Mon, 8 September, 2014
Homemade bagels - it's not a huge project or a task only for proficient bakers. Basic, plain bagels are surprisingly easy to make at home: prepare the dough the night before and cook them the next morning. New York bagel experience at home!
Bagels are zombie bread
Bagels are magic. Anyone who knows a thing or two about bread, dough and all things yeasty will work out that if you stick a bit of yeast dough into boiling water the yeast will be killed off and there’s no way it can come back to life and rise further in the oven. But bagels do - zombie breads or what?
Why are bagels boiled?
The method seems bizarre and yet it works, regardless of voodoo factors. The reason why bagels are dunked in boiling water goes back centuries: persecuted Jewish communities were not allowed to use the village baker's oven where all the Christians brought their loaves to be baked - lest they poison the roaring furnace presumably - and so they had to inventively find another way of cooking their bread.
The origin of bagels
That's one theory; another more boringly says bagels were copied on the Polish obwarzanek, 14th century small round bread eaten at Lent, doubtless related to the German pretzel.
But the best tale traces bagels to Jewish communities in Russia under a particularly greedy Tsar demanding a tenth of all the bread they baked, and to come from the middle of each loaf, thus effectively depriving them of bread altogether. Cleverly, they came up with bagel, where a tenth of the bread, precisely in the middle is - nothing.
How to bake the best bagels
I had struggled with bagels for a while, using various sources and resources but for a long time they'd refused to rise from dead, remaining invariably, albeit quite tasty, flat as pancakes. Only since I encountered Dan Lepard's recipe (Short & Sweet – The Best of Home Baking), things have been on the rise.
I have modified the recipe slightly to give them a slow and long rising to improve the flavour. It sounds like an awful lot of work: shaping, boiling, baking, but it really is not. And the end result will save you about £3k not having to travel to New York or Montreal for a decent bagel.
bagelsServings: makes 10 bagelsTime: 2 hours plus proving overnight
- 500g strong bread flour
- 10g fresh yeast or 1 tsp instant
- 2 tsp. fine salt
- 1 tbsp. caster sugar
- 275g warm water
- 1 tbsp. white vinegar
- a little oil for kneading
- 50g malt extract or brown sugar
- sesame and poppy seeds
1. The night before you want to bake the bagels, combine flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and crumble in yeast. Add water and vinegar and mix briefly. Let it stand for 10 minutes, then add a few drops of oil and repeat the kneading and resting a couple more times until the dough is smooth and stretchy. In a standing mixer mix ir at high speed for about 5-8 minutes.
2. Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge overnight. It will rise impressively.
3. The following morning bring the dough to room temperature (about 2 hours) and turn out onto a floured surface. Divide into ten pieces, shape them into balls and leave covered with a tea towel for 20 minutes.
4. In the meantime heat up the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7 and put a large pan of water on to boil. Add the malt extract, then make holes in the bagels by sticking a finger in the middle of a ball and stretching outwards. Drop into the boiling water immediately after shaping, two or three at a time.
5. Boil for 30 seconds, flip over and give them another 30 seconds. Take them out onto a tray covered with oiled parchment, sprinkle with seeds and bake for 15-20 minutes until nicely browned.
6. Cool on the parchment on a wire rack.