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I was very lucky to have met Dan Lepard early this year at Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, where I got his book, Short & Sweet – the best of home baking and signed by himself. The book is filled with delicious baked treats and I had sworn to myself that I will try every single recipe in the book. Well, shamefully I still hadn’t had the chance to actually bake anything from the book. Not until I decided to use one of his recipes for our next Baking Club Bake Off Challenge.

If you haven’t noticed, I have set up a new baking club on my personal website where everyone is welcomed to join in some Bake Off challenge each month. Last month we saw a few daring bakers putting the Ombre Cake to the test and the results were absolutely awe-inspiring. You simply have to check it out and allow yourself to drool over the keyboard.

And since I have just spent the whole last month in USA, so I thought I will bring a piece of American classic back to Australia for our October month baking challenge – the BAGELS.

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Americans love bagels, they will eat it for breakfast, lunch and snack. The varieties are endless but that’s only half the fun, then you also have to choose what to put inside to make it a delicious bagel sandwich. The more common will be cream cheese and smoked salmon bagel, then you have bacon and omelette bagel for breakfast, or perhaps a maple syrup cream cheese with a coconut bagel; fresh berries sandwiched inside a blueberry bagel always go down like a treat. The possibilities are endless, so why not join us and take on this baking challenge, bake your own bagel and wow us with your own creative combination?

Maybe a “Halloween” inspired bagel?

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Most people think bagel is very difficult to make because you have to boil them before baking. I also allowed myself a whole day to tackle this challenge but surprise, surprise! It was a lot easier than I thought it would be and only took me half day to complete the task. It is just like baking bread, with an extra step of boiling, seriously no biggie.

Dan’s recipe for the bagel read straight forward, hence I decided to use it for this challenge. This recipe doesn’t seem to give me that glossy shiny exterior on the bagel, but the flavour and texture are pretty spot on; is chewy, a bit of sweet and sour. Dan also suggested if you want a firmer, chewier texture on the texture, you can either half the yeast used in the recipe or use less water. For me, I don’t particularly like the too dense chewy bagel, so this recipe is just right.

 

Simple Bagels

Recipe adapted from Short & Sweet, the best of home baking by Dan Lepard

makes 10

500g strong white flour
1 tsp fast action yeast (dry yeast)
2 tsp fine salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
275ml warm water
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
oil for kneading, and for the tray
50g brown sugar or malt extract
a 2-litre sauce of boiling water
seeds or coarse salt flakes for the tops

1. Combine flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl; add warm water and vinegar. Stir together to a firm dough, cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes.

2. Knead the dough for 10 seconds on a lightly oiled work surface before returning it to the bowl and covering with a cloth. Repeat this light kneading twice more at 10-minute intervals before again returning the dough to the bowl, covering it and leaving for an hour.

3. Divide the dough into 10 equal size pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball, cover with a cloth and leave for 20 minutes. Then shape you bagel. The easiest but least authentic way is to stick one finger through the centre and stretch the dough outwards with your other fingers.

4. Heat oven to 220C/425F, add brown sugar to the pan of steadily boiling water. Drop the bagels in, one or two at a time. Leave for 30-60 seconds, then flip them over and cook on the other side. Ladle the bagels out, shake off any excess water and place on an oiled tray, sprinkle seeds or salt on top, and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes.

Kneading technique according to Dan Lepard

Place your dough on a oiled surface without too much pulling and teasing (if you quickly scrape down the inside of the bowl at this point and lightly oil it, you’ll avoid the dough sticking to it later).

Take the edge of the dough furthest away from you with one hand and fold it towards you, to meet the edge of the dough nearest to you. Then with the heel of the other hand, push down lightly onto and into the dough and very slightly push and stretch the dough away from you by about 5-10cm. Make your movements gentle, don’t pound or tear the dough.

Give the dough a clockwise quarter-turn, and once again fold the dough towards you, then push it gently away; and repeat this ‘turn, fold, and stretch’ no more than eight to ten times. Then return the dough to the bowl, leave it to rest, and repeat this simple kneading probably twice or more at intervals.