things I'll never buy again

Cultures, Generations, and Rhubarb

Since I got the buttermilk and yogurt cultures from Cultures for Health early last week, I've been a bit preoccupied in my new science experiments. Cultured buttermilk is where I began, after reading on the website that having different cultures too close together could result in cross-contamination. Since my house has been on the cool side, I thought I'd play it extra safe and do one at a time, held in the oven with the oven light on. As I mentioned the other day, this creates a mildly warm culturing environment, perfect for buttermilk making.

The cultures I received were large enough to start two portions. You begin with a small amount, and then build it into a larger amount - which I have determined to be a good thing since the future generations improve vastly. My first buttermilk was on the thin side and very "curdled" looking (I suspect in part due to the non-homogenized milk I've been using), but now that I have the 4th generation, it is thickened nicely and has nudged it's way into the List of Things I'll Never Buy Again.

The only somewhat bothersome thing is that to continue culturing, it is recommended that you use a portion of the existing batch to make a new batch at least once every 7 days. It could seem like a bother, but really, it is as simple as mixing 1 part buttermilk with 3 parts milk and then letting it sit. I'd bet even the busiest person with a hankering for homemade buttermilk could manage this! You let it sit undisturbed except for a peek here and there for 24-48 hours, so in scheme of homemade things, it doesn't get much easier than this. To make a silky smooth version, I used my little milk frother to approximate a bit of homogenization, and then the finished buttermilk was exactly perfect in every way.

After I had a nice 2nd or 3rd generation, I used a bit of it to make sour cream - a good way to use up the leftover heavy cream that I bought for the Schaum Torte Ice Cream. The first attempt at this turned out more like a Mexican crema, but after traipsing around the internet, I heated the cream to 80 degrees for my second attempt, and it was so thick I could turn the jar upside down! Ah, the wonders of culturing! I wish I could remember where I saw that tip, so I could give credit, but alas, my brain is full of microorganisms and I just can't recall. To make sour cream, use 3 tablespoons of buttermilk and 2 cups of heavy cream (half and half will yield a lighter sour cream), mix well and let sit at room temp (70 degrees) for 24 hours. If you have thickening issues, try heating the cream gently to 80 degrees, and then continue.

After the buttermilk was in full swing, I started the yogurt. Per the Cultures for Health instructions, I let the initial cup sit only about 8 hours. It was tasty, but very thin. However, when I used it to start a quart of yogurt and let it incubate for a full 15 hours, it was considerably thicker. This Bulgarian starter also has a wonderful flavor, much less tangy than YoGourmet culture I was using. This culture too needs to be re-cultivated every week or so to keep it viable and healthy, and the Culture for Health people purport that these can be used for years! We'll see how it goes, but so far, I am a very satisfied customer.

Meanwhile, my Mom came down for a visit, bringing a bagful of rhubarb from the garden, and color coordinating vintage finds as an early Mother's Day gift for me. After we got her in the door, she washed and cut up all of the rhubarb: some for the freezer and some to go right into some rhubarb juice. I really wanted to make Mostly Foodstuff's Rhubarb liqueur, but after some discussion (and inspiration from so many of the last CanJam pictures of cordials and infusions from so many different sites lately), I opted to go for rhubarb juice. I canned 4 pints in a hot water bath for 15 minutes (hot-packed). I felt a bit on the wild side, since I didn't use a proper recipe. Since rhubarb is high acid, I used the amount a rhubarb seen above and enough water to come just about half way up. My Mom has canned rhubarb juice this way for quite a long time, though hers is much sweeter than the one I produced. She helped me strain it through some cheesecloth, and told me if I wanted absolutely clear juice not to press on the cheesecloth to get all of the juice out of the expired vegetable. I always go for delicious quantity over color clarity in things like this, so I squeezed until the remnants of rhubarb looked kind of like dry paper pulp. But just look at the amazing color!

I added a scant 1/2 cup of sugar for what turned out to be about a half gallon of juice, but it would be a matter of taste. I would also imagine you could freeze the juice instead of canning it, but I was happy enough to can just 4 little pints of something. I think this is the first time I've done such a small batch, and it got me considering joining the CanJam...

I had just enough leftover juice to have a small cup. I drank part of it hot, which reminded me of a cider, and then put it in the fridge to cool. Cold, the juice has a such a pleasant viscosity, and without too much sugar, it is truly a delicious aperitif. I think it could be used rather well as a cocktail base, too, so everyone can be happy!

The remaining 12 cups or so of rhubarb is now being patient in the freezer. There are so many good rhubarb recipes floating around right now it is certainly not going to be difficult to find inspiration for it's use. The only caveat being that I will need to eat it all myself, since I am the sole rhubarb lover here. Something tells me that won't be much of a problem...

The Best Ice Cream in The Whole World.

I should preface my remarks of The Best Ice Cream in The Whole World, since that is a pretty big blanket of a statement for me to declare. I am reminded when I see my Parents that when I like something, I frequently clarify them as being the best things in the whole world. Granted, most of them are foods or usually desserts, but as a lifelong ice cream connoisseur, I can assure you that at least in my mouth, this one takes the supreme title.

My story really begins back February, when Lo posted her family recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Schaum Torte. (You can read all about it, and the contest it was entered in here.) I had eaten similar confections called Pavlovas or Sheet Meringues, but never had even heard of this German immigrant version. Of course the Burp! Kitchen added chocolate, which makes it the king of all egg foam cakes, hands down, in my book. I ate more of this cake in February and March than I ever have in my life (or as my Parents would confirm that I also often say: My Whole Life). I ate it first at Il Mito, where it was featured for a week on their menu - the profits of doing so benefiting the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee. The next day, it so happened that I ate it at a lunch at MATC Cuisine dining, where it was fairly "squoodgy" in the center. Squoodginess is the hallmark of a great Schaum Torte according to my personal Schaum Torte Academy: Burp! Kitchen. After a week passed, I ate it again at a soup nite they hosted, and it was the best of the best I have ever eaten. Both achingly and angelically sweet, yet light, and yes, squoodgy. I finally knew why this term was used to describe it, since this simple to make egg foam cake is close to divine perfection when baked gently in a springform pan. I made my own for Easter, and figured I really shouldn't devour the entire thing myself (which I was certainly on the way to doing). I scooped out it's fluffy, mallowy middle and froze heaping tablespoons full on a sheet of parchment, to wait for the appropriate time to make it into an ice cream.

Don't you know, that in the course of a month in the freezer, the half of a Schaum Torte shockingly decreased in size? Partly, because the cold compressed it, and partly because I had to taste it, to make sure it wasn't going bad or anything.

Last week, I made the Daring Baker Challenge, which was kind of altered to better serve my dessert eating needs. It is currently nestled in the freezer, half-eaten, and waiting to be unearthed and served with a scoop of this delectable ice cream on the side. I was suspecting it needed just a little something... and this my friends is it. You'll have to check back on the 27th to read all about it.

Meanwhile, you can have a look at the ice cream:

Since Lo has really become my personal expert source for things exactly like ice cream (since she has made some pretty amazing ones), I asked her which plain vanilla ice cream was one of her favorites. She immediately emailed back that it was this one by David Leibovitz. I have read a bit of David's blog from time to time, but never have tried one of his ice creams. This one is my ideal ice cream: light, crystalline and easy melting. Devoid of egg, it is easy to put together and even easier to eat.

David Leibovitz's Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
  • 3/4 c. sugar (I used a scant 1/2 cup)
  • pinch of salt
  • vanilla bean
  • 3/4 t. vanilla extract
Heat 1 cup of the cream with sugar, salt and vanilla bean (I used a leftover bean, so I used the whole pod, you can scrape out the seeds if you are using a new bean) over low heat until the sugar dissolves.

Remove from heat, and add remaining cream, milk and vanilla extract.

That's it! Cool it in the fridge - I left mine overnight - for 20 minutes if you like and then churn using whichever method you prefer. (Nigella Lawson has made a similar no-churn ice cream for those without ice cream makers: I would substitute some confectioner's sugar for granulated, and use only the heavy cream. Beat the cream to soft peaks, and freeze. Not really proper "ice cream", but delicious nonetheless and worth trying if you are in a hurry or without mechanization.)

The first spoonful reminded me of the time my family was invited to churn ice cream with our Amish neighbors. We brought ice, and they had everything else ready. We all took turns cranking the non-electric maker in the gentle, kerosene light of their home until this amazing, soft-set cream emerged. It was so good and vanilla-y and the ice crystals that marked my machined effort yesterday are exactly the same as this one I first tried nearly 20 years ago. I was half tempted to pop some popcorn, since this is how our Amish friends ate ice cream - piled high in soup bowls, served alongside equally big bowls of freshly popped and salted popcorn.

Of course, my ice cream wasn't finished in it's vanilla state, though it certainly could have been. When it was nearly done, I spooned in the remaining Schaum Torte (a little more than a cup). I could smell the little engine turning inside, making me remember how old my little appliance actually is. E sent me my ice cream maker for a Christmas present when I was living in Wilton, in the year 2000. Can I believe that this small kitchen appliance is a full ten years old? Can I also believe that one of my best friends could send me something that amazingly cool? Nope. I remember walking back to the Pie Shop Apartment with a huge box one cold December day, and opening it in GOP's company.

As I plugged it in yesterday, I was surprised at the flood of memories that returned to me and also noted that my Rise Against the Machines isn't going very well. I did hang the clothesline, and my ex-Navy Father-in-Law came to work some knot magic (knot tying is totally on my list of things to learn) on the lines, so that they will never go anywhere. I'd bet I could go to a chin up on those lines and bring down the pole before I'd snap the knot loose. But machines aside, I'm glad I got this batch of ice cream done without burning out the motor.

I felt like a drug addict: spooning cold dollops of this amazing ice cream into my mouth as fast as it was melting. I was hungry, but trying not to ruin my appetite by shoveling myself full of dessert in the late afternoon. I was half suspecting that like many things, the ice cream was at it's best right that moment, and freezing it would alter it for the worst. Fortunately, this isn't the case. I have a whole quart of this premium Schaum Torte Ice Cream languishing in my freezer, softly calling my name, and it is as soft-set as when I put it in there yesterday. Another thing for The List of Things I'll Never Buy Again: Ice Cream. Thank you very much Lo, and Mr. Leibovitz!

Recent Kitchen Adventures and the Mechanization of the World as I Know It.

Late last week, my KitchenAid died. Mid-dough, it ceased up and I quickly shut it off. I panicked. I know I have some serious issues when the sudden demise of an electrical appliance causes me to panic. I quickly called the helpline, a number I was able to find in about 30 seconds on the iPhone, and quickly made my way through a cue of automation to a live person.

The funny thing about the mechanization of the world is that it also mechanizes human beings. I'm pretty sure that the woman who initially helped me didn't hear a word I was saying. She, no doubt, was a mid-range, hourly employee who was doing everything by the textbook she was trained by. She was pleasant, but not personal.

Now, I am really not a bad person to deal with. I am as quick to call and complement as I am to call and complain, (and I like to think that I can complain with tact and class!) but when I challenged her on the way that KitchenAid stands behind their products, the one sentence straight out of the manual was not enough for me. I pleasantly got off the phone, but I was Upset. Upset that my Professional grade mixer that I use (actually more often than I at first realized) was going to have to go somewhere out of state for repair, and upset that people don't actually hear you when you talk.

After noting my unpleasantness on my Facebook page, I got a swift response from another KitchenAid employee. Not only was my experience totally different, I came out thinking much higher of the product. Within a few emails, I had a phone number to an actual person with an extension, and the person actually listened to me. Curiously, she gave me the exact same information as the first person I talked to, but she did it in such a human way that I realized that my initial displeasure was totally unwarranted.

Further, we discussed that the use of my beater blade may have contributed to the problem. I did not know that the beater blade is really not recommended for use with stand mixers, I mean, Dorie Greenspan of all people was recommending this product! I would say in the past 2 months, I was relying on the beater blade more and more for the amazing job it does incorporating batters without having to stop and scrape down the sides. This is what happens when humans listen to humans and really Hear them, real results can happen - and this is true with so much more than KitchenAid stand mixers. When my machine is repaired, I will be retiring my beater blade... and I would have to say I'd recommend you do the same if you have one.

One machine I don't know if I can give up is my digital scale...

The dough that brought down the mixer was the Multigrain Sandwich bread. I was able to finish it by hand, and gave one loaf to Peef and Lo, and just finished the last of our loaf on Monday. On the first batch, I had a third of a leftover loaf which I dried and pulsed into fine breadcrumbs. I am waiting for the perfect opportunity to pan fry some breadcrumb-dredged fresh mozzarella for one of my favorite ways to use up breadcrumbs...the crumbs smelled earthy and nutty and would be perfect fried onto some cheese and tossed into a spring salad. I think my waiting may be due to my recent obsessions with culturing (which will naturally lead to at home cheese making, I think...).

Another revelation, is that when I first started playing around with doughs, I usually did so by hand since I did have a circa 1940's mixer (my first stand mixer that now resides at Sasa's house), but I rarely used it except for cookies or cakes. After the floor-denting incident of my second KitchenAid (which really was not strong enough to keep up with what I was asking it to do: it vibrated off the counter when I was attending the Boy-O and that mixer even still works and is in my Parent's apartment as a spare), I kind of migrated to the whole "no knead" world of doughs, which is fine and convenient and does yield excellent results. But I think I have lost touch with the dough a little, and forget that it is really a living thing, full of organisms that respond to my hands.

I recall Marcella Hazan writing that to make pasta dough, it should be mixed by hand on a wooden board for a full 8 minutes. I used to do this, set to a timer, and it is fully physical work. Now, I usually get it into a mass, but rely on the power of the Pasta Queen to complete the kneading for me, rolling it through the metal rollers repeatedly with a bit of flour dusting on each pass. Faster, yes, but is it more satisfying to let machines take over? I'm not really sure. In the following days that I am KitchenAidless, I believe I will return to some good, old-fashioned hand kneading experiments. After all, these hands are the greatest multipurpose tools ever designed, and maybe I need to appreciate them a little bit more.

I got two cultures, a yogurt and a buttermilk, from Cultures for Health that was a resource Lo recommended to me. I was so impressed with the site, and their wealth of free information, that I could have also invested in some kefir and kombucha starters as well. I figured it would be best to start off slowly, one culture at a time, so I started the buttermilk on Monday. Simply mix part of the powdered culture with fresh milk and leave at warm room temperature (70 degrees) for 24-48 hours. I went the full 48, since I suspect my room temp was a bit on the cool side to begin with. I then took the tip of placing the jar in the oven with the oven light on. A strange amount of heat is generated this way... and it was a perfect way to not turn my home into a sauna for 2 days.

Now that I think I have a viable 1/2 cup of cultured buttermilk, I can begin to build it into a larger portion - according to the site, I can keep portioning off the culture and use it indefinitely! I am using this ambient oven-heat trick now to keep my culture comfortable since especially in these early spring days, when I don't have the heat on much, it can be a bit on the chilly side. Another thing for The List of Things I'll Never Buy Again, all thanks to this post by Julia which made me realize that I could do this, and easily!

I sometimes get behind in reading as much as I like, but do often peruse the photos of my flickr contacts. Marisa at Food in Jars posted photos that I knew would be explained on her site and I clicked to find exactly what I wanted: Cold Brewed Coffee. I am pretty bland in my coffee-brewing techniques at home, and rely on my favorite, local Alterra, to get me a fix of anything special I may be up for. Since I am rather home-bound most of the week, a good cup of drip joe is usually just fine for me, and I drink it (16 oz. from my little 4 cup Cuisinart) in a range of temperatures throughout the morning. I turn off the maker as soon as it is brewed, and seriously drink it from it's hot goodness around 8 until it is stone cold around 11:30. I did the method Marisa outlined last night, and enjoyed some iced coffee this morning. It's worth playing around with, and is pretty much labor and machine free!

Meanwhile, Boy-O is on the pancake diet. It is all he will eat. I have committed to making them as healthy as I can and use only oat flour, whole wheat flour and a tad of olive oil. (I can make them in my sleep: 1/2 c. rolled oats, ground in a spice mill to flour, 1/2 c. whole wheat flour, 1 1/4 t. baking powder, 1/4 t. baking soda, 1 c. buttermilk (soon to be homemade!), 1 egg, 1 glug - a Tablespoon or so - of olive oil. Mix and let stand about 5 minutes to let the batter thicken before commencing with your flap-jacking.) I can get him to eat an apple, if there is peanut butter for him to dip it into, and really nothing else. I have no idea why he is getting pickier instead of less picky, and am trying not to worry about the holes that must be evident in his nutrition... I hope this phase passes soon, and that I don't turn into a caterer which I fear has already happened.

So when this morning, as I actually swept the kitchen floor instead of plugging in the vacuum, I was reminded how much I have come to depend on machines. I used to sweep all of the time, then I bought this vacuum (the best one ever, by the way) a couple of years ago and have lost the art of the broom. I've come to the point that I use the stand mixer to even mix my no-knead bread, since I like letting it raise in the 6 quart bowl, and I figure "why not just let the dough hook do it?" since I will have to wash a spoon anyway. I let my iPhone signal me when I have email, I brush my teeth with a Sonicare, I let my dryer do most of my clothes drying. Well, today I'm getting some more clothesline and going to start to knead some dough ladies and gentleman: because I fear I am getting citified! Stay tuned, because it's going to be the Rcakewalk's Rise Against the Machines around here for awhile! Not sure where that is going to lead me, but it may even lead me more outdoors and less into the world of postings... but I'll be sure to check in, I'm sure.

Chocolate Syrup: Corn Syrup and Plastic-Free...

Friday night before bed, I clicked on the Food Network for a few minutes while I enjoyed the last few bites of my February Daring Baker's Challenge dessert. I actually wanted to veg out in front of a movie, but don't you know 50 channels and a bit of free time (I was trying to rest my hands from knitting...) and not one thing to watch. Fortunately, Alton's episode "The Art of Darkness" was airing. Though I've seen it before, I love cocoa powder, and didn't mind my refresher course. I know Alton uses a tablespoon or so of corn syrup in many boiling sugar recipes, since it prevents crystallization of the sugar... but when he was mixing a saucier of molten black chocolate syrup, a seed of inspiration was planted.

You can see Alton stirring the goods around minute 3:15 on the YouTube video above. I drifted off to sleep thinking about that thick syrup, and about just how long it's been since I've had chocolate syrup. I didn't really even plan on making it, but the next morning, it was complete by 9:30. I can't say that I'm sorry either.

I had forgotten about the pure bliss of chocolate syrup, and probably have overindulged in the 24 hours since its creation, trying it in many ways. My coffee was first off, only since it was still hot and right in front of me. I don't like much in my coffee, just a bit of cream in the first cup, and black for the second, and certainly no sweetener. But chocolate syrup in coffee? Sasa, you're on to something... I could almost make a habit this! I ended my day with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and some coarsely chopped peanuts. This morning, I had it mixed into my homemade yogurt, an even better version of the Wallaby Organic chocolate yogurt that I splurge on once in a while.

I thought the corn syrup was probably not a requisite ingredient, especially if a few pesky sugar crystals were all it was going to prevent. I perused the Google results for recipes and found basically Alton's recipe with corn-syrup omission at Fake Plastic Fish. The website is dedicated to the reduction of plastics in everyday life, something I completely agree with. While perusing it for awhile, I'm reminded of how shocking the widespread use of plastic truly is.

With all of this talk about BPA and toxic effects from heating foods in "microwaveable-safe" plastic containers, I genuinely feel no panic. Most of our canned or tinned food, is home canned in glass and I store almost everything in glass. I even use the plastic wrap sparingly. Granted, for some uses like wrapping up a pastry dough, I can't really find a suitable substitute, but more and more I find myself going plastic free as it relates (especially) to food storage. I have a sensitive nose, and just the smell of plastic bags turns me off, not to mention the taste I swear transfers to the foods stored in them.

OK, I'm off my soap box now...

I sterilized the jars by boiling them in water for 10 minutes and soon after was rewarded with "The Art of Darkness" in my very own kitchen: and yet another thing for the list of things I'll never buy again.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup adapted from Alton Brown and Fake Plastic Fish

  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 t. (a pinch) Kosher salt
  • 1 c. cocoa powder (Organic Dutch process)
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 T. vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, combine sugars, salt and cocoa and whisk to combine. Add water, and heat over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly (to avoid boiling over). Boil several minutes, until the mixture thickens - and remember that it will thicken more as it cools. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla extract, and store in glass jars. Makes 2 8 oz. jars, with just enough left over to take you through a day of experimenting with the ultimate "Art of Darkness".

My syrup cooled into a supreme and inky thickness, and I got the Boy-O seal of approval in a lunchtime chocolate milk. Yes, it has a boatload of sugar, but yes, it is worth it. You can comfort yourself by using all Organic ingredients if you like, and only needing a teaspoon or so for a 8 oz. glass of milk since it's so rich. That was all it took for me, anyway.

Beef and Bagels: More for the list of Things I'll Never Buy Again

One of my favorite quotes, though I don't know who said it, is "Anywhere is walking distance if you have the time". While this is certainly true for me, especially in Summer, Winter laughs at me for being so housebound and passionately in love with my kitchen, that I hardly walk around the block. Pathetic, I know. While kitchen love does last me most of the year, waning only slightly when it gets so hot that I don't even feel like eating, snowy and cold February days remind me that you can pretty much make anything in the kitchen if you have the time.

While Alton doesn't trust the Elves to make his crackers, I don't trust the dough conditioners, preservatives, and packaged meats laden with chemicals that have enable them to have expiration dates 2 or 3 years from now. All are hallmarks of the packaged foods industry, and the more of them I can keep out of my house the happier I'll be. My Husband enjoys beef jerky, and while I do not, a project in the kitchen is something I'm always up for. A happy one at that, since I know my tinkering will be well appreciated.

Being the cookbook junkie that I am, I am in the habit of combing the new release shelves at the library each week after story time. A few weeks back, I found Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it by Karen Solomon. Amid the amazing photography, and quippy writing, I found a recipe for beef jerky. It called for top sirloin or flank steak, but my extremely helpful Outpost butcher recommended rump roast. I called him in advance, and he had 2 pounds sliced and waiting for me on Sunday when I stopped to pick it up. He didn't steer me wrong, since as you can see, it was beautiful. The finished product was hitting the highest marks, too - I know when I hear the fridge door open and shut and an audible "just one more piece", that my work here is properly complete.

The recipe called for 1 pound of meat, but I figured to double everything, since I knew dried meat wouldn't last long around my house - even without me eating any... Be sure to start your project 24 hours before you intend to dehydrate it, since it begins it's life in the refrigerator.

Beef Jerky (adapted from Karen Solomon)

  • 1 lb. rump roast, sliced 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 T. Kosher salt
  • 1 T. tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 2 t. dark brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t. dried chile flakes
  • 1 t. cracked black pepper

Slice the beef as thin as possible, or have your most helpful butcher do it for you! Remove as much fat as you can, since "meat can be cured but fat cannot" (Karen mentions that the fat can go rancid in storage, but I doubt ours will last long enough for that to be a problem).

Press out as much moisture from the meat as you can. (I actually forgot this step). If you don't have an amazing butcher, you can pound the meat between sheets of paper towel with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin (or a sturdy mug - which I don' t know why any cookbook would recommend! Pounding with glass in the kitchen just doesn't seem like a good thing to do in my opinion...)

In a bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients, and toss together with the beef. Place a rack over a sheet pan, and lay the meat on it in a single layer without touching. Refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours - this shortens the drying process.

Preheat the oven to 150, or 170 if that is the lowest you can go (at 170, pop a wooden spoon into the oven door to keep it ajar), and dry the meat for 3-5 hours. Start checking at the 3 hour mark. I found that mine was done in 3 hours. You want to see the meat is cooked throughout, and that it tears into strings. Let it cool completely, before refrigerating up to 6 weeks.

With very little effort, dried meat fans can have a nitrate-free and much healthier snacking experience.

The day I made George's Cheese (Ball) spread, I knew I had to make bagels. Since I've been relying so heavily on my freezers and not so heavily on markets, I've had a bit extra in the grocery funds - perfect, since I've never made bagels up to the proper specifications that Cook's Illustrated recommended. I dropped my $7 on a jar of Barley Malt Syrup when I picked up the meat on Sunday, since this elusive ingredient was omitted from every bagel making attempt of mine in the past. NO more! 1 T. of this made all the difference in the feel of the dough, and in the end product, and I'll never make them again without adding it. I also baked them on the stone, so the crust was better than any homemade bagel I've made to date as well.

I will make a mention that before I was graced with my Professional KitchenAid, this was the dough that caused my old under-powered KitchenAid to work its way from the back of the counter all the way down to our newly finished kitchen floor when I was out of the kitchen attending to a baby Boy-O. A nicely shaped, deep indentation in the floor was my reward for not attending my mixer for the 10 minute knead time. While the new model didn't budge an inch, I'd recommend watching your machine, so that this doesn't happen to you. Cook's Illustrated does not recommend making this dough by hand, or doubling the recipe, due to the stiffness of the dough. It is a force to be reckoned with.

Resting under refrigeration for 12-18 hours, under plastic wrap.

Bagels (Cook's Illustrated method from The Best Recipe)

  • 4 c. high gluten flour (after Googling, I used my King Arthur bread flour, which is higher in gluten than AP)
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1 T. barley malt syrup or powder
  • 1 1/2 t. active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 c. lukewarm (80 degrees) water
  • cornmeal for dusting

Mix flour and salt in bowl of standing mixer.

Add yeast, water and malt syrup, and mix at lowest speed "until the dough looks scrappy", about 4 minutes. Increase speed to low, and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and stiff (but feels "pliable" almost like a play-dough), 8-10 minutes.

Turn the dough onto a work surface, and divide into 8 pieces, about 4 oz. each. (Yes, I weighed mine, since I'm crazy...) Roll them into smooth balls and let rest under a towel 5 minutes.

Form each dough ball into a rope about 11 inches long, and do not taper the ends. (I have marked the edge of one of my wooden boards that I use for doughs). If the dough is hard to get "traction" to roll, moisten your palms with a bit of water. Overlap the ends by about 1 1/2 inches and roll your hand through the center to seal the end. I actually dip the ends in water before doing this, and then pinch them together before rolling. Place them on a cornmeal dusted baking sheet (I lined mine with wax paper first). Cover well with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 12-18 hours.

20 minutes before baking, take them out of the fridge. Adjust rack to center position (with a baking stone if using), and preheat to 450. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Carefully lower bagels into water for about 35 seconds. You can try and keep them submerged, with a spoon or skimmer, or flip them after about 15 seconds like I do. You can fit 4 in your pot, if it's large enough, otherwise do 2 or 3 at time so they don't touch. Remove using a skimmer or slotted spoon to a rack, bottom side down.

Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet or a baking stone, and bake for about 14 minutes until golden brown. Use a tongs to move them to a wire rack to cool.

You can put a topping right on them when they come out of the boiling pot, since they are rather sticky. Cook's Illustrated recommends sesame seeds, poppy or caraway seeds, dehydrated onion or garlic flakes, and/or sea salt. I left mine plain, and could not wait to have lunch today and test my theory of George's spread on a bagel.

I couldn't decide though, and opted for Economy Spread and Spicy Guinness Mustard on one half and George's Spread on the other. Let me tell you, George's Spread on a toasted bagel will make you banish traditional bagel toppings forever! Delicious! Like the best veggie cream cheese you've ever tasted.

I mentioned to Talia in a comment last week that I don't think I'll ever buy graham crackers again thanks to last month's Daring Baker's Challenge. I think that now I've found a couple more items to add to that list. If I have continue to have time on my side, I'll be willing to wager that I can keep that promise. I find myself wondering what else I can make in the remaining weeks until most of the mornings are spent outside...