Despite its name, this blog will not just be about things Italian, and you certainly couldn’t get much less Italian than this recipe.
“The oddest thing you are ever likely to do to a piece of dough”. So says Daniel Stevens in his introduction to the recipe I have adapted here. He was referring to the way the bagels are poached before being baked. Odd it may be, but the unexpected reward was the delicious aroma that wafted up from the simmering water. Not only that, but the finished bagels were delicious too.
I had read the recipe in Daniel’s excellent River Cottage Bread Handbook a while back, and made a mental note to try it sometime. But I wasn’t in a great rush, as my previous experiences with bagels had been, shall we say, underwhelming. It appears Daniel had felt the same, but had been converted by this recipe from an old Jewish cookbook.
The final push for me came from Fresh from the Oven, an on-line bread baking community. Every month a challenge is set for anyone who wants to to have a go at making a certain loaf. I liked this idea, and I liked what I saw of the contributors’ previous bakes, and I decided to take part in the next challenge, which turned out to be bagels.
Following the recipe posted on Fresh from the Oven, I decided to use honey rather than caster sugar to sweeten the dough. I think this had a lot to do with the delicious smell from the poaching pan.
- 500g strong white flour
- 5g fast action yeast
- 10g fine salt
- 250ml warm water
- 20g runny honey
- 50ml vegetable oil (I used ground nut)
- Optional toppings of your choice (poppy seeds, sesame seeds etc)
- 2 30cm x 30cm baking trays, lightly oiled
Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Dissolve the honey in the warm water, then add it with the oil to the dry ingredients. Mix to form a dough, adding a little more water if needed to bring the ingredients together, then turn out onto an unfloured work surface and knead or work it until smooth and elastic. Put back in the bowl and coat with a little oil. Cover with clingfilm, and leave ro rise until doubled in size (I left mine overnight in the fridge).
Turn the risen dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface and knead briefly; just enough to disperse any large bubbles.
Divide into 12 pieces and shape them into balls. Roll each one into a long sausage, about 25cm long. Wet the ends and press them together to make a ring. The hole in the middle should be bigger than you’d think as it will close up as the dough rises. Also, the sausages will tend to shrink back on themselves, so keep lifting and rolling them until they end up the length you want.
Place the bagels on lightly oiled baking sheets, cover with clingfilm, and leave to double in size.
Heat the oven to 200C / 400F / Gas Mark 6 (adjust for fan oven).
Bring 7.5cm of water to the boil in a large pan, then turn it down to a simmer. Poach the bagels in batches for about a minute on each side, making sure not to overcrowd the pan as they need some room to expand. Remove them with a slotted spoon, drain well, then put them on the baking sheets. You can re-oil these if necessary while the bagels are poaching.
Brush all over with beaten egg and sprinkle with toppings if you like.
I used the following toppings (clockwise from top left in the picture above):
- A mix of 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, 2 teaspoons poppy seeds and 1 teaspoon aniseed. This was enough for a generous topping for 6 bagels.
- Nothing. These were an experiment, but were actually delicious, and the lack of topping really showed off the glossy golden crust.
- Poppy seeds.
- Fennel seeds. These have a strong flavour so I applied them less thickly.
Aniseed makes a lovely topping to bread, best when mixed with other seeds as I have suggested above. Having scoured half of Gloucestershire in search of some, I finally found it in an Asian supermarket in Gloucester.
I thought these bagels were a bit on the small size, so next time I think I’ll divide the dough into only 10 or even 8.
The round up of all entries to the Fresh from the Oven challenge will be found here.