Bagels are a form of bread roll particularly associated with Jewish cuisine. They have a delicious chewy texture that comes from the addition of honey to the dough, and poaching them before baking. They can be a bit tricky to get right, but the learning curve is worth it.
Make the Dough
Dissolve the honey in the water. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and yeast, and then stir in the liquid. Mix into a ball. Tip it out onto a dry work surface, and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is silky and elastic.
Pop the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic film and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size - about 1-2 hours.
Form the Bagels
When the dough has risen, tip it out onto a dry work surface and roll it flat to knock the air out of it. There are 2 ways to form your bagels - one is to roll the dough into a sheet and cut the bagels and holes out using cutters. This will give you a more perfect ring, without a join, but I prefer the second method, which is to divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll each one into a rope or sausage. Then curl each one up into a ring, moisten the ends with water, and work the overlap until it is smooth.
Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper or foil, and coat it with oil. This is very important - the bagel dough will stick to anything and become very difficult to remove after proving. Pop the bagel rings onto the tray, cover with a clean tea towel, and leave in a warm place to prove until doubled in size - 1-2 hours.
Poach the Bagels
Bring a large frying pan of water to the boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Add bicarb, salt and honey. Carefully place uncooked bagels into the liquid - how many will depend on the size of your pan - you don't want to crowd it. Let each bagel cook for a minute on each side. Remove from the liquid and sit it on a clean absorbent cloth (paper towels can get soggy and stick to the dough) to dry a bit.
Top the Bagels and Bake Them
Preheat your oven to 210°C (410°F) if it's a fan oven, 230°C (446°F) if it isn't. Make up some egg wash by beating together an egg and a splash of milk, and paint this all over the bagels. Sprinkle the bagels with your favourite topping(s). Things like poppy or sesame seeds are very popular. Dried onion is also good, but I usually soak this in water for 20 minutes before using so that the dried onions don't get burnt to a crisp.
Bake the bagels for 8 minutes, then turn them round and bake for a further 8-10 minutes until they are golden brown.
Serve the Bagels
Let the bagels cool on a wire rack, then slice them in half and serve with cream cheese and smoked salmon, dips, pickles, anything else that takes your fancy.
DOUGH • 450 grams strong white bread flour • 250 ml lukewarm water • 1 tsp salt • 1 tsp active dried yeast • 1 tbsp honey POACHING LIQUID • a panful of water • 1 tsp salt • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) • 1 tsp honey
PLUS Beaten egg/milk for glazing. Assorted seeds to garnish - sesame, poppy, chia, sunflower - maybe some dried onion