Ruby runs rings around bagels

Bagel dough is sur­pris­ingly for­giv­ing and makes a stead­fast ve­hi­cle for any num­ber of flavour com­bi­na­tions such as malt, cin­na­mon and or­ange, or deeply savoury onion

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - By Ruby Tan­doh

Un­like a rustic bloomer, slumped lan­guorously across its bak­ing tray, or a batch of mis­shapen floury baps, or even a proud sand­wich loaf in its tin, bagels don’t seem like the kind of bread that could be made at home. Per­haps it’s the fact that they’re twice-cooked, or the care­ful shap­ing of the buns, that makes us in­clined to head for the su­per­mar­ket or the deli in­stead of try­ing to make them by our own hand. But if you can find a few hours in your week­end to give them a go, you’ll find bagels per­fectly straight­for­ward. In fact, be­cause they use a par­tic­u­larly dry, stiff dough, they’re ar­guably eas­ier to mix, knead and shape than other breads – a per­fect in­tro­duc­tion to the tech­niques, even for a bread­mak­ing novice.


You can buy malt ex­tract in nearly all health food stores and some larger su­per­mar­kets, but if it eludes you, use 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar and a splash more wa­ter in­stead.

Makes 8

450g strong white flour 10g in­stant dried yeast (roughly 3 tsp) 1½ tsp salt ½ tsp cin­na­mon Zest of 2 or­anges 200ml luke­warm wa­ter 4 tbsp malt ex­tract 125g sul­tanas Fine po­lenta or semolina, for dust­ing 2 tbsp bi­car­bon­ate of soda

1 Mix the flour, yeast, salt, cin­na­mon and zest in a bowl. Whisk the wa­ter and malt ex­tract to­gether, add it to the dry in­gre­di­ents, then mix roughly with your hands un­til just com­bined.

2 Tip the dough out on to an un­floured work sur­face. Knead for 5-10 min­utes, un­til it is smoother and more elas­tic. Don’t worry if the dough sticks a lit­tle when you first start knead­ing.

3 Work in the sul­tanas un­til they’re well spread through­out the dough, then trans­fer to a large, clean bowl, cover with cling­film and leave to rise at room tem­per­a­ture for 1-2 hours, un­til it has al­most dou­bled in size.

4 Once risen, divide the dough into 8 equal por­tions. Cover loosely with cling­film to pre­vent the dough dry­ing while you shape the bagels.

5 Cut one por­tion in half. Us­ing your hands, roll each piece out on an un­floured work sur­face to a long sausage shape around 25cm long. The dough may spring back as you stretch it thanks to the elas­tic­ity de­vel­oped dur­ing knead­ing, but if this hap­pens, just let it rest a mo­ment be­fore con­tin­u­ing. Lay the two dough ropes par­al­lel to one an­other and pinch very firmly to­gether at one end. Now twist the strands to­gether un­til they’re in­ter­twined along their length, leav­ing the loose end un­sealed. Twist this coil around into a cir­cle be­fore pinch­ing the loose ends to­gether with the sealed end. You must press the ends to­gether firmly, squeez­ing un­til the dough ad­heres to it­self, oth­er­wise the bagels will un­ravel dur­ing boil­ing and bak­ing.

6 Re­peat the shap­ing process with the re­main­ing dough por­tions, then ar­range the bagels on a lightly greased sur­face, cover loosely with cling­film and leave to rise in a warm room for 45-60 min­utes, un­til they’re vis­i­bly puffier and roughly 1 ½ times their orig­i­nal size. Don’t leave th­ese too long – if they’re left un­til they’ve fully dou­bled, or more, in size they could col­lapse and wrin­kle when boiled.

7 While the bagels rise, pre­heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, bring a large pan of wa­ter to the boil and dust a large bak­ing tray gen­er­ously with semolina or fine po­lenta. When the bagels are ready to cook, add the bi­car­bon­ate of soda to the boil­ing wa­ter and re­duce to a sim­mer. Add the bagels to the pan in batches of no more than 3 or 4, and boil for 1 minute on each side. Put the boiled bagels on the pre­pared bak­ing tray and bake for 25 min­utes. Once cooked, trans­fer the bagels to a wire rack im­me­di­ately to cool. Serve split and toasted with plenty of good salted but­ter.

Bagels of­fer a per­fect in­tro­duc­tion to the tech­niques of bread­mak­ing


A mix of gran­ules and fresh onion, fried un­til crisp, leaves th­ese bagels mouth-wa­ter­ingly savoury and deeply aro­matic. Sprin­kle with poppy seeds, dried onion or sea salt, if you fancy it.

Makes 6

75ml veg­etable or sun­flower oil 1 medium onion, finely diced 1½ tsp in­stant dried yeast 150ml luke­warm wa­ter 300g strong white flour 1½ tbsp onion gran­ules 1 tbsp soft light brown sugar ¾ tsp salt 2 tbsp bi­car­bon­ate of soda Fine po­lenta or semolina, for dust­ing

1 Fry the onion in the oil over a high heat, stir­ring con­tin­u­ously, for 5 min­utes, or un­til golden brown all over. Don’t crowd the pan, or it’ll just steam, so fry in two batches if your pan is small. Drain and leave to cool.

2 Dis­solve the yeast in 2 tbsp of warm wa­ter. Mix the flour, onion gran­ules, sugar and salt in a large bowl, then add the yeast and the re­main­ing wa­ter. Stir, then tip the dough from its bowl on to a clean sur­face and knead for 5 min­utes. You should no­tice the dough be­com­ing smoother as you knead.

3 Work the fried onion into the dough un­til well dis­persed. Put the dough in a bowl, cover loosely with cling­film and leave at room tem­per­a­ture for 1–1 ½ hours, un­til al­most dou­bled in size.

4 Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each por­tion into a long sausage shape, then form a cir­cle and pinch the ends firmly to­gether. Leave to rise for 45 min­utes, un­til puffy.

5 Pre­heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and bring a large pan of wa­ter to the boil. Add the bi­car­bon­ate of soda to the boil­ing wa­ter, then turn the heat down un­til it’s gen­tly sim­mer­ing. Add the risen bagels, in batches, and boil for 1 minute on each side. Dust a bak­ing tray gen­er­ously with fine po­lenta or semolina (to pre­vent stick­ing) and ar­range the boiled bagels on it. Bake for 25 min­utes. While they’re still hot, trans­fer them from the bak­ing tray to a wire rack to cool. Serve toasted.

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