homemade bagels

To say I’ve been on a blogging hiatus would be an incredible understatement. It’s been a crazy, wonderful and joyous eight weeks since I last found myself here, writing about my kitchen adventures. Over 15,000 miles have been travelled, 8 flights have been boarded, 5 countries have been visited (albeit, 2 just in passing), hundreds of hugs have been given and received, dozens of loved ones have been visited, 7 temporary homes have been inhabited, filled with countless hours of laughter, and many hello and goodbye tears have been shed. A lot has happened in eight weeks.

I’m blessed to have so many loved ones tucked away in so many corners of the world. Their houses and their hearts, I call home.

That being said, I’m back to the real world now, which for me means exams. And exams mean stress baking. So far this week, my oven has been home to Chocolate Whaki Cake and Giant Double Chocolate Chunk cookies. There seems to be a chocolate theme in my life at the moment (wait until I tell you about Chocolate Red Wine Cookies in my next post). I’ve got big plans for some overripe bananas later today as well, and I have a feeling that too will involve something chocolatey. You’ll be hearing about all of these wonderful sugary things in the near future now that I’m resuming a more normal blogging schedule. Despite my better instincts, I’m putting all the sugar and chocolate aside for today to tell you about my very first attempt at making bagels.

My best friend Betty works in a bagel bakery, so you could say that this baking experiment was somewhat inspired by her. Check out her amazing rendition of the ‘Bagel Avengers’ below. With ads like that, who wouldn’t want to buy bagels from Betty? I’m not baking bagels at a pro level yet, but this recipe was a safe starting point for me.

Most recipes start with a sponge, which is a mixture of yeast, flour and water that you allow to sit for at least a few hours before beginning the bagel dough. This recipe is doesn’t start with a sponge, and in the end, it seemed as though it lacked a bit of the sourdough-type taste that a lot of bagels have. For my next bagel endeavor, I will try a slightly less basic recipe with a sponge, and maybe make it a whole-wheat version as well. All in all, I was pleased with the bagel results after only playing around in the kitchen for a few short hours. I’d definitely recommend this recipe as an introduction to bagel-making techniques, or a fun substitute to homemade bread.

Homemade Bagels

makes 12-15 bagels

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 and 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • about 10 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese (if using for topping)
  • mixed seeds (I used poppy and sesame seeds)
  • vegetable oil for brushing

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the warm water, yeast and honey. Stir just to combine and then allow the mixture to sit for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until foamy. Gradually add in the salt, 2 cups of all-purpose flour, and 2 cups of the bread flour using a dough hook on low speed.

If your dough is still sticky after mixing for about 5 minutes, add 1/2 cup more of the all-purpose flour and the remaining 1/2 cup of the bread flour. My dough was still very sticky, and I ended up having to add the full 1/2 cup of each type of flour. Continue mixing until the flour is completely combined and the dough is formed. Remove the bagel dough from the mixer bowl and knead it with your hands. Form it into a ball and knead in the remaining all-purpose flour if the dough is still sticky. The dough should be quite thick and more stiff than most other yeast bread doughs.

Brush a large bowl with oil and the place the dough ball into it, rotating it a few time to coat it lightly in the oil. Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and allow it to rise for an hour, or until doubled in size. I put my dough in my oven at the lowest temperature because my kitchen is a bit on the cold side. Punch down the risen dough ball and place it on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into about 12 pieces that are between 2.5 and 3 ounces each. Using electric scales speeds up this process so much! Roll each dough portion into a ball and place on oiled baking trays. Cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough balls rise for 30 minutes.

Fill a large stock pot with water and add the brown sugar, letting it come to a boil. While the water is heating, poke a hole with your finger through the middle of each risen dough ball. Twirl it lightly around your finger to shape each into a bagel. Allow the bagels 10 to 15 minutes to rest until the water comes to a rolling boil. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) while waiting.

Add about four bagels at a time to the boiling water, allowing them to cook for 2 minutes on one side. Then flip the bagels with a wooden spoon and cook them for an additional 30 seconds.

Remove the bagels from the boiling water, immediately placing them in a bowl of your desired toppings. I put half my bagels in the seed mixture and the other half in grated parmesan cheese. You may have to press the topping on slightly to make sure that they stick (especially when you try to pile on as much cheese as I did). After all the bagels have been boiled and topped, place the baking tray of bagels on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 28 to 35 minutes. My oven cooks unevenly, so I turned the pan around after about 15 minutes. Once baked and golden, let your bagels cool completely on a cooling rack before toasting and topping with butter or cream cheese.

Source: Adapted from How Sweet It Is’ Homemade Asiago Bagels

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whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread knots

Just after moving into my house last September, my roommate and I decided to invite a few of our friends over for dinner. I was feeling adventurous (and ambitious) so I chose the most tedious lasagne recipe that I could possibly find, as well as Joy the Baker’s Garlic Knots — because who can eat lasagne without garlic bread? Although I bit off more than I could chew and dinner wasn’t served until about ten o’clock that night. To be honest, I’m not sure whether people speak fondly of the food that night because they had to wait four hours to eat it with grumbling stomachs, because it was homemade and it was free (student life is rough), or because it was actually a culinary triumph. The leftovers were just as tasty, so I still choose to believe it was the final option of the three.

Because of my fond memories of piping hot, steaming garlic knots — oozing with melted butter — I decided I would give Joy’s recipe another shot, but with a few tweaks of my own. These knots are soft, light and just sweet enough to satisfy a dessert craving, but not as sweet and sugary as a cinnamon roll. I put a glaze on mine, which made them slightly sweeter and more doughnut-like. But with the whole-wheat flour and juicy raisins, these would make a great breakfast if you swapped out the glaze for a bit of butter.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread Knots

For the knots:

  • 1 package active, dry yeast (about 2.5 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup warm water plus 2 teaspoons
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 egg

For the glaze (optional):

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl or measuring jug, dissolve the yeast and sugar with one cup of warm water. If you’re using a thermometer to check the water temperature, the ideal temperature is between 105° and 115°F (40°-46°C). Allow the mixture to sit and yeast to bloom for about five minutes. In this time, it should begin to get frothy.

In a large bowl, combine both types of flour, salt, and one tablespoon of cinnamon with a whisk. Place the raisins in a separate bowl and fill with hot water. Allow the raisins to sit and plump up for at least ten minutes before draining.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the yeast mixture into the well, as well as the olive oil. Begin mixing the wet and dry ingredients together with a fork. If the dough is too sticky, gradually add more all-purpose flour. The dough is meant to be a bit sticky, but still manageable.

Mix in the raisins until combined with the dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about five minutes. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, flipping the dough a few times to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with cling film and a kitchen towel and set aside to rise for one hour.

After the dough has been left to rise for an hour, it should have doubled in size. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and separate the into ten separate portions. Combine the egg and remaining two teaspoons of warm water. Roll out each dough portion into a rectangle then brush with egg mixture and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon. Roll each rectangle up, pinching along the seam to seal the dough together.

Knot each portion of dough to form knotted rolls. There many different ways to knot the dough, but I followed a handy photo tutorial for a single knot that I found on The Challah Blog. After all of the rolls are knotted, cover them with a kitchen towel and let them rise for an additional thirty minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking tray with parchment paper and arrange knots on the prepared trays. Bake the knots until they are golden brown, which should take about fifteen to eighteen minutes. While the knots are baking, prepare the glaze by melting the butter and then combining it with the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Remove the knots from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Immediately brush the rolls with glaze and serve while still hot, or store in an airtight container for up to three days.

Source: Adapted from Joy the Baker’s Whole Wheat Garlic Knots

 

profiteroles fit for a goddess

I just love getting new cookbooks. It’s always a bit nerve-racking for me when it comes to actually trying the first recipe though. It sets the tone for the rest of the book, and it plays a pretty big role in determining the relationship between the book and I. Will it become a go-to book, my encyclopaedia of baking? Or is it just so spectacular that I’ll turn to it when I need to impress? Or will it inevitably collect dust on my bookshelf until I stumble across it again a year from now? It’s a lot of pressure to put on a book, I know, but they say first impressions are important.

After I received Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess from my wonderful boyfriend last Christmas, I spent a good, long month pondering my first baking experience with it. I considered trying a simple recipe, something I was familiar with – perhaps some cookies, or a nice loaf cake. It didn’t take much time in the UK for me I realise that Nigella is thought of rather highly here, and I wanted to love her too. In the end, my indecision got the best of me — I panicked, and chose the most complicated recipe I could find in the book: profiteroles. What could possibly go wrong?

To my surprise, nothing! Considering my complete inexperience with choux pastry, I was thrilled with how Nigella’s profiteroles turned out. They were slightly crispy and golden brown on the outside with a soft and creamy middle. These little guys didn’t last long in my house! The only thing I might change next time is making the buns slightly smaller because I didn’t realise just how much they would puff up in the oven.

Profiteroles with Burnt Sugar Custard and Toffee Sauce

For the profiterole buns:

  • 200g plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
  • 350ml water
  • 150g unsalted butter, diced
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 oiled baking trays

Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F. Combine the water, butter and salt in a medium saucepan and heat until the butter is melted and the water starts to boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, so that the water does not begin to evaporate.

Mix in the sifted flour with a wooden spoon, continually mixing until the dough comes smoothly together. Still stirring, put the pan back on the heat for about a minute, until the dough starts to come away from the pan sides and it forms a smooth ball.

Put the dough into a food processor and gradually pour in the eggs while blitzing. This can also be done by hand, in a mixing bowl. Continue mixing until you have a smooth, gleaming dough that is soft enough to pipe, but firm enough to hold its shape. For this, you might not need all of the eggs, so be sure to add the eggs gradually.

Pipe little rounds of dough onto your oiled baking trays. Alternatively, you can spoon rounds of the dough instead of piping. Bake until the profiteroles are golden and crisp, about fifteen minutes. Pierce each bun with a pin to release the steam and prevent them from going soggy. Allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.

For the custard filling:

  • 250ml milk
  • 250ml double (heavy) cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 30g plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons water

Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan. Warm this over low to medium heat, taking care not to burn the mixture.

While the milk mixture is being warmed, whisk together the eggs and sugar until they are creamy, then mix in the flour. Stir the heated milk into the egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk gently over a low heat until the custard thickens. This step took a very long time for me, so be patient! Remove the custard from heat and stir in the vanilla. Burn the sugar by adding the sugar and water to a small pan over high heat. Allow the sugar to boil to a dark brown caramel and then remove from heat. The color changes very quickly from a light golden brown to black, so watch the caramel carefully. Pour the hot liquid caramel into the custard, beating the custard as you pour. Once combined, allow the custard to cool completely.

For the toffee sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons light muscovado sugar
  • 4 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 300g golden (light corn) syrup

Place all ingredients into a saucepan and mix. Bring the mixture to a boil and let bubble for 5 minutes. Allow a short time to cool while filling the profiteroles.

Fill a piping bag with the burnt sugar custard. Insert the piping tip into the profiterole bun and fill with the custard, repeating for all the buns. Assemble the buns into a loose tower, drizzling the toffee sauce over top to hold the profiteroles in place. The remaining sauce can be used to dip the profiteroles in when devouring. 

Source: Recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

let the baking begin

I have a confession.

My name is Meg, and I have been a silent member of the food blogosphere for years. I’ve been reading recipes from Annie’s Eats, drooling over photographs from Smitten Kitchen, and daydreaming that my love of all things cake will someday translate into something magical, like the up-and-coming cookbook of Joy the Baker.

But it’s a scary blog world out there, or at least that is what I have been telling myself.

“Someday you will start a blog, Megan, but you’ve got to be prepared. You’ll need the perfect name and a whimsical layout. Do you know HTML? No? ….well, we will have to do something about that. Don’t forget the fancy camera. And you’ll probably need photography lessons, since you won’t know how to use it….”

And the list kept growing. I went from preparing to start a blog to preparing for war.

Then it occurred to me – this isn’t a war. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – it’s about love — my love of baking, to be precise. And all that I really need in order to share that love with the world are my words…and maybe a yummy picture or two.

After years of dreaming, I can finally say:

My name is Meg, and this is my food blog. I hope I can inspire some baking, as so many of your food blogs have inspired me.