If I were to have to choose a last meal, fresh bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese would definitely be in the final shortlist. There is something about fresh bagels that no other bread comes close to matching; they are simply divine. A tiny bit of crunch on the outside and a chewy, satisfying filling make bagels some of the most delicious baked goods you can get.
Originating in Krakow, Poland, bagels have been around for just over 400 years. The name was derived from the Yiddish word beygal from the original German word beugel meaning bracelet, reflecting the shape of the bread. The ring shape not only helped with an even bake but also provided bakers with a way to promote their goods as the bagels could be threaded onto string or dowels for display in shop windows. Bagels were bought to England by Jewish immigrants and the Brick Lane district in London has been known for its fantastic bagel shops since the middle of the 19th century. In the early 20th century, bagels made their way to America. Introduced by Polish Jews leaving Europe, bagels didn’t really become popular until towards the end of the 20th century when the Bagel Bakers Local 338 (a local trade union which controlled the making of bagels) came to an end after the invention of the Thompson Bagel Machine which could make bagels far faster than humans.
Ignoring all the differences in toppings and flours, there are two distinct types of bagel which are separated by their method of cooking: the boiled bagel and the steamed bagel. Bagels are traditionally boiled which is what gives them their classic appearance, texture and taste but for mass production, the steam bagel was far easier. By removing the need to boil the dough, the speed of production was massively increased allowing steam bagels to be created in numbers much greater than bagels produced the traditional way. The injection of steam into the oven creates the smooth, glossy finish that most readily available bagels have and gives them a far lighter, fluffier texture.
The recipe below is for boiled bagels. They are definitely a little bit more work than steamed ones but really, they don’t take very much longer than plaiting a loaf of bread or even super artistic scoring. I hope you enjoy making them as they are great to break out for guests or even if you just want to treat yourself a little.
Prep time: 30 mins
Rising time: 90 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Total time: around 2 hours 30 minutes
500g strong white flour
1 sachet (7g) instant yeast
1 tbsp sugar plus 3tbsp for the boiling later
Place the flour, salt, yeast and one tablespoon of sugar into a bowl.
Add the water and stir until everything starts coming together.
Turn out onto a surface an knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic – around 10 minutes.
Place the dough back into the bowl and leave to rise for 90 minutes or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (210°C).
Heat a large pan of water and add the remaining three tablespoons of sugar to it.
Split the dough into eight pieces and roll them into balls.
Using the end of a wooden spoon or one of your fingers, poke a hole in the centre of each dough ball.
Stretch the dough until the hole is around three centimetres across. A common way of doing this is by spinning the dough around the handle of a wooden spoon.
Once the water is boiling, add the bagels a few at a time (no more than three or four) and boil with the lid on for 90 seconds or until a skin has formed.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the bagels and place them onto a lined baking tray before repeating this with the rest of the bagels.
Bake the bagels for 22 minutes until golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped.
Let the bagels cool before cutting as they retain heat incredibly well and whilst delicious, they are not worth burning yourself for!
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you love making bread, why not try out some vibrant, artisanal, vegetable bread or if you are looking for something a little bit more savoury, why not treat yourself to a butternut squash and sweet potato crumble? It’s easy to make, vegetarian and packed full of flavour.
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a soup recipe which will keep you warm as winter approaches.