Friday, March 27, 2009


I give up on finding real bagels anywhere within reasonable travel from where I live in London. I know there are some Jewish areas that have shops where you can get real bagels but we're talking 3 hours car travel round trip in off-peak hours or more - and forget about public transport, they shut down half the subways and trains here on weekends. Are you kidding?

So I watched Rachel Allen teaching how to make bagels on a cooking show and thought, "I can do that".

Know what? I can and I did. Twice this week already. They're great. Look they are no H&H but they are damn good and easy enough to make. Fresh bagels? Heaven. You can make them, too.

Makes: 8
Prep: 3 to 4 hrs
Bake: 20 min @ 220C (210C Fan)

450g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting (This is a high glutin bread flour)
2 tsp Salt
7g fast-acting Yeast (1 packet)
250ml warm water (this is approximate, I needed almost 275ml)
2 tbsp clear Honey
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
3 tbsp honey or molasses or in US - Karo syrup can be used
maize or cornmeal, for sprinkling
1 Egg, beaten with a bit of water
sesame seeds, sea salt poppy seeds, or a savoury topping of your choice (optional)

1. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl

2. Measure the water in a measuring jug then stir in the honey and oil. , Add the yeast and mix well. Yeast should start to bubble and turn water cloudy.

3. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour the liquid in gradually, bringing the dough together with your hands. Dough should be soft and slightly sticky - add slightly more water if the dough feels stiff and dry.

4. Turn the dough out onto a clean, dry and floured work surface. Start kneading the dough, stretching it away with the palm of one hand and folding it back again with the other, for about ten minutes, adding more flour if the dough becomes too sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is firm and elastic. This takes about 10 minutes. Do not try to cheat and cut it short. If you are one of those lucky people with a proper mixer with a dough hook, go for it! Let the machine knead it till it forms a smooth and elastic ball around the hook. (You know best how your machine works.) I did the kneading by hand, the dough shapes up nicely.

5. Shape the dough into a large ball and put into a lightly oiled large bowl and turn in the oil to coat. Cover with cling film or a plastic bag and put in a warm, dry place for 2–3 hours or until the dough is doubled in size.

6. When the dough is nearly ready – doubled in volume – bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the honey or molasses. Cover and turn off the heat.

7. Lightly oil two baking trays and sprinkle with maize or cornmeal. (I confess, I lined the trays with non-stick baking parchment and lightly oiled it. Didn't use cornmeal since none was available here) Remove the dough from the bowl, then punch it down and knead it briefly. Roll it into a rough sausage shape and divide into 7 or 8 equal chunks. As you work with one chunk, keep the others covered with a clean tea towel.

8. Firmly roll out each chunk into a long log, then bring the ends together and seal with a splash of water and squeeze the ends together. Place on the prepared baking trays and repeat with the rest of the dough. You can also do it the traditional way of lightly rolling the dough into a flattened ball, then pushing a finger through it to make the hole. Twirl the bagel around your finger a bit to enlarge the hole as it will shrink when the dough rises.

9. Cover and allow to stand for a further 20 minutes.

10. Preheat the oven to 220C.

11. Bring the saucepan of honey and water back to a gentle simmer. Gently drop each bagel into the water (do this in batches of no more than 2 or three at a time as they swell) and turn over after 1-2 minutes. Simmer for another 1-2 minutes, then remove the bagels from the water, and drain.

12. Place the bagels on the prepared baking trays, spacing them widely apart. Brush the tops with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds, sea salt, poppy seeds or a savoury topping of your choice, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool before serving.