If you’ve never made bagels before, you may be rather surprised to find that they get their dense chewiness from being poached first and then baked. I make these in an electric food mixer using the dough hook, but you can make them perfectly well by hand, too. Makes 7 bagels.
Sift the flour and salt into the bowl you are making the bread in, add the yeast and mix well.
Measure the water in a measuring jug then stir in the honey and oil. With an electric food mixer on the lowest setting, slowly add all the liquid to the dry ingredients. Knead on the lowest setting for 10 minutes, checking to make sure the dough is not too wet and adding more flour if it does look too sticky. It is stiffer than a normal bread dough, but will still have elasticity.
If making by hand, make a well in the centre of the flour and pour the liquid in gradually, bringing the dough together with your hands.
Turn the dough onto a clean, dry and floured work surface. Using more flour if necessary, start kneading the dough, stretching it away with the palm of one hand and folding it back again with the other, keeping this up for 10 minutes (great muscle builder!). You may need to use more flour as you go, to avoid a sticky dough, which you don’t want.
Next, place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl and turn it in the oil to coat. Cover with cling film or a plastic bag to create a draught-free environment and put in a warm (not hot) place for 1–3 hours or until doubled in size.
When the dough is nearly ready – doubled in volume – bring a large saucepan of water to the boil (about 4 litres/7 pints) and add the treacle or molasses. Cover and turn off the heat while you shape the bagels. Lightly oil two baking trays and sprinkle with maize or cornmeal. Remove the dough from the bowl, then punch it down and knead it briefly. Roll it into a rough sausage shape and divide into 7 chunks. As you work with one, keep the others covered with a clean tea towel.
There are two ways to shape the bagels. One is to firmly roll out each chunk into a long ‘snake-like’ shape, then looping the ‘snake’ and sealing the ends together with a tiny splash of water and squeezing it. The other method is to roll each chunk into a ball. Piercing a hole in the centre with your finger, pull the dough open until you can fit your hand inside stretching it wide, turning it around and squeezing it to keep it even – like a steering wheel. Place on the prepared baking trays and repeat with the rest of the dough.
Cover and allow to stand for a further 10–20 minutes to allow the dough to bounce back again.
Preheat the oven to 220ºC (425°F), Gas mark 7 and heat the saucepan to a gentle simmer. Gently lift each bagel into the water and poach no more than three at a time, turning gently with a couple of slotted spoons, poaching for about 1 ½ minutes on each side. Remove the bagels from the water, allowing them to drain first, and place on the prepared trays, spacing them about 3–4cm (1 ¼ –1 ½ in) apart. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds, sea salt, poppy seeds or a savoury topping of your choice, or just leave them plain, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn them upside down for a further 10 minutes to cook the bases. Cool on a wire rack.
When cold, slice the bagels in half and freeze (for up to 3 months) so they can be popped into the toaster straight from the freezer without defrosting. Bagels are great toasted with butter or spread with cream cheese, thinly sliced smoked salmon and black pepper.