Bagel with smoked salmon - yum!!
Bagel with smoked salmon – yum!!

For me, there’s not many better things in life than a fresh bagel filled with cream cheese and smoked salmon.

But I never thought in a million years I’d be making the bagel itself. The idea of having to boil and bake a piece of bread all seemed too hard, and I was much happier buying them in a bag from the shops.

James  Morton calls bagels “anti-bread” because they go against everything I’ve learned with bread-making to date.

You want a chewy, dense, doughy centre to the finished product which means you need to have a very dry dough that holds it shape when dunked in water.

This means a lot of hard work during the initial knead. My hands were struggling by the end and I had to sub my husband in to manage the full 15 minutes required to get a malleable dough.

You also need to ensure you don’t over-prove the dough – I think I took this advice too far, and possibly didn’t have enough of a rise in my version.

Anyway, the steps to making bagels are:

  • Initial mix and knead
  • First prove
  • Shape and second prove
  • Boil
  • Bake

Shaping takes time and you need to make sure you weld the two ends of the dough together so they don’t split apart during the cooking process.

Boiling bagels
Boiling bagels

Bagels (James Morton’s recipe)

750g strong white flour
7g sachet dried yeast
10g salt
15g honey
250g water
Bicarbonate of soda, for boiling
Poppy/sesame seeds

Rub together the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl, keeping the yeast and the salt separate.

Add the honey and the water and combine into a really dry dough.

Knead for 10-15 minutes until noticeably stretchy, then leave to rest for one hour at room temperature.

Once rested, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a long sausage shape.

Divide into four, and each remaining piece into three. You should now have 12 lumps of dough. Shape each into a baguette.

Form the long shape into a ring, with a little crossing over of the two ends. Roll backwards and forwards on your surface to seal the seam.

Transfer each shaped bagel to a greased piece of baking paper. Preheat your oven to 240C and prove for about 30-40 minutes.

When nearly proved, fill a large pot with boiling water and bring back to the boil. Add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda for each litre of water, for extra chewiness. Prepare a dish with your seeds.

Boil each bagel for 1 minute, turning over halfway through. As soon as they’re done, plonk each one in your seeds to coat one side.

Bake your bagels on a baking tray for 15-20 minutes, seed-side down.


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