Give Me Five: Home-made bagels, cream cheese, salmon

There’s nothing more rewarding than baking your own bagels

These are perfect for sharing and very enjoyable to make

These are perfect for sharing and very enjoyable to make

 

The job description was tantalising: taste these 12 amazing-looking cakes and tell us which one is nicest, then we’ll have a cup of tea and do it all again tomorrow. That’s my new role as judge on this year’s Great Irish Bake Off.

Over the past few weeks I’ve learned that mistakes can easily be made in the heat of the kitchen. It really is a challenge for the bakers, between the heat of the oven, fellow competitors watching your every move and being in a different kitchen to the one you’re used to. Not to mention there’s a whole army of camera operators eager to capture that moment when you remove a cake from a tin too soon or taste your buttercream.

Then there are the hazards of the job. At the auditions I ate a large forkful of harmless-looking fruit tart only to realise, too late, that it has been liberally dusted with salt instead of sugar. My eyes, wide with horror, darted towards my fellow judge, Paul Kelly, and he nodded knowingly: we’re not in Kansas any more, Toto. He has some stories to tell from the previous two series. Kitchen mishaps are all part of it.

The medics are on hand throughout for good reason. I never realised baking could be so dramatic. I bake to escape, relax and unwind. I find it therapeutic and so rewarding.

The Great Irish Bake Off not only introduced me to a group of talented bakers, but it also rekindled my own love of baking. I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t taken the time to bake as much as I used to, and I’ve missed it.

So I’ve been kneading doughs, glazing tarts and whipping cream like there’s no tomorrow. It’s been inspiring and motivating. Among my favourite things to bake at home are bagels. There’s nothing like a real home-made bagel with that distinctive chewy exterior and soft, yeasty dough inside.

I make this dough at night and leave it to rise slowly in the fridge overnight, which gives it an even nicer texture when baked. These are perfect for starting on a Saturday evening, then baking the following morning for a perfect Sunday brunch. They are perfect for sharing and very enjoyable to make, and that’s what baking is all about.

 

 

BAGELS WITH SMOKED SALMON: MAKES 8

 

The five ingredients

  • 14g fast-action yeast
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • Smoked salmon
  • Cream cheese
  • Dill

 

From the pantry

  • 20g caster sugar
  • Salt
  • 300ml warm water
  • Poppy or sesame seeds
  • Black pepper

 

Method

Place 300ml of warm water into a jug and add the yeast and sugar. Leave to sit without stirring for five minutes, then stir until dissolved. Place a teapsoon of salt and the flour in a large mixing bowl and create a well in the middle. Pour in the yeast mixture. Combine until you get a firm, slightly moist dough. Knead on a floured work surface or in a mixer until smooth and elastic. By hand this takes about 10 minutes.

Place the ball of dough back into the bowl and cover it with cling film. Leave it to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, or place it in the fridge to slowly rise overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Punch the dough down and weigh it. Divide the dough into eight even-sized pieces. Form each piece of dough into a ball by shaping your hand into a C and rolling the ball on the countertop in a circular motion.

Dip the handle of a wooden spoon in flour and use it to make a hole in the centre of the dough ball. Place each bagel on a tray and repeat with the remaining dough.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Reduce to a simmer. Slip the bagels into the water and leave to poach for between 30 seconds and two minutes per side, depending on how chewy you want your bagels. Remove with a slotted spoon to a wire rack and scatter with seeds while still wet. Bake on a tray for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Mix the cream cheese with the dill, plenty of black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice if you have it. Sandwich the halved warm bagels together with plenty of cream cheese and smoked salmon.

  • Every Thursday, we’ll tweet the five ingredients from @lillyhiggins and @irishtimeslife so you can have them ready for Friday. Email givemefive@irishtimes.com with your suggestions for recipes
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