Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Bagel Love Affair

I don’t remember having bagels growing up.  The first bagels I remember were those I bought in the university union cafe after swim practice.  I was cold and tired after my early morning workout, and the bagels were warm and squishy from the microwave.  They weren’t toasted; it was just a plain grocery store bagel split, spread with cream cheese, and zapped until the cream cheese melted into gooey oozy wonderfulness.

So, I consider it accurate to say I didn’t have my first real bagel until my early 20s, when I was working at a law firm in Century City.  Once a week, mid-morning, the receptionist would page “Penny Lane.”  That was the signal — the bagel lady was in the break room with her cart full of fresh, New York style bagels.  It was a revelation.  There weren’t a million flavors like at bagel shops now; just the basics: plain, sesame, poppy seed and, my favorite, salt.  Tearing my teeth into the chewy crust, and then the moist interior, — with just a wee bit of cream cheese.  Heaven.

I still love a good bagel.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a good bagel shop nearby.  I’ve tried to make bagels a few times over the years and I think I finally nailed it.  I used this bagel recipe.

I followed the recipe exactly except for throwing in a tablespoon or so of sourdough starter.  I was feeding my starter and it kills me to dump the excess down the drain so I tend to throw it into whatever I’m making.  Bagel dough needs to be kneaded a long, long time so I did that in my standing mixer.  Usually I like to knead dough by hand because I enjoy feeling it come together, but I wasn’t really up for kneading for 15 minutes or more.  After kneading and an initial rise, I cut the dough into eight pieces and rolled them into balls with nice tight skins.  Another rise, and then I poked my finger through each ball, twirled the dough until the opening was wide and set it down to rest.  Fun.

While the bagels rested again (they aren’t hard to make but they do take a while with all the resting that goes on), I heated the water bath (water plus malt syrup and sugar) and turned on the oven.

I put them in the simmering water four at a time, and cooked them a couple minutes on each side.  Then I fished them out and put them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

I brushed them with egg white whisked with a little water and then sprinkled most of them with sesame.  I don’t have any rock salt on hand or I would have used that.  Maybe next time I’ll try flakey sea salt and see how that goes.  After brushing and topping the bagels, I popped them in the oven.

They came out looking like the real deal and, more importantly, tasting like the real deal.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Perfect Snowfall

Yesterday morning, I drove an hour southwest to my Master Gardener training class.  It wasn’t raining yet but the wind pushed me across the parking lot and blew me into the door of the classroom.  Mid-morning, the wind rattled the windows violently as I listened to a lecture on plant cell structure.  By lunchtime, the rain was coming down in sheets and Brett was texting me that the rain at home was turning to snow.  At about the time we dissected a Brussels sprout, he said it was all snow.

Mid-afternoon, we took apart a couple flowers to look at the variations in stamens and pistols and sepals.  By then, the snow at home was starting to stick.

Right after we dissected a strawberry, Brett texted that the driveway had disappeared and I best head home if I wanted to make it up our lane and to the house.  Most of the drive home was in rain, but as I got to the outskirts of our community, I had snowflakes flying at the windshield.  A couple neighbors had driven up our road shortly before I got there so I was able to drive in their tracks until I got to the house.  The snow wasn’t too thick yet, but it was falling in earnest.  It looked like this late yesterday afternoon.

This morning the sun came out and made the snow shine.  Some of the snow melted during the night but there was still about an inch on the ground.

Sage couldn’t decide if she wanted to spin in circles, leap and land in it, or just eat the snow.

And, dang, it was just plain gorgeous out.