Archive | June 2013

Making your own Bagels

I love making bagels. What I’m looking for is a chewy dough that’s not too dense. Bagels are poached briefly in simmering water before they are baked- this gives them their shiny crust and dense texture. It can be tricky shaping them. I find it works best to roll the dough out into a long sausage shape and then bring the two ends together, making sure the join doesn’t come apart by wetting both ends with a little water. Putting the dough in the fridge over night or for up to 3 days, can help to create a more chewy and interesting bagel. I also like to add a little rye flour for texture, colour and flavour. It can seem quite complicated because of the shaping and poaching – but once you’ve done it a couple of times you realise its quite straightforward. As with all bread making, you also need to experiment with timing so that you find a way to make it fit in with your life, and because you can put the dough in the fridge and take it out when you are ready, this can work well.  This recipe is adapted from  Peter Rhienhart’s book, ‘Artisan Breads Every Day’. This is a great book, which is very straightforward. I would also recommend his ‘Bread Baker’s Apprentice’, which is a classic for any aspiring baker.

Do try making these  and let me know how you get on.


1tsp diastatic malt powder (you can order this from ‘Bakery Bits’ on line, if you’re in the UK)  or honey will do

1 tsp instant dried yeast (this comes in small packets-don’t use the type that you have to activate first in water, make sure the packet is not past its due date)

1 1/2  tsp salt

I cup +3or4 tblespoons of lukewarm water ( I use American cups)

3 cups white bread flour

½ cup of rye flour (or you can just do 3 ½ cups of white flour)

Poaching water

fill a very large saucepan with boiling water

1 tablespoon of barley malt syrup or honey (optional)

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Topping of your choice

Sesame seeds,  poppy seeds, rock salt.

You will also need baking parchment

Making the Dough

Put the flours, salt, yeast and malt powder (or honey) in a large bowl and mix.

Add the water and stir with a large spoon so that most of the flour is hydrated.

Start kneading in the bowl and then turn out and knead on a work surface for 10 minutes. You want the dough to be stiff but not dry, and be a little tacky but not sticky.

Leave the dough to rise for 1 1/2 hours in a warmish place ( room temperature in a warm kitchen will do)

At this point I often put the dough in the fridge overnight or longer (up to 3 days should be fine) I take it out of the fridge and let it warm up for about 1 ½ hours before shaping it. But you can start shaping at this point. I think  you get a chewier bagel if you leave the dough in the fridge.

When I was making them this weekend, I shaped and then baked half the mixture straight away and then put the rest in the fridge and then baked another batch the next day. That way everyone  gets to eat freshly baked bagels, when they are at their best.

Getting the Poaching water ready

When you are ready to shape the bagels get the poaching water ready.  Fill your casserole with plenty of hot water and add the barley malt syrup and bicarb.

Then pre-heat the oven to 245 degrees C

Shaping the bagels

Take roughly half the dough out of the bowl, and then divide that in half.

Take one of these halves and roll into a fat sausage and divide into three.

Take each third in turn and roll and stretch into a thin sausage about 22cm long, then wet both ends with a little water and bring the ends together and roll/ press the join together.

Place on a baking sheet that is lined with lightly oiled baking parchment, shiny side up (for some reason greaseproof paper doesn’t work very well- as it tends to stick). Then cover with a floured piece of cling film.

Roll all your bagels (12 in all, I like this size, but bagels are often a little larger, so if you like them larger then you could divide into 8 or 6 instead)


Now for the fun part- poaching and sprinkling

Your shaped bagels need to rise for about 20-30 mins, but the time it takes for them to be ready can vary. To see if your bagels are ready to poach, fill a medium bowl with cold water and if your bagels look a little puffy, then put one of them in the water- if it floats, you are ready. Otherwise wait another 10 minutes and try again.

Make sure your poaching water is at a simmer, then gently put your bagels in to the water just under a minute ( I do this 6 at a time) then with a slotted spoon, flip them all over and leave for just under a minute.

Take them out and put them on lined baking trays and sprinkle to your hearts content with whatever you fancy for a topping. I sprinkled mine with sesame seeds and rock salt.



Once all 12 are done make sure your oven has reached 245 degrees  and put them in for 6 minutes. Check them in case they are browning too fast,  it’s a good idea to rotate the baking trays at this point. Turn down the oven to 225 degrees and bake for another 5 minutes until they are golden brown, and have made a good crust on the bottom.

Then cool on a wire wrack.

These were the first 6, which I  baked immediately


And these are the next 6 that I baked after the dough had been chilled


I like them the classic way with smoked salmon and cream cheese- but they are also delicious toasted with jam and butter


Hope you enjoy making them. Do let me know how you get on and I’ll be happy to answer any questions if you are not sure about something.


Making Sourdough Bread with your own starter

I hope you had some success with making your Sourdough starter from scratch, because now I am going to show you how to use it to make a fantastic Sourdough loaf. There are a number of ways to do this- but this recipe is the most straightforward and seems to turn out a tasty and chewy loaf each time. There are a number of ways to increase the sour flavour which I will blog more about in the future.  One way is to put the dough in the fridge over night at the point at which its ready to be shaped just before baking, so you could try that if you are looking for that unmistakable strong flavour.


Getting your starter refreshed and ready

If you have neglected your starter for a while (over a week) then a couple of days before you want to bake, start refreshing it. This is just the same method as you used when you were making your starter.

1. In the evening,  throw ( or give) away all but around 1 tablespoon of starter. Add 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour and mix well. Then leave at room temperature until the following evening.

2. Refresh again, just as you did last night, but this time just leave it until the morning.

3. Refresh again the next morning and by the evening you should have a lovely lively bubbly mass of starter ready to go. (If you don’t, just refresh it one more time)


Making the dough


1/2 cup starter

2  3/4 cups strong bread flour (can be white or a mixture of brown and white)

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 cups water



1. Put the starter in a mixing bowl and add the water and mix so that you break up the starter into smaller pieces

2. Add the bread flour  and salt and mix so that all the flour is hydrated and leave for 1/2 hour.

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3.  Now fold  the dough three times using a large spoon, scooping the dough from the bottom and pulling it up and over itself.

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4. Cover with cling film or a handy hotel shower cap

5. Leave it over night


Folding the dough the next morning

1. The next morning, you should be able to see that the dough has risen. Fold it again three times,  just like you did last night and leave it for an hour

2. Fold again and leave for another hour


Shaping the dough

1. Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface and scrape the dough out of the bowl on to the counter

2. Stretch the dough to the right

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and fold it back over itself

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3. Stretch to the left in the same way

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and fold over again

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4. Sprinkle the surface with flour and flip over so that the smooth side is on the top and the folded seams are on the bottom.

5. Move your hands slowly pulling the dough gently downwards to create some tension over the dough, whilst you are shaping it into a round ball

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6. Now make sure that all the dough has a good sprinkling of flour all over it and place it on a clean tea towel, seam side down and smooth side up

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7. Now fold the corners of the tea towel over the bread and leave for 1/2 hour

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Heating the oven and a heat proof covered baking casserole dish

1. Heat the oven to 240 degrees C with a baking casserole dish (Le Creuset works well) inside for 1/2 hour


Baking the dough

1. Move your dough near the oven and uncover and then sprinkle the dough with extra flour over the top

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2. Take the baking dish out of the oven (take care it will be very hot) and take the lid off

3. Pick up the dough still on the tea towel and gently place it in the hot baking dish so that the smooth side is now on the bottom and the seam side is up

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4. Put the lid on and bake in the oven for 1/2 hour

5. Take lid off and turn down the oven to 200 degrees – at this point it will look a little pale but should have risen nicely

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6. Bake for another 15-20 mins. until it is a richer brown colour and has a very hard crust all over

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7. Let it cool on a wire wrack for 1/2 hour and then slice and enjoy!

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