I have been looking forward to this post for over a year. I thought that it would be fun to start my Christmas posts off this week with recipes featuring foods or main ingredients found in Israel. The recipes include Jerusalem Bagels, Pomegranate-Orange Ice Cream Floats and Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce.
This first recipe, Jerusalem Bagels, was somewhat of a challenge—one of the few things I have Googled and came away nearly empty handed. There are lots of pictures of them hanging out in cyberton, but I only came across two recipes. They were pretty similar, neither of them being too much different than the recipe that I use for a loaf of white bread. Sooooooo, after careful consideration and much thought regarding flavors and ingredients that I would find in Israel, I winged it.
When we were in Old Jerusalem last year I noticed an interesting bread product in some of the bakeries. Our guide referred to them as Jerusalem bagels and then bought several for our group to share. I got one small bite of the bagel, dipped into za’atar, a blend of herbs, toasted sesame seeds, and salt.
A Jerusalem bagel is not like the bagels to which many of us are accustomed. They are more bread-like and somewhat lighter than traditional bagels. They are quite large and oval shaped—big enough to share! Interestingly these bagels are not boiled before baking. Often sesame seeds or sometimes, za’atar, are sprinkled on the outside of the bagel. Frequently za’atar is used as a ‘dip’ for the Jerusalem bagels.
As I mentioned, Za’atar is a blend of herbs, toasted sesame seeds, and salt. The herb blend often includes oregano, marjoram, thyme, and sumac. I brought a bag of za’atar back with me from Israel, not knowing that I could actually make my own za’atar. I have included a few links for za’atar recipes at the end of this post. The only ingredient that may stump you is sumac. If you don’t have Middle Eastern market in your area, then it may be challenging to find sumac. Best advice—leave it out and add whatever puts a smile on your face. Stay with a Mediterranean flavor blend and you will be fine.
Links for Za’atar recipes:
This is a fun and very easy bagel to make. I’m thinking that it would be a great family project, something the kids could get their hands into and really enjoy making.
- 2 cups warm water divided
- 1 tablespoon yeast
- pinch of white sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup powdered milk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 6-7 cups bread flour (see Notes)
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons water
- sesame seeds
- za’atar (see Notes for link) optional
- Dissolve yeast and a pinch of white sugar in 1 cup warm water. Allow to sit until yeast has activated (gets very bubbly and has risen).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer put the activated yeast, the remaining cup of warm water, honey, olive oil, powdered milk, salt and 5 cups of flour.
- With dough hook attachment in place, begin mixing the ingredients. When ingredients come together, add 1 cup of flour a little at a time, allowing the flour to be incorporated. The dough will probably be cleaning the sides of the sides of the bowl, depending on the moisture content of the flour. Add just enough flour, a little at a time, to make a mildly stiff dough. It is better to ere on the side of having a softer dough than to have a heavy dough–you don’t want to make brickbats, right? The dough should be easy to handle and hold its shape well. It’s a dough thing…do your best ;).
- Allow the mixer to knead the dough until smooth and elastic (the dough, not the mixer).
- Gather the dough into a ball. Place in an oiled bowl, turn once so that the top of the dough is very lightly oiled. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Put bowl in a warm place and allow the dough to rise until double in bulk.
- Punch dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured counter-top. Knead dough a few times to work out the gas bubbles formed by the yeast.
- Divide dough into six equal portions. Gather each portion into a ball, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and allow to rest for 7-10 minutes.
- To form a bagel out of each ball, press your thumbs through the center of the dough ball. Pick the dough up and with it resting in your upward turned palms, fingers through the center hole and thumbs around the outside of the dough; enlarge the hole by gently pulling and squeezing the dough with your hands. Continually work your way around the dough while enlarging the diameter of the circle and pulling it, gently into an oval.
Place the dough onto either a parchment-lined cookie sheet or an oiled cookie sheet, if you don’t have parchment paper. You will only be able to fit two bagels side by side on each cookie sheet with the long portion of the oval running lengthwise in the pan. The bagels should be nearly as long as the pan. There should be several inches at the widest part between the two sides of each oval. Be sure to leave space between the ovals because they will need room to rise.
To make an egg wash, in a small bowl or a cup, whisk together the egg and the 2 teaspoons water. Brush each bagel with the egg wash, then sprinkle with sesame seeds (or za’atar). Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until approximately double in size.
- Uncover and bake in a 350-degree oven until golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. If baking two pans at once, be sure to rotate them half-way through the cooking time. Remove from oven and allow to cool before eating.
- If you do not have bread flour, all-purpose white flour may be used, but will give a somewhat different texture to the bagels.
- Serve with a little olive oil and za’atar for dipping. My son in-law ate these dipped in mustard, as you would do with a pretzel. Good idea.
After the dough has risen its first time, punch it down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it a few times to work out the large gas bubbles formed by the happy yeast.
Divide the dough into six portions. Gather each portion into a ball. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 7-10 minutes. This is important because it gives the dough time to relax which makes it a much easier dough with which to work. Kind of like people after a little R&R.
Press your thumb(s) through the center of each dough ball.
Enlarge the opening by pulling gently with both hands while working your hands around the dough circle.
Place the bagels on a cookie sheet or a half-sheet size cake pan lined with parchment paper. If you do not have parchment paper, oil the pan well. Continue to gently stretch and squeeze the dough into an oval shape.
Mix the egg and water together in a small bowl.
Brush the bagels with the egg wash.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds (or za’atar). Cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, then put in a warm place to rise until double in size. Bake in a 350-degree F oven for 20-30 minutes until the bagels are golden brown.
I dressed one bagel with sesame seeds and the other one with za’atar.
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