The humble bagel. Or is it, beigel?. The roll with a hole. That slightly chewy bread which makes a great snack, brunch (or whenever) used to be a mystery to me, and something so technically demanding I never even bothered to research the method. It is not at all that I am adverse trying out bread recipes- quite the opposite I really love to bake and enjoy the therapeutic process (or anger management I call it) of kneading and pounding dough, and ultimately getting rid of life’s tensions and irritations. It really does work for me, and better still, I get a really good reward out of the end of it. Some of my better and more inventive creations have been a result of needing to get immersed in the bread making process – these include: Black Olive and Herb Bread; Onion, Red Chilli, and Black Olive Bread (my personal favourite); Sun-dried Tomato Bread with Oregano and Sea Salt Crust, and finally my Black Onion Seed and Sesame Bread recipe.
I genuinely find the history of the bagel and its true origins fascinating. My total naivety had me believe that it was some New York Jewish immigrants who mastered the process in the early twentieth century, however for those even more fascinated by the bagel’s provenance which dates back to 1683, there is a book by Maria Balinska on the subject: The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread.
The method which technically separates bagels from other bread types is that they have been parboiled then baked, which gives them their uniquely chewy texture. As ever, when I want to try new things I will find a range of recipes which appeal to be and largely adapt on-the-fly. I have borrowed inspiration from Emma Lewis’s Bagels for brunch recipe, and Kam Siddiqi’s New York-Style Bagel recipe. I would urge you to try the same – particularly where the seed-mix is concerned. If you do not like the strong flavour of golden linseed, replace with something milder. Sesame seed, caraway seed, black onion (Nigel) seed, fennel seeds and poppy seeds all work well. Next time I make my Smoked Salmon, Spinach and Poached Egg Bagel recipe, I will be sure to use my own home-baked bagels this time around.
I also learned that the true fanboys (and fangirls) of the bagel are called ‘bagelists‘ – so if like me you are equally taken by these bread rings, I urge you to take the time (like I did) and have a shot at making them at home. Sadly (in the UK at least) there are some pretty shoddy mass produced offerings largely found in supermarkets, or overpriced outlets who have no qualms in fleecing you rotten for something which is so cheap to make. It costs under £1.00 in ingredients to make eight bagels, and (ok, there is bound to be some bias from me) and I truly think have a far better flavour and texture to boot. Also, without any preservatives or additives these multi seed bagels will last a good 5-6 days if kept in a cool, dry place.
They also travel well – I gave my colleague William one from the batch I made last weekend and it certainly disappeared pretty quickly. When making these little bready beauties, please do not become too obsessed with trying to create the most perfectly round shape – if you want these, buy the mass-produced machine-made factory ones. Instead, marvel at the uniqueness of each one being that little bit different.
- 2 teaspoons (7g) easy bake yeast
- 450g strong white bread flour
- 300 ml warm water
- 1½ tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoon sea salt
- 4 tablespoons mixed seeds (poppy, fennel, caraway, black onion, sesame, golden linseed)
- 1 x egg, beaten
- splash semi-skimmed milk
- Add 1½ tablespoon granulated sugar and the dried easy bake yeast to a small bowl, and pour over 100 ml warm water and allow to stand for for 5 minutes. Then stir until all the sugar and yeast has fully dissolved.
- Next, add the flour, salt, and 3 tbsp of the mixed seeds into a large mixing bowl. Blend the dry ingredients thoroughly using a bell whisk and form a well in the centre.
- Pour in the sugar and yeast mixture, followed by the remaining 200 ml warm water. Using a silicone spatula (or wooden spoon), fold together until you have formed a dough ball.
- Turn onto a lightly flour dusted silicone mat or lightly floured work surface, and knead dough for approximately 10 minutes, or until dough feels smooth and elastic. Place dough in a clean and lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film and leave to prove for an hour in a warm place (such as an airing cupboard), until dough has doubled in size.
- Punch dough down, and leave to rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Weigh the dough, and divide by half, then cut each section into quarters. You can either divide by instinct, or use scales throughout (as a tip, cover scales with lightly greased cling film to stop dough sticking to base of scales).
- Shape each dough segment into a round ball, and flatten against the work surface. Either using the handle of a wooden spoon or spatula, or a lightly floured finger, create a hole in the middle of about 3 cm wide.
- Cover the dough with a damp clean tea towel for a further 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 200C (or 220C if not fan assisted).
- Bring a large deep frying pan of water to the boil, and add a further tablespoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons salt to the water until in has dissolved. With the water simmering, carefully place each bagel into the water for 1-2 mins, then turn over only bagels have slightly puffed and a skin formed. Remove with slotted spoon and drain off any excess water.
- Place on a silicone baking mat or lightly oiled parchment paper, then brush with a simple egg wash.
- Sprinkle over the remaining seed mix, plus a pinch of coarse sea salt and gentle press into the top of the bagel.
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins or until golden brown, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool down.
- Enjoy with your favourite filling.