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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 [updated 2017]

14 Sep

I’ve probably made bagels 25-30 times at this point, and have reached a point where they turn out surprisingly well– better then any bagel I can buy locally. 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.

 

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 such as King Arthur Sir Lancelot
  • Boiling the bagels briefly before baking them
  • Eating them fresh, within an hour

To make 12 bagels (you can scale this recipe up or down):

  • 6 cups of King Arthur Sir Lancelot high-gluten flour
    • Or, 6 cups of King Arthur bread flour + 6 tsp Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten sifted in with that flour (see also other flour options that work)
  • 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 at first, but after working it for a bit it should come together into a slightly stringy ball.
Knead the dough for  5-10 minutes (this is always longer than I think– I set a timer), until smooth and elastic. Divide it into 12 balls, and let them rest for 5 minutes.

Form each ball into a bagel shape by rolling it into a “dough snake” with slightly tapered/thinner ends and overlapping and firmly pressing these 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. They don’t rise a huge amount in the cold– it’s not like bread that doubles in bulk, but 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
    1. I’ve read the rumors that New York water is the secret of a good bagel, and read of people putting various additives in the water to change the pH, but in my experience it’s not at all necessary for a good bagel– I’ve tried baking baking soda (not a typo) to make more alkaline sodium carbonate but didn’t notice a difference in the end product in my one trial.
  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 20 seconds 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, caraway seeds, dried onion or garlic flakes, etc) onto them
  6. Bake them at 450 for about 20 minutes on a middle oven rack, until golden brown (your time may vary)
  7. Let them cool briefly on a rack, then slice and serve warm
If everything has worked, you should have something that looks like a bagel, with a crisp, crackling crust when you bite into it, a chewy but not too dense interior with a nice flavor, and a malty bread smell when you cut it open. Enjoy!
Some typical toppings: smoked salmon and trout (sometimes homemade), cream cheese, good tomatoes, red onion, capers. Alternate toppings: hummus, black olives, chives, cucumbers…

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 well for bagels though not as consistently well as #3 (perhaps more careful sifting together is needed, or the % protein was lower than expected in this flour).
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, you should probably weigh flour instead of measuring it, but I rarely have the patience (a sin among bakers, I know).

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):