We're not in New York so bagels aren't something we find all over the place. Sure, we can get frozen bagels at most supermarket grocers and they taste pretty good. Some bakeries have them too and they're alright. But fresh bagels from a street car? Nada.
We're not in New York, you see.
Usually, whenever I feel like a bagel, I go for the frozen ones. They come in a pack of five (or six .... I forget) and are pretty sizable. One bagel (eaten simply with cream cheese and scallions or with a more substantial filling like mushrooms and roasted eggplant and cheese) is hearty enough for dinner.
Recently though I got the urge to make my own bagels. I tried them once before and they turned out pretty fine. But I came across another recipe — a simpler one that didn't require overnight proofing — on one of the blogs I often visit and I was itching to give it a go again. The itch was further fanned by my friend Shirley Selvaraj-Dass who asked me about procuring and making bagels a couple of months back.
It was perfect timing really because my article for the Don't Call Me Chef column in The Star tomorrow pays tribute to some of my favourite food blogs/sites. I frequently visit food blogs to get ideas on what I can cook and what others are cooking. I am a vegetarian but I don't just visit vegetarian blogs because I enjoy adapting various non vegetarian recipes to make them meatless! For the column, I highlighted two recipes from two blogs: I made Toasted Almond Sables from 101 cookbooks and Eggplant (meat)balls from A Cozy Kitchen, another blog I favour. I have included the pictures of the sables and the eggplant balls below.
So, to continue on the theme of "my favourite blogs" I decided to go ahead an make the bagels that were featured in The Sophisticated Gourmet, a blog by college student Kamran Siddiqi. He is impressive.
Did you know that a bagel is boiled first and then baked? That's one of the things that give the bagel its unique texture: Crunch on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Bagels are chewy and many joke (or maybe not) that the calories you may consume from a bagel are used up by the chewing action that is necessary. Oh, we can wish.
Now, the bagel doesn't need butter or oil. Just flour (high protein), water, yeast, salt and sugar. The real traditional bagels use malt syrup and not sugar. I used sugar. Kamran used sugar and his bagels looked great and, judging by the comments, tasted great too.
Also, you can make your bagels plain or with toppings like coarse salt, minced fresh onions, minced garlic, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, etc. I used what I had: poppy seeds and caraway.
Are you ready to get started? Great. Here's what you need.
New-York style bagels
(adapted from sophisticatedgourmet.com)
2 tsp active dry yeast
11/2 tbsp granulated sugar
11/4 cups tepid water (keep an extra 1/4 handy in case you need it)
31/2 cups high protein flour
11/2 tsp salt
Pour 1/2 cup of the tepid water in a bowl and add the yeast and sugar. Don't stir them yet. Let them sit for about 5 minutes. It should get frothy. After five minutes, stir the yeast and sugar till they dissolve.
Whisk (with your hand) together the flour and the salt in the bowl of your electric mixer. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast mixture. Using the mixer (dough hook attachment) on low (speed 2-4), mix the ingredients together, gradually adding the rest of the water. You are going for a moist yet firm dough. Add more water if the dough is too dry and a little more flour if it's too sticky.
Transfer the dough into a well-oiled bowl and gently roll the dough so it's evenly coated with oil. Cover with a damp kitchen cloth and leave it to rise till double it's size — roughly one hour.
Once the dough has doubled, punch it down gently. Then cover and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
Now divide the dough into eight equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball. Take one dough ball (leaving the rest covered) and gently cup the ball in your hand, pressing it gently on your work surface (no need to flour the surface). Your hand should form a 'C' as you gently roll the ball on the work surface so you get a nice, tight ball. I could not take a photo of the process unfortunately so I have to direct you to Kamran's site. Click here. Do the same with the other seven balls.
Place the balls on an oiled baking sheet. Now, dip your index finger in a bowl of flour and press it into the centre of each ball to form a ring. Gently stretch the ring to resemble just 1/3 of the desired size of your completed bagel. Don't stretch too much as the bagels expand in the boiling process.
Cover with a damp cloth for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, put a large pot of water to boil. Also, preheat the oven to 220C.
Once the dough rings have rested for 10 minutes, gently drop/slide the rings into the boiling water. You can do this two at a time but I did it one by one.
They bagels should float almost as soon as they touch the boiling water. Leave them in for a minute each side (or 11/2 mins for a chewier bagel) and then, using a slotted spoon, take them out.
Place them back on the oiled baking sheet.
It is time for the topping. Go with what you like and, to set it on the dough, brush the surface with egg wash.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. The tops should be crackly while the insides, chewy.
The bagels are best eaten hot or warm. If you freeze them, toast them before you eat them.