The Bagel Debargle

My first encounter with bagels was unpleasant enough to discourage me from trying them until I met Paul, some 2 or 3 years later. My then work colleague, Peter, who lived in London, decided to treat us by bringing everyone breakfast. I was thrilled. The arrival of Peter in the office always meant treats like Easter Eggs or large bars of chocolate or fish and chips, and as someone who is appallingly lazy at eating that first important meal of the day, I am forever devoted to someone who brings me breakfast.
I peeked in his little bag of breakfast and saw raisin cinnamon bagels, produced by the New York Bagel company. I hopped up and down a little. Back then, Bagels were prohibitively expensive and the more expensive a product, the more I want to try it.
Unfortunately, Peter forgot that we didn't have a toaster at work or any butter, jam or cream cheese so we had to eat them untoasted and dry. I might also mention at this point that Bagels were so unpopular ten years ago that they would sit on supermarket shelves for weeks and weeks, impervious to the normal blue moulds that generally inhabit old bread.
I politely declined a second bagel and remained hungry until lunchtime. After that I often waxed lyrical about how bagels were really over-rated and that my friend from London said that the Jewish community pronounced it "bar-gle" and not, as I had thought "bay-gle" Suffice to say, this nugget of misinformation produced a barely disguised snigger from Paul when I spouted my bagel bargle philosophy to him. He could hardly wait to re-educate me.
The true etymology of the word bagel is mixed but it is widely agreed that it is either derived from: a) the Austrian word beugal, meaning stirrup. A Jewish Austrian baker produced the bagel, originally in the shape of stirrup for King Jan Sobieski to commemorate the victorious cavalry charge over the Turks or
b) from the Polish beygl, a gift presented to women during childbirth. One can only assume that they were expected to bite down on the beygl during the pain of contractions. Thank heavens that a more common gift these days is an epidural.
As the Ashkenezi Jews immigrated to New York in the middle of the 19th Century, they brought these tasty yeast treats with them and they are synonymous with New York, despite wide-spread popularity throughout America and much of the Western world.
The most common filling for the Bagel is Lox and Cream Cheese. Lox, I discovered only in the last few years is Yiddish for Smoked Salmon (Lox itself being a natural development of the words Lachs, Lacs, Lax, Laks and finally Laeks, all of mean Salmon).
The texture of the Bagel is unusual, due to the procedure of boiling the formed bagels before baking (if the Bagel is not boiled and just baked, it becomes a Biali). The crumb is very dense and chewy and in my opinion, unpalatable before toasting. However, homemade Bagels are another story altogether.
After having a mixed reception to bagels, I have come to the conclusion that some pre-packaged ones are dreadful, Sainsbury Supermarket makes superb ones and as for McDonalds filled Bagels - Oy Vey!
Yet since that first morning together in America, when my husband served me hot bagels, dripping with butter, cream cheese and grape jelly, I was hooked.
Ever since, I have wanted to make my own and yesterday Paul and I finally got around to it. I have unofficially labelled Sundays as Baking Day, a day for getting covered in flour and getting thrilled at the thought of what some yeast and a hot oven can produce.
I have been reading through one of Paul's revered books on baking, part of the Good Cooks series by Time-Life, simply called Bread. There is one simple reason why I trust this book, and that is because Richard Olney wrote the entire series. Paul's reason is, he has never had a failure from the book yet, despite it being nearly 30 years old. I would highly recommend it to anyone, experienced or novice.
As with the Brioche, I had always imagined Bagels to be labour intensive, time-consuming and probably a bit tricky, but since becoming a Daring Baker, nothing seems too far out of my grasp nowadays. In fact, Bagels are just as easy as the Brioche was. The dough is a joy to handle. It is soft but not unworkably sticky (unlike the Brioche). There is a rising time of only an hour for the dough, a 10 minute proving time for the formed Bagels and then the cooking, which involves a 15 second dunk for each raw bagel in boiling water, a generous brush of egg-wash, the topping of your choice and then baking for 30 minutes or thereabouts.
My one issue with this recipe was the size of the final product. The recipe states that you will produce about 24 bagels from the dough and we did. I naturally assumed that they would either double in size during the 10 minutes proving (foolish, I know), or, failing that, double in size during the rapid boil or, in case of emergency, double in size in the oven.
As you can see, this was not the case.
But they are dinky aren't they? So, what I would recommend is this: if you are planning on making BBLTBs (Baby BLT Bagels) like we had to, proceed as we did, cutting the ball of dough in half, then each half into quarters and again until you reach 24 small balls of dough. Or, just cut the dough in half and stop halving when you reach 12. And only then should you have normal size bagels.
The fun part is deciding what toppings to add to the boiled bagels. Because we had so many, we decided to make a good variety. Sea Salt (Paul's favourite - he said they reminded him of soft pretzels), Black Sesame Seeds, Caramelised Onions (my favourite), Parmesan Cheese and finally Demerara Sugar and Cinnamon. Straight from the oven they are a delicious bite-size morsel, great to nibble on whilst watching the True Movies Channel (as we spent much of yesterday doing), but as with all bagels, they are best lightly toasted and filled. How you choose to serve yours is up to you, but if you want to make these at home, here is the simple recipe:
BAGELS: makes 24 small 'uns or 12 regulars
Ingredients:
3.5 Cups Plain Flour
7g Dried Yeast (1 packet)
1 Cup Milk (I used skimmed)
4 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Caster Sugar
1 Egg, separated
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Toppings of your choice
METHOD:
Heat the milk to just before boiling point, remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and butter until melted. Pour into a large bowl leave to reach tepid.
Sprinkle over the yeast, whisk well and leave for 10 minutes to activate and start to go foamy.
Meanwhile, gently mix the egg white with the salt. Pour this into the yeast mixture, beating well, and the incorporate the flour until a soft dough starts to form.
Tip out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about fifteen minutes, or until soft, smooth and feels 'alive' under your fingertips.
Place in an oiled plastic bag (it's what the recipe says!) to rise for an hour. It will double in size to bear this in mind when choosing your bag!
Preheat the oven to 200c.
Remove the dough from the bag. On a floured surface, cut the dough into half and then half again until you have either 12 or 24 pieces of dough.
Roll into balls and using either a piece of doweling or your finger, make a hole in the middle of each ball.
Leave for 10 minutes, during which time they will rise a little.
Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to a rapid boil and lightly oil a couple of large baking sheets.
After the 10 minutes, drop five or six of the bagels into the boiling water for no more than 15 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on the baking sheet. Once the sheet is full, brush each bagel with the egg yolk (mixed together with a little water) and sprinkle over the topping of your choice.
Place in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve as per your own preference and enjoy!

36 comments:

Lydia said...

I'm in awe of how beautiful your first-time bagels are! I grew up in New York City, where bagels were (and are) king, and there is absolutely nothing like a good bagel with cream cheese and lox (smoked salmon). To this day, it's my favorite comfort food. But I've never had the courage to try and make my own.....

Susan said...

These look terrific and much easier to pull off than I thought. Only fifteen seconds in the drink? I can make time for that. Pressed with poppy seeds, smeared with butter, sure beats a bowl of cereal.

valentinA said...

Oh Freya! I've been meaning to make bagels for so long! I truly miss them because they are not sold in my country.. bummer!
Your bagels look gorgeous, & I'd like to give you a grand applause for the variety of toppings!!
I'd love to have one with cream cheese & smoked marlin!

Ulrike said...

Great minds think alike: Baking day! I baked a whole grain bread with oats, spelt and rye. You bagels look great. Unfortunately my three gentlemen don't like bagels too often.

Little Foodie said...

Little is off sick today and we are so making these this afternoon, in exactly the same size as yours. I remember hubby & I going clubbing in London with a Jewish friend of ours, as we headed back to his place in the small hours we went via a place open 24 hours, heaving with people (I think it was just off the North Circular, I was too drunk for detail) It was a bagel shop and I had the best bagel I have ever eaten in my life.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Oh, I love homemade bagels (see my blog for recipe)! Yours look wonderful...

pom d'api said...

Waou!!! I love bagels, it's so good. They are wonderful. I love that

Janet said...

Those look so good. About once a week I bring a bagel to work with 2 tablespoons of light cream cheese in a tupperware container. I toast the bagel here at work and spread on my sad little miserly portion of cream cheese and have it for lunch. If I made these ones, I think I'd have to spread the full 1cm thick glob of cream cheese that they would deserve.

wheresmymind said...

I love bagels, though each bagel is like eating 6 slices of bread!

Deborah said...

I would have never tried making homemade bagels, but you make it sound so easy!!

Homesick Texan said...

Those are so cute! I've never tried making bagels at home (since I have an excellent bagel shop a block away) but you make it sound so easy and fun! And I've never heard anyone say "bargle." Thanks for the great history lesson!

Cheryl said...

You did such a great job with these. Love the mini BLT's.

Oh for the love of food! said...

Hi Freya and Paul, Thank you for stopping by my blog. Your Bagels look absolutely delectable! I think I'm starting to feel a little peckish....

Brilynn said...

Those look awesome!
I made bagels last summer and was so surprised that they turned out well, it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

Kelly-Jane said...

That's great that you made your own bagels! I like the dinky ones especially. Maybe it was a good thing that they were smaller, I can recall seeing a NY bakery on tv making the bagel and she had a really really huge pot of water for the boiling par. Nearly as big as the one of boiling oil she had for her latkes!

Kathryn said...

I love how these little bagels look! Fantastic. I love the idea of the fillings, too...

vonsachsen said...

This is exactly what I´ve been looking for! I have never had bagels and they are not sold in Sweden either but I´ve always been curious! I have cookbooks that offer ideas for fillings but they always say: take a bagel and.... but where do I take the bagel from? Now I know :)Thanks for sharing the recipe! Since I don´t think I would be able to finish 12 bagels the same day ;) I wonder if it would work freezing a couple of them while still warm?

xx

Shaun said...

Freya, love - This is too funny. I was just reading Nigella's "How to be a Domestic Goddess" (again) and came across the bagel recipe. It made me think of my first proper introduction to bagels - by Eric, in California, at a bagelry called Goldsteins. They were chewy and rich...I love egg bagels served with cream cheese. Auckland has changed in the last 10 years, where before we only had basic bread with a whole in the middle, and now we actually have proper bagels, though I'm sure most Aucklanders don't mind either or. You have done a great job - as usual - and it is great that you have a designated day just for baking.

Joyce said...

You make it seem like child's play, but I know better! Love the idea of making mini's. Great images, too.

Sara said...

So cute! I like the little onion ones the best. A bad bagel sucks, but a really good bagel...mmmmmm.

Lucy said...

I'd love to make my own, but we live next door to a Jewish deli (literally, next door) and they have an array of the best Melbourne has to offer (and let me tell you, that's a lot of good bagels).

However, these do look fuss-free and those burnished tops look magnificent. Mmmm...

Nora B. said...

I can't believe that you made your own bagels! I didn't think that home made boiled bagels were possible but you've proven me wrong. Wow.

Jasmine said...

What a great post and I love the size.

My favourite type is the Montreal-style--sweet and not as "bready" as other types...

j

Chris said...

What a great post. These look fantastic! I would like a baker's dozen please....assorted. Thanks!

Cynthia said...

You have inspired to me give bagels another chance. Yours looks moist and edible :) compared to what we get commercially.

Helen said...

May I call you the New Domestic Goddess! These look so dainty and good! Great job. I have not made bagels in ages but have found renewed enthusiasm thanks to yours!

Belinda said...

I LOVE bagels! Thanks for the story and the recipe - goodness knows to get an authentic (good) bagel in Perth, Western Australia, I'll have to make my own. Hmmmm....I might just wait until I go to Sydney or back to the US. I am very lazy in the kitchen ;o)

T.W. Barritt said...

Great work! They're cute! I've made these once in class, and I couldn't get over how decadent the bagels tasted compared to the store bought variety. And it's fun to make those rings and holes and see if the hole really ends up in the center!

MeltingWok said...

hehe, sorta mini bagel-burger-buns..hm.. should have use these for my tofu burgers. Btw, did you guys receive my mail ? oo, I love these mini ones, thanks !:)

Dianne said...

Bagels have always intrigued me, but I've never actually tried to make them. I may try a batch soon though. Your bagels look so delicious! :)

Aimée said...

My mum taught my sisters and I to make bagels when we were still quite young. To this day I haven't tasted bagels that are as good- and I live in Montreal! Bagel heaven.
I am so glad you boil yours, they look incredible,really.

Saffron said...

Fantastic! I have a big passion for bagels!

s'kat said...

Those are utterly adorable! I had great fun the first time I made bagels... they are indeed easier than you think, and so fun to make at home.

Heather said...

Oh, I am going to have to make these! They look delicious.

Vanessa said...

so cute! I've never had enough guts (nor reason, with a dozen bagels at around $3 down the street) to make my own. Topped with cream cheese, hummus, tomato, cucumber and avo these are a fav brunch in my tiny brooklyn apartment. and with basil pesto - to die for!

Kirsten said...

WOW!! I somehow imagined bagels would be harder. :)

So good looking too...I might have to try it.

Thanks for posting!

Kirsten