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Skillet Apple Crisp

14 Dec

Arkansas Black apples in the CSA were beautiful– so while I rarely make dessert, it seemed time to make a crisp.

A quick search for a Cooks Illustrated take on it turned up this recipe, which I followed the rough spirit of without measuring because I was running around making dinner at the last minute.

Basically, I sliced four apples and tossed them in lemon juice, brown sugar, and grated nutmeg, then melted butter and a cup of hard cider in a skillet, tossed in the apples, and cooked them over medium covered until mostly cooked through– 10-15 minutes. I mixed some oats, flour, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt and cinnamon, sprinkled that over the apples, sliced 4 Tbsp of butter into thin squares over that, and put the whole skillet in a 350F oven for about 20 minutes, while we ate the rest of dinner. Not bad, with vanilla ice cream, of course.

Making bagels, again

12 Dec

A few photos from another round of making bagels, over Thanksgiving:

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Differences between this time and the last few times I’ve made them:

  • I used the “6 cups all-purpose flour + 12 tsp vital wheat gluten” method of making high-gluten flour, since I didn’t have any special flour. This worked well, producing a chewy bagel.
  • 3 tsp yeast (instead of the usual 2 1/4tsp packet), and it was mixed with a little of the malt syrup and lukewarm water a few minutes before adding it into the dough, to give it a head start, since proofing suggested this particular jar of yeast was on the old and lazy side. This seemed to work– the bagels rose slightly overnight (as expected, see the different in the 1st vs. 2nd photos) and puffed up nicely in the oven.
  • I minced three cloves of garlic and toasted them (medium heat, dry skillet) until browned, then used them as a topping on some of them.
  • I cooked in a different oven than normal, on a pizza stone. Unclear if this made a difference.

Thanksgiving Food

24 Nov

Breakfast:

 Picking lettuce for a light lunch:
Dinner (I made squash with crispy sage butter, and brussels sprouts with bacon and sauteed onions):

Apple pie*, later:

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope your food and family or friends afternoons treat you well.

* Which included my first time making pie crust in quite a while, and perhaps my first-ever lattice top? Ahh, delicious geometry. I used a basic dough recipe modified to use 1/5th whole wheat flour, and 50/50 shortening and butter.

Bagels and pizza: it’s not the water?

3 Oct

A brief article from Slate earlier this summer suggests that if you’re making your own bagels, the water (New York or otherwise) doesn’t really matter– it’s the combination of gluten, slow rising, and boiling before baking.

Similarly, an article in The Food Lab at Slice / Serious Eats suggests the mineral level in water has no significant effect on the quality of pizza dough.

How to Make Bagels

14 Sep

Homemade bagels have turned out surprisingly well– not New York caliber, but usually better than bagels I buy around here. Here’s my standard bagel recipe, based on making them about a dozen times and trying a few different variants (a few times I’ve even made two different recipes and done blind taste tests). It’s very similar to the one in The New Best Recipe.

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Before I dive in, the four things that seem to make the most difference:
  • Letting the dough rise in the fridge for 12+ hours
  • Using high-protein (high-gluten) flour
  • Boiling the bagels briefly before baking them
  • Eating them fresh, within an hour

Okay, to make 12 bagels (you can scale this recipe up or down):

  • High-gluten flour  made by combining (see also other flour options that work):
    • 6 cups of King Arthur all-purpose flour, plus
    • 12 tsp of Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten sifted in with that flour
  • 2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast (a standard packet)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 ½ Tbsp barley malt syrup (available in markets, or brewing supply shops)
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
Stir the above together into a smooth dough (this will take some elbow grease). It may feel like there’s not enough water, but after working it for a bit it should come together into a slightly stringy ball.
Knead the dough for  5-10 minutes (always longer than I think), until smooth and elastic.

Divide it into 12 balls, and let them rest for 5 minutes.

Form each ball into a bagel shape, either by poking your thumb through it, or (my preference) by rolling it into a dough snake and overlapping and firmly pressing the ends together, to make a hoop with a uniform diameter and no visible seam.

Put the bagels on a tray (dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking), cover with plastic wrap, and let them rise in the fridge for at least 12 hours. I’m not kidding– 8 hours is not enough, and the two times I let them rise 15 hours they were noticeably better. Some day I’ll do a side by side comparison. Also note that they don’t rise a huge amount in the cold– it’s not like bread that doubles in bulk. They should enlarge somewhat and become a little more soft/puffy to the touch.

Letting them rise in the fridge is important, because (according to TNBR) “At lower temperatures, yeast fermentation is suppressed, and the lactobacilli bacteria naturally present on grains and in yeast begin to produce a variety of organic acids, primarily lactic acid and acetic acid. The organic acids, the same acids present in a healthy sourdough culture, the dough a more complex flavor [...] The richer, reddish brown color of the crust [after baking] was the result of another chemical process, called the Maillard reaction. During the retarding [low-temperature rising] process, enzymes produced by the bacteria convert wheat starch into simple sugar, which during baking produces a rich, toasty color and flavoring.”

The next day:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F
  2. Remove the bagels from the fridge about 20 minutes before you want to bake them.
  3. Boil a big pot of water with 1 Tbsp of barley malt syrup in it (I’ve read of people putting other things in the water, to change the pH, and have read other people say it doesn’t make a big difference– I’ve never tried that).
  4. Boil each bagel for 40 seconds (depending on how they’ve risen, they may drop to the bottom of the pot and then rise after about 30 seconds… or they may float from the very beginning, in which case I flip them over after the first 20s to make sure the entire surface sees the boiling water). This sets the size of the bagel and prevents it from just swelling up when you bake it, reactivates the yeast that’s been made sluggish by the cold, and helps give the bagel its shiny surface.
  5. Drain the bagels on a rack as they come out of the water, and optionally sift toppings (poppy seeds, sesame seeds, cracked pepper, etc) onto them
  6. Bake them at 450 for about 18 minutes, until golden brown (your time may vary)
  7. Let them cool briefly on a rack
If everything has worked, you should have something that looks like a bagel, with a crisp, crackling crust when you bite into it, and a moderately chewy but not too dense interior with a nice flavor. Enjoy! And let me know if you try any recipe variants, especially if you do any side by side comparisons.
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Some typical toppings: smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomatoes, red onion, capers. Alternate toppings: hummus, black olives, chives, cucumbers
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p.s. once of the earlier attempts: a big misshapen but still decent.

Flour, Protein, Gluten

14 Sep

Some typical flours and their protein percentages:

  • Cake or pastry flour: 8-9%
  • Generic all-purpose flour: 10.3%?
  • King Arthur all-purpose flour: 11.7%
  • Generic bread flour: 11.7%?
  • King Arthur bread flour:  12.7%
  • King Arthur whole wheat flour: 14% <– though I believe the protein / gluten relationship in whole wheat is different, because some of this protein is in the bran yet not available to promote gluten formation.
  • King Arthur Sir Lancelot high-gluten flour: 14.2%
  • Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten: 75%
Why am I posting this? Mainly because I’m about to post a bagel recipe, and having a high-protein flour really does matter for them.
I’ve tried making the same bagel recipe with:
  1. All-purpose flour (a terrible, soft result)
  2. King Arthur bread flour (decent bagels, a few friends liked them best in a blind taste test, though I preferred the slightly higher-protein flours)
  3. Sir Lancelot high gluten flour (great result, but you have to mail order the flour)
  4. A mix of 1 tsp vital wheat gluten in every 1 cup King Arthur bread flour (should also be about 14% protein, and also gives a great result, and you don’t have to special-order the flour).
  5. 2 tsp vital wheat gluten to every cup of all-purpose flour, which should also be about 14% protein. This has also worked very well for bagels.
If you really want to geek out on it, here’s an online protein % calculator, which helps you figure out how to mix several flours or flour and wheat gluten to get a specific desired protein %. If you care that much about precision, I suppose you should probably weigh flour instead of measuring it, but I have never had the patience and measuring by volume has worked well enough for me.

BBQ Bagels?!

8 Sep

I’ve made bagels 7 or 8 times at this point, and thought I’d settled on a recipe I liked… but cooking in a new kitchen always throws a few wrenches in the works. In this case, the oven in a vacation home rented with friends didn’t seem to want to go above 350F, while I wanted 450F… so I baked some bagels in the oven, but cooked most of them on a gas BBQ grill on the outside deck. To my surprise, that worked pretty well.

Here are a few quick & blurry photos– I’ll post my favorite recipe and variants I’ve tried some day in the future.

Making the dough (just high-gluten flour, salt, barley malt syrup, yeast, and water) the night before, and a precariously-located laptop I’d written down the recipe in:

(p.s. don’t judge me for the Bud Light Lime in the background… we also had  a 16-beer set of the Mikkeller Single Hop Series, three beers brewed with coffee, and eight different kinds of canned craft beer):

The kneaded, rolled, and formed bagels:

After rising in the fridge (important!) for about 14 hours:

Boiling for just 30 seconds in water (with a little barley malt syrup in it):

On foil on the top rack of a grill (cooked for about 20 minutes with the grill closed, fiddling with the gas as the temperature according to the low-resolution grill dial thermometer ranged between 400 and 600F):

Checking the crumb and texture of a bagel — moderately chewy success! Though a bit undercooked or cooked too far from the heat– no golden-brown crust.

Eating with all the fixings (cream cheese, lox, local smoked trout and salmon, tomato, red onion, and capers… with hummus as another option since it was lunchtime):

White Sandwich Bread

4 Aug

This is great sliced thick and used to make a sandwich or luxurious toast (but with soup, I prefer whole wheat bread). I used to make this monthly but haven’t in many years– I just found the recipe card recently.

White sandwich bread (two loaves, takes 4-5 hours total including cooling)

Mix and let stand 5-10 minutes:

  • 4 tsp dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
Meanwhile, mix:
  • 1 cup warmed milk
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp salt
Combine the two mixtures. Gradually add:
  • 5 cups white flour (or a bit less)
Knead for 10 minutes (set a timer… I find it’s always longer than I think)
Lightly oil the dough, put it in a bowl, let rise 1 to 1.5 hours until doubled.
Punch down, let it rise again (about an hour). <– I’m not sure how necessary this step is, but haven’t tried to omit it
Divide the dough in half, punch down again, put in greased loaf pans.
Let rise (loosely covered) yet again until doubled, about an hour.
Bake in a 450 oven for 10min, then reduce to 350 for 30min.
The bread should sound hollow when tapped.
Let fully cool on a rack.

Maple-Pecan Scones

25 Jul

Scones are one of the only things I’ve made where I’ve tried (and kept track of) many changes to a recipe over time and gradually evolved it. Here’s my current favorite version:

Maple-Pecan Scones (makes 16)

First, preheat the oven to 425 (don’t you hate recipes that don’t tell you to preheat the oven until late in the recipe?)

You’ll need:

  • 2 & 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (I’ve tried more– this is about as much as I can fit in)
  • 1 & 1/2 cups chopped pecans (for even better scones, chop half of these pecans coarsely, and grind the other half into a powder, almost a “pecan flour”, in a food processor).
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 11(!) Tbsp cold butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (plus a little extra to brush on) (real maple syrup, of course)
  • A cast iron skillet
The process:
  1. Combine the flour, pecans, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, keeping it coarse! (pea-sized bits, don’t overdo it). I usually cut sticks of butter into 1 Tbsp squares with a knife first, then cut in those squares.
  3. Add the milk and maple syrup.
  4. Mix lightly, turn out onto a floured counter, and gently knead together, just to make it stick together.
  5. Add a bit of milk or flour if needed to have a sticky, slightly crumbling dough.
  6. Divide the dough in half (you can refrigerate half if you only want to make 8 scones now).
  7. Squeeze each half into a ball, then roll into a thick (maybe 3/4″ thick? I’ll have to measure it next time) 7″ diameter circle, and then cut into 8 wedges
  8. Put these wedges into a greased cast iron skillet.
  9. Brush the tops with maple syrup.
  10. For extra credit, put a half pecan on top of each scone.
  11. Bake at 425 for about 18 minutes (they should start to brown, your oven may vary, mine may be a bit on the cool side).
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