Periodically I get an urge to make something from scratch that most people (including myself) would normally just buy at the store.
I made flour tortillas once. For all the time and effort, I expected them to taste as yummy as the ones at Cafe Rio. Mine didn't.
One valentines day, after watching Martha Stewart, I was inspired to make homemade marshmallows. These were cute and pink and I cut them into heart shapes. But why spend 12 minutes beating gelatin and corn syrup to get something that tastes identical to the Kraft marshmallows from the grocery store? Plus the grocery store variety have an indefinite shelf life. Mine went moldy within 3 days.
But some things are just really super good when they are homemade.
While skimming through a favorite cookbook, I came across a recipe for Vegetable Cream Cheese. "I know what to do for brunch next Sunday", I told the Cyclist. "How about you pick up some bagels from Rich's and I'll whip up some flavored cream cheese?"
"How about you make the bagels?" he challenged.
So I started scouring cook books and found a recipe that I could handle (I am only now starting to feel confident making yeast breads).
These were a little time consuming (I started boiling the water for the potato at 10:00 and we were eating them by 12:15), but that includes 1 hour of rising time that one might utilize to, let's say, take a shower and blow dry 4 blond bobs (that includes me). As soon as #4 grows hair, and there are 5 blond bobs, I'm going to have to either talk a couple of the girls into buzz cuts, or these Sunday breakfasts might become a thing of the past.
Anyhow, these bagels were REALLY good. Think Rich's. You should all make them. I challenge you.
from Baking Bread, Old and New Traditions by Beth Hensperger
My batch made 2 dozen
1 large russet potato (about 3/4 lb)
2 1/2 c water
2 T active dry yeast
1 1/2 T sugar
1 1/2 T salt
7-7 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c vegetable oil (I used canola)
3-4 quarts water
2 T salt or sugar
2 egg whites
2 T water
assorted toppings: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, salt and rosemary, etc. (our two favorites were Asiago Cheese and Cinnamon Sugar)
1. Peel the potato and cut into large chunks. Place in a small saucepan and cover with the 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until the potato is soft. Drain the potato (use for other purposes), reserving 2 cups of the potato water. Let cool to 120 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, using a whisk, or in the workbowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast, sugar, salt and 2 cups of the flour.
3. Add the potato water and the oil. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the flour and the eggs. Beat again for 2 minutes. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time to form a soft dough that just clears the sides of the bowl, switching to a wooden spoon when necessary if mixing by hand. (I ended up adding just under 7 cups).
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until a smooth, firm, and springy dough is formed, about 3 minutes, adding flour 1 Tablespoon at a time as necessary to prevent sticking. Place in a greased deep container, turn once to coat the top, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
5. Preheat oven to 425 and grease or line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silpat liners. Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 3 to 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 Tablespoons salt or sugar to the boiling water, depending on the flavor you want the crust to have. (We used two pots, one with sugar and one with salt). Maintain a gentle low boil over medium heat.
6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into quarters. Divide each quarter into 6 equal portions. To form bagels: Shape each ball of dough into a smooth round, tucking the excess dough underneath. Flatten with your palm. Poke a floured finger through the middle of the ball. Stretch the hole with your fingers to make it about 1 inch in diameter. Spin the dough around your finger. The hole will be quite large as you spin, but will shrink slightly when you stop. Set aside on a lightly floured surface while forming the other bagels. Once you get the hang of this, it goes really fast. The bagels will need no further rising at this point.
7. With a slotted spoon, lower 3 to 4 bagels at a time into the gently boiling water.
They will drop to the bottom and then rise to the surface. As they come to the surface, turn each bagel and boil it for 3 minutes on the other side. This goes very quickly.
8. Remove from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. When all the bagels have been boiled, brush with an egg wash (combine 2 egg whites and 2 T water) and top how you wish. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes rotating pan halfway through, or until deep golden. Remove from baking sheets and cool on racks.
We ate ours schmeared with Ina Garten's Vegetable Cream Cheese:
16 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 T minced scallions (green onions), white and green parts
2 T finely chopped carrot
2 T finely chopped celery
2 T finely chopped radish (2 radishes)
2-3 pinches kosher salt
1 pinch finely ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in bowl of electric mixer and mix on low speed until blended.