Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Bagels - not sourdough

We call these buglies - ugly bagels. But my are they delicious.

I really ummed and ahhed about putting these on here. This is my incrediblygeekysourdoughblog. But I'm starting to get embarrassed by how much food stuff I have on my pane amore e cha cha cha blog which is meant to be a consumer blog with the occasional bit of food, not vice versa.

Plus these bagels are not just not sourdough, they're made in a breadmaker. Nevertheless, here they are, all blousey and almost industrial compared to my artisan sourdough.

But look: they're delicious. Nothing at all like bought bagels which may look surgically enhanced but are as interesting as dust to eat (although if you remember that fantastic sketch from Little Britain, dust is a valuable diet food...). The only memorable bagel I ever had out was at the Geffrye museum cafe, I had it with smoked salmon and a very fine cappuccino. A memorable little lunch that shows food doesn't have to be fancy to be remembered.

So, my bagels. I've been making them for years and the recipe is from some bread machine book I had but adapted slightly (in what way I can't remember now but anyway it works which is what matters). They don't look pretty - ignore that and just enjoy the taste.

These are excellent for children - they just love them. In which case I make them smaller and end up with 12-16.

 For eight large bagels you need:

2 teaspoons of dried yeast
450g strong white bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt - I grind up Maldon sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar - I use caster
230ml water, whatever temperature it comes out of the cold tap.

egg or malt wash - see later

baking tray
clean tea towels
saucepan and slotted spoon

I put it into my bread machine, which is a Panasonic bread machine and the only sort I recommend. Your bread machine may ask for the ingredients to go in in a different order but mine asks for the yeast first. You then select the dough cycle. Mine is 2hrs 20mins long. Be careful not to put it on a short dough cycle (mine also has one for pizza which is 45 mins long) as it won't work.

In the meantime, get a baking tray

When the dough is done you take it out and scrunch off eight balls or more, smaller, ones. You then make a hole in the middle of the ball and stretch out the hole with your fingers. Lots of books advise you to make bagels by rolling a sausage shape out, and then securing the ends together. I've never found this works - the bagel always falls apart at the boiling stage. Next time I make them I'll take a picture of this stage so you know what you're working with. You should end up with what looks like a doughnut. It won't look very pretty. Don't worry.

As you make them, place each one on a lightly oiled baking tray - make sure they're not touching or you'll have a hard job separating them and they will collapse as you manhandle them. When they're all shaped, leave them to rise, covered with a dry, clean [why do they always say this, does anyone use a dirty one?] tea-towel for about 10-30 mins (30mins if your kitchen is cold, 10mins if it's warm or you put them in a warm place). There's a lot of yeast in them so don't overprove.

Whilst they're resting and puffing up, put a big saucepan of water onto boil and preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7. I use a casserole dish pan which is shallow, but wide. You don't need the water to be deep deep, as the bagels will float, but if you have a wide aperture then you can get more in at once.

When they're done and the water is on a rolling boil, put the bagels in to the pan. Unless your pan is a huge paella pan, you will have to do them in batches - that's fine. You boil them for about a  minute each side (so turn them over with the slotty spoon). Watch them puff up more. Take them out one at a time with the slotted spoon and place on a clean tea towel to drain them and do the next batch til they're all done.

Either get a clean baking tray and oil it lightly, or wipe off the last one you used and re-oil it. But either way, place the boiled bagels onto the tray. It's fine if they touch, because once cooked they're more stable than at the proof stage, so you can tear them apart. But if you can do them so they don't touch all the better. Mine are always crammed together as that's the only way you can get them cooked all in one go and at this stage - i.e. proved and boiled - you don't really want them hanging round waiting to be baked for longer than necessary.

Once the bagels are on the tray, you're on the home run. Either make an egg wash of egg white, a bit of water and a pinch of salt and brush over, or use this fabulous dried malt extract which I mix up with some water and brush on. You can then either cook the bagels plain or scatter on some sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower, linseeds etc.

Cook for 15-20mins. They'll be a lovely dark golden brown when they're done.
These keep for a day or two but are best eaten on the day of being made and toasted thereafter.

An update on 24th June 2012.

The holes in my bagels were forever closing up on cooking, so after a while I addressed this problem. The best thing to do is, using the handle of a wooden spoon, make the hole a bit bigger just before baking them (i.e. after you've boiled them). I find you only have to do this a bit to get the hole more pronounced. 

The shaping is getting better..