Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Making bagels

I love bagels and we can't find them where we live in the French countryside. I know where to buy them in Paris, but not around here. So I've learned how to make my own. I've been making bagels now for several years, but this weekend I tried a new method that I saw while watching our DVD of Baking with Julia (Child). The guest was Lauren Groveman, and she and Julia made bagels together.

Starting to shape the bagels.

I used my standard bagel dough recipe, but decided to try Groveman's techniques. The only change I made in the dough is that I added about a tablespoon of black treacle (Groveman uses barley malt) to the yeast mixture instead of white sugar or honey. This gave the yeast the sugar that it needs to feed on, but it darkened the dough a little. Otherwise, my recipe was the same as usual.

Shaped bagels to be covered with another towel for a twenty minute rise.

Groveman makes her dough the day before, gives it a quick rise, then refrigerates it overnight for a good slow rise, so I did the same. The dough had doubled in size when I took it out of the refrigerator the next day. I punched it down and formed the bagels by cutting the dough into ten pieces and forming each piece into a perfect ball. I used my thumb to press a hole in the center of each ball and then widened the hole, making a bagel shape. At this point the hole is larger than you think it should be, but it becomes a normal size after the dough rises and cooks.

Bagels simmering in water, two minutes on a side.

After the bagels were shaped and laid out on a towel, I covered them and let them rise again for about twenty minutes. The next step is to pre-cook the bagels in boiling water, about two minutes on each side. I do this in batches because my pan only has room for about three or four bagels at a time, depending on their size. I add a tablespoon of honey to the water go give the bagels a nice sheen.

Boiled bagels on a cooling rack.

Once the bagels are cooked and cooled, the toppings go on. I used sesame and poppy seeds and some course sea salt. The next step is baking. I used to just put the bagels on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat, but Groveman recommends using a pizza stone and, since I have one, this time I tried it. A little cornmeal or semolina on the peel helps the bagels to slide off onto the stone, and the preheated stone (in a hot oven) really cooks the bagels well. Another of Groveman's techniques is to toss a few ice cubes into the bottom of the oven when the bagels go in, for steam. I did that, too.

Bagels on the peel, topped with seeds and ready for the oven.

The bagels baked for about fifteen or twenty minutes then sat with the oven turned off for about five minutes. I baked two batches of five bagels each. The process worked well and the bagels were delicious, but I'm going to make some further adjustments for the next time. Groveman recommends doing one batch at a time, but I didn't follow her advice. I made and boiled all ten bagels at once before baking. This meant that five bagels stayed on the rack for half an hour while the first five baked and I think they deflated a bit. Next time, I will not boil the second batch until the first batch is in the oven. Lesson learned.

The finished bagels. Yum!

Another thing is that Groveman's recipe uses more flour than mine, so I had less dough and my bagels were a little smaller than I want them. Next time, I will only make eight bagels instead of ten. It's much easier to work with batches of four as opposed to five, and the bagels will be a little larger.

Ken took these photos while I was in baking mode. Wasn't that nice?


  1. I think I'll have a go at these... never tried bagels before... but love them with cream cheese.
    Thanks to Ken, too, for the step by step "this is wot it look like" Guide.

  2. Those look fantastic! I must put "Baking with Julia" on my wish list for next year.

  3. Good tip about the icecubes. I pour some water in but chucking icecubes in would be easier with a hot oven. Apparently Picard sells bagels. Dunno where your nearest one is though. Ours is Chambray-les-Tours.

  4. Merci, Walt, for your good wishes.

    Your bagels look delicious. I don't think I have ever tasted one!

  5. I love reading these baking posts. I need to try bagels sometime- I always had them for breakfast when in NYC. I think I'll need to find some treacle- we have plenty of sorghum around here, but will have to hunt for treacle.

    chm- wish I could send you a bagel to try. You can probably find some frozen in your local grocery store.

  6. They look good enough to eat.

  7. Those look delicious. Bring on the cream cheese and smoked salmon!

  8. So, out of curiosity, where do you buy them in Paris? I make my own bagels now too, but I just happen to be going to Paris next week... :)

  9. They look great - I can almost taste them! A love of baking is something we share.

  10. I love love love bagels; alas I can't eat them often but when I do they are manna from heaven.

  11. tim, they're pretty easy to make, there are just a lot of steps.

    buddy bear, if you like to bake and you like Julia, it's a great set.

    susan, I think our closest Picard is in Vineuil, outside of Blois. Not close enough for frequent trips.

    chm, je t'en prie, jeune homme ! :)

    evelyn, you could use a good dark honey instead, I think.

    starman, they were! Past tense, since they're all gone now.

    archguy, exactly what we did!

    vivi, Hi! The one I know is in the Marais, on rue des Rosiers just off the rue Vielle du Temple. But I think there are more bagel shops in Paris these days. Just google Paris Bagels and see what comes up!

    will, have you made bagels?

    michael, they are a treat!

  12. Susan, Walt -- Yes, Picard sells them as "petits pains américains" :-). I think, however, your homemade bagels are probably much better.
    If you ever have any left to freeze, remember to split them before freezing. Makes life easier for thawing and toasting.
    (We never have enough to freeze.)


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