Who doesn't love a good bagel? I know I do. Not those dry quoits you find in supermarkets, but proper soft-yet-chewy bagels. I was taught to make these traditional Jewish bagels a long, long time ago, and they remain to this day, my favourite.
During my late teens and early twenties, I used to go to a lot of nightclubs, and on the way home - usually in the wee small hours - I'd stop for a coffee at Bar Italia in London's Soho, where I'd often meet up with chums who'd been to other clubs.
A bit later, we'd head over to Brick Lane, to Beigel Bake, to grab a beigel* or two for breakfast, before wending our weary way back home.
(Or in some cases, straight to work. Oops.)
Our freshly-baked 4am beigels were perfect. Especially when filled with salt beef. These days I prefer my bagels to contain, among other things, carrot lox and cashew cream cheese. Yum!
*Yes, beigel! We were completely unaware of the word, bagel, back then. Beigels seem to have originated in Poland, in the Jewish community, and indeed, our word, beigel (pronounced bye-ghel), seems to be an Anglicisation of the Polish, bajgiel (pronounced, bye-ghee-el). In turn, bagel seems to be an Americanisation.
And while we're on the subject of etymology, 'lox' comes from the Yiddish word for salmon - laks. In German, it's lachs, and in Scandinavian countries, it's laks/lax. Now you know. 😉
Learning to make traditional bagels
Fast-forward a couple of years, and our chef, Pinchas, taught me how cook beigels... ummm, bagels.
You say potato, I say potahto...
And guess what? I discovered that they were a good deal easier to make than I ever imagined. Jewish baking mystique well and truly busted, thank you, Pinchas Josef!
Incidentally, waves of nostalgia flooded over me as I was writing this post, so I searched online for images of my old house, and it seems that it's now been turned into gorgeous luxury apartments, costing upwards of a couple of million pounds!
Check out some of the kitchens in the apartments! **drool**
I also found these images from 2007 & 2008, on Derelict Places. Long, long after I'd left (and clearly before the house was renovated). Although the house looks run down and altogether a bit sad, I did grin when I scrolled down the first page, and found a pic of the very cooker that Pinchas taught me to cook bagels on. It was much cleaner in my day though!
The secret to great bagels
... as I was to discover, is in allowing the dough to cold-ferment overnight, and in not baking or boiling the bagels for too long the next day. Really, 10-12 minutes is all the baking time they need, along with a minute of boiling.
Also, contrary to what loads of people will tell you, you don't need to add any honey or molasses to the boiling water in order to get that nice shine on the top. Plain old water is perfectly fine.
I do recommend however, using a bit of vital wheat gluten to give the dough a bit more elasticity, and the finished bagels a bit more 'bite'. I also use maple syrup (or apple 'honey') instead of sugar to activate the yeast. Pinchas used to use actual honey but I prefer maple.
I don't know why but using a syrup instead of granulated sugar seems to make the yeast more frothy. Maybe it's simply because the sugar is already in liquid form, and so can feed the yeast more easily. I don't know, I'm not a chemist. Whatever the reason, it works.
The traditional way to make bagels is to roll the dough into a sausage shape, wrap it around your hand, and join the ends. With the join next to your palm, gently roll the dough back and forth to seal.
I'll be honest here, and say that I've never got the hang of making nice, uniform bagels this way - there's always a skinny bit. Plus the hole is always too big, which is why I prefer to poke a hole in the dough, rather than faff around trying to get a perfectly rolled bagel.
Pinchas would not approve.
- I have provided US measurements in ounces because using cups is notoriously imprecise. When baking, it's important to get the measurements right, so weighing dry goods is the best way to do this. For liquids, do you really want to mess around, trying to work out a fraction of a cup? 😉
- I don't have room in my current fridge, so I use the log store, which is completely unheated. You can use any cool area, as long as the bagels are well-covered, and safe from critters!
- Know your oven! If you know that it runs hots or cold, adjust the baking temperature accordingly. Not all ovens are the same, and age and cleanliness play a part in temperature too. If your oven has an amount of baked-on grease, for example, this will negatively affect the temperature.
- I don't use a fan oven, so if you do, you'll want it to be about 20° lower.
- Nutritional information is calculated on the assumption that you'll use 2 teaspoon of oil for the baking trays, and 2 tablespoon each of sesame and poppy seeds.
Anyway, the big question is, do you say bagel, or beigel?! Enjoy!
How To Make Traditional Jewish Bagels (Beigels)
- 1 teaspoon dried active yeast
- 3 teaspoon maple syrup (or honey), warmed
- 750 g strong bread flour
- 1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 385 ml lukewarm water
- olive oil
- seeds , poppy, sesame, etc.
- Large mixing bowl
- Baking trays
- Clean tea towels
- Silicone parchment
- Wax wraps
- Mix the yeast with 1 teaspoon of the warmed maple syrup, and a tablespoon of lukewarm water. Set aside for 10 mins or so to become frothy.
- In a large bowl, mix together the bread flour, vital wheat gluten, and salt. Make a well in the centre.
- Once the yeast is frothy, mix in the rest of the maple syrup, and tip the whole lot into the well in the flour.
- Add the rest of the water, and mix with your hand to form a stiff dough. It will be quite dry and crumbly at this stage.
- Turn out the contents of the bowl onto a clean work surface, and knead until smooth. This will take a good 10-15 minutes, so be prepared for an arm workout!
- Once you have a nice, smooth, elastic ball of dough, put it into a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel, and set aside in a warm place for 2-3 hours to prove. You want it to be roughly double its original size.
- Once the dough has proved, prepare a couple of baking sheets by lining them with silicone parchment or mat, and then brushing over a very light coating of olive oil.
- Knock back the dough to deflate it (basically, punch it!), and then divide it into equal-sized pieces.
- Roll each one into a ball, flatten somewhat, then poke out the middle. Place the bagel onto a baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
- Tightly cover each sheet with wax wraps (or cling film), and either place in the 'fridge overnight, or in a cold place.
- The next day, remove the bagels from their cold storage, and allow them to sit at room temperature for 30-40 minutes.
- Heat your oven to 240°C (465°F/gas mark 8).
- Set a large shallow pan of plain water on the hob to boil, and once boiling, pop in a few bagels (don't overcrowd the pan). Boil for 30 seconds, then flip them over for another 30 seconds.
- If you're using toppings, now is the time to coat your bagel. (If you're not using toppings, skip this step, and just put the bagels straight onto the tea towel.)- Place a warm boiled bagel in a dish or on a plate, and sprinkle over the seeds. - Then place the bagel onto a clean tea towel to remove any excess moisture from its base. - Repeat for the rest of the batch.
- Once all the bagels have been boiled, topped, and de-moistened, arrange them on the baking trays, leaving a couple of centimetres (1") between each one.
- Place both trays into the oven, and bake the bagels for 6 mins. Remove from the oven, turn each one over, and bake for a further 6 mins.
- Remove, and set aside on a rack to cool slightly.
- Serve warm with your favourite fillings.
- 1 cup = US cup = 240 ml
- 1 tablespoon = US/UK = 15 ml
- 1 fl oz = US = 30 ml
Is Jewish bagel vegan normally or you had to modify it to be vegan friendly?
Hiya! The only modification I made was to use maple syrup instead of honey. Hope you love them! xx
OMG delicious! Thank you ♥️. That’s the closest Iv ever got to my childhood Jewish beigeI! I tweaked a little bit, barley malt in the boiling water and glazed them with egg. I see what you mean about only cooking for 10-12min, they looked really pale but were perfect. Pics on instagram to follow 🥰
That's fantastic, Dionne - thanks so much for letting me know. I'm really happy they hit the mark! Can't wait to see your Insta pics! xx
I did try leaving mine in the coolest room in the house but concerned it wasn't cool enough I moved them to the fridge before i went to bed. Checking the next morning they had completely collapsed. Any ideas as to what went wrong? Thanks
I can honestly say that's something I've never heard of before! Did you leave them at room temperature after you removed them, and did they rise again? xx
I did leave them out for well over an hour but we don’t get the sunshine until later in the day so they didn’t seem to warm up. In the end I brought the dough back together knocked back and started from first prove all over again which gave me a result but maybe not as good as they would’ve been. Also I tried to cook without the fan on in my oven but after 15 mins I put it on as they didn’t seem to be anywhere near cooked. I will try again though
I'm glad you managed to get something out them, Diane, but I'm sorry they didn't turn out as planned. I hope they work better next time for you. xx
I started this process last night and started the final steps and baked everything in the recipe to the letter.
Probably well actually the best ever.
Lima ohio usa
That's such great news, Michael - thank you so much for letting me know! xx
Hehe, little birdie, I did found you in that article! 🙂 Love the earrings!
Did I already tell you that I love your stories about how you lived everywhere and ate everything? Oh, this didn't come out as right as it sounded in my head, hahaha, please don't be angry with me... but you know what I mean - I mean, you lived in THAT house? (Among all the other great places you wrote about?) Someone actually taught you how to make GENUINE bagels? Huh! I used to know one Pinchas but he was a Rabi and didn't bake much so... 😉
As yeast girl as I am (this didn't come out right either but anyhoo, hahaha, I just love to bake) I will certanly give those bagels a try! Thanks to both you and Pinchas!
I'm not wearing any visible earrings in my pic, Mari! LOL! This is me (the one without the glasses) - https://img.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeed-static/static/2014-06/6/5/enhanced/webdr06/grid-cell-30710-1402047513-16.jpg ... I look so horrible! Ha ha!
My friend in that photo, and the photographer who took it, are both coming out to Ljubljana in three weeks, so we can do another photo shoot. Anita (the photographer), is doing a follow-up exhibition, which will tour Britain for three years! I was 18 when the first photo was taken - I'm almost 54 now... I think I look better now (if a little wider around the hips)!!
How could I possibly be angry with you? I have on many occasions, eaten ALL THE THINGS! LOLOLOL!
Do let me know how you get on with the bagels - there's nothing like fresh ones... I love them so much! xxx
Hehehe, how I did miss you out! Ok, ok 🙂 but I wouldn't go that far and say you look horrible. On the contrary! Maybe we just look differently on everything now and think, who is/was that girl and how did she/why did she/or whatever she she... not necessarily to have done something wrong. It's just... we became someone else. Or not. If we are lucky, and look inside, and see that we are still those timid and at the same time rebelian girls from back then.
And so you are, my dear! Or how would you explain your eagerness to travel, find new places, try different dishes, explore and meet new people?
So I'm happy that you and your friends will recreate that captured moment! Looking forward to see it! And I bet I will again see timid and at the same time rebelian beautiful girl full of life, shining brightly <3
Ha ha ha - you're not the first person to suggest I have a rebellious nature... but you have said it in the nicest, most positive way possible! xx
Nico, you just brought me back to my childhood, with your perfect looking bagels! I will definitely try them soon! 🙂
I'm sure you'll love them, Elinor! Just don't bake them for too long, or else they'll be tough! xx
I have totally been to Beigel Bake in my youth! The good old days, but I am sure I wasn't as glamorous as yourself! These bagels look amazing, I have always wanted to make bagels at home so going to try this recipe. I love bagels with butter and jam! Also, you can't beat a breakfast bagel with avocado!
Ha ha ha... I wouldn't say I was in any way glam! The photographer who shot those pics is coming over to Slovenia next month to shoot me again for a follow-up exhibition, which will be touring Britain for three years!
So cool that we used to go to the same place!
I've never had bagels with jam but I do love them with smashed avocado! xx
Hi, can I replace vital wheat gluten with something else or omit it at all?
Feel free to omit it, Silvia - it's not essential, it just gives the bagels a little extra oomph! xx