Bagel caper – the finish line


I just crossed the finish line – the bagels are done! I made plain, poppy seed and caramelized onion ones. All in all, not bad. Some of them are a little bit misshapen, a little bit too big. Not perfect but I imagine they are okay.

The full recipe can provide guidance, but I think one could experiment. The first time I made the recipe, I overdid it on the flour, so the dough was a bit too dry. This time I might have underdone the flour – and the dough was a bit fluffy and bubbly. The yeast was pretty active!

Making bagels is a bit of a process – you can make a starter/sponge ahead of time, let it sit, and then later knead and form the dough. Then form the bagels themselves and let them retard (which can be done for up to 48 hours, although I went with the two-hour bare minimum).

forming bagels for the retard process

forming bagels for the retard process

The next stage, after letting the formed bagels sit for a while, they need to be boiled in a large pot, with a tablespoon of baking soda in it. The bagels should be placed on the pan and brushed with an egg wash and then the desired toppings.

Finished bagels! Cheers to imperfection!

Finished bagels! Cheers to imperfection!

These are imperfect, not well-formed and the picture is dark – but I am sure they must be sort of… tasty? We shall see.

Mysteries of Foreign Kitchens – Onion focaccia bread, take two


When I travel and stay in the homes of friends, I do enjoy continuing my baking obsession in their kitchens, but navigating foreign kitchens (and by foreign I mean both foreign in the sense that they are in other countries and in the sense that they are unknown to me) is a challenge. Very few people are as well-equipped as I am for baking activities, so baking in strange kitchens is always an adventure in improvisation.

An alleged attempt at onion focaccia bread

An alleged attempt at onion focaccia bread

Once in Berlin I tried to make Anzac biscuits without access to brown sugar or golden syrup (and was making them with someone who was not eating sugar anyway). We went with honey and imitation sugar. He also had a wonky oven and nothing resembling baking sheets.

Most people (especially men) don’t even have mixers, so it’s all about stirring by hand.

Today’s retread of a baking adventure – onion focaccia bread. I made this last week (where the pic comes from) and am trying it again in unfamiliar environs. We’ll see how it goes.

Onion focaccia bread recipe
Bread dough

3 cups bread flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
½ tablespoon dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup warm water

Sift all dry ingredients together (try this in a kitchen without a sifter or something similar!). Add the oil and warm water, stir to make a dough. If the dough is a bit too dry, as mine was, add a very small amount of water.

Knead the dough for ten minutes on a lightly floured surface until you have a smooth, stretchy dough. Place the dough in a clean, well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot and let rise until the dough is doubled. (This was a challenge because I’m in a house that has basically one bowl total.)

When dough has doubled (this took about 45 minutes for me), roll it out to a 25cm/10 inch round size and place in an appropriate pan. At home I used a 10-inch cast iron pan. Here there is no such pan so I am just baking it on a flat pan.

Cover with a damp cloth and let rise again for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the cover, make deep holes in the dough, about 2.5cm/1 inch apart. Cover again and let rise for 20 minutes.

When it has risen, scatter with the onions, drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the sea salt (ingredients as listed in the “topping” items below. Not to be confused with “toppins” cast aside at a Pizza Hut and eaten by homeless Vietnam veterans living in cardboard boxes). Sprinkle a small amount of cold water on top to keep a crust from forming. Bake about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

1 red onion, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon coarse sea salt