I have been shoving wholemeal flour into everything in this book. It is a little better for you than white flour, has less calories and more fibre and iron, and I find it imparts a nutty flavour to baked goods. However, if you are really not a fan, then just substitute the 200g strong wholemeal flour for 200g strong white bread flour, so you use 500g white flour altogether. As ever, I like to keep some bagels in the freezer (sliced horizontally in half), so that when anyone wants one, I can just pop it into the toaster to heat through.
Makes 8 bagels
Equipment Large bowl or freestanding electric mixer set with the dough hook
200g strong wholemeal bread flour
300g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
1 heaped tsp salt
325ml warm water (from the tap)
3 tbsp honey (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp toppings in total (eg sesame seeds, poppy seeds and the reserved bran in the recipe)
Sieve the wholemeal flour (unprecedented I know, as I am not a fan of the sieving flour thing, but there is a method to my madness) into a large bowl (or food mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook). Put three-quarters of the bran that remains in the sieve back into the flour and save the remainder for later. Add the white flour (no need to sieve this one!) and then add the yeast and salt.
Toss everything together and make a well in the centre. Pour in the warm water and mix together to form a soft, but not sticky dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes if doing by hand or 5 minutes if by machine. To test if the dough is kneaded enough, form it into a ball with a nice taut top. Put some flour onto your finger and prod the top of the bread, making an indent of about ½cm.
The dough should spring back all the way if it is kneaded and be stretchy. If necessary, knead it a bit more. Weigh the dough and divide the weight of the dough by eight, then separate the dough into eight equal-size portions weighing the amount you came up with.
Place seven of the pieces under a tea towel so they don’t dry out. Take one piece and roll it into a ball with a nice taut top, then dip your index finger in a little flour to coat and push it through the centre of the dough ball until it touches the work surface.
With your finger still in the hole, pick it up and spin it around to make the hole bigger about 4cm wide is ideal as the hole will close up quite a bit as the dough rises. Place the bagel onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and repeat with the rest of the dough balls.
Space the bagels quite far apart on the baking sheet as they will expand quite a bit. Spray the bagels with some oil and then cover them with cling film. The cling film should be loose enough for the bagels to increase in size, but still airtight. Leave the bagels in a warm place to rise for about 40 minutes or until they have increased in size by about a third.
To test if they are ready, put some flour on your finger and prod the side of the bagel, making an indent of about 5mm. The indent should spring back about halfway. When they are ready, cover them back up and preheat the oven to 200°C, (Fan 180°C), 400°F, Gas Mark 6.
Pour 2 litres of water into a wide pan and bring to the boil (popping a lid on will help do this more quickly). Once boiling, stir the honey through. This will add shine and flavour to the finished bagels.
Working in batches of two at a time, drop the bagels into the boiling water. They will be a bit squidgy to pick up, so the trick is to do so without misshaping them too much. Leave to boil for 15 seconds per side. Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and place them back on the baking sheet as you go.
Once they have all been boiled, brush the bagels really well with the beaten egg so they are nicely covered. Then, scatter over your choice of toppings. Each bagel will take about ¾ of a teaspoon of topping in total, whether individual or mixed. I like to go for a selection with some coated in just sesame seeds, some just poppy seeds and then a mixture of the two.
This is where the reserved bran from the flour comes in also. It is best scattered on the bagel with the seeds rather than on its own. Finally, bake the bagels in the oven for 25–30 minutes or until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped underneath.
Serve with smoked salmon and cream cheese