Bagels, the staple of American sandwiches and four times winner of the bread shaped most like a monocle, have often left me cold: chewy, dense and quite tasteless they never quite seemed to deserve the adulation they garnered. My internal bagel-bashing opprobrium was even more sharply focused on the whole hole affair; why has a bread with it’s own filling escape route been twinned with the most liquid of cheese?
This opinion held firm until a recent trip to New York, where I had a life-changing bacon and cream cheese bagel. Even with sticky, cream cheese fingers I could appreciate why bagels were a ‘thing’ and as such, the best ‘things’ deserve to be made. So, onwards……
- 500g strong white flour
- 1 x 7g sachet of fast action yeast
- 10g salt
- 15g honey (or malt extract if you have it)
- 250g of water
- bicarbonate of soda (for boiling)
- poppy/sesame seeds
1. Rub together the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. Like bouncers in a nightclub, you have to keep the salt and yeast apart, otherwise it slows down the reaction. Add the honey and water to the mix and combine.
2. Knead well for about 10-15 minutes, until it is stretchy. You’ll know when it’s ready. Cover and leave in a lightly oiled bowl at room temperature to prove for 1-2 hours.
3. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and roll into a sausage shape. Divide the dough into twelve portions and shape them all into a baguette shape. Loop each piece into a ring and pinch the seam et voila you have a bagel.
4. Prove on a baking tray for 30-40 minutes. Pop a big pan of water on and add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda when at a rolling boil. If using seeds, get a dish ready for them. Whack the oven on at 240°C/gas 9.
5. Place each bagel into the water for a minute and turn over halfway through. Use a slotted spoon to take them out of the water, dip them into the seeds and set them down on baking paper (seed side down) to air dry slightly.
6. After a few minutes transfer the boiled bagels onto a greased sheet of baking paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, but it’s best to check them halfway through.
7. Eat them.
(Modified recipe taken from James Morton’s book Brilliant Bread)