The perfect bagel recipe

Miriam Sallon 9 May 2022

Impress your friends and family with the perfect bagel made from scratch

The sun is well and truly out, the days are getting longer, that can only mean one thing: brunch season is upon us! Why not impress your friends with a bagel brunch made entirely from scratch.

For some reason, despite the Brick Lane Bagel shop having opened way back in the 1970s and made consistently delicious bagels since then, it’s still annoyingly difficult to get a good bagel in England unless you’re willing to shlep all the way to East London. The best that supermarkets seem able to muster are the New York Bakery co., which are just buns with holes in the middle, and shouldn’t really be allowed to call themselves bagels.

But have no fear! You can make your own bagels entirely from scratch and, after a few tries they might even rival the great and mighty Brick Lane.

A bagel with salmon

OK, so this isn’t exactly a lazy one-pot recipe, but it’s really easy to follow, and the results are absolutely worth the bit of effort. You’ll end up with a beautiful shiny top, a perfectly chewy outside and a pillowy-soft inside. A few tips before you start:

  1. Use a good quality strong bread flour, it really makes all the difference.
  2. Don’t be afraid to add more flour as you’re kneading, the dough can handle it.
  3. There are other methods to shaping than the one I use but I find this the most satisfying. Another popular and arguably easier option is to roll the dough into sausages and mend the ends together.
  4. Bagels freeze really well. If you don’t think you’ll get through a whole batch, just wait until cool and then slice them in half and put them in a bag in the freezer.

Suggested toppings

After all your hard work you’d be a better person than I not to just rip one open and fill it with salty butter. But if you can bear the wait, I’d suggest trying any and all of these:

  1. Classic smoked salmon and cream cheese. I like to add capers, a squeeze of lemon and some dill, but that’s just getting fancy.
  2. Buttery scrambled eggs with hot sauce. This is also a great way to use up the leftover egg.
  3. Tuna mayonnaise. Again, I like to jazz it up with capers or olives, a healthy dose of Dijon mustard and some red onions.
  4. Welsh rarebit. Yum.

Cooking time:

Active: Approx. 1 hour

Proving: 1 hour 20 minutes-12 hours 20 minutes

Makes: 6

Ingredients:

7g/ 1x sachet dry active yeast

20g sugar

500g strong bread flour

7g salt

350ml warm water

1 tsp malt extract

1 tsp baking soda

1 egg, whisked

Sesame seeds/poppy seeds (optional)

Method:

  1. Combine flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add water little by little until you have a shaggy dough.
  3. On a well-floured surface, knead for about 8 minutes until your dough is smooth and tacky rather than sticky.
  4. Lightly oil a bowl big enough for the dough to double. Cover with cling film or a damp cloth and either let it rise on the kitchen counter for about an hour, or refrigerate it for anywhere between 2-12 hours. The longer it proves, the tastier it will be, but if there’s no room in your fridge, or you just can’t be bothered to wait so long, a room-temperature prove will still make delicious bagels.
  5. If the dough has been in the fridge, take it out after your desired proving time and leave it for 10 minutes to reach room temperature.
  6. Punch the dough down to remove any large bubbles, cover, and leave for another 10 minutes.
  7. Divide dough into 6 pieces and place under a damp cloth. Throughout the next few steps, keep the dough covered until step 12, taking each piece out one at a time and placing it back under the cloth after, to ensure they don’t dry out.
  8. Using a little flour to stop the dough from sticking, take a piece of dough and fold the corners underneath so that you have a smooth top. Create a claw with your hand, and roll in to a ball with the seam at the bottom, making a tight layer over the top. Repeat with each piece of dough. There is a knack to doing this well, but it’s not imperative to a tasty bagel. It’ll just make a cleaner shape.
  9. With a floured finger, press a hole in the middle of each dough ball, and wind it between your hands to stretch to a bagel shape. The hole will close up so you’ll want to make it about 3 times bigger than you want it to end up.
  10. Leave to prove for another 10 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, heat a large pan of water on the stove—I like to use a wok because it gives the most surface area. Heat your oven to 220°C.
  12. When the water is just below boiling, add the malt extract and baking soda, and as many bagels will fit comfortably in your pan without touching. Cook for around 30 seconds on each side—the longer you boil, the chewier the outside will be, so feel free to play with this timing to your taste preference.
  13. After taking the bagels out of the pan, brush with egg and sprinkle with your preferred topping.
  14. Place bagels on a lined baking tray, giving each plenty of room, and bake for 7 minutes. Then turn the tray to ensure even baking, and bake for another 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
  15. Leave to cool on a rack for best results, or crack one open immediately and fill with salty butter.

 

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