Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bagels Round Two : Gettin Fancy

I can't believe it's almost February. I feel as though the waning days of winter are creeping up on me way too fast, and the weeks are starting to fill up with road trips, friends visiting, bridal showers, concerts, and dinner dates. It's hard to find time to spend a weekend in the kitchen with a schedule like mine approaching. I will long for the lazy days of January when I had time to devote an entire day just to baking.

It may be a while before I have the time to whip up a batch of bagels again, so the ones in the freezer will just have to last me until April. My first attempt at bagels back in July went swimmingly, and I decided now that I got the basics down, it was time for some flavor! Taking a nod from Ina Garten's flavor combo in my favorite scone recipe, I made a third of the batch with dried cranberries and orange zest, one third topped with everything (onions, garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and salt) and the last third plain and boring (but equally delicious).

I think this round of bagel-making secured my confidence in baking, and I am ready to keep on making my own baked goods, and veering a bit from the recipe books.

At the fault of this new found confidence, I now have three egg whites 'aging' on my counter top, waiting until tomorrow when they will be whipped into a batch of french macarons. I have been saying for the last few months, as soon as I get myself a Kitchenaid stand mixer, the first thing I am going to make is macarons. Well, I was a good girl this year and Santa brought me one for Christmas. Actually he brought me two (I must have been REALLY good), one from my family and one from my boyfriend (guess I gave enough hints huh? Subtlety is not my strong suit).

So with this being one of the last few weekends with an open schedule and no work, I will embark on what is supposedly a very tricky and fussy cookie, but is said to be well worth the effort and patience. Stay tuned!

Cranberry Orange Bagels and Everything Bagels
adapted from Peter Reinhardt's the Bread Baker's Apprentice


1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (I could not find bread flour, let alone high gluten bread flour, but I did find Vital Wheat Gluten Flour which I swapped one tablespoon of all purpose flour for the vital wheat gluten PER CUP of flour. So I ended up with 4 tablespoons of vital wheat gluten and 4 cups minus 4 Tablespoons of All Purpose flour)
2 1/2 cups water, room temperature


1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar (see note below)
2/3 cup orange flavored Craisins (or plain dried cranberries) chopped finely ***
1 tablespoon packed orange zest***

***I only made a third of the dough into cranberry-orange bagels. These are the measurements for a third, if you are making the entire batch cranberry orange, I would triple the amounts of cranberries and orange zest. ***

To Finish

1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal for dusting baking sheets
1/4 cup each of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried garlic, and dried onions, plus a dash of salt***

***Again, I only made a third of the batch into everything bagels, but I had a good amount of extra toppings leftover. If you are making the entire batch into everything bagels, you can probably get away with 1/3 cup of each***

Day 1: To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the counter top - mine did not fall, and it wasn't super foamy or bubbly... but they still worked out just fine.

To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough - again, mine did not go quite so smoothly, I had to skip to the next step way before I was able to incorporate the 3/4 cup of flour in the bowl. Its okay, you can just work it in as you are kneading.

Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour and all ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the
windowpane test and register 77 to 71 degrees F. If the dough seems to dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

If you are making cranberry orange bagels, during the last two minutes or so of kneading, work in the chopped cranberries and orange zest, kneading until it is evenly incorporated. I made a third of this dough plain, a third everything, and a third cranberry orange. So before incorporating the fillings, I divided my dough into three even pieces and just kneaded the orange and cranberry into one of the thirds. If you are making one big batch of the cranberry orange, there is no need to divide the dough at this point.

Immediately divide the dough into 4 1/2 ounce pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired. Form the pieces into rolls.

I do not have a kitchen scale (yet) so I pretty much just kept cutting the dough in half until the pieces looked like a good size. I ended up with about 36 small-ish bagels.

Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment (I used sil-pats, but parchment works as well) and mist lightly with spray oil. Poke a hole in each ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter (half of this for a mini-bagel). The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)

Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded (meaning they will go into the fridge and slow proof overnight) when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days).

If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the temperature of your kitchen, humidity, time of year, color of shirt you are wearing, mood your cat is in...okay those last few may not affect it, but sometimes it can seem that way.

Day 2: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

Mix the poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, onion, and salt together and spread in a thin layer on a large plate. Set aside for later.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 90 seconds flip them over rand boil for another 90 seconds. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2-2.5 minutes per side . While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour.

For the non-topped bagels, remove them from the boiling water with a spider or a slotted spoon and place them on the prepared sheet pans. For the topped bagels, remove them from boiling water and place them directly onto the plate with prepared toppings. Press them down gently to get toppings to adhere (be careful, they are hot) and then move them to the prepared baking sheet, topping side up.

When all the bagels have been boiled and topped, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5-7 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 10-15 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown.

Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving. Before you do this:

Or this:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Simple Comfort

After the holidays are over, it is refreshing sometimes to have a meal that is a bit on the lighter side (especially after eating all those fake girl scout cookies). It's also great to have a meal that you can clean out your fridge with. Its a great basic formula, but definitely not your run of the mill pasta dish or stir fry that usually seem to constitute a pantry meal.

This dish has all the good stuff. Creamy, crispy polenta and sauteed mushrooms and carrots, topped with a big 'ol fried egg. I am a firm believer in the "everything is better with a fried egg on top" school of thought. This separate but equally as valid as the "everything is better with bacon" school of thought. When the oozing yolk mixes with the earthy veggies and the cheesy polenta, it is heaven. Now that I think about it, I am totally adding bacon next time I make this.

I first saw a version of this recipe on and really loved the combination, but I ended up changing it quite a bit. The night that I made this for dinner I made a soft polenta, but I truly believe the leftovers were better the next day when I cut squares of the cold polenta and sauteed it in a bit of olive oil. The cheese in the polenta became brown and crispy on the outside and was soft, hot, and creamy on the inside. Either way though, it is a filling, hearty meal that is full of protein that won't ruin your new years resolutions.

Fried Polenta with Balsamic Mushrooms and Carrots
adapted from

Serves 3-4

1 lb mushrooms, cut into a 1/2 inch dice
3 medium carrots, cut into a 1/2 inch dice
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2-3 tablespoons oilve oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup instant polenta
1 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3-4 eggs (depending on how many people are eating, 1 egg per serving)
salt and pepper to taste

Bring water, milk, and 1/4 teaspoons salt to a boil in a small saucepan. When it reaches a boil, whisk in the polenta and reduce the heat to low and cover. Let simmer for 15 minutes with the lid cracked, stirring occasionally. Add the parmesean cheese and stir to combine. **You can make this a day ahead of time. Spread the polenta in a thin layer in the bottom of a baking dish and refrigerate overnight. Heat some oil in a non-stick skillet and fry the polenta until heated through and brown and crispy on the edges.**

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for 2 minutes until garlic becomes fragrant. Add mushrooms, carrots, thyme and balsamic vinegar, stir to coat evenly. Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until mushrooms and carrots are cooked through.

When the polenta and vegetables are fully cooked, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a small non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and cook the eggs over-easy, making sure to leave the yolk runny (this is the best part).

Place a dollop of the creamy polenta (or a fried square of polenta) in the middle of a plate, top with a spoonful of the veggie mixture, and one fried egg. Sprinkle with a little extra parmesean cheese and devour.

This is a wonderfully quick (and inexpensive) weekenight meal, and a great way to use up leftovers. Enjoy!

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