Best Bagels

Photo by Iuliia Popova

When I was a young one in New York, sometimes my mum would head out early on weekend mornings and pick up a half-dozen bagels at Hot & Crusty or H & H and we’d scarf down a few for breakfast. There were a trillion different varieties, so it was quite surreal at first: there’s cinnamon raisin, whole wheat, sesame, poppy seed, onion, everything bagel, and let’s not even talk about Montreal-style. But what I really liked was the salt bagel; maybe it sort of reminded me of streetside pretzels. And even though they would get a little soggy after a day in their paper bag, never you mind, they were toasted, TBB- (toasted bagel with butter) style, and I’d wrap mine in tin foil like the other kids and bring them to school. I think we bought tin foil for this express purpose, as plastic wrap simply wouldn’t do.

Anyway, when I made these I was still living in Estonia, which not a country of bagel connoisseurs, as you might imagine. But then few places get the bagel quite so right as New York. This recipe takes a while, if only because you’re dealing with an entire kilo of flour, but the results are pretty great; soft, sort of sweet, and the recipe worked with my strange combination of leftover white, whole wheat, and rye flours. And when I was down to my last few bagels, I brought them over to a friend’s along with some cream cheese and smoked salmon. Eaten and enjoyed.

The Recipe (adapted from–my favourite–Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. Thanks to Not Quite Nigella for the recipe while I’m away from my cookbook):

  • 1 kg flour (I used a combination of white, whole-wheat and rye), plus more for kneading
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 7g of dried yeast or 15g of fresh yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
  • 500ml warm water, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoon malt or sugar, for poaching the bagels (I used sugar)
  • 2-3 baking sheets, oiled or greased (I’d use oil and parchment paper next time, as things became quite sticky after baking)
  • Sesame or poppy seeds

1. Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl, then add the sugar and the oil to the water. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid, mixing to a dough with a spatula or wooden spoon.

2. Knead the dough either by hand or with dough hook [src: I wish!], adding more flour if you can (as the dough is better drier than wetter). It’s a very stiff dough, and even if you do have a dough hook, the kneading could take more than ten minutes.

3. Form the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, turning once to coat all around, then cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it to rise for an hour or so. It should be well risen, and when you poke it with your finger the impression should remain.

4. Punch the dough down and then give a good knead and divide into 3 pieces. (This may be quite difficult if you’re using whole wheat flours as I was.) Using your hands, roll each piece into a rope then cut each rope into 5 pieces. Roll each piece between the palms of your hands into a ball and then roll into another rope, curling to form ring. Seal the ends by overlapping.

5. Put on a large pan of water to boil. When it boils add the malt or the sugar.

6. Sit the bagels on the baking sheets cover with tea towels and leave for 20 minutes by which times they should be puffy. Preheat the oven to 240C.

7. When the water is boiling, start poaching! Drop a couple of bagels at a time into the boiling water and boil for 1 minute, turning them once. Use a couple of spatulas for this.

8. As you poach them put them back onto the oiled baking sheets, well spaced, and then bake for 10-15 minutes until they’re shiny and golden brown. Check them after 10 minutes.

This makes 15 bagels, and you’ll probably find that’s more than you need. I’m sure you could experiment widely with these; for instance, a cinnamon raisin version would sit very nicely on my breakfast table.

Photo by Iuliia Popova


One Comment on “Best Bagels”

  1. Hello. remarkable job. I did not expect this. This is a impressive story. Thanks!

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