Many of you lucky readers live in the US where you can have a decent bagel whenever you like. Now, did I just provide all of you with an opening to vent?!! Well, anyway, the rest of us in India and similar places don’t have any kind, as can be expected. But those of us who have spent some extended time in the US are aware of the bagel and its place at breakfast.
And we get nostalgic about them. I used to like mine especially smothered with cream cheese. Part of the nostalgia was because it reminded me of the taelwor (this is the best I can do spelling a Kashmiri word), a small sesame covered bread baked by the neighbourhood kandur (baker), available all over Srinagar. These are ‘evening’ breads, meaning they are available later in the afternoon, in time for the afternoon tea. The taelwor is especially good with sheerchai, the salty milky tea that is topped with malai (cream) and considered a digestive after a heavy meal! It is dense and chewy like a bagel – a good bagel is supposed to be chewy, right?
And Nandita’s invitation to bake for WBB#7 was the perfect excuse to make them again. But I couldn’t find the recipe I had used a couple of years ago. It had been simple enough but I didn’t want to just wing it. After a quick Google check and a review of a couple of recipes, I decided Carolina’s was almost like the one I had used. And she assures us it’s the real McCoy. So ladies (and the few gents out there) get ready to bake yourselves the perfect Jewish bagels and show them New Yorkers that we are right up there with them.
The process is quite easy but involves an additional step, so prepare yourself to be in the kitchen for upwards of an hour. There is the usual foaming of the yeast and waiting for the dough to rise. But before baking, the dough is boiled. Here the recipe differed from my earlier attempt. This recipe calls for adding honey or sugar to the boiling water. This leaves a think sticky film on the bagels that bakes to a beautiful gold and may also help the toppings to stick better.
New York Bagels
3 C maida or all purpose flour
1 t salt
1 1/2 C hot water
2 T yeast
1 1/2 T sugar
2 l water (to boil) with 2 T sugar
sesame, caraway or chopped garlic to top the bagels
semolina or cornmeal
Take 1 1/2 C hot water in a mixing bowl. Stir in 1 1/2 t of sugar. The water should be hot but you should be able to keep your fingers in it. Sprinkle the yeast and stir. Cover and leave for 10 min. The yeast should now be all frothy. Add the salt and 2 C of the flour. Knead till it all comes together. Add the rest of the flour gradually, adjusting the water, till all the flour is incorporated and you have a medium stiff dough. The dough should not be sticky or soft, yet pliable and stretch easily without breaking. Knead for a few minutes. Smear the bowl with a little oil, put the dough in it and flip so that a fine film of oil covers it all around. Cover the bowl and let rise till doubled (about 45 min).
(While the dough rises work on your spread. I used my very own recipe to prepare home-made cream cheese spread with sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts.)
Add 2 T of sugar to 2 l of water in a large pan and bring to boil.
Punch down the dough and divide into six portions. Roll each portion into a rough ball, push a finger through and pull the dough to shape into bagels. Leave the bagels on a tea towel or cling film to prove for 10 min. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7 (about 375 F). Drop the bagels into boiling water and boil for 2-3 min. Flip and boil on the other side for another 2-3 min. Remove to a clean tea towel. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, caraway (shah jeera) or chopped garlic. Transfer to a baking tray dusted with cornmeal or semolina. (Be really generous. I had a small struggle to get mine off the tray!) Bake for 15 min. Turn heat down to Gas Mark 6. Rotate and bake another 15 min. Cool, slice, toast and spread with butter or cream cheese. Yum!
In they go!
Baked to a beautiful gold!
Slicing is easier if you are patient and can wait 20 min for the bagels to cool. That was possible only with the last one!