Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Don't You Dare Take My Last Bagel !

Well, if you really want it, I guess I could give you half. It’s hard to share the last of something this delicious.

Bagels are a classic food. “The bagel, in its peripatetic history, has moved from the shtetls of Eastern Europe to the delis of the United States” says Carolina Rodriguez while introducing this recipe from a friend of hers.

For the Daring Baker’s June Challenge, we are making Real Honest Jewish Purist’s Bagels. The recipe is from Johanne Blank and is found at Since it is a purist’s version, it involves yeasted dough that, after a first rising, shaping, and second rising, is boiled, then baked. The result is a densely textured donut shaped piece of bread with a nice chewy bite and yeasty flavor. It is perfect just sliced in half and toasted, then slathered with butter or cream cheese.

Often the bagels are sprinkled before baking with seeds like poppy seeds or sesame seeds, or with sea salt or onions. I chose to go with sesame seeds and sea salt, with one left plain to see how that was. They were all tasty.

For lots of other, imaginative variations, check out the other Daring Bakers blogs. Thanks go to Jenny and Freya for choosing such a delicious challenge.

There is little that is difficult about this recipe. If the yeast proofs then it’s just a matter of stirring in the flour until a stiff dough forms. I used the full amount of flour called for, plus a little extra when I did the shaping. I used all-purpose unbleached bread flour, not regular flour. Since bagels are bread, it makes sense, doesn't it?

The yeast does the work during the two risings and also during the boiling and baking. The part that allows for some creativity is how you shape the bagel. Since it is a donut shape, you can poke a hole up through the middle of the dough and then work the dough out from the hole, or you can roll the piece of dough into a snake and then put the ends together, leaving a hole in the middle. I tried both. In the end I couldn’t really tell which method I had use for any particular bagel.

What surprised me was how puffy the bagels got while boiling. None of mind sank first as the recipe said they would, but the final result was dense and chewy bagels, so I guess its O.K.
This is kind of a fun recipe because you can mix the dough with your hand and then use your hands to knead the dough,

then for the shaping. Working with yeast dough always feels good…it’s elastic and you can almost feel the little yeasties growing in the dough. You don’t let out as much aggression as you would from beating a butter block with a rolling pin as was done last month to make puff pastry, but kneading dough is very soothing and somehow contemplative.

This recipe below makes at least 15 bagels, but you can make half a batch. I did and now I wish that I had made the full recipe. These bagels are head and shoulders above anything you might buy at the supermarket. Try it…you’ll see.

Real Honest Jewish Purist's Bagels
Daring Bakers Challenge #7: June 2007
Hosts: Jenny (All Things Edible) and Freya (Writing at the Kitchen Table)

Recipe Quantity: Fifteen (15) large, plain, Kosher bagels

6-8 cups bread (high-gluten) flour
4 tablespoons dry baking yeast
6 tablespoons granulated white sugar or light honey (clover honey is good)
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups hot water
a bit of vegetable oil
1 gallon water
3-5 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar
a few handfuls of cornmeal

large mixing bowl
wire whisk
measuring cups and spoons
wooden mixing spoon
butter knife or baker's dough blade
clean, dry surface for kneading
3 clean, dry kitchen towels
warm, but not hot, place to set dough to rise
large stockpot
slotted spoon
2 baking sheets

How You Do It:
Step 1- Proof Yeast: Pour three cups of hot water into the mixing bowl. The water should be hot, but not so hot that you can't bear to put your fingers in it for several seconds at a time. Add the sugar or honey and stir it with your fingers (a good way to make sure the water is not too hot) or with a wire whisk to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, and stir to dissolve.

Wait about ten minutes for the yeast to begin to revive and grow. Skipping this step could result in your trying to make bagels with dead yeast, which results in bagels so hard and potentially dangerous that they are banned under the terms of the Geneva Convention. You will know that the yeast is okay if it begins to foam and exude a sweetish, slightly beery smell.

Step 2- Make Dough: At this point, add about three cups of flour as well as the 2 tsp of salt to the water and yeast and begin mixing it in. Some people subscribe to the theory that it is easier to tell what's going on with the dough if you use your hands rather than a spoon to mix things into the dough, but others prefer the less physically direct spoon. As an advocate of the bare-knuckles school of baking, I proffer the following advice: clip your fingernails, take off your rings and wristwatch, and wash your hands thoroughly to the elbows, like a surgeon. Then you may dive into the dough with impunity. I generally use my right hand to mix, so that my left is free to add flour and other ingredients and to hold the bowl steady. Left-handed people might find that the reverse works better for them. Having one hand clean and free to perform various tasks works best.

When you have incorporated the first three cups of lour, the dough should begin to become thick-ish. Add more flour, a half-cup or so at a time, and mix each addition thoroughly before adding more flour. As the dough gets thicker, add less and less flour at a time.

Step 3- Knead Dough: Soon you will begin to knead it by hand (if you're using your hands to mix the dough in the first place, this segue is hardly noticeable). If you have a big enough and shallow enough bowl, use it as the kneading bowl, otherwise use that clean, dry, flat counter top or tabletop mentioned in the "Equipment" list above. Sprinkle your work surface or bowl with a handful of flour, put your dough on top, and start kneading. Add bits of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking (to your hands, to the bowl or counter top, etc....). Soon you should have a nice stiff dough. It will be quite elastic, but heavy and stiffer than a normal bread dough. Do not make it too dry, however... it should still give easily and stretch easily without tearing.

Step 4- Let Dough Rise: Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with one of your clean kitchen towels, dampened somewhat by getting it wet and then wringing it out thoroughly. If you swish the dough around in the bowl, you can get the whole ball of dough covered with a very thin film of oil, which will keep it from drying out.

Place the bowl with the dough in it in a dry, warm (but not hot) place, free from drafts. Allow it to rise until doubled in volume. Some people try to accelerate rising by putting the dough in the oven, where the pilot lights keep the temperature slightly elevated. If it's cold in your kitchen, you can try this, but remember to leave the oven door open or it may become too hot and begin to kill the yeast and cook the dough. An ambient temperature of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Centigrades) is ideal for rising dough.

Step 5- Prepare Water for Bagels: While the dough is rising, fill your stockpot with about a gallon of water and set it on the fire to boil. When it reaches a boil, add the malt syrup or sugar and reduce the heat so that the water just barely simmers; the surface of the water should hardly move.

Step 6- Form Bagels: Once the dough has risen, turn it onto your work surface, punch it down, and divide immediately into as many hunks as you want to make bagels. For this recipe, you will probably end up with about 15 bagels, so you will divide the dough into 15 roughly even-sized hunks.
Begin forming the bagels. There are two schools of thought on this. One method of bagel formation involves shaping the dough into a rough sphere, then poking a hole through the middle with a finger and then pulling at the dough around the hole to make the bagel. This is the hole-centric method. The dough-centric method involves making a long cylindrical "snake" of dough and wrapping it around your hand into a loop and mashing the ends together. Whatever you like to do is fine. DO NOT, however, give in to the temptation of using a doughnut or cookie cutter to shape your bagels. This will push them out of the realm of Jewish Bagel Authenticity and give them a distinctly Protestant air. The bagels will not be perfectly shaped. They will not be symmetrical. This is normal. This is okay. Enjoy the diversity. Just like snowflakes, no two genuine bagels are exactly alike.

Step 7- Pre-heat Oven: Begin to preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 8- Half Proof and Boil Bagels: Once the bagels are formed, let them sit for about 10 minutes. They will begin to rise slightly. Ideally, they will rise by about one-fourth volume... a technique called "half-proofing" the dough. At the end of the half-proofing, drop the bagels into the simmering water one by one. You don't want to crowd them, and so there should only be two or three bagels simmering at any given time. The bagels should sink first, then gracefully float to the top of the simmering water. If they float, it's not a big deal, but it does mean that you'll have a somewhat more bready (and less bagely) texture. Let the bagel simmer for about three minutes, then turn them over with a skimmer or a slotted spoon. Simmer another three minutes, and then lift the bagels out of the water and set them on a clean kitchen towel that has been spread on the counter top for this purpose. The bagels should be pretty and shiny, thanks to the malt syrup or sugar in the boiling water.

Step 9- Bake Bagels: Once all the bagels have been boiled, prepare your baking sheets by sprinkling them with cornmeal. Then arrange the bagels on the prepared baking sheets and put them in the oven. Let them bake for about 25 minutes, then remove from the oven, turn them over and put them back in the oven to finish baking for about ten minutes more. This will help to prevent flat-bottomed bagels.

Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks, or on a dry clean towels if you have no racks. Do not attempt to cut them until they are cool... hot bagels slice abominably and you'll end up with a wadded mass of bagel pulp. Don't do it.

How To Customize Outside of Bagels: After boiling but before baking, brush the bagels with a wash made of 1 egg white and 3 tablespoons ice water beaten together. Sprinkle with the topping of your choice: poppy, sesame, or caraway seeds, toasted onion or raw garlic bits, salt or whatever you like. Just remember that bagels are essentially a savory baked good, not a sweet one, and so things like fruit and sweet spices are really rather out of place.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday Sundae

Even though we ate them for Father's Day, I'm just getting around to writing about the dessert we had that day.

It's been years since I had a banana split sundae. Ice cream is not my first choice for an indulgence, but Sweetie is very fond of ice cream, so it seemed like a great choice for Father's Day.

Imagine the flavors: vanilla and dulce de leche ice cream over sliced bananas. Top that with fresh blackberries (I know, more blackberries...I just love them!), Ranier cherries, cut in half, strawberries, and chunks of peaches. On top of that drizzle a little caramel sauce. Top that with some softly whipped cream and a few pecans. Heaven! Where's my spoon?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summertime Memories...with Berries

Happy Summer!

You need to understand that I would never say that. I grew up near Washington, D.C. where summer was a seemingly endless time of hot, hot days combined with energy sapping high humidity. Since we didn't have air conditioning, the kids would jump through the sprinklers on the lawn and find a shady place to stay still and read. Add to the heat and humidity the need to do daily chores, including extra home maintenance ones, and you may understand my lack of enthusiasm for summer. I know that it was a long time ago, but the disenchantment still lingers.

One of the things that I did enjoy was the fruits of summer, especially the berries. My Dad had grown up on farms and never gave up on the idea of having fresh fruit to can or make jam with. On Sundays, after church, we would get packed into the station wagon and head off to the country where we would meander down rural roads until we found a good collection of blackberry bushes and a place nearby to pull off the road. We never went on anyone's property, but when five or six children and my Dad finished picking berries, there were few left for the birds. There is nothing like picking ripe, sun warmed blackberries, sweet and full of juice, and eating them on the spot. There weren't farmers markets then, but there were U-Pick farms. We would also go pick strawberries, or peaches, or grapes in season. Back home these seasonal treats were baked into pies or boiled into jams or were packed in syrup and frozen.

Today I remembered those blackberry picking days while I picked some berries for my own pies. A few were eaten on the spot and were as good as I remember. Purple fingers are a sure sign of summer when the berries are ripe.

The first thing I made today was berry turnovers. I used ready made pie dough for some and refrigerated crescent dinner roll dough for others. Sometimes I make fresh pie dough, but today I wanted to get them done before noon because that's when we get our mail. The first two were ready just in time to give a couple to our mail lady. She is a super nice gal and the mailbox is near the berry bushes, so it seemed like a good idea.

The filling includes both cornstarch and some dry bread crumbs because these berries are really juicy. If you make these pies and your berries are not so juicy, you can skip the bread crumbs. The addition of some lemon zest wakes up the flavor. I used very little sugar because I wanted the berries to shine.

Then I made a mixed berry and peach crumb-topped pie. The filling included the rest of the blackberry filling for the hand pies, plus a very ripe and juicy white peach, sliced, a cup of fresh blueberries, and a few cherries that were sitting in a bowl on the counter. Sweetie says it's the best pie I've ever made, but that may have just been so he could have another piece. I think the crumb topping with it's freshly grated nutmeg and chopped pecans really complemented the fruit.

Hoping that you will make great summer memories for yourself and those you love. If it's not berry time yet, it surely will be sometime.

Blackberry Hand Pies
4 cups blackberries, preferably fresh. If using frozen, do not thaw.
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs, not seasoned
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
pie dough for 1 crust
1 package refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1 egg, beaten in a cup with 1 teaspoon water

In a medium to large bowl, combine the cornstarch, bread crumbs, sugar and lemon zest. Add the rinsed and drained fresh berries or unthawed frozen berries. Mix gently to combine. (I use my clean hands).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie dough into a circle about 10 inches in diameter. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough in four equal quarters. Place a scant 1/4 cup of the berry filling on each quarter, placing it near one edge, but with enough dough uncovered to allow for sealing, about 1/2 inch. Repeat with the other three dough pieces. Brush the edges of each quarter with the egg mixture. Fold the part of the dough with no berries on it over the part with the berries, pressing down around the edges to seal. This will form a sort of triangle. Using the tines of a fork, press along the two edges to further seal them. Repeat with the other three pieces of dough. Brush some egg wash on the top of each triangle and slash a small opening on top of each with a sharp knife.
Place on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until the pastry is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the hand pies to a rack to cool. Can be eaten warm or cooled. Makes 4.

Unroll the crescent dinner roll dough and separate into triangles at the perforations. Using the same filling, place a small amount in the center of a triangle. Brush the edges with the egg wash and place a matching triangle of dough over the piece with the berries. Press all around the edges to seal. Using the tines of a fork, press along the edges to further seal them. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. Brush the tops of the hand pies with the egg wash and place on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until the pastry is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the hand pies to a rack to cool. Can be eaten warm or cooled. Makes 4.

Mixed Berry and Peach Crumb Topped Pie
Pie dough for one crust
Pie weights
Blackberry filling from Hand Pies
1 ripe peach, peeled and sliced
1 cup blueberries, washed and drained
4 fresh cherries, pitted (optional)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter

Rollout pie dough to about 10" in diameter. Line a 8" or 9" pie plate with the dough, crimping the dough around the edges of the pan. Prick lightly all over. Line with parchment paper and weigh with pie weights (raw beans do fine and can be stored and re-used). Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove pie weights.

Prepare filling by adding the peaches, blueberries and cherries to the remaining filling from the Blackberry Hand Pies. If making from scratch, put 2 cups blackberries, 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoons dry bread crumbs and 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest into a bowl and mix together gently. Then add the rest of the fruit.

Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust.

Prepare the topping by mixing the oats, flour, brown sugar, pecans and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers, cut the cold butter into the mixture until incorporated and clumps form.

Pour the crumb mixture over the fruit filling. Spread it to cover the pie. Bake the pie in a preheated 350 degree F oven until the topping is lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Serves 6-8.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What Kind of Nurse?

J during a trip on the delta a few years ago

When you have been asked by your oldest friend in California to help out after surgery, what kind of nurse will you need to be? That is a question I kept asking myself as I drove an hour south to her home. We knew the surgery was coming and I left for Seattle expecting it to be this week. Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call late in the evening a week ago from another friend of hers telling me that J was in recovery and that the surgery had gone well.

She was staying overnight, but would go home the next day. Since I had a report on Convention to give the next day, I knew that it would be evening before I could make the drive. I had no idea how extensive the surgery would be, no idea how much care would be needed or what drugs she might be on. The wonderful news was that the excision had revealed that the problem was not as serious as exptected. Still waiting on the biopsy results, but the news seems to be good.

As it turned out, J was supposed to stay on painkillers for about 24 hours, so she slept a lot. I got up a couple of times during the night to check on her and make sure that the meds were taken, but mostly I got to be a supportive, kind and gentle nurse, not the kind that forces you to eat something you don't want and take a shower before you are ready to. By the next day she was feeling better and I was able to be home shortly after dark. Dinner had been the lovely jam cake from Peabody. I was reluctant to cook because every time I turned on the stove I managed to set off the smoke detector! This friend has been there for me time after time, so it was a blessing to be able to help her out a bit and spend some time, too. Thanks to those of you who wished her well. We both appreciate it.

This is the final travel that I know of, so now I can do some cooking and baking. Whhooo hooo!


This is the 101st post. Hard to believe. Want to keep this collage in the month, instead of as a header like it is right now. Seattle rocks!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Seattle On My Mind

If you've not had the experience of missing a grown son or daughter who have moved to another state or country, you might not understand why Seattle has been on my mind a lot since Christmas.

After she graduated from college, Sweetie and I were lucky to have our daughter living near by, no more than 40 minutes when she lived south of here, and that luck held for over four years. Even when she was in the LA area, it seemed like we could go visit easily. When she moved to Seattle last summer we drove there together and I really knew just how far away she was. I also found out that I really enjoy Seattle and find it to be a very comfortable place to be.

We did get to visit with her at Christmas, but each of us had a cold during that time, which put a damper on much activity. She has come here a couple of times, too.

A little over a week ago we were again in Seattle. The weather was nice a couple of the days, and rained the others so we knew we were in the right city. There were decorated pigs around the downtown area, and construction going all over, so we knew it was summer. Lots of people walking and biking. The food was wonderful no matter where we ate...surely Seattle.

It's difficult to decide what was the best. The cupcakes and coffee at Cupcake Royale were great. The breakfasts at the 5 Spot in Queen Anne filled me right up. Dinner at the Santa Fe Cafe' with a chef friend of hers brought some very rich dishes from New Mexico.

Probably the most enjoyable was the linguine dish pictured above, with fresh Copper River salmon, that I enjoyed at Cutters near Elliott Bay when I had the pleasure of meeting Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody.

It may have been the freshness of the ingredients, or the lightness of the cream sauce, or the deft hand the chef had with the herbs, but it was probably that I thoroughly enjoyed talking and laughing with Peabody. As you may have gathered if you've read her blog, she is very knowledgeable about baking but modest about it, fun, witty, and she holds strong opinions. My kind of woman! Her photographs are also stunning. I was lucky because she brought me a small loaf of her grandma's bannana bread (which was perfect for eating while waiting for our delayed flight that evening) and a delicious lightly spiced cake with blackberry jam. Thank you Peabody!

So now I've had a little daughter time and I feel much better. I'm naturally biased, but I think she is beautiful, smart, a dynamic sales person and a great friend.

So now you can be jealous that I spent time in lovely Seattle, ate great food, had daughter time and spent a wonderful afternoon with Peabody. And I can be jealous that y'all have had time to cook and bake and blog about it. Heehee.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Joy and Love In Action

This month has been most unusual. It started with a Convention. That might sound like fun. In some ways it was, because I met some amazing women. On the other hand, I was a delegate, so, as Calvin used to say, the days were packed. The theme was Love and Joy in Action and there was a lot of smiling going on.

Blogging is one of my enthusiasms. So is food, photography, and writing. Check out that dessert photo. It was from the first day's lunch. I want to try making that marbled chocolate base for the sorbet.

Another one of my enthusiasms is raising money for scholarships for women, especially women who are returning to school both to improve themselves and to help out their families. I indulge this enthusiasm through an organization that has been around since the 1860's. The fund raising and fun is done through local chapters composed of women from many walks in life. In California there are over 500 chapters. This year the Convention had a delegate from almost all of those chapters, plus some past presidents and other dignitaries. There were also another 500 or so non-delegate chapter members. Image a huge meeting room packed with over 1,000 women! Since I like small groups of people, being a delegate was a challenge. Here is a photo of me being a delegate. Sorry about the quality, but it was taken by a sweet volunteer who didn't understand my camera. I look more relaxed than I felt.

The organization is P.E.O., a philanthropic educational organization. One philanthropy, for example, the International Peace Scholarship Fund, has given $20,495,763 providing 5,522 scholarships to women from 167 countries from 1949 to 2006. There are other projects with similar funding, plus California state scholarships, and local scholarships. Our chapter provides over $4,500 in local scholarship money each year. Last year our six scholars also received two international and two state scholarships.

So now you know why I was away from the computer at the beginning of June. As a past school board member, I still have a passion for education and assisting those who are eager to learn. This is a great way to feed that enthusiasm (although I'm hoping that someone else will go to Convention next year...too many people!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

This Little Piggy

Time available to be at the computer blogging has been in short supply all of June so far. The good news is that there were nice reasons for this (mostly), but the bad news is that it is continuing. A good friend had surgery and I'm off to play either Florence Nightengale or Nurse Rachette, depending on what is needed.

So I'll leave you with this little piggy, one of a number found around Seattle during my visit last weekend. This one sits outside a chocolate shop and the chocolate just drips down him.

Happy trails for now.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Cobbler for Breadchick

A while back I had a photo of the hedge by the road with the berry bushes in flower. They are not the standard blackberries...those are just flowering now.

I'm not really sure what kind they are since they were well established when we moved her over 20 years ago, but there are two kinds, both ripening at the same time. One kind has long, thin berries and they are very dark when ripe. The other has very rounded berries which are quite juicy and still have a red cast when ripe.

Today I picked enough berries to make a cobbler for dinner. I mixed the two types together. Usually I try to combine them with peaches in the cobbler, but peaches are still expensive since it is early in the season for them. For some reason the long thin and round reddish berries are earlier than usual, too.

A fruit cobbler is a fairly simple dish, especailly if you use pancake mix for the topping. A fresh berry one welcomes in the cobbler season. Once they are cooked, the berries are soft, sweet and give up lots of the juice that tastes so good with the cobbler topping and some rich cream or ice cream.
Later in the season you can make it with regular blackberries, peaches, plums, apricots, and apples, too.

Since I will be gone again this weekend and will miss Breadchick's birthday, Happy Birthday!...this blackberry cobbler is for you! We joined the Daring Bakers the same month and you are a super baker. Wish I could eat it with you on your birthday, but I'll bet you'll have something wonderful that day.

Blackberry Cobbler
Based on my Mom's peach cobbler

2 cups fresh blackberries (or frozen, but thaw first)
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

For the topping:
1 cup Bisquick or other pancake mix
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F., Combine berries, sugar, nutmeg, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cornstarch in a shallow ovenproof bowl or casserole dish. Bake in the oven until hot and bubbly and juice thickens.

Mix the topping ingredients together. Batter should drop easily from a spoon. When the berries ar hot, open the oven, drop the dough on top of the hot fruit in globs, leaving small spaces between the dough. Sprinkle with additional tablespoon of sugar if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. Serve with cream or ice cream.

Since it is strawberry season, you can substitute equal parts of hulled, sliced strawberries and sliced rhubarb for the berries. Increase sugar to taste.