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Category Archives: Other Baked Delights…

Bringing Bagels to Bayern

Germany is a great place to live if you’re a bread addict!  (I’ve heard that it’s pretty cool if you’re a beer addict, too, but I tend to prefer my carbs in a solid format…)  Everywhere that you go, there are bakeries full of fresh-baked breads, pretzels, and pastries.  Even the supermarkets have great bread, and since the Germans tend to use fewer preservatives than we do in the States (yet another bonus of living over here), you just HAVE to go on a daily basis for fresh supplies!  (A serious hardship, don’t you know…)

Because of the baked abundance that’s so readily available, I don’t usually bother to make bread when we’re over here.  There are few things I would normally make that I can’t pick up at the bakery on a whim, so I tend to turn my baking time in other directions.  However, there is one thing that you just can’t get over here, and that’s a good, warm bagel.  The commissary on base sells the frozen (hockey puck) bagels, and there are occasionally some fresh bagels available in the bakery section, but I’ve been spoiled by my years on the East coast.  If I’m going to eat a bagel, I want a REAL bagel, and after looking over many, many recipes, I finally decided to take the plunge!

I was recently lucky enough to stumble on a Pin of a post from The Wednesday Chef that featured a bagel recipe from Peter Reinhart.  My inner bagel skeptic was hesitant to believe that they could be as good as they looked in The Wednesday Chef’s pictures, until I read the following:  “…you’re going to have a tray of gorgeously brown and crisp-skinned bagels in your kitchen, making your house smell like H&H (I used to live across the street from their 80th Street outpost – I know that smell like I know my own mother’s).”  That’s right, this recipe was passed along by someone who’d been to the source, someone who should know from bagels!  With that golden endorsement, I decided that it was time to jump in, hands first, and end my bagel drought once and for all.

Peter Reinhart’s Bagels

Makes 6 to 8 bagels according to the original recipe specs, but I tripled the recipe below and ended up with 16.  (I like big bagels, I cannot lie…)
 

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2C (1 LB) unbleached flour (You can use either bread or all-purpose, but I used the Gold Medal ‘Better for Bread’ flour.  I also used my digital scale for the measurement- much easier and more accurate!)
  • 3t salt (I used Kosher), divided
  • 3/4t instant (rapid rise or bread machine) yeast
  • 1T honey or barley malt syrup (I used honey- apparently you can get the barley malt syrup in health food stores, but I have no clue where I’d even begin to look for that over here!)
  • 1C plus 2T water
  • 1t baking soda
  • Poppy or sesame seeds, kosher salt, or whatever else you want to use as a topping

Directions

  1. In a nice, big bowl, mix the flour, 2 teaspoons of the salt, the yeast, honey and the water by hand until the ingredients form a stiff, coarse ball of dough, about 3 minutes. (Just a tip- the honey will be MUCH easier to work with if you spray your measuring spoon with a little bit of oil first!)  If necessary, add a little more water (carefully- I over-added, so I needed a touch more flour to balance it out). Let the dough rest 5 minutes.

  2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until the dough feels stiff yet supple, with a satiny, slightly tacky feel, 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough seems too soft or too tacky, sprinkle over just enough flour as needed.

  3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to several hours. Keep in mind that the bagels must be shaped before proofing overnight.

  4. When ready to shape the bagels, line a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (I used parchment with a light spray of oil).

  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 6 to 8 equal pieces (again, I tripled the recipe above and made 16 total- it all depends on how big you want your bagels to be). Form each piece into a loose, round ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand; do not use any flour on the surface. If the dough slides around and won’t ball up, wipe the work surface with a damp paper towel and try again – the slight amount of moisture will provide enough “bite” for the dough to form a ball. When each piece has been formed into a ball, you are ready to shape the bagels.

  6. PLEASE NOTE:  I did NOT follow step #6 or the first part of step #7!  Based on something said in the blog comments over at The Wednesday Chef, I opted to form my bagels by pinching a hole in the center of each doughball and then spinning the dough hula-hoop style around a floured finger until the opening was the size I wanted.  Much faster than rolling out ropes, and (in my opinion) more fun, too!  However, for those of you who want to re-live your Play-Doh snake making days, I’ve left the original directions, shown in blue, for your enjoyment…Using your hands and a fair amount of pressure, roll each dough ball into a “rope” 8 to 10 inches long. (Moisten the work surface with a damp paper towel, if necessary, to get the necessary bite or friction). Slightly taper the rope at the ends so that they are thinner than the middle. Place one end of the dough between your thumb and forefinger and wrap it around your hand until the ends overlap in your palm; they should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together and then press the joined ends into the work surface, rolling them back and forth a few times until they are completely sealed.

  7. Remove the dough from your hand and squeeze as necessary to even out the thickness so that there is a 2-inch hole in the center.(Okay now, back to the regularly scheduled recipe…)Place the bagel on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the other pieces. Lightly wipe the bagels with oil (I used spray), cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

    Who knew that flinging dough around could be so much fun?


  8. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 90 minutes before you plan to bake them. Fill a large stockpot with 3 quarts of water (be sure the water is at least 4 inches deep), cover with a lid, and slowly bring the water to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on.

  9. Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven to 500 degrees.

  10. Test the bagels by placing one in a bowl of cold water. If it sinks and doesn’t float to the surface, return it to the sheet, wait 15 minutes and then test it again. When one bagel passes the float test, they are ready for the pot.

  11. Gently lift each bagel and drop it into the simmering water. Add as many as will comfortably fit in the pot. After 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to flip each bagel over. Poach for an extra 30 seconds. Using the slotted spoon, remove each bagel and return it to the lined baking sheet. Continue until all the bagels have been poached.  (I noticed that the bagels that I put in at a full boil puffed up better than the ones I did at a simmer- not sure if that was just coincidence, but I’m going to go for a heavier boil next time.)

    Bubbling Bagels


  12. Generously sprinkle each bagel with a topping. (Note: If you want to do a cinnamon sugar bagel, you need to wait until the bagels come out of the oven- see step #14 for further instructions.)

    Poppy Seeds...

    Sesame Seeds...

    Kosher Salt...


  13. Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the sheet (if using two sheets, also switch their positions). Check the underside of the bagels. If they are getting too dark, place another sheet under the baking sheet. Bake until the bagels are golden brown, an additional 8 to 12 minutes.

  14. Remove from the oven and transfer the bagels to a rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.  If you’d like to top your bagels with cinnamon sugar (1 part cinnamon to 5 parts granulated sugar), immediately brush the top of each hot bagel with melted butter and then generously sprinkle with the mixture so that it is coated. It will form a nice cinnamon crust as it cools.

    Seriously, I have to wait 30 minutes???

Now that I’ve made these, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long.  The hardest thing about this recipe is the waiting!  They may not be as pretty as the bagels I used to grab for breakfast every morning, but the taste and texture were exactly what I was hoping for.  Next time around, I’ll probably make a few aesthetic tweaks (putting them on the slotted spoon to lower them into the water may preserve the shape, and waiting until I have some caffeine in my system would probably help, too…), but over all, I’d call this a success.  The inner bagel skeptic has been put to rest, and my cravings have been satisfied.  Or, at least they were satisfied this morning- now that I’ve written this and put up all of these pictures, I think it may be time for another bagel or two…

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Sweets for my sweeties…

My oldest, back when he had Michelin Man rolls and had no idea that these pictures could come back to haunt him later in life...

So, has your Valentine’s Day sugar rush worn off yet? If you were to sneak a peek at the list of chocolate industry-supporting holidays, Valentine’s Day would probably be right up there near the head of the pack. For weeks (since before Christmas in some stores) we’ve been inundated with chocolate hearts in every size, flavor, shape, and color, to the point that they all started to look the same and kind of lost their appeal!  (Don’t get me wrong- I like a good piece of chocolate as much as the next girl, but given a choice, I generally prefer my sweets in the form of baked goods.)  As the holiday rapidly approached and our household pestilence slowly receded, I realized that it was WAY past time to plan for my holiday baking.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!

First on the list was my oldest son’s class Valentine’s Day party. Cupcakes, fruit, and all of the other party basics were already covered by the other fabulous room moms, but we have a few kids with allergies to consider, so I usually plan to make something egg/nut/corn syrup-free so that everyone can share the sugar high. My first plan was to bake up some of these Chocolate-Dipped Brownies from Sweetapolita, using egg replacement powder instead of real eggs.  I baked up a test batch on Monday morning (I’m still leery of the whole fake egg thing), and they were great!  After a day of cutting out PTA Valentine’s hearts, I raced home and threw together a triple batch.  That’s when something went tragically and inexplicably wrong, resulting in three trays of very pretty brownies that were hard as bricks on the bottom. (My best guess would be that baking, doing mental math, and negotiating preschool peace treaties at the same time is just a BAD idea and should never be attempted.)  By the time that I discovered the problem after an evening of prepping Valentines and cutting out red paper hearts, it was about 3am, so I called it a night and decided to try again in the morning.

Down to the wire and suffering from a severe case of sleep deprivation, I decided to skip the brownies and move on to my (untried and untested) back-up recipe, these fabulous Meltaway Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting that I discovered via Pinterest over at Landee See, Landee Do.  Thankfully, the baking gods were smiling that morning, so the cookies were fabulous!  (Please note that there are only two cookies on that plate- that was all that was left for a picture out of a double batch by the time my camera battery charged.  Yes folks, they were that good.)

Meltaway Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 C Butter
  • ¾ C Cornstarch
  • ¾ C Powdered Sugar
  • 1 C Flour
  • 1 Recipe Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)
  1. In a medium bowl, cream butter until fluffy.
  2. Add cornstarch & sugar and blend well.
  3. Beat in flour until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Drop by small teaspoons (a cookie scoop worked well) onto a parchment-covered baking sheet & flatten out with the bottom of a glass. (You’ll need to dip the glass in powdered sugar to prevent sticking.  If you’re making these for yourself, smooshing them down by hand works well, too!)
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
  6. Cool on wire rack & frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.  For the classroom cookies, I simply frosted each cookie and added a dash of red sugar.  Once that quota was filled, I started to play around with the remaining cookies and decided that I liked them even better sandwiched together with a dollop of frosting in the middle as well as the bit on top!

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 (3oz.) Package Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 C Powdered Sugar
  • ½ t Vanilla Extract
  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Color with food coloring if desired.

After an afternoon packed with baking, class parties, and WAY more sugar than I should ever consume in a 24 hour period, it was time to grab the kids and run for home so that I could prep our Valentine’s Day dinner.  I’d been pondering dessert for a week or so, because I try to do something special each year, and it was a really tough choice!  Normally I go for something that’s high on the chocolate level, like a flourless chocolate cake or a chocolate cheesecake, but this year I decided that I wanted something a bit lighter to follow what is inevitably a big meal eaten later in the evening.

After careful consideration, I settled on a Chocolate Angel Food Cake recipe that I found in the November/December of Cooking with Paula Deen(Side note- I JUST received the November/December issue last Friday.  GO APO MAIL!)  It was a nice, easy recipe to put together, and definitely a departure from our norm.  The chocolate taste was subtle, almost overwhelmed by the cinnamon (I’d probably cut the cinnamon in half next time around), but what struck me as odd was the faint taste of coffee when there’s no coffee in the mix!  I served it up with a drizzle of chocolate and caramel syrups, a puree of strawberries and raspberries, fresh berries, and both plain and chocolate whipped cream (to make the chocolate cream, just add a dash of Ghirardelli sweetened cocoa powder to the whipped cream near the end).  It would probably also be very good with ice cream and hot fudge, or in a trifle with chocolate mousse and berries!

Paula Deen’s Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Mocha Sauce

Makes 10-12 Servings

  • 12 Egg Whites at room temperature
  • 1 t Cream of Tartar
  • 1/4 t Salt
  • 3/4 C Granulated Sugar
  • 1 1/2 C Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 C Cake Flour
  • 1/4 C Cocoa Powder (Paula says Dutch process, but we had Hershey’s- you know how that goes…)
  • 1/4 t Cinnamon (I might cut this to 1/8 t next time)
  • Mocha Sauce (I didn’t use this since my husband isn’t a huge coffee fan, but I’ll include it for you all, just in case- it probably compliments the mysterious coffee flavor in the cake quite nicely!)
  1. Preheat oven to 375* F
  2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.
  3. Add cream of tartar and salt, and beat until soft peaks form.
  4. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.
  5. In a small bowl, combine confectioner’s sugar, flour, cocoa, and cinnamon.  Sift.  (I’m bad, I hate sifting with a passion, so I didn’t do this- I just fork fluffed…)
  6. Gently fold cocoa mixture into egg white mixture until combined.
  7. Spoon batter into an ungreased 10″ removable-bottom tube pan.
  8. Bake for 32-35 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.  Remove from oven.
  9. Immediately turn the pan upside down, and place on the neck of a funnel or wine bottle to cool completely.  (This keeps the cake from sinking.  I didn’t quite believe it until I saw it, but the cake actually stays in the pan quite nicely while balancing upside down on a wine bottle!)
  10. Gently run a knife around the outer edge of the pan to release the sides.  Remove the cake from the pan by pushing up on the removable base, and then run a knife along the inner edge and bottom as needed to release the cake from the base.
  11. Serve with warm Mocha Sauce (or berries, ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream…), if desired.

Warm Mocha Sauce

Makes 1 Cup

  • 1 C Chocolate Sauce (Paula recommends Hershey’s)
  • 1 T Instant Espresso Powder
  1. In a small saucepan, heat chocolate sauce over low heat.
  2. Add espresso powder, stirring until dissolved.

And there you have it, our official 2012 Valentine’s Day sugar rush!  Aside from the brownie catastrophe, everything turned out just the way I wanted it, so I’d call the holiday a success.  The only real problem that I ran into was that I was so tired by the time that I’d cooked and eaten dinner, given everyone their Valentines, and gotten the kids settled, that I fell asleep on the couch while my husband took a work call- BEFORE DESSERT!  Luckily, the cake stayed safely balanced overnight on that wine bottle, and it’s just as good the second day…

One final note- if you created something special for Valentine’s Day, head on over to Sew BitterSweet Designs for the Valentine’s Day Showcase link party!  Melissa has thrown the floor open to her readers, and three lucky winners will win some fabulous prizes for linking up to their Valentine’s Day creations.  Definitely too good to miss!

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Cakes, Cookies, Other Baked Delights..., Recipes

 

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