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Bagels... where do I start?

I have Jewish roots. They pass through the female bloodline apparently, not the bagels, the Jewish gene. I agree with this, I am fascinated by Jewish history and feel akin to Jewish people and more so Jewish foods.

Perhaps this is why I have a thing for bagels. I could eat them all day. Cream cheese, smoked salmon and capers, roast beef and fresh horseradish cream, peanut butter and jelly, slabs of butter melting into the lightly toasted wheel of joy.

I have never bothered to bake them before, why would you when you can buy 5 for £1 in a corner shop? I felt that it was about time that I learned how to make these boiled beauties. Plus, my cousin challenged me. And which baker doesn't take up a bread-off challenge?

I have to say, it was one of the most pleasurable and easy experiences in my dough making and baking career. I loved every stage. The flavour  of a homemade Bagel is incredible.  Because I loved making them so much, I now incorporate them into my Artisan Bread Baking Day and we eat them for lunch. My guests are absolutely thrilled at the thought of making these boiled blobs… and the pleasure in their faces when they eat them is second to none.

This is a Paul Hollywood Recipe. I have adapted the method slightly. I always trust his bread being a baker boy from a family of professional bakers. Making massive batches of dough, really enables a baker to understand the prove process and just how long it takes. You can use wholemeal flour. It may take a little more water (no pouring, just a flick at the dough in the machine).

This dough is all about the knead process. It needs to be smooth before the first prove.




500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

7g instant yeast

7g salt

320ml water

oil, for greasing

2 tbsp molasses

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the topping:

poppy, pumpkin, sesame, caraway or fennel seeds to sprinkle

optional: sea salt, to sprinkle


Place the flour in a mixing bowl, add the yeast to one side and the salt to the other side. Add three quarters of the water and turn the mixture around with your fingers. Continue to add the remaining water, a little at a time, until all the flour is incorporated and you have a rough dough. You may not need all the water. 

Tip the dough on to a good large work surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until you have a soft, smooth dough. I use granite/ marble ... if you use wood, you could use a little nut oil to grease the wood. It is easier to knead. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel so the dough doesn't stick or form a skin. Leave to prove for 1 to 3 hours or until doubled in size. Mine took 2 hours in a warm conservatory. 

Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 10 equal pieces, weighing about 80g each (This will make a baker's dozen). Roll each piece into a ball. With your finger, poke a large hole through the centre of each ball and slowly ease the hole wider. Place these on the prepared trays. Cover and leave to prove for a further 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200c/Gas 6. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the molasses (this will add a sweetness to the bagels) and the bicarbonate of soda (this helps to form the shine and chewy texture of the crust) to the water. 

Plunge the bagels, two at a time or more depending on the size of your pan, into boiling water. Cook for 30 seconds, then turn over and cook the other side. The bagels should puff and the circular shape should set. Use a slotted spoon to remove and place back on the trays. Immediately Sprinkle the top of the bagels with your chosen seedy topping. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the bagels are golden brown and cooked through. Cool on a wire rack. 


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