Bagels are associated with Ashkenazi Jewish traditions. Bagels were apparently first made in Poland, when Jews were allowed to make their own white bread. They were made by hand with wheat flour, yeast and water. The notion of boiling them was to create a protective edge to stop them becoming stale too quickly.
When you are told you can’t have something, you become fixated with that very thing. For 8 days Jews are told not to own or consume any leaven bread during Pesach (Passover), which means for 8 days all we think about and want is bread!
It is usually a tradition in London to head straight for the local Kosher bakeries a couple of hours after Pesach finishes so that you can get your hands on some fresh rolls or bagels. This year I was fortunate enough to celebrate Pesach in Israel with my family, Grandparents and Great Grandmother. After we cleared the kitchen at the end of Pesach, we headed to the local square in Netanya to find what was open so we could consume as much bread or wheat products as humanly possible. All we really found was Pizza. Now don’t get me wrong I love Pizza, but what I really craved for, was a nice hot bagel. That got me thinking: I might be in Israel and not in my own kitchen, but that’s not going to stop me making bagels.
The next morning, I headed down to the local shop to source some flour and yeast. My Ivrit (Hebrew) is limited at the best of times and so I just had to rely on my instincts and hope that I picked out the correct white wheat flour.
A couple of years ago I had tried to make bagels, and even though they tasted ok, they looked like I had punched out all their air. Therefore, I was conscious not to make the same mistake again, especially as my grandparents were relying on eating a decent bagel (apparently it’s very hard to find a decent bagel in Israel).
If I do say so myself, I was very happy with the outcome, they looked like real bagels! Bagel dough is a nice simple all-in-one recipe, which proves well and quickly. Once shaped, the second prove worked well too. It was then time to drop the uncooked bagels in salty boiling water to poach for about 20 seconds before placing them in the oven. It was amazing to watch them grow and become golden in the oven.
Now as mentioned above, I wasn’t actually sure what type of white wheat flour I had purchased. Was it bread or cake flour? So when we opened the bagels and began to eat them, I waited in anticipation for the reactions. I realised that maybe the flour wasn’t meant exactly for bread making as the bagels were a bit cakey, but nonetheless tasty. I think I will have to make them again in my London kitchen with flour that I understand and know, so watch this space…
By the way, what do you fill your bagel with? If hot, I like to fill mine with Skippy peanut butter, but if cold some cream cheese and smoked salmon will suffice.