Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rosemary Bread



Once upon a time, a handsome prince gave me a magic book. It was called Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and it was filled with magic recipes. I made lots and lots of magic bread, and lo, it was delicious.

One day, I added the most magic of herbs to the recipe - and lo, it was smack-yo-mama good.

After much pleading and petitioning from friends who had also fallen under the spell of this magic bread, I finally managed to share its secrets. Here they are. And may there never be a The End to your enjoyment of this tasty bit of heaven.

Notes:

  • There is no kneading. And everyone rejoiced.
  • This is a wet dough that you keep in the fridge for up to a week, maybe 10 days. So you need a large bowl with a lid to keep it in. You can use plastic wrap, but a lid is just easier.
  • The recipe makes up to 4 loaves, but you can easily double or halve it.
  • There is also a New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book - and I have it. The Master Boule Recipe (yes, it's called that) is slightly different from the old book, but I haven't made it that way yet.
  • The original recipe calls for a meager teaspoon of your favorite herb. Pffft! I add about 2 generous tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary - and you know you love it.
  • Yeast: I use rapid-rise yeast - it, well, works more rapidly than regular yeast. You can get the little paper packets, but they don't contain that much, so you have to rip open a lot of them. I buy a jar of granulated yeast and keep it in the fridge. 
  • This recipe is super easy if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, and a baking stone. You can do it by hand with a dough whisk, or use the dough blade on a food processor that is rated to handle heavy dough. (Halve the recipe if your processor bowl has less than a 14-cup bowl.) I have not done it with either of those methods, but the magic book says you can. 
  • Storing your bread: If you don't devour a whole loaf in one sitting, there's a weird trick to storing the leftovers properly. Put the cut side down onto a dinner plate. That's it. Don't bag it or wrap it in foil or plastic. That makes the crust soft. You do need to finish the leftovers by the next day - with no preservatives in it, it will turn into a beautiful brick or doorstop.
Rosemary Bread
(adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day)
Makes 4 1-pound-ish loaves

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (NOT table salt!!)
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
Cornmeal or parchment paper
Pizza peel or large baking sheet

Add water, yeast and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. 

Add all of the flour at once. Add the rosemary. 

Mix on low until the mixture is uniformly moist. It'll only take a few minutes. The dough should be wet and fairly loose.

Put the dough into your large bowl and cover with a lid. It shouldn't be air tight. If you're using plastic wrap, just cover the bowl loosely with it.

Let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until the dough begins to collapse. (If your room is typically cool, you can turn the oven on low and create a little ambient warmth.)

Once the dough has risen, stick the bowl into the fridge. Then go do something fun for a few hours. Or days. You can keep the dough in the fridge for about a week before it gets too yeasty. Technically, you can use the dough right after it's done rising, but it's super sticky and frustrating to work with. I recommend prepping the dough the night before you want to bake.

When you want to make some bread, this is what you do:

Prep a pizza peel or large baking sheet with cornmeal or parchment paper to prevent the dough from sticking. Be generous with the cornmeal. You will swear profusely if your perfectly formed loaf sticks and pulls and gets distorted as you try to slide it onto the baking stone.

Dust the dough with a handful of flour. Pull up and cut off a grapefruit sized portion of dough (use a serrated knife or kitchen shears). I'm bad at guesstimating how big a grapefruit is, so I usually just visually quarter the dough - or even tap lines into the dough with my fingers, marking it into 4 quarters.

Now, here's the hardest part of this whole thing. And it's not that hard once you've done it a time or two. I'm quoting from the book here so I don't mess you up: "Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go…(A) correctly shaped loaf will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more that 20 to 40 seconds - don't work the dough longer or your loaves may be dense."

So - hold the dough wad in both hands. Think of it as a clock - gently stretch the dough at the 3 o'clock position. Pull it out, then under, tucking the pulled side under. Rotate the dough a quarter turn, then repeat the stretching at the 3 o'clock position. Then tuck. Do that 2 more times. 

I don't have pictures of this because 1) can't take a picture with dough in both hands, and 2) I usually make this before anyone else is up and the cats refuse to learn how to operate the camera.

Once you've shaped your loaf, put it on the prepared peel (or pan) and let it rest for about 40 minutes. (Put your remaining dough back in the fridge for another day.)
Resting in a Zen-like state.

While it's resting, put your baking stone on the middle rack of your oven. Put an empty metal broiler tray on the rack underneath it. (Never use a glass pan for this.) Set the oven temp to 450 and let the baking stone preheat for 30 minutes or so. 

After the resting/preheating phase, liberally dust the top of your loaf with flour. Use a serrated knife to slash a 1/2-inch deep pattern into the dough - 3 slashes, a cross, tic-tac-toe, etc. Don't belabor this step - just a quick slash-slash-slash will do the trick.
Slash-slash-slash.

Get about a cup of hot tap water ready.

Slide the loaf onto the preheated stone. Sometimes you have to jiggle the peel a bit to get the dough off of it.
If you do 2 at a time, don't place them too close together.

Quickly pour the water into the metal pan and close the oven door. This traps the steam and helps the bread to finish rising.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is a rich brown color and firm to the touch.

Slide them out with your peel or baking sheet. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. You can eat it right away, but it's a little harder to slice, and it tends to taste even better after it's cooled.

And when you feed this magic bread to the peasants, they will extol your virtues and sing your praises with their mouths full of rosemary goodness. And you will all live happily ever after.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chewy Granola Bars

Coconut Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
Granola bars are a handy, grab-and-go snack, but I've never been a fan of the grab-and-go, break-your-teeth shingles that taste like the cardboard box they come in. (Call me crazy, but I'm a fan of flavor.) And while the chewy boxed varieties of granola bars are better for your teeth, their flavors are only so-so, and the list of mystery ingredients make me wonder some unpleasant wonderings.

So I started looking for good granola bar recipes. I've experimented with healthy versions - but, honestly, how healthy are they if they don't taste good enough to actually eat them?

This recipe from Three Many Cooks is the family favorite so far. A nice bonus is that it's really adaptable. You can add in and switch out granola goodies to make whatever flavor you want. I've made them with chocolate and peanut butter chips; chocolate chips, graham cracker bits and mini marshmallows; chocolate chips and almonds, dark chocolate chips (see what I did there?) and dried cherries; and this particular iteration - chocolate chips and coconut. (You can make these granola bars without chocolate chips - but if you do, I'm not sure we can be friends anymore.)

Now, these are not "healthy" - but I think they are healthier than the store stuff. There's plenty of fiber, much less sodium, probably less sugar, and you can pronounce all the ingredients.

As usual, I've done a little adapting of the original recipe:

  • The original calls for wheat germ. I didn't have any one time, so I used an equal amount of wheat bran. Works great, can't tell the difference.
  • You can also skip the germ/bran all together. Still tasty.
  • I add a pinch of salt to the dry ingredients - boosts flavor just a bit.
  • Sweetened condensed milk has its own distinct flavor, which can take over the recipe. So I add a bit of vanilla extract (or almond extract). It masks the milk flavor and brings a little more depth to the taste.
  • When you want to get all fancy and customize your bars, just use the same amounts as the original recipe. The recipe can support up to 3 types of goodies (1/2 cup each) - more than that and there won't be enough sweetened condensed milk to bind it all together.

Do yourself a big fat favor - LINE YOUR PAN! These suckers are sticky and will be a pain to get out if you don't line your pan. Use foil or parchment paper - foil is easier to get into the pan, but makes it much harder to get the bars out of it, because the gooey batter grabs onto the foil crinkles and bakes them in so that you spend 20 minutes using the tip of your good paring knife digging silver bits out of your snack instead of 20 minutes eating your snack. Just sayin'.

Enough jabber - go bake!

CHEWY GRANOLA BARS
Makes about 16

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (NOT instant or quick cooking)
1/2 cup wheat bran or wheat germ
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
Pinch of salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.

Spray an 8 x 8-inch pan with nonstick spray. Line the pan with parchment paper or foil. Spray lining with nonstick spray.

Add dry ingredients to medium sized bowl. Stir to mix. Add wet ingredients. Stir to blend well.

Pour into prepared pan. Push the sticky mess into all the corners with a spatula and smooth it down so it's evenly distributed.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until edges are light golden brown.

Set on baking rack to cool completely. Slice into 1-inch wide bars. Store in an airtight container until you eat them all.




Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mini Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins to the Rescue


So it's 6 a.m. and you realize that you're out of the only thing your kids will willingly eat for breakfast, even if it is craptastic frozen waffles don't judge me. A quick, fuzzy-brained perusal of the fridge and pantry also reveals you're out of just about everything else, too. Your first kid will be up and HUNGRY in 30 minutes. Quick - whattaya do?

I turned to these pumpkiny little beauties. The recipe comes from Pam Anderson's cookbook "The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great." Love it. (And right now you can get it cheap on Amazon.)

These bad boys were mixed, plopped, baked and out of the oven in about 20 minutes. And while the girls probably wouldn't beg for them every day, the muffins were a success - and a heckofa lot better for them than craptastic frozen waffles.

Notes:

  • Don't skip the cooking of the pumpkin. It doesn't take long, and it gets rid of any tinny taste the can might leave behind.
  • The recipe calls for whole wheat flour - I used white whole wheat. 
  • I didn't use the orange glaze due to time restrictions, but I've used it before and it's tasty. I used some leftover cinnamon confectioner's sugar - just dusted a little on top - very yum and not as sticky as the orange glaze.
  • Each unglazed muffin has 99 calories, if you're counting those pesky little things. No idea how many thousands of calories cinnamon confectioner's sugar adds...
The cinnamon powdered sugar melts into the muffins after a while,
but you can still taste it....

Mini Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins
(Adapted from "The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great")

1 can (15 ounces) 100% pure pumpkin (pumpkin only - no pie mix)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup flavorless oil, such as vegetable or canola
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 24 mini muffin cups with cooking spray, or line with paper liners.

Place pumpkin and spices in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir it together and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. Pour hot mixture into a medium sized bowl.  Whisk in brown sugar and oil. Slowly beat in eggs.

In another bowl, whisk remaining dry ingredients together. Whisk the pumpkin mixture into the dry mixture - just until combined. Over-mixing kills muffins dead.

Put about 2 tablespoons batter into each muffin cup. Bake until golden and cooked through, 10 - 12 minutes.

Let muffins stand for a few minutes, then take them out and put them on a wire rack to cool a bit.

Sift a little confectioner's sugar over the top (either plain or with cinnamon). Or drizzle an orange glaze made by whisking together 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar, 1/4 teaspoon orange zest, and 2 teaspoons orange juice.

That's it - you're done! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Chocolate Sorbet for Everyone!



You know how you make all these wonderful plans for summer - to get stuff done (like, say, blogging), now that you have some extra time? And you know how you wake up in mid-August and realize school's starting again, summer's pretty much done and you only managed to do a teeny portion of the things on your great summer to-do list? Yep. That happened. Sigh.

Movin' on.


My sister and her kids made the drive up from Texas to see kinfolk like us. Yay!
Sister

Cousins @ the pool. From left to right - hers, mine, hers, mine.
My sister has done a great job identifying and tackling a bunch of food allergies and issues in her little fam. When everybody has a different food problem, how do you make sure everybody can eat? She has to find foods with: no soy, no dairy, no eggs and no grain (including grain-based stuff like corn syrup, which is in everything). Not an easy thing to manage, but she's doing it.

I didn't want them to worry about eating at my house, so I did some poking around. I wanted to grill some chicken using our favorite, easy marinade. But it calls for soy sauce. Hmmm, is there such a thing as soy-free soy sauce? Yep! You can buy some, but you can also make it yourself. So, grilled chicken - easy peasy.

Sides were no problem (roasted white and sweet potatoes, and a big fruit salad). Then came dessert. Because you have to have dessert.

Their visit was during the never-ending heat wave we had. Temps over 100 every day. So ice cream would have been perfect. But - no dairy and no eggs, remember? Hmmm...

Then I remembered a little recipe I'd seen on Smitten Kitchen. Chocolate Sorbet. No eggs. No dairy. Lotsa yum.

So, that's what we did. It's easy and really, really good. I asked the kids if they liked it - and in between big, messy bites, they grinned and said, "It's great! That's why we're eating it!"

Even if you don't have egg or dairy issues, this is a scrumptious ice cream alternative. It's not low calorie because it has sugar, but it is low fat, so you can chow down with very little guilt.

Chocolate Sorbet
(recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 1 quart

2 1/4 cups water
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
Pinch of salt
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Bakers Unsweetened Chocolate because it does not have soy in it - some chocolates do)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the water, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Boil, whisking continuously for 45 seconds.


Note to self: photographing chocolate in a black pot is not a good idea.

Remove chocolate mixture from heat and stir in your finely chopped chocolate pieces:

Finely chopped chocolate

Finely chopped chocolate added to chocolate mix in a black pot.

Stir until chocolate is melted. Then add vanilla extract and the rest of the water (3/4 cup).

First it looks like this... (that's steamy, not blurry)

...then it looks like this.

Transfer this silky mixture to a blender and swirl it around for 15 seconds or so.

1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi...

Now, the instructions say to chill the mixture thoroughly. You could stick the blender in the refrigerator, I suppose. I wasn't sure how thick the mixture would get, and I didn't want to lose any chocolatey goodness by it sticking to the blender blades. So I used a trick I learned from an awesome ice cream recipe book, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home.

First, set up a gallon sized zip-top bag inside a large measuring cup:

This is a 4-cup dealie.

Next, pour your chocolate mixture into the bag.

Like so.


Then, take the bag out of the cup, zip it up, and you're ready to go.

Ta-da!

Put your choco-baggie in the refrigerator (flat, if you can) for at least 4 hours. AT LEAST. Overnight is better. I can tell you that this chilling process is crucial to making ice cream or sorbet. I have several shameful ice cream failures under my belt, and they were all due to the fact that I did not chill the base long enough. Your little ice cream maker needs all the help it can get to keep the mixture cold. If you don't, the ice cream maker will spin and spin and spin and all you'll ever get is great looking soup that will crush your soul because it was going to be such AWESOME ice cream but it's not.

So, chill, baby, chill.

When you're ready to churn, snip one corner off the bottom of your choco-baggie and pour the base into your ice cream maker.

Make sure you snip the corner while holding the bag right over the opening in the top of the ice cream maker. Because if you don't - and this is just a rumor, mind you - it is possible to lose some of that chocolate goodness when it spurts out onto the floor. And the taste of tears mixed in with chocolate is not good. Or so I've heard...

Let your ice cream maker do it's magic and in no time, you have awesome, allergen-free chocolate sorbet.
I was going to the a picture of the kids eating it, but they ate it too fast!

Chocolate sorbet for everyone - happy churning!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Strawberry-Vanilla Jam


Say you found a big container of strawberries on sale for a really good price. You'd snatch it up, wouldn't you? I did - and quickly realized that it would not be possible to snarf them all down one by one before they all turned to mush. What to do, what to do?

Fortunately, I'd been snatching up strawberry recipes, too - I wrote about some here, and dog-eared the latest Southern Living magazine:

I did make some Strawberry Lemonade Muffins from that issue, but right now I wanna talk about jam. Jam jam mamma-jamma jam.

There are all kinds of recipes for the kind of jam that you preserve and can stay on your shelf for a long time. I have yet to brave the whole canning thing and didn't want to risk wasting my lovely berries on an experiment.

So I went to a recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. That thing is so well-used and well-loved that it would make the Velveteen Rabbit jealous.

Near the back of the book, on a smudged page 780, is the recipe for Strawberry Refrigerator Jam. The kind you cook up in a skillet in less than 30 minutes. It won't be shelf-stable for 6 months, but that's ok - it's so good you'll have trouble not scarfing it down in 6 minutes.

I put a little twist on the recipe by tossing in a whole vanilla bean during the simmer process. And Oh My, am I glad I did.

A note from the Test Kitchen folks: "After making batch after batch of this jam, we learned that the one thing you must do is to err on the side of undercooking, as the jam will thicken as it cools." Now you know.

They also say that if you like your jam on the sweeter side, or if the strawberries seem too tart, you can add more sugar. I'm guessing you could make this with artificial sweeteners, if you like, but I can't attest to how it would taste.

And now you can make:

Strawberry-Vanilla Refrigerator Jam
(slightly adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Makes about 2 cups
Will keep in the refrigerator about 2 weeks

1 quart strawberries, hulled and sliced thin (that's 4 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped

Put ice water in a large bowl, then set a smaller bowl inside it (don't let the water get into the small bowl). Set aside.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, simmer the sliced strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean seeds and pods over medium heat until the mixture begins to look syrupy, about 10 minutes. It will start out like this:


And end up like this:

Remove the skillet from heat and spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of the fruit mixture into the bowl set into the ice water. Wait 30 seconds. Tip the bowl to one side. The jam should only move a little bit. If it's too runny and moves to the side of the bowl, like this:


then put the skillet back on the heat until it looks thicker, 2 - 4 minutes more. Do the test again. It should look like this:


And...you're done.

Take out the vanilla bean pods. Let your jam cool to room temperature for about an hour. Then you can serve it up, or put it into a pretty jar and feel all Little House on the Prairie with your jam making skills.

Enjoy!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Honey Lime Chicken & Coconut Rice

Honey Lime Chicken & Coconut Rice


Just to prove that I'm not all about the baking and the sweets, I thought I'd dish on a little main dish. (Have no fear, fellow dessert-bread-sweets-addicts, I have plenty of sweet & carby stuff up my sleeve.)

I spotted this recipe in the February issue of Southern Living Magazine. The actual recipe is Honey-Lime Chicken with Coconut-Black Bean Rice. I knew there was no way my fam would eat black bean anything, so I dumbed it down and just made coconut rice. But if you have a house full of black bean eaters, check out the original recipe online.

NOTES:

  • I had a mostly-done bag of Hint of Lime tortilla chips laying around the pantry, so I crushed those along with the regular tortilla chips for a bit of extra limey-ness. Yum.
  • I also upped the amount of lime zest and juice. I zested 2 limes and juiced 2 limes (they were small). 3 out of 4 Mundys approved. One could have done with less limeyness. One had to get over it. Lime it up as much as you like. I thought the extra tartness balanced the sweet coconut rice quite nicely.
  • You might want to pound the chicken breasts a bit to make them a little thinner, and of even thickness (so they cook at the same time).
  • I decided not to fry mine, like the recipe called for. I baked them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or so. Just make sure they're cooked to 170 degrees. 


Honey Lime Chicken with Coconut Rice
Makes 4 servings

1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
4 chicken breasts (or 6 cutlets)
3/4 - 1 cup finely crushed tortilla chips
1/4 cup honey
1 - 2 teaspoons lime zest
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (2 - 3 limes)

Bring coconut milk and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil over medium-high heat; stir in rice. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. (Stir it a few times - the sugars in the coconut milk will make it stick and burn if you're not careful.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet or roasting pan. Spray with nonstick spray.

Place crushed tortilla chips in a pie plate or shallow bowl.

Those little green bits - Hint o'Lime bits. Yum.
Whisk honey,
If you don't have one of these Measure-All Cups, get one. It makes it so much easier to measure & transfer sticky ingredients like honey & peanut butter, & jiggly ingredients like mayo & yogurt.
lime zest,
Microplane zester - another kitchen must have.

and lime juice
I also highly recommend a reamer, too.

together in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Reserve 2 or 3 tablespoons of this golden goodness for later.


Sprinkle chicken with pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Dip chicken in the honey mixture, then dredge in crushed chips. You'll probably need to press some of the chips into the chicken to make sure it's evenly coated.

Place chicken on wire rack:
Baking the chicken on a rack like this lets the heat circulate evenly around the chicken and lets the juices drip down. This way you get a crispy coating on all sides, not just the top.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees.

Remove from oven and spoon reserved honey mixture over the chicken.
Nice and golden brown, with a touch of fresh honey-lime sauce on top. Oh yeah...
Plate it up with your coconut rice and veggies of your choice:

Sweet, tangy, crunchy, juicy - it's just about got it all. Enjoy!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

So my kids have been bagel fiends since they first got teeth. We probably could have bought a new car with all the money we've poured into buying bagels over the years. 

I'd made them from scratch once, many moons ago, and I didn't do very well. I don't remember much about the experience but the word 'rocks' comes to mind. I haven't tried them since.

Until.

Not sure what spurred the thought, but a couple of weeks ago I decided to make some bagels. I poked around for recipes and found some good ones. But when I said, "Today is the day I make bagels!" it turned out I didn't have all the ingredients I needed. So I cast about my cookbook collection for a recipe that didn't call for whatever I was out of. And I found one.

Yay.

Only not.

I tried the recipe from my wonderful "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" book. I've loved everything I made from it. Until the bagels. Um...

I followed all the instructions and they came out, well...here, look:

See how fancy I got? Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, even cinnamon sugar. But. They were skinny and chewy, but not in the good way that bagels are supposed to be. My girls said they were "rustic" and politely ate one, but then these little suckers languished in the pantry until they had to be thrown out.

I did not want to be defeated by mere bagels, so the next grocery trip, I made sure I got everything I needed to do these bad boys right.

Except I didn't. Get all the right stuff, I mean. Bagels need to be made with a  high protein flour, like bread flour. No prob! I have tons of flours in the pantry, right? Right! But lookie here:
Do you see bread flour? Neither did I. Ack!

But, I did a little ingredient substitution sleuthing, and found that you can add vital wheat gluten to regular flour to boost the protein levels. Aha! I had vital wheat gluten! So, I did as instructed and added 1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten per cup of all-purpose flour. And away we went...

I found this recipe at Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. (I may need to add that tome to my wish list...)

My Notes:

  • This is a bit time and process intensive. There are several stages - the sponge making and dough making stages, the retarding stage, and the cooking stage. But totally worth it! The girls loved these babies, said they were at least as good as what we've gotten at certain places that rhyme with Ranera. (Maybe better.)
  • Do not attempt these unless you have at least 3 free hours on one day, room in the fridge to hold two trays of resting bagels overnight, overnight time, and about a half hour the morning you want to bake and enjoy them. (Please don't fling your hands up and pffft! me at this point - it really is worth it.) I'm hoping to get a little faster the more I make these.
  • Yes, bagels need to be given a quick skinny dip in boiling water before you bake them. I, too, wondered why. It helps set the crust and gives you that perfect, bagely texture you love. Adding baking soda to the water helps them brown in the oven. Here's more about it, if you're curious.

Ok, kids, let's make some bagels!

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
Yield: 12(ish) large or 24 mini bagels

For the Sponge:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached, high-gluten or bread flour OR 4 cups all-purpose flour + 4 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 1/2 cups water, at room temperature

For the Dough:
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour OR 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour + 3 3/4 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons honey or brown sugar
2 cups loosely packed raisins, rinsed

To Finish:
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal for dusting

To make the sponge: Stir yeast (and vital wheat gluten if using) into flour in a large mixing bowl. Add water, whisking or stirring until it forms a smooth, sticky batter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Leave for 2 hours at room temperature; the mixture should become foamy and bubbly, swelling to nearly double in size. When the bowl is tapped on the countertop, mixture should collapse.

To make the dough: Add the additional yeast to the sponge mixture. Stir. Add 3 cups flour (and vital wheat gluten, if using), cinnamon, sugar, salt and honey/brown sugar. Stir, or mix on low speed with dough hook. (This dough gets really thick and heavy - I thought my mixer might have a  seizure. Just make sure the dough doesn't crawl up the dough hook and try to leave the bowl.) Mix until ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour. In the last couple of minutes, add the raisins.

Transfer dough to counter. Knead for at least 10 minutes (I needed to knead for closer to 15). Dough should be firm, but still smooth and pliable. Make sure there is no raw flour in the mix. [The instructions say that at this point, the dough should pass the windowpane test - you should be able to pull some dough out from the mass and see through it, like a window pane - and should be between 77 and 81 degrees. My dough never did get that warm or windowpaney. I fretted a while over that. Then I quit and enjoyed a yummy bagel.] If the doug seems tacky or sticky, add a little more flour.

Divide the dough into equally sized pieces - 4 1/2 ounces for standard bagels. I don't have a food scale, so I just divided it into even-ish pieces, like so:
I used my handy bench scraper to lop the dough ball into pieces.
I do words, not shapes, so these aren't exactly even.
Form the pieces into rolls and cover them with a damp towel. Let them rest for about 20 minutes. After all that kneading, you'll need some rest, too.

Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper and spray them lightly with nonstick spray. Shape the bagels by sticking your thumbs into the center of each roll and stretching out an opening about 2 1/2 inches in diameter:
Again, I'm not great with shapes. I can live with that.
Mist the bagels lightly with nonstick spray and cover them loosely with plastic wrap. Let them sit for another 20 minutes or so. Pay attention to the 'or so.'

Now's when you get to check and see if the bagels are ready for the next phase, retarding. Fill a small bowl with room temperature water. Then play "Will it Sink or Will it Float?" Drop one bagel into the water. If it floats within 10 seconds, it's good to go. Pat it dry, return it to the pan.

If they don't float - and mine did not - they need to proof some more. Recipe says to let them proof for another 10 minutes or so - "or until a tester floats." I think mine needed another half hour of proofing. At least. Perhaps it was the high-protein flour substitution, or the windowpane fail. Or the room temperature or the phase of the moon. Dunno. It all worked out in the end, so I don't care.

When you have a batch of floaters, re-cover them and put them in the refrigerator overnight. Then take some ibuprofen for your sore arms and try not to think of bagels until morning. (They can actually stay in the fridge like that for 2 days - so all you plan-ahead mavens, you're welcome.)

When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil, then add the baking soda.

Gently place bagels into the water, only putting in as many as will comfortably fit. Again, they should float within 10 seconds. If they're hugging the bottom of the pot, nudge them with a spoon until they pop up.

We're so close, my lovelies, so close...!
Boil them for a minute. A literal, actual minute. 60 seconds. Then flip them over and boil for another minute. If you want them very chewy, you can go 2 minutes per side.

While bagels are boiling, sprinkle parchment-lined baking sheets with cornmeal (you can use the same sheets the bagels rested on).

When all the bagels have been boiled, and are nestled on their baking sheets, stick them in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes. Then rotate the pans, switching shelves and turning each pan 180 degrees. After you rotate, lower the oven to 450 degrees and continue to bake for about another 5 minutes, or until the bagels are golden brown.

Remove from oven and let the bagels cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before you devour them.

I pre-sliced about half of the batch, then stashed them in the freezer. We've been munching on homemade bagels ever since.

Sure, sure, it's easier to buy them at the store. But when you make them yourself, you know what goes in them, and you can enjoy them with a little pride and satisfaction alongside your favorite schmear. And that tastes mighty good, y'all.
Oh yeah...!
PS - The leftover bagel water was a lovely rusty brown color. My oldest had a pair of bright white scrubs she needed to dye dingy for a play she was in. I looked at the hot bagel water. I looked at the scrubs. I looked at the hot bagel water. And, oh yes I did. Worked like a charm and she had the best smelling costume in the show.