Tag Archives: bagels

Bagels, part 2

We’re getting close now. This recipe is worth trying, and making your own. Made with very strong flour and less water, they’re chewier inside, retaining a crispy crust when fresh. Relative to my earlier recipe, based on that of Jo Goldenberg of Paris, these are less sweet. I also tried malt syrup in the dough as well as in the water, and didn’t like the colour or flavour. So, plain old table sugar it is. In addition, these bagels need less yeast because they rise in the fridge overnight once shaped. This makes them easier to manage in the boiling process, and a slow ferment is always good for flavour.

And more on upping the chewy-factor: Normally, for pretty much any yeast bread, I use the Dan Lepard approach to kneading, i.e. 10 seconds of kneading followed by 10 seconds of rest, in three cycles. In this case, however, continuous, serious kneading seems to be necessary to maximize the gluten, possibly, too, because the dough is drier. So it’s a good recipe to make if you enjoy getting your back into it, as well as, eventually, your teeth.

Finally, it has some sourdough starter in it, mostly for taste, so it doesn’t have to be terribly active. My starter began with a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt for the bacteria. Whether or not that makes my bagels dairy, after many generations with no further yoghurt added, is a question for the rabbis, but there are perfectly good starters with no yoghurt in their history, too.

New York/Boston-style Bagels

450 g very strong white flour
150 g active sourdough starter
250 ml warm water
1/2 tsp dry yeast
2 Tbsp honey (or sugar)
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp malt syrup (or sugar, or treacle) for boiling
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg white+1 Tbsp water for glaze

Toppings: poppy and sesame are most traditional; nigella, caraway seeds, onion or garlic bits and sea salt are other possibilities – or all of the above: the Everything Bagel.

Combine flour with dry yeast, sugar and salt; stir with a fork. Dissolve starter in warm water and add to flour mixture. Stir till combined and let rest for 10 minutes.

Turn dough out onto smooth surface and knead vigorously for 10 minutes. Dough should be on the dry side at this point. When dough is very smooth and springy, put it in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in volume.

Divide risen dough into 8 or 10 equally sized pieces and form into tight ball shapes. Let these rest for 10 minutes, then form your bagels thus:

–       Roll a ball into a snake shape about 6 inches long, its ends somewhat tapered.
–       Wrap the middle of the snake around the tops of your fingers and pull and pinch the ends together between your thumb and fingers.
–       With the bagel still wrapped around your fingers, roll the joined bit back and forth on your work surface to seal the join.

Put the formed bagels on baking paper (parchment) on a baking sheet with at least half an inch between them. Cover securely but not tightly with cling film (plastic wrap) and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat oven to 210°C. Take the bagels out of the fridge and let them rest while you get set up for boiling, decorating and baking. They don’t have to be completely warmed up to be boiled, however. Now is a good time to mix your egg/water glaze and set up your seed toppings.

Set a medium-to-large pan to boiling. Add sweetener and bicarb. Once the water boils, turn it down until the surface is just barely moving. Add 2 or 3 bagels to the water, flip them after about half a minute, and continue to simmer for half a minute more. Scoop out and remove to a clean tea towel. Be gentle, as they will be quite soft at this point; a big slotted spoon is good for this task.

Brush the boiled bagels with egg glaze and sprinkle with seeds to taste.

Bake for about 25 minutes in the middle of the oven. About halfway through baking, flip the bagels over to prevent excessive flattening of one side.

Update: My friend Azélia gave me a hint on the sweetener: apparently honey improves the texture of the dough, and it seemed to be the case the last time I tried the recipe substituting it for sugar. They came out smoother and shinier. Malt syrup, used in some traditional recipes, apparently has the same function, but I found it gave the bagels a misleading brownish colour given that they were actually made with white flour, and anyway honey is something most people are more likely to have around the house.

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Bagels in the UK: No longer an oxymoron

I’ll confess now that the one thing I was a little disappointed by, upon moving to the UK, was bagels. I canvassed friends and combed the internet, and tried all the places recommended – even in the historic Jewish areas of London. I systematically tried bagels from all of the shops in Brick Lane and Golders Green. Alas, though some of the bagels were edible enough, they weren’t much like the kind I grew up with in the Boston area. Boston, MA, that is. I confess I haven’t been to Boston, Lincolnshire, to check on their bagel situation.

I tried making my own from the only likely-looking recipe I could find on the intertubes. It was funny, opinionated, and New York Jewish in tone, but overly chatty and rambling, and hence hard to read. Its editorial inadequacies aside, I tried the recipe twice, following as closely as possible, with unhappy results.

When I visited the States this past May, I consulted my bread-making guru friends Paul and Marcia. Paul has a few opinions about bagels, which pretty much concurred with mine, and I knew he could steer me right. He pointed me to a recipe from a restaurant in Paris of all places, Jo Goldenberg‘s in the Marais’ Rue des Rosiers, via Bernard Clayton, author of several excellent bread volumes.

Here’s my adaptation for European audiences, so everyone can make them.

Real Bagels

350 ml lukewarm water (1 1/2 cups)
3 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar
~450 g plain (all-purpose) flour (3 1/2 cups), or more as needed to make a somewhat firm dough

1.5 l (2 quarts) boiling water
1 Tbsp malt extract/syrup, or sugar
1 egg white + 1 Tbsp water (for optional glaze)
Optional toppings: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion, caraway seed

Because this dough is a bit sticky before rising, I recommend a stand mixer or food processor.

1. In the mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in water for 2 to 3 minutes. Add sugar and salt. Gradually add flour. (If using processor, pulse a few times to add flour.) When 450 g flour is mixed in, knead for 3-4 minutes by machine or 8 minutes by hand.

2. Scrape dough from mixer and put in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in volume. [Note: I rose the dough in the fridge over night, and the dough was became less sticky and easy to manage. Lots of good bakers recommend a long, slow rise for the best texture of the final product.]

3. When dough is risen, set water to boil in a fairly large pot, and add malt extract or sugar. Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF).

4. Turn dough out onto floured surface, squeeze air out, and divide into 8 pieces; a dough-scraper works well for this. Let dough balls rest on a floured surface for several minutes.

5. To form bagels, make a hole by putting your thumb through a ball and twirling it once or twice; do not overstretch. Place formed bagels on a floured surface, cover, and give them a brief, 15-minute rise.

6. To boil bagels, you’re not actually boiling them; reduce the heat so the water is simmering. Put one or two bagels in the water at a time and cook for 45 seconds, turning them about halfway through. Remove delicately – e.g., with a perforated pancake turner – and drain on a tea towel.

7. Brush bagels on both sides with egg white diluted with water. Sprinkle with toppings.

8. Put bagels on baking trays lined with baking paper or parchment.

9. Bake for 25 minutes at the middle level of the oven. Turn halfway through for even browning and to help prevent one side from being too flat.

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