So I bought myself Secrets of a Jewish Baker, Ten Speed Press, 1993
an American book by the baker George Greenstein. This man LOVES bread. Read the first page where he explains the joy in hearing rye bread sing!
George has always baked bread as his dad started and ran the family bakeries in Queens and Long Island in New York. He says he gives many of his professional secrets and professional ‘fine tuned’ recipes in this book to help create professional results for the novice and experienced baker. In his own words… “….a complete bread-baking manual that will produce results sure to delight.”
Well that is how I’m feeling right now about the success of my first ever batch of bagels. They worked perfectly. I am delighted.
They had a very light chewy texture to the crust but were also soft inside. They may all look a little wonky, but they tasted mighty fine.
It turned out to be quite a tricky dough. Bagel dough, as George Greenstein suggests, should be stiff. When making this dough you add 3/4 of the flour to make the dough and then you gradually need to knead in as much of the remaining flour as you can. This was quite a challenge and made it a really hard dough to knead and work with. I got really cross with it at one point and felt like jacking it in. I chilled out, and so did my dough.
American flour is different to that in the U.K so I wondered if this was partly the problem. I was really tempted to make the dough wetter, but I persevered and guessing now it was one of the secrets of the Jewish baker and I think it was part due to the success of my bagels. I really couldn’t believe it myself.
Made 24 small bagels
1200 g strong white bread flour, (Use 1 kg then add further 200 g.)
7 g dried yeast
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons salt
400 ml warm water
3 tablespoons malt syrup, sugar or rhubarb syrup (see note)
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds and black sesame seeds
1. Stir the yeast into the warm water, cover and set aside to ferment for about 10 minutes or until a light froth has appeared on the surface.
2. Tip 1 kg of the flour into a large bowl, add the salt, 2 tablespoons of syrup (or sugar) and oil and then stir in the yeast mixture, using a fork at first and then your hands, bringing the mixture together until a dough forms.
3. Turn out onto a work surface and knead. Gradually knead the remaining flour in to the dough little by little. (working in as much flour as you can comfortably knead) It will become tough to knead (as I said above bagel dough should be stiff) and will probably take you about 20 minutes until you have something smooth and silky to touch.
4. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl and rub the surface of the dough with a little oil too.
5. Cover and leave to rise, until as the book suggests, “an impression made with your finger remains and does not sink into the dough.” Now it suggests proving for an hour, but my tough dough, was taking a lot of time, so I placed it the fridge to give it a long slow rise overnight.
6. Yes that really worked and I rolled the dough into 3 thick ropes and then cut those into 8 pieces each. Then I rolled each piece of dough into a long sausage and wrapped it round my fingers to make a ring. I added a dab of water and pressed the ends to seal. As the dough was still pretty stiff and I was getting cross that it wouldn’t do what I wanted it to, I found that by dipping my hands in a little water, really helped.
7. I then lay my bagels on a couple of lightly greased baking trays with a little space to puff up. Cover lightly and set aside in a warm place to double in size. (this took about an hour, but will vary depending on how warm it is.)
8. Meanwhile I put a large pan of water on to boil with the remaining tablespoon of syrup or sugar and tipped my seeds onto separate plates.
9. Next oven was preheated to oven 220 C and then I carefully dropped a few bagels into the boiling water and waited until they floated to the surface and then cooked them for about 30 seconds, then I turned them over and cooked for a further 30 seconds. They will puff up some more.
10. I lifted out each bagel with a slotted spoon and shook to remove the excess water, dropped each bagel onto a plate of seeds (and kept a few plain.) then returned the bagels, seed side up on the baking sheets. They were baked for about 15-20 minutes, and I turned them over half way through, until golden.
The book suggests baking with steam, which means placing a tin of hot water in the bottom of the oven. But as I was cooking up a huge batch of Ratatouille on the bottom shelf of the oven at the same time, and this had the same effect!)
Little notes…….Malt syrup adds a light gloss to the bagels and helps them to brown. Sugar also does this but traditionally malt syrup is used in bagel making and apparently gives the bagel a subtle flavour, (Of what I don’t know.) and is only 1/2 as sweet as sugar. You should find it in a health food shop.
But I didn’t have any malt syrup but I did have a rhubarb syrup that I had made (a by product of the rhubarb lolly recipe I made which I’ll post up soon) and simmered and reduced until very thick. I guessed this would be sweet and sour and could be a good substitute for the malt syrup. My bagels worked well so it didn’t do them any harm. I will make the bagels again with the malt syrup and I’ll report back.
Have a go at making them. They are simple to do, be patient with the dough and you do need some time……very satisfying when the recipe works……