Making bagels has been on my baking bucket list for a while now. When we lived in New Zealand, we loved grabbing a quick bite at Best Ugly Bagels, just off Wellington’s iconic Cuba Street. I have a vivid memory of sitting at the bar outside the shop in the sun on Christmas Eve. My stool was directly in front of a huge pot of fragrant basil that shone brilliant green in the sun, and I had a tangy San Pellegrino limonata in one hand and a Best Ugly bagel in the other (an unthinkable Christmas Eve plan for those of us from the Northern Hemisphere!). The shop was just about to close, and one of the staff members came out and gave us a huge paper bag full of unsold bagels,  which were still slightly warm from the wood-fired oven, and wished us Merry Christmas. Kiwis are the best!

The Best Ugly bagels are based on a recipe from Montreal, which gives them a still-chewy but less dense profile than their New York cousins. The recipe that I tried is from the boy who bakes, which is based on the New York variant (maybe I’ll attempt a Montreal inspired version at some point!). I like the fact the boy who bakes’ recipe only contains flour, water, salt, yeast and sugar (which I substituted instead of the barley malt syrup that the original recipe calls for as I don’t have barley malt in my stocks), whereas many other recipes call for the addition of butter and eggs to the dough. I am really impressed at how the bagels turned out, and it was a lot simpler and less time consuming than I expected.

The dough is kneaded in a Kitchen Aid for 20 minutes, which removes most of the heavy work required to knead dough by hand. The part which requires the most labour is shaping into the iconic ring shape – although I found this useful video from King Arthur Baking Company which I watched beforehand, to supplement the instructions in the boy who bakes’ recipe. I made the bagels on Friday evening after a long, hard 5 days at work and the shaping was very therapeutic, helping me to unwind and defrizz from the stresses of the week! After that, the bagels were popped onto trays and put into the refrigerator overnight to slowly prove. First thing on Saturday morning they were ready for finishing off – involving boiling briefly, adding toppings as desired, and baking until golden brown.

As good as any I’ve bought from the shops! Recipe courtesy of The Boy Who Bakes

I now have 8 bagels to work my way through, which are an assortment of plain, sesame seed and poppy seed topped – although I imagine Mr Salford Kitchen will try one or two with me. Sharing is caring after all…

I’ll have to think up some imaginative veggie toppings to put on them. Some of my favourites are cream cheese, sliced ripened vine tomato, fresh basil and sea salt flakes. Crunchy peanut butter and sliced banana (Pip and Nut, Meridian or, when we lived in NZ, Fix and Fogg brands of PB are great) is also a good combination, especially if the bagel dough is cinnamon and raisin. I’ll have to make cinnamon and raisin ones another time! Mr Salford Kitchen loves swiss cheese and marmite (I despise marmite though, so that one is all his!).

What’s your favourite topping to put on a bagel?

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