I decided to make bagels because though the bread here in Austria is totally awesome and varied, I have never seen so much as a single lonely bagel. Nary a one. Not even one of those dumb “I am bread in the shape of a bagel” bagels. No surprise really, since all the Jewish people here probably either fled or met a tragic and horrendous end. May they rest in peace, these bagels are for you (I hope that doesn’t sound flippant, it’s not meant to be). I’ve also never been able to get hold of English muffins or crumpets for that matter (mmmm, CRUHHHM-pets. With butter. And honey…) so perhaps they’ll be my next prodge.
To make the sponge I mixed yeast, bread flour and water and left it for a couple of hours while we hung some paintings and ate some delicious yet ugly Guinness and chocolate cake I made yesterday – but didn’t photograph because the fecking Bundt pan I baked it in munted it, meh, SUCH a rookie mistake. Then I added more flour, salt and honey (it called for malt powder or malt syrup but I could find neither) and kneaded it for what felt like hours. F tagged in when I used my poor damaged fingers as a ruse to have a break.
I fluked the next bit; despite not weighing the dough first, I managed to get fifteen perfect 100 gram pieces with which I made fattish little discs, and let them (they’re them now, not just boring old it!) rest for 20 minutes.
Then they started to look all satiny smooth and cute, so I stuck my finger in the middle and made them even cuter.
Another 20 minutes later when one chucked in water floated, I boiled them for a couple of minutes, sprinkled half with poppy seeds and half with sesame and put them in the oven. Upon emerging, they looked like this:
Cue choirs of angels, no applause please.
What’s your biggest baking triumph?
Bagels from Smitten Kitchen who adapted them from Peter Reinhardt
For the Sponge
1 teaspoon instant yeast
500 grams (4 cups) bread flour
625 ml (2 and 1/2) cups of water at room temperature
For the Dough
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
470 grams (3 and 3/4 cups) bread flour
2 and 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons honey or brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting the baking tray
Sesame seeds and poppy seeds to top
On the First Day
Stir the yeast into the flour in a large bowl and add the water, stirring just until a batter forms. Cover the bowl with cling-film and leave at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should be about twice its original size.
Add the rest of the yeast to the sponge and stir (the sponge will collapse). Then add 375 grams (3 cups) of the flour and all of the salt and sugar or honey. Stir together until it forms a ball, adding the rest of the flour bit by bit so a stiff dough forms.
Knead on a well-floured counter for at least 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. If it seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water. Likewise, if it seems sticky, add a little more flour.
Divide the dough into 100 gram (3 and 1/2 ounce) pieces, roll into sightly flattened disc-shapes and cover with a damp tea-towel. Leave to rest for 20 minutes
Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper and oil the paper lightly.
Poke a hole in one of the balls of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to about 4cm (2 inches) in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible so they bake evenly. Repeat with the other bagels.
Put each bagel 4 cm (2 inches) apart on the baking sheets, daub or spray lightly with oil and cover loosely with cling-film. Rest the bagels at room temperature for 20 minutes.
If a bagel floats within 10 seconds of being put in a bowl of room temperature water, the rising process can be retarded. Pat it dry, return it to the baking sheet and put in the fridge for up to 2 days. If not, keep testing every 15 minutes or so until it does.
Preheat the oven to 260 celsius (500 fahrenheit) with the oven racks set in the middle of the oven.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon ready.
Drop the bagels into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 2 minutes flip them over and boil for another minute.
While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you replace the paper, spray the new paper to stop sticking).
Add toppings as desired
When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven.
Bake for 10 or 15 minutes until the bagels are the colour you desire.
Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.