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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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Alles Gute zum Fasching!

Alles Gute zum Fasching!

Today we celebrated the final day of Fasching, which is the German equivalent of Carnival or Mardi Gras.  It’s a lot of fun- everyone dresses up, has parties, and eats delicious Berliners and Krapfen (both names for fabulous filled donuts)!  Each year, my oldest son’s school celebrates Fasching with a big parade around base, led by a local band and officiated by the Mayor and Assistant Mayor of Grafenwoehr.  The kids loved being able to wear their costumes almost as much as they loved having an excuse to get out of class and walk around in the sunshine that actually made an appearance today!  (According to our wonderful German Host Nation teacher, “when Angels travel, God makes the sun shine down,” but I have some doubts about how very angelic we were, my own child in particular…)

After the main event, all of the dignitaries gathered for some well-deserved refreshments.  Of course, when the call for American baked goods went out (our cakes and cookies are very different from their German counterparts, so they’re a bit of a rare treat around here), I started making a list of what to bring!  Once I’d finally whittled my wish list from twelve recipes down to three, I ended up making Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Shiny Chocolate Glaze, a fabulous Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake that I found at Odense.com, and one of my all-time favorites, Kransekake Drops.  It was a great day, but let me tell you, I’m completely sugared-out!

Kransekake Drops

Kransekake Drops

Kransekake is a traditional Norwegian cookie that is usually baked in ring forms to make a series of graduated rings that are then stacked into a pyramid with a powdered sugar frosting ‘cement’ and decorated with flags and other trinkets (visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kransekake to find out more).   This is my variation for every-day Kransekake- it’s a lot quicker and more portable than the traditional tower!

Ingredients

  • 1 LB Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 LB Blanched almonds OR 1 LB almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 TSP Almond extract
  • 3 Egg whites
  • Crisco
  • Farina (Cream of Wheat)

Cooking Directions

  1. Crush the almonds in a blender or food processor until they’re a fine powder (skip this step if you’re using almond flour)
  2. Combine the almonds with the confectioner’s sugar
  3. Whip the egg whites until a little frothy and add the almond extract
  4. Combine the almond/sugar mixture with the egg white mixture
  5. Put the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight, until hardened
  6. Pre-heat oven to 350*F
  7. Grease cookie sheets with Crisco and line with farina (I line the pans with parchment or aluminum foil first- it makes clean-up MUCH easier!)
  8. Drop balls of dough on the cookie sheet with a cookie scoop
  9. Bake at 350* until a light golden brown, approx. 15-20 minutes (watch the first batch closely, as ovens vary)
  10. Remove cookies from sheet to cool
  11. Drizzle or dip cookies with either melted chocolate chips or sugar glaze (take ½ LB of confectioner’s sugar and slowly add milk until it reaches a spreadable consistency).  I love these with a drizzle of dark chocolate- it balances out the sweetness beautifully!
  12. Store in a sealed container with a piece of white bread, changing the bread every day or so to keep the cookies soft and moist

Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake from Odense.com

Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake

Originally published at www.Odense.com, a fabulous source for recipes and inspiration!

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1-7 oz box Odense Almond Paste, grated (Sadly, I can’t get Odense Almond Paste over here without considerable planning, so I used an 8 ounce can of almond paste from another company that I can get around the holidays.  It worked just fine, but I really do prefer the Odense if I can get it!)
  • 2 lemons (Depending on size, you may want three lemons to get more lemon rind for your cake)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Scant 1/4 cup poppy seeds (I didn’t go scant, but I’m a poppy seed fan…)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4-6 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • Optional: 1-2 drops yellow food coloring

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour fluted pan. (I used a baking spray with flour- MUCH easier with a pan that has a lot of detail!)
  2. Grate 1 tablespoon of lemon rind on smallest hole of grater, being careful not to get the pith (white part of rind). Set rind aside. Squeeze juice and reserve for icing.  (I felt that the cake needed a bit more lemon rind- I used closer to 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  3. In a mixing bowl beat grated Almond Paste, sugar and butter on high speed until well combined.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat on high three minutes, or until light colored and fluffy.
  5. Sift flour with baking powder and baking soda. Mix grated rind and poppy seeds into flour. Add flour mixture to batter alternately with sour cream. Beat on low until just combined and smooth. Do not over mix.
  6. Spoon batter into pan, and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until cake turns golden and a toothpick inserted near cake middle pulls out clean.
  7. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Invert cake on wire rack and cool completely. Drizzle with icing or dust with powdered sugar.
  8. Icing: In a small bowl mix the powdered sugar, 4-6 teaspoons of lemon juice and almond extract until smooth. Add a drop of yellow food color if desired. Drizzle icing around top of cake and let it run down the sides. (Again, I felt a need for a bit more lemon- I just kept adding more juice until the taste was strong enough, and then I added a bit more powdered sugar to get the texture where I wanted it to be.  I also doubled the icing recipe, because there can never be too much lemon glaze!)
  9. For an extra festive touch decorate with marzipan lemons or grated lemon peel. (As seen in the picture above, I went with the lemon peel this time- there wasn’t enough time for marzipan artwork…)
  10. To Store: After completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap. The cake will last three days at room temperature or one week if refrigerated.
  11. To Freeze: Wrap un-iced cake first in plastic and then with foil. Freeze for up to one month.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Shiny Chocolate Glaze

For the full Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe, visit my Muffins for the Masses post from last December!

It’s been a busy day of baking, celebration, and running backwards to keep ahead of the kids during the parade while taking many, many pictures, so I’m about ready to call it a night.  I hope that you have a great Fasching, Carnival, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or whatever else you may call it.  Enjoy, and happy baking!

 
8 Comments

Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Cakes, Cookies

 

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