Half-baked

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September 5, 2014 by josie100olives

Golden delicious

Golden delicious

I didn’t start out as much of baker. All those rules and all that possibility of failure was a bit scary, frankly. But then a friend bought me a set of digital scales for my birthday and a whole world opened up. Cakes, desserts and biscuits suddenly started pouring out of my kitchen. But one ingredient still terrified me – yeast. I just couldn’t get up the courage to go there. Then, one night, I saw TV chef Poh Ling Yeow making bagels and the penny dropped. Maybe it was her unbridled enthusiasm, or her incredibly clear explanation of the process, but the very next morning I got up early, hunted down her recipe on the internet and an hour or so later greeted my husband and housemate with fresh, home-made bagels.

If you want a really clear explanation of the process, check out the video  of Poh making these bagels on her ABC TV show Poh’s Kitchen.

I have also included the recipe below for convenience, but I will mention a few things I have noticed after making this several times.

I often find I do need quite a bit of extra water than the 3/4 cup she suggests adding with the yeast mixture. I assume this is due to differences in flour – I learned from Maggie Beer that every batch of flour is different and will absorb different amounts, so it’s good to go by look and feel in these situations. Poh comments that the dough should not need a floured bench but only stick to itself if it is the right consistency, and I have found this to be a good guide.

She calls for a combination of flours in her recipe – I have only ever used plain white (all-purpose) flour and they have turned out fine.

In terms of rolling and shaping the bagel, there’s no need to be too precise, I am hopelessly impatient when it comes to fiddly things that require dexterity and I just kind of roll them out and smush the ends together. They end up looking great anyway. Besides – you want people to know they are home-made!

I also think the amount of bagels you get out of this recipe varies depending on the size – I often don’t get more than seven or eight if i am making grocery-store sized bagels. I usually make a couple of smaller ones for me and the rest regular sized.

I have also frozen these successfully, which makes a good stash some for a lazy Sunday morning.

One final thing – I am in no way going to claim that these will win every American bagel-lover’s heart. What I can say, is that here in Oz, an hour in the kitchen making these babies beats hands down anything you can get at the grocery store. I know there are a few places here in Melbourne where you CAN access really great traditional bagels, but if your only alternative is the nearest supermarket, then give these a go instead.

Poh’s Bagels

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons (7g) dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup (170ml) warm milk or water
  • 4 cups plain bread flour, sifted (I just use regular flour, it’s probably even better with bread flour)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) warm water + extra if needed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten, to glaze (I hate wasting a whole egg on this, because you never end up using the whole thing, so I brush the tops with whole egg mayo, a little tip I picked up somewhere on the internet. It works a treat and the seeds stick better)
  • 2-3 tablespoons lightly toasted sesame or poppy seeds (I never bother toasting them)

Method

  1. Mix together yeast, sugar and milk in a small bowl, cover and set aside for 10 minutes or until the surface of the mixture tarts is covered in bubbles.
  2. Combine flours and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and add yeast mixture and the 3/4 cup warm water. Mix and knead until smooth and elastic, for about 7 minutes. You should not need to flour the bench for this. If it is the right consistency, the dough should only stick to itself. If it feels a little dry or wet, add 1 tablespoon of water or 1 tablespoon of flour and knead until smooth.
  3. With a knife, divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and cover with damp tea towel. Knead each piece very briefly then roll into a sausage 2.5cm in diameter. Dust the bottom of the palm of your hand with a little flour, and squash 2.5cm of one end of the sausage. Bring it around to meet its tail, so it forms a doughnut, overlapping the tail end onto the flattened end. Then pull the flattened dough up from either side of the tail to meet on top and pinch into a seam to secure the tail in place. Flip the bagel over and comment on how awesome it looks. Cover with a moist tea towel and rest on baking trays lined with parchment for 15–20 minutes. If your bagels seem not to be proving very well, blast your moist tea towel in the microwave for about 20 seconds, or until the towel feels lukewarm to touch. Repeat when the towel feels cool again.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 190°C or 180°C fan forced. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the risen bagels,  boiling in batches of 3 to 4 for 1 minute on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon and rest on clean tea towel to absorb residual moisture. Don’t be alarmed, at this stage they will look slightly deflated and dimply. Return to trays lined with parchment. Brush generously with egg wash and sprinkle seeds of choice on top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
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