Writing about the things you cook often leads to a mini-voyage of discovery. This time it was it was to enter the world of the bagel and, if like me, you just thought it was a bun with a hole in it, I may have some surprises in store. Peter Reinhart‘s book says that it originated in Poland and was made in the shape of a stirrup to commemorate the victory of Poland’s King Jan III Sobieski over the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Vienna in 1683, but apparently this isn’t true; it was first made long before this and was given to women in childbirth and may have been a sexual symbol. Oo-er. One thing is for sure, they are a jolly handy shape for threading on a rope or a piece of wood so you can hawk them round the streets. Wikipedia is ridicuously thorough on the topic if you want to know more. However, if you have bought bagels from the supermarket and are (again like me) wondering frankly what the fuss is all about, you might like to read Oliver Thring’s excellent account about the deterioration of the proper thing.
Fresh From the Oven, the monthly baking challenge I’ve been part of for a couple of years, has changed the way it works. Instead of logging onto a secret site for the recipe, keeping mum about it all month and then announcing in a big reveal, now it’s all out in the open and you can write about the theme any time during the subsequent month. So I followed the recipe for bagels provided by Purely Food (althought I dissolved my dried yeast in the liquid before use) and also added these steps recommended by Claire at Things We Make (whose bagels are a thing of extraordinary beauty), i.e.
- I added 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of bicarb of soda to the poaching water
- I baked half of them on baking parchment sprinkled with polenta, which worked a treat
- I let them prove longer in their shaped state as this helps fill out the shape
- Made the holes 3 times bigger than they should be as they close up…lots
There are two methods to make the hole in the middle, either by rolling the dough into a sausage shape and sealing the ends togther or by rolling into a ball, piercing and swinging it around on your fingers. I tried both methods – the former is much neater than the latter but far less fun. I sprinkled a few with sesame seeds and a few with sea salt – and made 8 (because I wasn’t up to dividing the dough evenly into an odd number).
Ever since an unmitigated disaster of a loaf sticking fast to a baking tray, I generally always use baking parchment. A good sprinkle of polenta over one tray was fine (a la Claire) but the bagels took a bit of shifting from the greased version. When I turned the little devils over they went face down onto paper.
Hungry teens waited impatiently for these golden rings to emerge from the oven and I watched them disappear rapidly, warm from the oven with butter. I had mine for breakfast with scrambled eggs.
Anyone know why mine aren’t very rounded on top? What could have caused the flat-top? Never mind, they tasted fine.
I’ll be making them again.
The new regime over at Fresh From the Oven is explained here and the bagel round up will appear on Purely Food at the end of February (along with the challenge for March). P.S. I hate to think what the title of the this post will do to my spam intake!
What’s your favourite thing to eat with bagels?