I have been told by many people that it is not possible to get a decent bagel outside of New York City. Or Montreal.
(Not by the same people. In fact, I would hesitate to put the New-York-bagel people and the Montreal-bagel people in a room with my favorite breakable items and then mention the word “bagel”. I think they’re even worse than the New-England-clam-chowder people and the Manhattan-clam-chowder people.
Not that anything with tomatoes in it can be called “chowder”.
But I digress.)
This takes in a lot of territory, and I haven’t eaten enough bagels in enough places to go that far. I will say that, in my experience, real bagels (as opposed to bread rolls that are just shaped like bagels) are pretty damn difficult to find in either Oxford or Canberra.
Since Nigella Lawson apparently has the same problem in London (she probably doesn’t spend much time in the East End, where there actually are real bagels; I never did either), she has thoughtfully provided a recipe for homemade bagels in HtbaDG, which I have selected for Cookbook Challenge Recipe #4.
NL's DIY Bagels
These quantities are half of the NL recipe. Also, I double-checked Under the High Chair’s bagel recipe for some aspects of the method.
500g/1lb+ strong, plain, or all-purpose flour
250ml/10oz very warm water*
2Tbsp sugar for poaching the bagels
Grease a clean bowl and set aside.
Mix the flour, salt, and yeast together in a large bowl. Mix the sugar, oil, and water in a jug. Pour wet into dry and mix with a dough whisk, wooden spoon, or implement of your choice. When dough has cohered sufficiently (it will be very stiff), knead with your hands until you have a smooth, springy dough—this will take about 10 minutes of hard kneading.
Place the dough in oiled bowl, turning to coat with the oil. Cover bowl with clingfilm/plastic wrap and leave to rise for about one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, punch it down, knead it a little more, then cut up into six equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, and leave to rest for about five minutes. Meanwhile, grease a baking tray**, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil, and turn your oven up as high as it will go.
When the balls have had their rest, take one and poke a hole in the middle of it with your thumbs. Shape as best you can into a smooth, even bagel shape***, then proceed to the next one. When you have formed all of them, cover and leave to rise for another 15 minutes or so.
When the water is boiling, add the sugar (this makes the bagels shiny), and drop three of the bagels into it. Poach for about a minute, turning once. (Mine rose to the top, flipping halfway, during this time, so I didn’t really have to do anything.) Fish out with a slotted spoon and place on the baking tray. Repeat with the second three.
When you’re done poaching, bake the bagels in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until they are light brown, shiny, and puffy.
Makes 6 real bagels.
* I don’t think this was quite enough water, because the dough was very stiff. I plan to increase it by about 25ml/1oz next time.
** Even with greasing, the bagels still stuck. Next time I might try parchment instead.
*** As you can see from the picture, I couldn’t get my bagels very smooth because of how stiff the dough was. So I’ve decided they have character.