Sourdough Bagels: a love story

Bagels are pretty much amazing, right?  Chewy, dense, and able to provide a lot of cream cheese delivery ability.  I’ll admit that I’m a little picky about my bagels though; don’t try to feed me bagel shaped bread and expect me to eat it, ok?  Bagels aren’t bread. Bagels are bagels.  Don’t mess with this.

We had an ok bagel place in Texas but Tennessee is sadly lacking in bagels.  Its been a few months now and my need for a bagel was pretty overwhelming, so I’ve been plowing through recipes looking for a good option.  First, I tried the recipe from Classic Sourdoughs, a book I really like.  I am chalking that failure up to my halving the recipe though as the dough was soft and ultimately bready.  They couldn’t hold their shape during boiling so I ended up just baking them.  bleh.

I finally came upon the recipe for 100% sourdough bagels over at The Wild Yeast Blog.  The pictures looked amazing and I loved the no additional yeast thing.  Then, when I was admiring some bagels on instagram (who doesn’t do that?), azture mentioned they were from the same recipe I had been eyeing.  It was meant to be.

I made a few slight changes to the recipe.  I didn’t have high gluten flour or vital wheat gluten on hand (though I have since gotten some from amazon to try with), so I used bread flour.  I also kneaded it all by hand since thats my thing.  The dough was super tough to knead but came together nicely.  I kneaded it for maybe 15-18 minutes.

Where I differ with the wild yeast blog was in the shaping.  I tried the rolling method but…its a total pain in the ass.  The dough is super tough and elastic even after a resting period and sticking the ends together with water is too fussy for me.  Poke my finger though the ball and shape the bagel all the way.  It takes 1/zillionth of the time.

Proof, refrigerate overnight and they are ready for the final steps in the morning.  I was a little intimidated of the boiling part since my previous attempt at bagels went south here but I trusted in the dough.

They held together and, while they looked a little gross, I knew this step would give me that amazing exterior shell that really differentiates bagel from bread.

Baked!  My bagels could have been a little more evenly sized but whatever.

Sourdough Bagels

Ingredients:

  • 349 g bread flour
  • 121 g cold water
  • 28 g baker’s dry milk powder (King Arthur Flour’s is the best here)
  • 16.4 g non-diastatic malt powder
  • 10.1 g (1 2/3 teaspoons) salt
  • 301 g active 100%-hydration sourdough starter
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda for boiling

Combine all the ingredients (except the baking soda for boiling).  Mix with a spoon in a bowl until it becomes to difficult to work.  Turn out and knead for 15+ minutes or until your dough is smooth and satiny.  Cover the dough and rest for 10 minutes to help it relax before shaping.

Divide dough into 8 pieces and shape into a ball.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes or so.  Prepare a sheet pan with parchment and a heavy sprinkling of semolina flour.

Shape each bagel by sticking your finger through the center of the ball and gently pulling it into a bagel shape.  Make the hole a little bigger than you think to account for puffing during the long rise.

Cover with cling wrap and proof at room temperature for 4 hours.  Then put in the fridge overnight (or about 8 hours).

In the morning, turn the oven to 425 and start a large pot of water to boil and get a cooling rack with a towel or sheet pan under it ready.  Once the water reaches boiling, add the baking soda and stand back!  It will bubble up a bit and then calm back down.

Add the bagels a few at a time for 20 seconds each.  If your bagels don’t sink/stay under water in the beginning, just flip them halfway through the boil.

Remove and allow to drain for a few minutes.  If your bagel’s holes have closed up, you might want to dab the top with a towel.  Transfer back to the semolina dusted sheet pan and put them in the oven.  Turn the oven down to 400.  Bake for 20-27 minutes or until golden brown. Open the oven halfway through to vent any steam out.

Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Eat with cream cheese!

The Great Muffin Tin Lining Test

I baked two batches of blueberry muffins over the last couple of weeks and had vastly different results.  The first was blogged here and resulted in gorgeous high-rising muffins that were, sadly, a little difficult to get out of the tin.  In the instructions, I noted that you should use liners instead of facing the frustrating reality of chiseling your muffins out of the tin.

 

But–was that right?  The second batch I made were baked in liners and they came out looking…well…too sad to photograph.  They were delicious but they didn’t rise nearly as high and they didn’t have the nice slight crunch of the exterior that is browned in the individual cups.  I wondered if the liner had anything to do with it and set about to test.

 

Eight muffins, four methods.  Baking spray only, a parchment paper sling, a paper liner, and a foil liner.

Then topped with the topping which I am still using from the original batch.  I still have a little more to use up, in fact.

Halfway through baking, the differences were clear.  Despite the unlined cups having the least amount of batter (since they were filled last and I am terrible at eyeballing), they were baking up higher and better looking than their partners.

 

After baking:

  

Some of this will, no doubt, come down to personal preference.  I prefer a muffin with a little crust on the side and I don’t really love the mess of a liner.  I just want to grab the muffin and eat it without any trash related entanglements, ok?  For that kind of muffin, I think the parchment sling is the way to go.  It made removal super easy and it had an even nicer looking top than the no liner muffins.

 

For those that like a soft sided muffin, the win has to go to the foil liners over the paper liners.  The rise was just a little loftier and muffin comes away just a little cleaner.

Jazzing Up a Pancake Mix

I don’t have many “mixes” in my pantry. I always keep a cake mix for emergencies but, beyond that, the only mix that makes the cut is pancake mix. Pancakes are a quick, easy dinner that everyone in the family will eat, so it is one of those meals that is always on standby. I also make an XXXXL batch so we have leftovers for breakfast the next day for the kids.

fluffypancakes

The only problem is baking mix pancakes can be kind of flat. I’m not looking for flavorless crepes–I want a giant, fluffy pancake! To give a little help to a box of mix, I make a couple of small changes: adding vanilla and whipping the eggs whites to soft peaks. The vanilla lends that homemade flavor to the mix while the whipped egg whites adds loft and fluffiness to the batter.

additions

Combine all the ingredients except egg whites in a large bowl and add the vanilla. Stir to combine. In a separate bowl (or in a stand mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold half of the whites into the batter, then the other half until just combined then continue on with pancake making!

To speed up the process, I keep two pans going at different pancake flipping points. I tried three pans at one point but the pancakes always needed attention at the same time, so I went back to two.

two pans

Buttermilk Biscuit Showdown: Part 3–a random food.com recipe

biscuits

I’ve made quite a few batches of my favorite buttermilk biscuits in the last couple of weeks but was it possible they could be even better??

First, I tried a hybrid of the Smitten Kitchen and Alton Brown–mostly the smitten kitchen all butter but with just a little of it replaced with shortening to keep the dough easier to work with. They were good and the dough was certainly easier to work with but they just weren’t great, so I went back to all-butter.

Something really new was needed, so I went searching and found a random recipe on food.com that had some significant differences: sugar on top, less butter and more buttermilk, and a higher baking temperature. It sounded a little like madness but I went for it in the name of science and biscuits.

The dough felt familiar coming together but was much stickier than either Smitten Kitchens or Alton Browns. After cutting the biscuits, I had to kind of peel them off the board which I’m sure didn’t do any favors to their texture. Then came the really crazy part. The recipe called for a HALF A CUP of sugar to be sprinkled on top of the biscuits. What is this? A muffin? I couldn’t bring myself to do it and only managed to sprinkle about 1 tablespoon over the 9.

sugarontop

I knew all along these biscuits would be weird but I was hoping to learn some type of lesson from them. What did I learn?
–More butter and less buttermilk makes for an easier to work dough and a more tender biscuit. These were surprisingly tough despite barely working the dough.
–Sugar on top is madness. I was hoping it would lend some magnificent amount of golden brown coloring to the top of my biscuits. All it did was add a weird sugar-cookie crunch to the top; I can’t even imagine what they would have been like if I had used the entire 1/2 cup.
–Finally, 450 is too high for biscuits. The little wispy edges were dark before the actual biscuits had much color to them at all.

I’m back to using the Smitten Kitchen recipe for now but, even though this batch of biscuits was really odd, I think the new techniques were still worth trying.

dirtybowls

Ebelskiver Failure

Watching cooking shows is a bit of a problem for me. I watch someone make something and I instantly want to make it as well. Until they invent a system that allows me to push a button and have Bobby Flay show up at my door with whatever I was just watching him cook, I’ll have to make do with making things myself.

egg whites

The latest need-to-have dish is called ebelskiver. Bobby–you made them look so easy! They practically cooked themselves! Bobby Flay lied to me though–these require quite a learning curve on the technique front and my batch was pretty much 90% failure. The batter was easy to put together despite my poor egg-whipping choices. Two egg whites to stiff peaks? Lets do that by hand, shall we? A very, very sore shoulder later, it was ready to put them in the pan.

batter

This is where the complications come in. You are supposed to use two sticks to flip these upside down in the pan so they can finish cooking and form the nice little spherical shape. NOPE. This was not easy and, by the time I got the technique up to very baby novice level, my ebelskivers were burnt. This was still better than the first batch that I couldn’t manage to flip at all and had to dig out of the pan with a spoon.

burnt

We still ate them. They were ok but, obviously, would have been better if I had been able to flip them more quickly and effectively.

Next time, lower heat so I have a little more time to flip them.

Applesauce Oat Muffins

pile of muffins

With 6 cups of applesauce in the fridge to use up, I went in search of a simple muffin recipe. I stumbled upon this Healthy Applesauce Oat Muffin recipe. I had all the ingredients on hand, so off we went!

twobowls

The only substitute I made was regular AP flour for whole wheat flour only because I didn’t have any on hand. I also upped the cinnamon a bit and I wish I had added even more. Cinnamon ages fairly quickly in your pantry, so if yours is getting up there in age, you will want to up the cinnamon measurements in almost anything you make.

muffins

The batter came together easily and, amazingly, I actually got the exact number of muffins the recipe called for. This NEVER happens to me with muffins or cookies, so I took it as a good sign.

I baked for 20 minutes, turning my pan (which holds 24 muffins and I had doubled the recipe) once at 10 minutes. These probably could have gone just another minute or two to get all of the edges perfectly golden. I have several more cups of applesauce to use, so I may make another batch of these soon and see how they freeze.

These were moist and had a fantastic apple flavor. My applesauce was chunky, so there were still a few distinct chunks in the middle of the muffins which was a nice touch. Next time, I may also try adding some sanding sugar on top of the muffins for a little crunch. These aren’t overly sweet muffins, so the additional sugar wouldn’t be overkill.

muffins

Applesauce Oat Muffins

1 cup rolled/old­fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prep a muffin tin with liners or, like I did, spray the muffin cups with cooking spray.

Combine oatmeal, applesauce, milk, egg, vanilla, butter and sugar.

In another, larger bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix ONLY until combined. You don’t want to develop any gluten here by overworking the flour or your muffins will be dense, sad muffins. And no one wants dense, sad muffins, mkay?

Distribute the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups. As always, I use an ice cream disher. Bake for 18-20 minutes, turning once during cooking.

Remove the muffins to a rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. Check her out–shes got some amazing stuff over there!

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

slice

My Grandmother had many fine qualities–she was an artist, a great card player and all around amazing lady. She was not, however, a terribly good cook. My childhood food memories from stays at her house feature her amazingly dry turkey, drinking ginger ale (Canada Dry ONLY) and eating butter cookies while playing cards, and cinnamon swirl toast for breakfast. These days, I seem to be the only person who tries to buy cinnamon swirl bread in the store because every time I buy a loaf, it is hard, dry, and so close to stale it isn’t even enjoyable. That is no way to relive a childhood memory, so I do what a baker does–set out to find the perfect swirl loaf.

First candidate: Walter Sand’s White Bread from King Arthur Flour. I omitted the raisins because I don’t hate myself. If you do insist on raisins…well…that’s between you and your loaf. Mine remains raisin free.

helper

The dough came together beautifully. I didn’t bother breaking out the stand mixer since I wanted to knead this loaf by hand with my ever-present kitchen helper.

spread

I made one a plain white bread loaf and the other half of the dough into the swirl bread. I wish I had made more of the spread and rolled the dough out longer so there would be more layers to the swirl with more filling. More cinnamon and brown sugar=better for everyone.

Another rise and then a trip through the oven and the loaves were perfect!

loaves

I stored the loaves in some larger ziplocks and they are still fresh-ish three days later. I think today may be the last day for them though but they are nearly gone anyway!

This makes a soft, fluffy white bread–perfect for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but I think there needs to be more fat in the dough to make a really great cinnamon swirl bread. Next time I make this, I’ll make both loaves plain and either gift one to a friend or try freezing it FOR SCIENCE!

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Banana Muffins

My kids are muffin fanatics. We often eat breakfast in the car on the way to school and most other breakfast foods simply fail to deliver here. Syrup for pancakes is too messy, the girl child doesn’t like granola bars, and the boy doesn’t love cereal the way the girl does.

bamuffpan

Muffins solve all of my problems, folks. I can even sometimes convince the kids they are getting cupcakes for breakfast when I try a new recipe. If that isn’t winning, then I don’t know what is. It also gets my kids in the kitchen to provide child labor help Mom.

bamuffassist

My husband has a deep-seated love of breakfast smoothies, so we always have excess bananas around the house. As soon as they start to look a little mushy, I start making plans for them. I have a few recipes for banana muffins that incorporate various levels of banana-iness. This one is a fairly minimal–requiring just 4 bananas for a big batch of 33. These freeze extremely well but it could easily be halved if you aren’t as muffin crazy as we are.

This recipe uses the creaming method that is similar to a basic cookie: Beat together butter and sugars, add eggs, then alternate wet and dry ingredients. Add mixins at the end. I love this method for muffins because it makes multiple batches in the stand mixer easy as pie. You also end up with a nice light fluffy muffin so you don’t even have to feel guilty about having two.

bamuff2

Banana Muffins
makes 33 muffins

5 cups of all purpose flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg
4 Large mashed ripe bananas
½ cup whole milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup softened butter
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs
1.5 bags chocolate chips

Bowl 1: flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg

Bowl 2: bananas, milk, vanilla

Mixer: sugars and butter. Beat for 5 minutes, add eggs. Alternate ½ dry and half wet.

Add chocolate chips by hand.

Scoop with a large ice cream scoop into liners.

Bake at 350 for 23 minutes

bamuff3