NY Style Bagels

Amy's New York Style BagelsWho Needs Noah?
NY Style Bagels have been a popular topic lately. The rise of the Boichick Bagels from Berkeley (as well as the article in the New York Times) have led to bagel lovers searching far and wide to get a taste of what the Times called the best bagels in the country. That’s what they said. I’m not trying to start a fight. I know how adamant people can be about their bagels. I do, however, propose another way to enjoy a great bagel.

Many of us in the last year have turned to bread making—as anyone looking for flour and yeast last April can attest. Thousands of people were introduced to the world of sourdough. I myself got back into bread making but I went a different direction. A few months ago, I had this idea that I wanted something different for breakfast that weekend, but I was tired of the usual sweeter stuff. My daughter had been making some soft pretzels that she saw online. And, watching her prompted me to want to learn about making bagels. (The concept is somewhat similar)

The idea may sound daunting but it’s really not. It does require an overnight rise in your fridge. So, planning ahead is key. Admittedly, the process would have been harder had I not seen a video on YouTube from NY Times contributor Clair Saffitz. As a visual learner, watching this video made the whole process easier. If you are interested in trying to make bagels, I highly recommend you watch this 10-minute video first.

When making bagels, be prepared for a workout. You will be kneading this dough for at least 20 minutes. It’s the perfect excuse to miss arm day…

My first batch of bagels was kind of wonky. I followed Claire’s recipe exactly and while they tasted good, even though I left them in the oven a couple minutes too long, I struggled with shaping them. Ultimately, I gave up on the rope/snake version and tried shaping by making a hole in the middle of the dough ball and stretching it out. (She mentions that method briefly in the video) The result was a puffy, perfectly chewy bagel that looks more like the bagel shape I am used to seeing. (Not sure if that makes it any less authentic?…) This has remained my go-to method of making bagels ever since.

I have yet to make my bagels with toppings on them like everything seasoning or sesame seeds. Personally, I prefer a plain bagel so that I can go savory or sweet depending on my mood. Also, you may or may not get a full dozen out of the dough. I weigh all of my ingredients on a scale and I have never had the same quantity result. Don’t worry if that happens to you. It is what it is…

I have also learned that doubling the batch is a requirement if you have teenage boys in your home. A single batch is great if you just want bagels for a Sunday morning. If you want to have some, say for the week, it’s best to make a double batch. Whatever you don’t eat that day can be sliced and put in the freezer. All you do is grab one and throw it in the toaster for a perfect weekday breakfast.

Another word of advice? Line your cookie sheets with parchment and/or spray them lightly! The water and malt syrup bath can make them stick to the sheet, which is a bummer.

NY Style Bagels Recipe
Adapted from the New York Times Cooking
Yields 12 bagels (most of the time)
Read more…

Olallieberry Scones

Olallieberry Scones

Berries A-Go-Go
I am a big fan of portable breakfast. I mean I also love pancakes and waffles and French toast. But, there is something about grabbing something personal-sized with a cup of coffee that is just too stress-free to pass up. And really, who doesn’t like a fresh croissant or a well-made scone? Or two…

I try to make muffins, or banana bread, or whatever every Sunday so that there is something to grab that is quick and easy Monday morning when no one in my house is really ready to face the new week. Now that spring has arrived my mind is turning towards the berries that should be available soon, most notably the olallieberries.

I became an olallieberry fanatic while going to school in Oregon. The berries there are ridiculous and you will find them everywhere in everything. I once enjoyed an olallieberry scone that was life-changing while walking to class one morning. I have been trying to reproduce it ever since. And, I’ve come close but haven’t gotten it right yet—but the fun part is in the trying.

As the days get warmer the local berry patches will start opening for U-pick. I plan to be first in line. While they may not be quite the same experience as their Oregon relatives, our local berries are so so good, especially warm from the vine. My mouth is watering just thinking about it—and about my next attempt at those magnificent scones.

This is one time where substituting frozen berries for fresh won’t work. The frozen berries would add too much liquid to the scones. So, it looks like you might just have to spend a beautiful day outdoors in a berry patch (or, yes, you could buy them too). It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it!

Olallieberry Scones
Yields 8 American-style scones Read more…

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda BreadPandemic Patty’s Day
I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day over the weekend because I decided to corn my own beef this year. And, since the cooking time is measured in hours, there was no way I would be able to make it on a Wednesday night. Hence the Saturday night celebration.

We had all the fixin’s: Corned beef, Champ (a.k.a. mashed potatoes with fresh chives), Irish butter, cabbage, and of course, the Guinness—which was in the cake as well as a pint glass. I also made Irish soda bread. But, here’s where things got sideways.

Soda bread is probably the easiest bread product you could possibly make. And, warm out of the oven with a generous smear of Irish butter…it’s heaven. I feel compelled to say that the soda bread you often see with the currents and/or caraway is not authentic Irish soda bread. Neither is the sweeter scone-like version. Tasty? Yes. Authentic? No. Traditionally soda bread is made with half wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. Last Saturday, this is where everything went wrong.

Like thousands of other people, I stocked up last year with ingredients for my pantry that were rapidly disappearing. Because of the lockdown I used a lot of those items. But, there were some that I didn’t use as much as I thought I would. I still have a significant collection of dried beans. Another example? My White Whole Wheat flour from King Arthur.

I knew the bag I had in the cupboard was old and I even bought a new one and had it on the shelf ready to go. For the life of me I can’t explain why I didn’t throw the old one out. I didn’t and I used the old one by mistake. Needless to say, the soda bread tasted stale right out of the oven—not a good experience to be sure and a big disappointment for me personally. I was looking forward to the bread.

Tonight I will be making another batch, this time with fresh flour. I have also started what I call the Pandemic Purge and have been going through my canned goods and everything else I stocked up on to see what’s expired. Thankfully, the Guinness is just fine.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Yields 1 loaf Read more…

Gougères

New Year’s Noshing
The Christmas holiday was different. There was no house hopping. No loud boisterous parties.

What wasn’t different? We ate too much. I mean, we ate well, but with all of the focus basically on the food we definitely ate too much. For that reason, New Year’s Eve is going to be on a much smaller scale. Instead of something fabulous like lobster, or *sigh* crab, our plan is to do a bunch of small bites—a variety of appetizer-sized portions that we can set out on the kitchen island and grab as needed.

Appetizers have this way of making things feel festive even when they are not. This is especially true when you are in your sweats sipping champagne on the couch. There are multiple categories of appetizers. You have your dips, your cheese balls, crostini, hot appetizers, crudités and, of course, the Cheese Plate. My plan is to do at least one from each category.

Crostini are a no-brainer because you can pretty much do anything with them. Just slice up a baguette, toast the slices and finish with your favorite toppings. I like using fresh ricotta as a base because it works well with anything. One of my summertime favorites starts with fresh ricotta and some freshly cracked pepper, then I top it with a ripe peach slice and some lightly dressed arugula. It’s December though so I am going to try it using a sweet slice of Honeycrisp apple and see how it goes. A sprinkle of toasted, chopped hazelnuts would take it to another level.

For a dip, I am going to make a hot crab dip for a couple of reasons. The first is because I love crab and the second is because I am impatient and can no longer wait for the fisherman to bring in the crab. So, I will rebel and go with crab meat. I’m planning to try this artichoke version because adding a vegetable automatically makes it healthy, right? And, don’t forget the array of fabulous dips and spreads from our cheese department.  They add great variety to the flavors you serve. As a bonus you can use the same sliced and toasted baguettes to eat the dip.

For the hot appetizers, I am torn—which means I may just end up making both recipes. The first possibility is this recipe for cranberry brie bites. I still have leftovers of both cranberry sauce and brie so it would be an easy way to use those up. All I would need would be some puff pastry from the freezer and we’re good to go. I’m not a fan of walnuts so those will be left out. (Another variation is our recipe for Baked Brie, its easy to make with your choice of savory jam and herbs.)

The second recipe requires a bit more effort, but the result is worth it. If you have never had French Gougères you are missing out. They are essentially cheese puffs that are made everywhere in France and are served with a local aperitif but also go extremely well with champagne—which makes then perfect for New Year’s Eve. I like Dorie Greenspan’s recipe the best. You can use any cheese you prefer like Gruyère, Emmentaler, Gouda or to make things super easy, extra sharp cheddar. The recipe makes approximately 36 Gougères but they go fast so plan accordingly.

I think it goes without saying that we are all looking forward to a new year. I wish you a very happy, very healthy, full of hope and laughter New Year! Bring on 2021!

Gougères Recipe
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan and Epicurious
Yields about 36 gougères

Although you must spoon out these little puffs onto the baking tray as soon as the dough is made, they can be frozen and baked straight from the freezer at a later time (see below). This makes a great do-ahead for a busy day. Read more…