I decided to have something different for Sunday breakfast: Poppy Seed Bagels. However, as it takes a little longer to prove the dough it became brunch instead. I don't claim to be a bagel expert and I am sure there will be some who think "that's not how you make bagels" but this is a recipe that works for me every time and the results are superb.
Unbleached strong bread flour
Warm milk + water
Soft brown sugar
Like breads in general, bagels are very versatile. You can flavour or enhance them with lots of toppings or eat them with cheeses, meats and soups. Some of my other favourites are with onions or sesame seeds. So, if you don't fancy poppy seeds just omit them or replace with some other ingredient.
- Baking sheet (non-stick)
- Slotted spoon or fish slice
- Large pan - 10 litre or more
- Wire cooling rack
- Pastry brush
- Large mixing bowl or food mixer
Ideally, you should have all of your ingredients sitting out in a warm room before starting so everything is at the same temperature. Don't worry if that isn't possible it might just mean that the dough takes longer to prove. If you don't have access to unbleached flour just use white or wholemeal the results won't be the same but you might even prefer it. The milk and water should be at body temperature. The proportion of milk and water is up to you but 50% of each works for me.
- Whisk the egg together with a tablespoon of the milk and water. Reserve 2 tablespoons of this mixture for glazing the bagels later.
- Mix together the flour, salt and sugar. You then need to add the yeast. The yeast can either be crumbled into the flour by hand or you can whisk the yeast up with some of the warm water and pour it in. Lastly, add the oil.
- If you are mixing by hand then it is easiest to make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the egg and most of the water/milk. Then, using a wooden spoon, stir the flour in a circular motion around the well until it mixes with the liquid. Add more water/milk if it seems too dry. Once a dough has formed start working it with your hands. The dough should be moist without cracks showing but not too sticky either. If you are lucky enough to have a food mixer such as a Kenwood Chef, as I do, then mixing is even easier. Just have the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl, start the hook turning, add the egg mixture and slowly pour in as much of the milk/water to get a nice dough. Regardless of whether you are making the dough by hand or machine it requires to be kneaded for about 10 minutes.
- Leave the dough aside, in a covered bowl, until it roughly doubles in size. Depending on how warm it is and how fresh the yeast is the proving might take anywhere between 45 minutes and a couple of hours.
- Knock back the dough by punching it in the centre and then lifting it out onto a work suface. Form the dough into a smooth shape once again. Roll the dough out into a sausage shape. Cut the dough into 12 equal sized pieces. If you prefer bigger bagels go for 10 pieces.
- Bagels traditionally are circular in shape with a hole in the centre. Form each piece into a nice round ball. Flatten the ball until you have something puck shaped. Now press your thumb through the centre until there is a hole. Pick the dough up and gradually make the hole bigger by squeezing the sides and stretching the ring. Try to achieve a smooth circle. Leave the rings aside to prove once more until risen.
- While waiting for the rings to prove heat up a large pan of water to boiling point. Put a little salt in the water. You will probably need at least 8 litres of water otherwise as you add the bagels the overall temperature will drop too much. The water needs some depth too (15+ cm) as you don't want the bagels to hit the pan bottom. Once the water has come to the boil hold it at a slow simmer. Also, have your oven ready at 200°C and prepare a buttered non-stick baking sheet.
- Once the bagels have risen drop them into the water. They need to stay in the water for a total of 90 seconds. Carefully turn each bagel after about 45 seconds so each side has been submerged.
- After the 90 seconds remove each bagel with a slotted spoon or fish slice. As you lift the bagels out dry any water off the slooted spoon with a towel. Place the bagels on the baking sheet.
- Using a soft pastry brush coat the bagels with the reserved egg mixture. Pick up pinches of poppy seeds and sprinkle it onto the tops of the bagels. Bake for about 20 minutes.
- The bagels are ready when they have a nice brown colour (see photo below) and they have a hollow sound when tapped. Place them on a wire rack to cool.
- Bagels should have a good crust on the outside and be slightly chewy inside. You don't need to to leave them to cool completely I think they are great while still slightly warm.
Instead of adding the yeast to the flour straight away some bakers like to create a starter first. Doing it this way confirms that your yeast is active before making the whole batch. In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons of the flour with a little warm water, the sugar and the yeast. Cover the bowl and leave for approximately 30 minutes or less. The mixture should froth-up. If it doesn't froth then you may need to replace your yeast.
Poppy seed bagels cooling on a wire rack
An alternative way of creating the individual bagels is to make a small sausage shape and join the ends together to create a ring. However, I find this technique creates fragile bagels.
Instead of dropping the bagels into the hot water you can steam them over a pan of boiling water. However, I have found this method to be more messy.