Sunday, September 15, 2013
The Jewish Holidays are one of my favorite times of year to be in the kitchen. Whether it's making my favorite brisket, making a kugel, or just spending time with my mom, I love it. I spent Rosh Hashanah this year at home with my family, which I haven't had the chance to do in far too many years. My mom makes one of the best Rosh Hashanah meals and this year was no different. I'd pick that meal over Thanksgiving any day!
I was back in Chicago for Yom Kippur, so we got to break the fast with the Monkey Scientist's family. We hosted at our place this year and I decided I wanted to make as many things from scratch as possible. I made a challah (with raisins this time, per request from his dad), my mom's kugel (with a little almond extract, which was a fun little twist on a favorite), a kale quiche with my favorite homemade oatmeal crust and even cured my own lox. I bought the cream cheese homemade from Southport Grocery and picked up a whole smoked herring from Dirk's.
But the pièce de résistance had to be the bagels. They're the key to any break fast. And if I was going to fast all day, I had to have better bagels than the ones available in our neighborhood (which are, to say the least, sub par). I had seen recipes to make bagels for a long time, but they looked like a pain. A multi-day process and weird ingredients like barley malt... I hadn't been quite ambitious enough to accomplish it before now. But this seemed like the right excuse to take the plunge, and I am so glad I did. Finding the strange ingredients turned out to be easier than I expected and to be honest, so was making the bagels! I think making frosting is much more difficult!
The whole meal was a great success. The family was still talking about everything the next day - a sign that means I did something right! And the bagels were definitely the star of the meal. The Monkey Scientist's brother said they were the best bagels he'd ever had. I didn't think they were far off, and definitely the best I've had in Chicago. They were perfectly chewy and the malt gives them that "bagel" flavor. They were absolutely worth the extra effort!
from Smitten Kitchen
Note: this recipe takes at least 2 days, so think ahead!
1 tsp instant yeast
4 c unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (I used bread flour)
2 1/2 c water, room temperature
1/2 tsp instant yeast
3 3/4 c unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp malt powder or 1 tbsp dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar (you can find the malt syrup at Whole Foods, this is the brand I used)
1 tbsp baking soda
2 tbsp malt syrup
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, or crushed sea salt for topping
1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine 1 tsp of yeast, 4 c high-gluten or bread flour, and water. Stir until you have a thin, smooth and very sticky batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for two hours. It will double in size and be very foamy. It should collapse when tapped, but mine didn't really and was still ok.
2. Stir the additional 1/2 tsp yeast into the dough. With the dough hook attachment on the mixer at low speed, add 3 c of the flour and the salt and malt powder or syrup until the dough forms into a ball. Stir in the last 3/4 c of flour to stiffen the dough.
3. At this point, you will knead the dough. You can do it in the stand mixer, but if you have a standard Kitchen Aid, this is a very tough dough and it might not be able to handle it. It really needs 6 minutes of kneading in the mixer, but after about 3-4 minutes mine started making bad noises and then smoking. I finished kneading it by hand. You can also just knead it by hand for about 10 minutes, which I think is what I'll do next time. Once kneaded, the dough should be pliable and smooth and very stiff/firm. All of the flour should be incorporated. If the dough is dry and rips, add a few drops of water (I had to do this a couple of times) and continue kneading. If it's tacky or sticky, add more flour - the dough shouldn't feel satiny not sticky.
4. Divide the dough into 12-14 bagels (if you have a kitchen scale, you can measure them to 4.5 oz. I made 13 bagels). If you like smaller bagels, you can make them smaller. Form the pieces into round rolls.
5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow to rest for about 20 minutes.
6. Line 2 baking sheets with Silpat mats or parchment and spray with cooking spray. Poke your thumb through the middle of each roll to create a hole. Widen the hole to about 2 inches by evenly stretching the dough. Be careful to keep the dough equal all the way around so that it cooks evenly.
7. Place each bagel on the lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes.
8. Test one bagel to see if it's ready to retard overnight in the fridge. Fill a bowl with room temperature water and put a bagel in it. If it floats within 10 seconds (mine floated instantly), they're ready. Dry it off and put it back on the pan. If not, dry it off and let them sit at room temperature for another 10-20 minutes, then test again.
9. Once they're ready to retard, put the pans, loosely covered with plastic wrap, into the fridge at least overnight and up to 2 days. (Note: after 2 days, the sides of my bagels were a little dried out. That's ok, they'll be fine once you boil them.)
10. When you're ready to cook the bagels, bring the oven to 500 degrees F. Put both of the oven racks in the middle. Bring a wide pot to a boil.
11. Add the baking soda and malt to the water. Note it will boil up like a science fair volcano when you add the baking soda. You may need to turn the heat down a little bit so that it doesn't boil over, just make sure it continues to boil.
12. Add a few bagels to the pot, making sure they have plenty of room. I could fit 3 at a time. Boil 1-2 minutes, then flip over and boil for an additional 1-2 minutes. (Apparently, the longer you boil the chewier they'll be. I couldn't tell the difference between the bagels that I boiled longer.) Meanwhile, coat the Silpats lightly in corn meal.
13. Remove the bagels with a spider or other strainer. If you're going to top them with seeds, put them immediately onto a plate filled with the topping. I had 1 of poppy, 1 of sesame, 1 of salt, and one with a mix of sesame, poppy and dehydrated onion to use as "everything". Then put the bagels seed-side up on the baking sheet on top of the corn meal. If you want a plain bagel, move it immediately to the corn-meal coated lined baking sheet.
14. Once you've boiled all the bagels, put the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets 180 degrees and move the top to the bottom and visa versa. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until the bagels are a nice dark brown.
15. Cool on a baking sheet for 15 minutes.
Note: If you live in Chicago, I recommend serving them with the homemade cream cheese from Southport Grocery (call ahead to order) and lox or smoked whitefish from Dirk's.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Sunday mornings for me deserve a special breakfast. Often this means french toast, but when the only bread in the house is multi-grain (and let's be serious, a good french toast should be made with challah or French bread) sometimes you need to up the ante a little bit. I have been seeing recipes for dutch babies for months and I've been dreaming about them but they look... intimidating. All that puffed dough in a cast iron skillet? Sounds complicated.
Wrong. SO EASY. Healthy? Not so much. But definitely easy! And delicious? Of course. It reminds me of the fried dough we used to get at Clowntown, my hometown's annual carnival, every year. But it's breakfast food and on Sundays, I don't even feel guilty about it! The lavender on top takes it from a cheesy carnival treat to something just a little bit more gourmet. I loved this so much as is, I didn't even pour maple syrup on it. Now that's saying something.
Dutch Baby with Lavender Sugar
from A Cozy Kitchen
3 large eggs at room temperature 30 minutes
2/3 cup whole milk at room temperature (I used skim and it worked fine)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon of dried lavender
1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Put a 10" cast iron skillet on the middle rack of the oven and let it heat up for about 3 minutes (if it gets too hot the butter will burn).
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the eggs on high with the whisk attachment until pale and frothy. Add the milk, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg and beat just until smooth. You'll have a very thin batter.
3. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and add the butter, swirling to coat the bottom evenly. It may brown a little bit - that's OK. As soon as the butter is melted, add the batter and immediately return to the oven. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 18-25 minutes (mine was done in 18, so be sure to watch it).
4. While the pancake bakes, mix together the sugar and lavender in a small bowl. Press the lavender into the sugar, breaking it up and making it fragrant.
5. When the pancake is finished, remove from the oven and top with the lavender sugar. You may not need all the sugar - I only used about half and saved the rest for another day. Serve immediately.