11 July 2011

Making bagels

What do you think of when you have a package of smoked salmon and a tub of fromage à tartiner — spreadable or "cream" cheese — in the refrigerator? Bagels, that's what. Problem is, you can't get bagels here in Saint-Aignan, or at least not that I know of. In Paris, yes, but not here. Not even commercially baked or frozen bagels.

We can get many different breads, of course, either in one of the area's six or seven boulangeries, or at the supermarket, but not bagels. Normally, we get our bread delivered by the porteuse de pain — the bread-delivery woman — four days a week, but starting yesterday she officially went on vacation for two weeks. We are on our own.

Shaping bagels out of bread dough

That means we get to sample the breads from all the other bakeries around here, which will be an interesting change from our simple daily baguette made by the village boulanger. But it also means we have to drive three to five miles, round-trip, just to buy fresh bread, unless we need to go out for other reasons. There's another option, of course: make bread at home.

What makes them bagels is the boiling before baking technique.

Walt did that yesterday. He made bagels — "water bagels," to be precise. Bagels are made using a yeast-risen bread dough that is shaped into the familiar fat rings, left to rise, and then boiled in water for a few minutes before getting their final cooking and browning in the oven.

Here's the recipe, in case you want to try it:

Water Bagels
Makes 12 bagels

2¼ teaspoons (8 g) active dry yeast
1½ cups (12 fl. oz.) warm water
2 Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
4¼ cups (530 g) all-purpose flour
4 liters water
1 Tbsp. honey

Dissolve the yeast in the water in a large bowl. Add the sugar, salt, and flour, and stir to form a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Cover the dough with a lint-free towel and allow to rise for 15 minutes.

Flatten the dough, then roll it out to a thickness of one inch, and about 12 inches long and 6 inches wide. Cut it into strips 12 inches long and one inch wide. Roll each strip between your hands into a cylinder about one-half inch thick.

Cut each cylinder in half crosswise, form each half into a ring, and pinch the ends together to form closed circles. Cover the bagels with the towel and allow to rise for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a large pot and preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Add the honey to the boiling water, and drop in the bagels. Reduce the heat and simmer for seven minutes, turning them over about half-way through. They will float and puff up in the water.

Remove the bagels, drain well, and place on baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
There are many variations possible. You can sprinkle sesame seeds, onion seeds, finely chopped onion or garlic, or some coarse salt on the boiled bagels before putting them in the oven. You can add some cinnamon and some raisins to the dough before shaping and boiling the bagels.

Slice open the finished bagels and toast the halves (or not, as you wish). Spread with cream cheese. Lay on a slice of smoked salmon and maybe a couple of thin slices of cucumber. Good for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or a late-night snack.

Here's a post from three years ago about making bagels...


  1. I've made bagels like these. They're very good! Yours are making me think it's time to make them again. Now, in a crunch we can go to Picard (a frozen food store) and buy them, known as "petits pains américains". A Jewish speciality -- lox & bagels -- is mainstream American now!

  2. Looks delicious! You are definitely a European by now....."But it also means we have to drive three to five miles, round-trip, just to buy fresh bread."

    If there were only a place within 50 miles where I could buy fresh bread.

    I envy you. :)

  3. Hi Ken, Walt's bagel recipe looks great, and the variations are endless! My favourite is with poppy seeds.

    Around October each year, Montrichard hosts a Rendez-vous du pain (link to Nouvelle Republique article about last year's event http://www.lanouvellerepublique.fr/loir-et-cher/LOISIRS/Sports-et-loisirs/Le-pain-en-vedette-a-Montrichard), and they mention bagels, seeded and also au citron, which I'd never heard of before … unfortunately we are never here at that time, but it sounds like a great (if calorific!) experience!

    Best to you all

  4. Thanks, mccork, for that info. I wasn't aware of the bread festival in Montrichard. You can be sure I will be there for it this October.

    Jessi@Life, hi, yes, starting the car and driving it that far is not ecologically friendly at all, so we don't do it often for a single-purpose trip. Sounds like you need to make your own fresh bread. Maybe you already do.

    Hi Ellen, unfortunately the closest Picard stores are in Blois (40 km one way) and Tours (60 km one way)! We don't go there on the spur of the moment. As for bagels, I buy them when I go back to my little home town in North Carolina nowadays. No, we don't put grits on them!

  5. Oh my- a bread festival in France;)
    You make bagel making look easy and fun. I definitely need to give it a try sometime.

  6. I love bagel and lox too with very thinly sliced cucumbers with a splash of lemon. http://www.tasteofbeirut.com/ also posted today, a recipe of bread cooked in water.

  7. They look great! I didn't realize you couldn't get any kind of bagels in the store. Most industrious to make your own. Have you ever made donuts?

  8. Well, I just wrote (and Blogger lost) a long comment about my exciting visit to the Washington National Cathedral during my week in D.C. .... anyone else beento the Cathedral in D.C.? The stained glass is phenomenal. There is a Space Window that was designed by the Emil Frei glass company of St. Louis, and it includes an actual moon rock!

    Here's a link to the Wikipedia article on the cathedral

    And another to an image of the Space Window

    Ken, it's good to be back reading your interesting posts about Le Tour! How cool to see that you were on TV! We thoroughly enjoyed watching the Tour of Missouri, with many of these same teams, when it came through St. Louis a couple of years ago. What a blast! Luckily, our leg was a circuit, so they whizzed by us numerous times.

  9. They every bit as good as what we get at the bagel shop.


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