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Herby Italian bagels


The herbs are growing in abundance in the garden so it’s an ideal time to use them in your everyday bread making. Whether oregano or marjoram, thyme or rosemary, throwing handful of herbs into your bread is a great way to make it delicious and full of the flavours of summer. I tried over the years to get my bagels right and although they get eaten and receive (fairly) nice comments from my family, they’re not as good as I like them. Apart from mistakes where the odd one becomes sodden when boiled and is like eating set glue, the others are OK but not great…so as usual, I invited Vanessa to make some using the ideal flour and to explain the best method and what it is that makes a bagel just right.

The secret to the texture of your bagel - just how chewy it is, is controlled by the length of time it is cooked in water – one minute for relatively chewy and two minutes for a very chewy bagel – you can decide. The Buratto flour adds to the depth of flavour that these bagels have. The addition of bicarbonate of soda to the boiling water increases the Maillard reaction (a chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars while baking that gives roasted and baked foods a wonderful flavour). This tasty reaction gives these herby bagels a greater depth of flavour – it effectively increases surface gelatinisation by breaking down some starch, which increases the sweetness and gives these bagels a sort of ‘pretzely’ taste.

Herby Italian Bagels

The best time to harvest fresh herbs is in the heat of a hot day, if lucky enough to have them where you live. The summer heat concentrates the essential oils to give you a real blast of flavour so adding herbs into this recipe was a delight.

I like to serve these bagels for lunch with peppery watercress and cream cheese.

Mix the yeast with the water. Put the flour and chopped herbs and salt in a bowl and mix together. Pour in the yeast liquid and mix into a rough dough.

Leave for 10 minutes.

Tip the dough out onto an oiled work surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

Pop your dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film or a damp cloth. Leave on the side until doubled in size, this takes about an hour.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface then divide the dough – a lightly dusted knife or dough scraper works well - into 10 and form into balls.

Pop the bagels onto the Sassafras stone and leave covered with lightly oiled cling film or a damp cloth, until risen and puffy, (this takes about 30 minutes).

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the water.

Once the bagels have risen using either a floured or oiled finger, make a hole in the centre of each bagel. Swirl it around to stretch the dough a little, but be careful not to knock out the air or you will get dense bagels. Pre heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

Using a slotted spoon pop no more than 2 bagels in the water at a time and boil for exactly 2 minutes then lift out, drain well on a cooling rack and then return to the Sassafras stone, which you have now dusted with flour. Repeat until each bagel has been cooked in the water.

Brush the bagels with the egg wash and sprinkle liberally with poppy seeds. Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. They keep well for up to 3 days and may be frozen. For softer bagels put them straight into your bread bag while still warm to cool.

Makes: 12

Ingredients:

9g sachet of organic yeast 325g water, 28C 500g Mulino Marino Buratto Type 2 flour, plus a little extra for shaping (Soffiata Type "00" is a good alternative) A handful of fresh garden herbs such as oregano, chopped (or a tablespoon of dried is fine) 10g sea salt Olive oil, for greasing 1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda 1 egg mixed with a little milk 3-4 tbsp poppy seeds

Equipment:

Medium mixing bowl Dough scraper Large pan Sassafras baking stone Cooling rack

Mulino Marino Buratto flour

Buratto Type 2 - a very versatile flour containing live wheat germ for a tasty, blonde bread.

Cotton Bread Bag

Stop your bread getting sweaty by keeping it in our attractive and washable bag rather than in a plastic one. High-grade natural cotton bag 40x50cm, made for us with a draw-cord perfect for keeping your artisan bake fresh.

Poppy Seeds

Blue poppy seeds ideal for topping breads and rolls, for adding to doughs, biscuits and salads.

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