about 20 cms long) of dough and shape it into a circle.
Fold the loose ends together and squash them together.
Then put your hand through the ‘hole’ in the centre and roll the join together until the two ends are firmly merged. Then if required roll the rest of the dough ring in the same way to even up the dough and shape it into a bagel.
The other method is more modern and maybe slightly quicker. Where you shape the dough into a ball, flatten it, poke your thumb through the centre and then whilst holding the dough in your palm squeeze around the dough to widen the hole and shape the dough into a bagel.
Once shaped the bagels need to prove for about 30 minutes under a damp tea towel or greased cling film at which point you can start to warm up the oven and water so it’s simmering nicely.
If you want to add flavouring to your bagels you can add toppings like sesame or poppy seeds after the poaching stage, but if you like your bagels fruity on the inside (like me) then you will have to add your chosen flavour before you shape the bagels. I chose to make half savoury and half sweet.
I pre soaked some dried fruit, raisins, apple and cranberries overnight in a little boiling water with a dash of cinnamon. Drained off the excess water and folded in a teaspoon (or 2) of the fruit along with an extra sprinkle of cinnamon into the dough before shaping it.
It makes the bagel a bit unpredictable with spots of fruit poking out all over the place but I found if I sealed the fruit into the dough and then shaped it, it was a little easier.
Then all you have to do is plonk the bagels into your pan of simmering water for 2 minutes (turning them over half way through for an even poach).
The bagels do expand slightly so don’t over fill your pan, do them in batches so they have room to breathe.
Then out of the pan an into the oven! I used my Nana’s slotted spoon to scoop the bagels out and drain off the water. Then gently pop then onto a lined baking tray (sprinkle on your choice of topping while the bagel is wet) and into the oven they go.
This means you can have a continuous run of bagel poaching and baking until all of your bagels are baked. However this meant I was waiting for my breakfast for almost 2 hours. I ended up devouring 2 hot bagels and butter straight from the oven and they did not disappoint! Hot and buttery they were just what I needed.
They are definitely easier to split down the middle when they’ve cooled a bit though. The plain bagels were easier to eat and even better toasted too to give an even crisp coating and chewy soft centre. I LOVED this bake. You know you’re making something special when it takes a bit more effort and skill.
The fruity bagels were a little more moist in the middle, but this is what I had expected. You can’t put fruit into a bagel without adding a bit of moisture.
Perhaps in the future when I think they’re baked I might also turn them over and return them to the oven for a few more minutes just to ensure the bagels are baked evenly. As I did find that the bagels were quite wet when they went in the oven so they were slightly soggy when they came out of the oven, but a lot of this moisture dried as they cooled (and I guess adds to their chewiness.)
I would also add more cinnamon to the bagels as they weren’t quite cinnamony enough for me. All in all a very good bake and I’m adding this to my baking repertoire now!
Things I used to make this recipe:
Lovingly adapted from Bread Revolution by the Thoughtful Bread Company
- 375g strong brown flour
- 375g strong white flour
- 3 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 tsp dried yeast
- 375ml warm water
- 7 tsp honey
- additional strong white flour for dusting the board
- A bowl full of dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, dried apple)
- I used sesame seeds and just sprinkled enough to coat the bagels on each one
- You could use anything such as poppy seeds, sunflower seeds,