The last time I tried a Nigella Lawson recipe, it’s turned out badly. This of course was no fault of hers, but still, I didn’t want there to be any awkwardness between us. By “us” I mean, me and the four Nigella cookbooks that have been mocking me since I nearly killed my husband on his birthday. Over the weekend while flipping through How to Be a Domestic Goddess, her recipe for bagels jumped out at me. In fact, the bagels looked so enticing that an impending sense of redemption began to percolate within me. I would make this Nigella recipe my bi-atch!
Here’s Nigella’s recipe, which was actually adapted from George Greenstein’s Secrets of a Jewish Baker.
6 2/3 cups white bread flour, plus more for kneading
1 tablespoon salt
1 package (1/4 ounce) rapid-rise yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
2 1/4 cups warm water, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons malt or sugar, for poaching
2-3 baking sheets, well oiled
1. Combine flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl. In separate bowl, add sugar and oil to the water. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid, mix into a dough with a spatula or wooden spoon.
2. Knead the dough either by hand or with dough hook, and try to add more flour if you can. The more dry your dough, the better! It will be stiff and hard to work. Even with a dough hook, kneading takes 10 minutes.
3. Form the dough into a ball and put it into an oiled bowl, turning once to coat all around. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 1 hour. Once dough is well risen, poke with finger to test; impression should remain.
4. Punch the dough down and knead again, divide into 3 pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece into a rope then cut each rope into 5 pieces. Roll each piece between the palms of your hands into a ball, then roll another rope; curling to form a ring. Seal the ends by overlapping and wetting slight.
5. Put on a large pot of water to boil, when it comes to a boil, add malt or sugar.
6. Set the bagels on the greased baking sheets, cover with tea towels and leave for 20 minutes. Bagels should grow puffy. Preheat oven to 500
7. When the water is boiling, start poaching. Drop in a few bagels at a time. Boil for 1 minute on each side. Remove from water, place back on baking sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes until they’re shiny and golden brown.
Makes 15 Bagels
The key to these bagels is time. The dough needs ten minutes in the stand mixer with the bread hook on, and that is no joke. Then it’s got to rise for at least an hour before you even start thinking about cream cheese and smoked salmon. In fact, when I made this recipe, I let my dough rise for three hours in the refrigerator. I don’t know if I’m just sort of terrible at yeast-based recipes, or if I got a janky packet of Fleischmann’s Rapid-Rise… either way, I wanted to ensure that every step I took was calm, calculated and precise. I needed this to be a winner.
After waiting with a glacier’s patience, I finally pulled my dough out of the fridge, and started punching it down and rolling it into rings.
Nigella’s recipe suggests that the reader adds malt to the water when poaching the bagels. I know of malt balls and malt vinegar, and neither seemed appropriate, so I opted for her Plan B, which was to add sugar instead. I set the kitchen timer for one minute intervals so my little ring-shaped lovelies would have equal time in their boiling bath.
I salted half the batch with a nice coarse salt (post-boil/pre-bake) and in hindsight, wish I had salted all of the bagels- the added crunch and saltiness was truly divine. Next time I will have the confidence to try a multitude of flavors and toppings.
I can honestly say, that I have never had a better bagel. As soon as they were cool enough to handle, I sliced one open and smeared it with cream cheese. The taste was incredible. I’m afraid I will never want a store-bought bagel again! Thank you Nigella! It was an easy-to follow recipe with such a positive results! My husband even picked me up and laughed out-loud, “I’m so glad we’re married!”
Happy husband, happy tummy, and friends with my Nigella cookbooks again! Redemption never tasted so good.