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I often have conversations with people about why they should or shouldn’t buy a steam oven, and here’s what it really comes down to: if it’s going to mean you can cook things you like to eat more easily or more quickly - preferably both - then it’s a worthwhile investment. My little workhorse oven has been worth every cent on both counts, and not least because it inspired this here space on the web. So it’s safe to say I’m a convert from way back. But if you need more convincing, maybe this will help:
Bagels. At home in your steam oven. In little more than an hour from start to finish.
I know not everyone thinks of bagels as an everyday thing to make at home, and to be honest nor did I. But good bagels are really hard to find in my little corner of the world so if we want to eat them I had to come up with a solution which doesn’t involve driving 45 minutes across the city to the only decent bagel bakery in town. Maybe things are the same where you live (if not, lucky you), so if I said you could easily make chewy-crusted, golden, glossy bagels in your combi steam oven, as good as you can buy almost anywhere, I bet you’d do a little dance.
No? Ok, maybe the dancing is just me returning to the consumption of bread products after weeks of no carbohydrates, but I know I was pretty excited to realise the absolute obvious: a bagel is just regular bread cooked in a different way (oh, I can see the purists gearing up to tell me off!). Having a steam oven at my disposal means I can replicate the boil-then-bake method used to cook bagels traditionally but without the fuss involved in poaching raw dough to give it that characteristic sheen and chewy texture.
So let’s break this down. You start with a standard white bread dough (all the easier to make if you have a good mixer on hand), let it rise for half an hour in your steam oven, shape it into bready little donuts, steam for a few minutes, bake for a few more and ta-da! Your very own, very excellent bagels. All you need is something to put in them (can I recommend cream cheese blended with raspberries? Or, if you prefer it spicy, cream cheese blended with a few pickled jalapenos is pretty great too).
This is a great weekend project, especially if you’ve never tried making bread in your steam oven. It will fill your house with warm, toasty aromas and your kitchen with warm, toasty bagels just begging to be eaten. And whether you can buy decent bagels locally or not, there isn’t much which beats the satisfaction of making something yourself from scratch, especially when they taste this good.
Happy steam oven cooking, see you here again soon.
New York Style Bagels in the combi steam oven
These chewy, dense creatures sit squarely in the New York style bagel camp, as opposed to the Canadian/Montreal style bagels which are smaller, sweeter and use a dough enriched with eggs. If you’d like to brush up on your bagel trivia (really, who wouldn’t?! Ha), you can read this illuminating piece in order to regale anyone who’ll listen with knowledge of the difference between the two.
I have given the method below for those with a stand mixer and dough hook attachment – you can certainly make the dough by hand instead though. Just mix with a spoon until it starts to come together, then turn it out and knead for 5-10 minutes by hand until it’s smooth and elastic before proceeding with the rest of the steps.
300-375ml (1 ¼ - 1 ½ cups) lukewarm water (start with the lower quantity and increase as needed to get the right dough consistency)
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp active dry yeast
500g (3 ½ cups) white bread flour, plus extra for kneading
1 ½ tsp salt
Optional toppings: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, flaky salt, caraway seeds, onion flakes or garlic flakes. If using toppings, you’ll also need a lightly beaten egg white at hand to stick them on.
Put 300ml (1 ¼ cups) water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the sugar and yeast over the top. Leave for 5 minutes until the yeast is beginning to bubble, then add the flour and salt and mix well with a dough hook until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth and elastic – about 5-7 minutes. If it’s looking too dry, add just enough extra water for it to come together in a single clean ball.
Put the bowl into your steam oven and set the oven to 38⁰C/100⁰F (if you have variable humidity settings, use 100%). Prove the dough for 30 minutes, by which time it should have roughly doubled in size. Remove the dough from the oven and turn it out onto a flour-dusted bench.
Set the oven to 100⁰C/212⁰F (100% humidity). Line a couple of dark-coloured baking trays with silicone paper and set aside.
Gently press and knead the dough to knock it down, then divide into 8 equal portions (I have this super cheap and super useful tool fit for purpose). Roll each portion into a ball (this video should help if you need some assistance with your technique), then use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke a hole in the middle of each dough ball. Gently stretch and pull each piece of dough until the hole is about 5cm/2” in diameter, then put them onto the lined trays – I like to put 4 on each tray, allowing plenty of room for spreading.
When all your bagels are shaped, put the trays into the oven and steam for 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and change the setting to 200⁰C/392⁰F (if you have variable humidity settings, use 50-60%).
While the oven heats, you can add any toppings you like to the bagels – brush each one with a little beaten egg white then sprinkle over seeds, salt or flakes. Or create ‘everything’ bagels by throwing a bit of all the toppings on (I prefer plain or salt, my husband will gladly have an ‘everything’ version almost every time).
Return the bagels to the preheated oven and cook until they are golden brown, shiny and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom – about 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly then eat with whatever fillings you like.
I like to freeze whatever we aren’t going to eat on the first day, ready for toasting another time. When freezing I slice the bagels in half beforehand so I can defrost them more quickly.
But I don’t have a steam/combi-steam oven! You can make this as you would any other bread recipe (namely, prove in a covered bowl in a warm place, then shape as per the recipe). BUT you’ll need to have a pot of boiling water to hand in which you’ll poach the bagels for 2-3 minutes after forming them. Then do the final baking step at 190⁰C in a fan forced oven.
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Have you got the steam oven bread baking bug now? You can get ready for Easter by baking the Steam Oven Hot Cross Buns; or make one of my all time favourite bread recipes, this Steam Oven Spiced Apricot, Date and Seed Bread. Or heck, just go all out and try the Combi Steam Chocolate, Pecan and Burnt Caramel Monkey Bread recipe. It’s disastrously (for your waistline) wonderful.