After almost five years of living in Boston, and about 500 bagels later!, I returned to Brisbane to find no fitting substitute for this chewy and delicious bread.  I suffered terrible bagel withdrawal, but quickly learned to re-familiarise myself with the local offerings instead.

In Boston, I was spoiled for bagel choice.  There were a number of good independent Jewish bakeries around, but Finagle a Bagel was my favourite, most convenient, bagel destination.  Every visit I practically ordered the same thing.  Egg bagel :: toasted :: plain cream cheese.  Simple and delicious.  Occasionally I was tempted by the sweet selections of the chocolate chip and raisin cinnamon varieties.  Either way, my favourite part was watching the bagel selected for you whizzing down the conveyor to be unceremoniously cut by a massive circular saw.

Recently remembering my bagel-y breakfasts in Boston, I jotted down these chewy breads on my to-do list.  With my focus now on baking bread for the month, they have soared to the top of the list.

I am no a stranger to baking bread and have sporadically baked a loaf or two over the last 10 years when time permits.  During that time, however, I have never *boiled* pre-baked bread dough.  And that is exactly what you need to do for bagels.  The characteristic chewiness of the bagel is produced by a quick one minute dip of the pre-shaped bread in boiling water.  (Imagine ‘old school’ round doughnuts frying in a pot of oil, and you get the picture.)

I researched a few recipes and they all seemed similar.  I ultimately decided to go with an adaptation from Martha Stewart as many of her yeasted bread recipes have worked a treat for me in the past.  The process seems quite long, but it is really quite simple.  The time you need to factor, like for nearly all bread making, is for the proofing process.

The end result?  They were no Finagle a Bagel, but they were good.  They were chewy and slightly dense and delicious with a healthy helping of cream cheese on top.

{ Bagels } adapted from Martha Stewart

* Ingredients *

3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1-2/3 cups warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
4 ½ cups bread flour
1-1/2 tablespoons table salt

* Directions *

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the yeast and water. Let stand for 5 minutes until foamy.  Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the dough hook and with the mixer on low speed add the sugar, flour and salt.  Knead for about 1 minute until slightly tacky dough forms.  You may need to add more flour or water depending on what you find.  Continue to knead dough for about 5 more minutes then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place for 2 hours (until doubled in bulk).  Divide dough into 10 equal pieces. Cover with a damp kitchen towel.  Let rest for about 20 minutes.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly brush with oil; set aside.  With lightly oiled hands, roll each piece of dough into a 6-inch rope. Form a circle around your hand and then press the two ends together to seal.  Place the bagels 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Cover with a piece of oiled plastic wrap and let rest until puffed (about 20 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 500 F or 260 C with racks in the upper and lower thirds.  Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil.  Gently drop bagels into the water (as many as will comfortably fit without touching each other). After 30 seconds, use a slotted spoon to gently flip the bagels over — simmer for yet another 30 seconds.   Then, using the slotted spoon again, return the bagels to the parchment-lined sheets. Top them with the seeds or salt .  Place sheets in the oven.  Bake for 5 minutes and then rotate the sheets and reduce the temperature to  350 F or 180 C.   Bake until golden brown for about 10 minutes.  Then flip the bagels over. Continue baking for another 5 minutes. Transfer bagels to wire rack to cool.

{ A little hint … }

:: I used poppy seeds for my bagels as I had them on hand, but take inspiration from Finagle a Bagel for the many flavour combinations available.  The choice is limitless.

P.S. I am submitting these poppy seed bagels to YeastSpotting, the weekly showcase of yeasted baked goods and dishes.  To find out more, click here.