How to Make Bagels
On the cycling instructors’ course today, we had to demonstrate our presentation skills with a short presentation (2-3 minutes) on the subject of our choice. One of the guys spoke for 150 seconds on belly button fluff. :-/ Go figure!
I decided to teach the class how to bake the best bread they’ll ever taste. But to make sure that everyone thought my presentation was the best (competitive, me?), I also bribed them at the end, with a home-baked cinnamon & sultana bagel each.
Bagels are just great food for anyone who’s active (and not gluten intolerant - I’m looking up an alternative recipe for you), and pretty easy to bake at home. Here’s how to bake a bunch of bagels that’ll keep you fuelled for winter cycling:
- 1kg (2.2 US lbs) strong white flour
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp quick yeast (the almost powdery kind)
- (as an alternative, use ~15g or 1/2 oz live yeast)
- 2 tbsp oil - I use olive oil
- Optional: 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- Optional: good handful of sultanas
- 1 (568ml) pint of hand-hot water (see instruction below)
- Large mixing bowl
- Metal spoon to mix
- Measuring spoons
- Jug for the water
- Kitchen scales that are accurate. Most dial scales are only accurate to ~15g, and you want better than that - digital scales are best
- Clean, dry work surface
- Large saucepan
- Non-stick baking sheets, or ordinary sheets + baking paper to line them with
- Slotted spoon
Put all the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl, and mix them together with the spoon. If you’re using live yeast, rub it in to the flower with your fingertips and make sure it is well dispersed.
Put the jug on the scales and ‘zero’ them. Pour in 284ml (= 284 grams) of cold water and 284ml of freshly boiled water. This makes up your pint of hand hot water, and is an accurate measure of the volume you want.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in the water. Mix it all together with the spoon to make a dough, getting it to as even a consistency as you can. Add the oil, and with your hands, mix it into the dough. Finish off in the bowl by using the dough to scrape it as clean as you can before tipping out onto the work surface.
Now you kneed the dough. This is done by starting with it in a ball shape, and using the knuckles of your left hand to hold the edge nearest to you down to the work surface, and the knuckles of your right hand to stretch the rest away from you, smearing it along the counter. Roll it back to a ball and repeat. It shouldn’t stick to the worktop, but if it does, a little sprinke of flower should fixt that, as will working the dough faster.
The important thing with kneeding is that you must do it for long enough - AT LEAST TEN MINUTES. No cutting corners on this one! After this time, the dough should feel different in your hands - smoother and silkier on the surface. You should feel like you’ve had a bit of a workout too.
Divide it up into 12 (if you like big bagels) - 16 (for smaller ones), and make each into a bagel shape. Do this by rolling it in a ball, and then pressing your thumb through the middle, before stretching it out a little to make a ring. Leave these on your baking sheets, and cover with a piece of oiled clingfilm to stop them drying out.
After about 30-45 minutes, they should have risen a little. If you’ve made bread before, you might think that you want to leave them to rise to twice their original size - DON’T, as if you do, they’ll collapse at the next stage, and end up like pieces of leather. So once they’ve risen a little, fill the saucepan with water, and bring it to the boil. At the same time, turn on the oven, and set it for 200C / 400F, or about 170C / 340F for a fan oven.
Then, poach each bagel in the boiling water for two minutes, turning them half way through. If your saucepan’s big enough, you can do two at a time. After the poaching, remove the bagels, and return to the baking sheets.
Once you’ve poached them all, the oven should be hot, and you can put them all in to bake, for a 20-35 minutes. The cooking time depends on your oven - if its not a fan oven, be sure to swap the trays around (assuming that you’ve got two), after about 20 minutes. Once the bagels are golden brown on top, and the bottom no-longer looks doughy, they’re done - take them out and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Once they’re cool enough to handle without oven gloves, treat yourself to one - slice it in half, and eat it hot with lots of butter. Bagels made this way generally keep for about five days . . . but a lot less if anyone finds out you’ve been baking them!
ADDENDUM - 1st MARCH 2009
How to use this recipe for pizza bases:
Mix up the dough as per the instructions and kneed it. Actually that’s an awful lot of dough for pizza bases, so you might want to use just half, or even a quarter of the ingredients.
Once the dough has been kneeded & become elastic, roll it out on a floured board. It’s best rolled really thin (3mm or so thick), but you might prefer it thicker. Transfer it to a greased baking sheet, and cover with oiled clingfilm. Leave it to rise for about half an hour in a warm place. It won’t rise much from that thickness - you’re looking to see bubbles forming under the dough.
Put the baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes at 200-230 celcius - you’re looking for it to be just starting to brown. Then flip the dough over (place a wire mesh on top, then turn the baking sheet & wire mesh over), and bake for another five minutes on the other side.
Add toppings etc. of your choice & bake again for about 15 minutes.
If you had dough left over from when you rolled out the base, this makes first rate garlic bread:
Roll it out, and then apply liberal quantities of garlic butter (make your own by frying some crushed garlic cloves in lots of butter ’till they’re just starting to brown) to one side. Fold in half, and then transfer to a greased baking sheet. Leave to rise while the pizza base does, and then while it’s getting its pre-topping baking. Then when you’re cooking the finished pizza, bake the garlic bread for about 15 minutes, ’till the bottom has turned golden brown.