I’ve been suffering from bagel withdrawal symptoms since I came back from the States and given that the bagels sold in the UK are wholly incomparable to their US equivalent, I decided to try my hand at recreating this American staple.
Having investigated several different recipes and consulted my bagel oracle (a colleague at work who I consider to be a bagel connoisseur), it turns out that baking bagels is not difficult. It does however take a fair bit of time and uses some of the chemistry I discovered in my post about pretzels.
I did however attempt to venture out of my comfort zone by using a sponge for the first time. In bread making, a sponge is the first stage of a two-stage process that involves creating a mixture of flour, yeast and water. This ferments for a period of time before being added to the dough mixture. Sponges are typically used in artisan bread and generally improve the taste and texture of the finished bread.
New York Bagels
For the sponge
1 tsp instant yeast
500g strong bread flour
600ml lukewarm water
For the dough
1/2 tsp instant yeast
480g strong bread flour
1 tbsp malt extract (or 1 tbsp brown sugar or 2 tsp malt powder)
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
maize meal/coarse ground polenta (a.k.a cornmeal. For more information on cornmeal in the UK see my post on Cornbread)
To make the sponge:
- In a large bowl, add the yeast to the flour and stir in the water until the ingredients are blended together. Cover with cling film and keep at room temperature for at least two hours. The sponge will start to bubble and rise to approximately twice to three times its original size.
- Two hours is the minimum time the sponge should be left to rise. The longer you leave the sponge, the better the finished bagels will taste.
To make the dough (day 1):
- Remove the cling film from the sponge and stir in the 1/2 tsp yeast. Add approximately 3/4 of the flour, the malt extract (or alternative) and the salt and mix until combined.
- Tip the remaining flour onto the work surface. Turn the dough out onto the surface and work the flour into the dough while kneading. Knead for 10 minutes. The finished dough should be stiffer than normal bread dough but moist enough to bind all the ingredients together.
- Divide the dough into 12 equally sized balls. There are two ways to shape the bagels. The first is to push your thumb through the centre of each ball and roll or stretch the bagel until they are of equal thickness all the way round. Alternatively, you can roll the balls into a log, connect the ends and roll them together until you have a smooth, round bagel. I found the first option the easiest. Don’t worry if you’re bagels are slightly misshapen. Once they’ve risen slightly, they’ll appear smoother.
- Place the bagels on a greased tray, cover with cling film and leave to rise in the fridge overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan/ 220 degrees C.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda. This will increase the depth of colour of the bagels and supposedly add to the authentic “bagel shop” flavour.
- Drop the bagels into the water and boil for around 30 seconds on each side.
- Using a spatula or slotted spoon, remove the bagels from the water, allow the water to drain off and place on a baking tray covered in greaseproof paper and sprinkled with maize meal/polenta. If the bagels start to look slightly flat once removed from the water, reduce the boiling time slightly but do not boil for less than 15 seconds on each side.
- Bake in the oven for five minutes before rotating the pan and baking for another five minutes. The bagels should be slightly brown.
- Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Allow to cool for around 15 minutes (you WILL burn yourself if you try to cut them before this!) before digging in.
I made my bagels in two batches. The first came out slightly flat when removed from the water so I had to reduce the boiling time to around 20-25 seconds each side. I also topped the bagels with a sprinkling of maize meal as I love the texture it gives the outside of the bagels. Alternative toppings include poppy seeds, sesame seeds or a simple egg wash.
Now for breakfast… smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel anyone?! Or maybe banana and nutella? Or bacon and scrambled egg…?