I’ve been itching to try this bagel recipe for about a month now. The forces came together (a brunch party on Sunday to cook for, finding real flour at the store, and listening to a piece on Bialy’s in an old Good Food segment) and as a result I was able to muster up the strength for some good ol’ fashioned kneading.
The main ingredients for these bagels couldn’t be any simpler: flour, yeast, a pinch of salt and sugar. Although the process might seem tiresome, for anyone who’s played with clay and play-doh in the past, I’m venturing to say that it won’t be much of a stretch. And as far as bread recipes go, the one-hour-plus-some rising time gives you just enough time to wipe the counters of the extra flour you spilled and get ready for that brunch you almost forgot about because you were so happy making bagels.
The one curveball ingredient is malt syrup. The bagel-making process, much like pretzel-making, involves poaching dough rings in a sweet syrupy-dosed water bath before baking in a hot-hot-hot oven. The sugary bath serves to give the bagels their slight sheen and glisten, and the crisp outer shell that is tantamount to a biting into a good bagel. Upon consultation Nigella advises that it’s fine to replace malt syrup with regular cane sugar, and the Good Food Bialy guy even claims that some people use honey in this process instead. So, I wiped the anxiety from my mind, for I was already cursing the food gods, knowing I would never come across malt syrup in this country.
The part that got a little tricky, for me at least, was the final shaping of the dough into what we know as bagels. I’m used to seeing those perfectly plump and round and fat New York bagels. Like a fat little tummy. I suppose I will knead a little more practice (get it- bread pun!) but I for the life of me I could not find a rhythm and get my dough to stay perfectly smooth as I shaped the bagels into balls, then logs, then connected them into the traditional o-shaped bagel. Some of the ends, no matter how hard I pinched, even came apart in the boiling/baking process, at which point the DiploMan came into the kitchen and asked “what are you making, croissants?”
By the way, he already knew I was making bagels.
**from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking(p. 305)
- 6 2/3 cups bread flour, or AP flour (plus more for dusting)
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 1 pkg (1/4 oz.) rapid-rise yeast, such as Fleischman’s Yeast
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
- 2 1/4 cups lukewarm water, plus more as needed
- 2 tbsp. malt syrup or sugar
- Combine the flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. Add sugar and oil with the warm water, mixing together slightly (or, until the sugar melts). Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet, using a wooden spoon to mix into a coarse dough.
- Dump this dough onto a clean, floured surface (or into your kitchen-aid mixer). Knead by hand or hook, trying to add more flour if you can. Often bread doughs are sticky and wet, for these bagels dry is good.
- After about 10 minutes of hard, full body kneading-I like to stand on a mini step-stool to give me full leverage)-the stiff dough will become smooth and elastic. Even with an easy dough-hook kneading process Nigella says it will take a good ten minutes.
- Lightly oil a new bowl, form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl, turning the dough once-over to fully coat with a light film of oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to rise for about 1 hour. The dough, after that time, will be almost twice its size, and when you poke it with your finger a dent should remain.
- Again, on a very lightly floured surface (the dough is oiled and not too wet, so it won’t be too sticky anyway) dump the ball of dough out onto your counter. Punch the dough down, HARD, and knead a couple of times. Divide the dough into 3 pieces, and roll these 3 segments into even logs. Divide each log again, this time into 5-6 pieces. Roll each piece between your palms into a nice ball (this is where I started having some problems coercing the dough into the smooth shapes I wanted).
- Roll these balls into a thick rope, curling it around so the ends meet into a ring. Seal the ends by overlapping slightly and pinching them together. I’ve also ready that with these balls, you can flatten them into a dish and using any pointy-tip objects (hello, chopsticks) create a hole in the center. That’s a method I will try next time…
- Take out two large baking pans, and brush with a good amount of oil. Set the bagels onto the sheets, cover with tea towels and let sit for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, set one or two large pots of water onto the stove, and turn to a boil. When the water begins to boil, add the sugar. (2 tbsp for each pot)
- At this time the bagels should be plump, and have risen to actually look like pre-cooked bagels (because they are, duh). Start poaching them. Drop the bagels into the boiling water, boiling for about 1 minute. Using two cooking tools- in my case a spatula and a plastic egg flipper spatula- turn over itself, making sure the bagels get coated in the nice sweet boiling bath.
- As the bagels are finish poaching, place them back onto the well-oiled baking sheets. Dust with sesame seeds or any other top-garnish, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes until shiny and golden.
Yield: One dozen+ delicious bagels