I vaguely remember buying and eating my first New Zealand Bagel; it was in the very late 1980’s or thereabouts. I recall being singularly unimpressed. It was a dismal thing that bagel; a doughy, flaccid crusted pretender, claiming a name and a lineage it clearly – even to this kiwi’s uneducated bagel palate – did not deserve.
Two and a half decades later; three North American lovers hungry for bagels behind me; countless batches made, consumed, critiqued, and sometimes binned, my recipe evolved and settled into the below version, my favorite these past few years. I like their chewiness coupled with the satisfying ‘crackle’ of their crust. I especially love to eat them still warm from the oven, sometimes just tearing off pieces and smearing them with cream cheese before popping them in my mouth instead of cutting them in half. Or, like this week, swathing them in butter and freshly made blackcurrant jam.
A few notes: (Skip ahead to the recipe if you prefer to dive in.Below are some of the more common issues that have popped up for me)
Notes on ingredients: This recipe requires both whole malted barley and malt barley extract; readily available at home brewer’s stores. Here in Dunedin I go to The Dunedin Malthouse on Hillside Road. Make sure you buy whole pale malted barley, as the darker malted varieties provide flavor, but are non-diastatic. (Malted grains are simply grains sprouted before drying. The sprouting process activates an enzyme called diastase which helps convert the sugars from the flour effectively, which in turn, provides the nutrients for your yeast to multiply, and also results in a beautiful crisp crust. Dark malted barley is dried at a higher temperature than pale malted barley, destroying the diastase enzyme.)
Check to make sure the malt extract you are buying has not been flavored with hops if you are purchasing it from a brewery store. The malt extracts in a can often are. You want plain malt barley extract. (Though I’ve been tempted to try malt wheat extract. Wheat beers have a certain unique sweetness to them, and I’m curious to see how this would translate to a bagel or other yeasted wheat products)
Use high grade flour for the bagels as opposed to standard flour. The 12 hour ferment for the wet poolish used in this recipe can begin to breakdown the gluten strands in a flour with a lower protein percentage.
Notes on timing: If you take up the Bake Your Own Antipodean Bagel Challenge, you’ll be making a pre-ferment, in this case, a 12 hour Poolish. Much runnier than an Italian Biga, a French Pâte Fermentée, or an English Sponge, the poolish is a pre-ferment made up of equal parts flour and water by weight; yeast at .2% of the flour weight; and for the bagel recipe here, the addition of ground malted barley at 3%. Throwing the poolish together takes only minutes; it has the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Make it the evening before, and you can eat your bagels for brunch or lunch the following day.
Proofing your bagels after shaping is not a long drawn out affair. In fact, proofing them too long is counterproductive. You’ll end up with a holey and light ‘loose’ crumb instead of the chewy close crumb being aimed for here. A warm spot on a sunny day should see them ready for the oven around 15 minutes after shaping. A cooler day may require up to an hour. If you’re in a hurry and the temperature is cold, partially fill up your sink with hot water and place your baking tray over the top with your bagels covered to keep them cosy. (Make sure the tray is big enough not to fall in the sink if it were to be knocked slightly. Yes! This has happened to me.) On the other hand, if you need to slow the process down by a few hours, you can retard the proofing process by popping the tray in the fridge until 15 minutes or so before you are ready to boil them.
Notes on method: You will be both boiling and baking your bagels.
- Make sure you have a decent sized pot and don’t over-crowd it; I generally do 2 bagels at a time.
- You’ll be adding baking soda to the water to alkalanise it slightly at a rate of approximately ½ tsp to each litre of water. (No, I’ve not yet tried the lye method. The soap maker in me finds the idea a bit…Eeeeek. Having said that, I may give it a whirl in the near future to compare the results. Watch this space.)
- The water should be at a gentle rolling boil rather than a fierce about to spill-over raging boil.
- I like to boil the bagels for about 45 seconds to a minute each side. Less than that and the bagels seem less chewy to me and more ‘bready’ which I’m not so fond of. Your taste may vary – experiment!
- Don’t worry if the bagels look Yoda wrinkled when you boil them; they smooth out in the oven.
Notes on things sticking: Cover your bagels loosely with oiled plastic wrap when you are proofing them longer than 15 minutes. Otherwise the surface will dry out too much, and without the oil on the wrap, the dough can pull away with the plastic when you remove it. Because the bagels are placed wet from boiling on to the baking tray, unless you have heavy old-school black baking trays with a proven no stick track record, or have either oiled your tray well or are using a heavy grade non-stick foil on the tray, the bagels will very likely stick, no matter how good a ‘non-stick baking tray’ you use. Given that they used to use flour and water to stick wallpaper to walls, this probably isn’t surprising. You have been warned. 🙂
Antipodean Style Bagels. The Poolish Ingredients:
- 400 grams High Grade flour
- 400 grams warm water (100% hydration)
- 12 grams Malt Barley (3% – A skimpy NZ Tablespoon’s worth)
- 8 grams active dried yeast. (0.2% – a small 1/4 teaspoons worth)
- Pinch of sugar
- Add the pinch of sugar and the yeast to the warm (15 degrees C ish) water and set it aside to ‘bloom’. About 5 minutes.
- Finely grind the malt barley. I use a small coffee grinder for this – just make sure you’ve thoroughly cleaned it of ground coffee first.
- Whisk the flour and malt barley together in a large bowl.
- Add the water/yeast mixture.
- Mix the ingredients together until you have a smooth batter-like consistency
- Cover and set aside for 12 hours.
- 400 grams high grade flour
- 32 grams warm water if you’re being pedantic, otherwise a couple of Tablespoons will do nicely.*
- 12 grams of malt extract (3% – skimpy Tablespoon)
- 12 grams of honey (3% – skimpy Tablespoon again)
- 16 grams salt* (2% – generous Tablespoon)
- Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, rock salt, or finely chopped and sweated onion for topping.
- Baking soda for your boiling water.
*Total hydration for the bagel dough is 54% using ‘baker’s percentages’. Because the total flour weight is 800 grams, for both poolish and final dough together, the total amount of water used will be 432 grams.
**The salt percentage of 2% is for the 800 grams of total flour used, as no salt is added to the initial poolish.
- Add the malt extract and honey to the warm water and stir to dissolve.
- Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl.
- Whisk the poolish to deflate it.
- Pour the water/malt/honey mixture into the poolish and mix/smoosh it through with a rubber spatula.
- Add the flour/salt to the poolish. I just dump the lot in and start folding it all together with the spatula. Continue mixing/folding until it forms a shaggy mass.
- Leave the dough in its bowl for 20 minutes to allow the dough to autolyse – hydrate and begin gluten development – it makes the kneading of this stiff dough a lot easier.
- Knead the dough on a well floured surface for about 10 minutes until it sticks to itself and not your hands or the work surface. It should feel somewhat velvety and smooth. This is a pretty stiff dough to handle – great if you enjoy the tactile quality of breadmaking.
- Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover and set aside in a warm place for an hour, or cooler place for 2-3.
- Remove the dough, place it back on a lightly floured work surface, and gently knead it 2-3 times to deflate it.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into evenly sized pieces. I like to weigh my pieces to ensure they’re close enough in size to bake evenly. I get 10 bagels from this recipe, each one weighing around 115-120 grams each prior to baking.
- Roll each piece into a neat ball. I like to do this between the palms of my hands, then finish them off with a few twirls between palm and bench.
- Slightly flatten out the ball, then press a finger or thumb through the center all the way through.
- Gently ‘stretch’ the bagel hole out to enlarge it. The holes close up somewhat during their final proofing/ boiling/baking, so make them bigger than you want the final hole to be.
- Set the bagels aside for their final proof. 15 minutes in a warm spot, up to an hour in a cool spot (possibly longer if your kitchen is very cold). You don’t want these super puffed up before boiling them – a slight puff is fine.
- Put a large pot of water to boil on the stove top and add ½ a tsp of baking soda per litre used. Aim for a gentle but constant rolling boil.
- Gather your toppings for sprinkling and place them in a handy position.
- Carefully lower the bagels into the boiling water – I use my fingertips for this as I’ve distorted the shape of bagels too often when using anything else. Try for two bagels at a time rather than crowding the pot. The bagels usually sink first, then rise up to the surface after 10-20 seconds. If they don’t rise up and bob around after 30 seconds, allow the remaining bagels to proof for longer.
- Allow the bagels to simmer 45 to 60 seconds per side, flipping them with a spoon or chopstick.
- Remove bagels with a slotted spatula or spoon, placing them on a baking tray.
- Sprinkle each bagel with your preferred topping as soon as it hits the baking tray after boiling. Don’t wait until you have boiled them all before sprinkling. The toppings won’t stick at that point, and you’ll need to egg wash them in order for them to do so.
- Bake for 13-15 minutes at 200 degrees Celcius. (Leave the fan-bake knob alone. You don’t need it.)
- Eat as many as you can while still warm from the oven; they will need to be toasted after they’ve been out of the oven more than 8 hours, so make the most of their super oven freshness and give a few away to neighbors. There’s always more to make tomorrow…