12 March 2011


Chris and I have brewed at home all of twice now, a wheat beer last spring that was so-so and a Belgian Saison that we started a month ago that's turned out quite nice. This time, though, we were looking for other interesting things to which brewing supplies could lend themselves. Among them, we saw that bagels, of all things, require malt syrup (at least the recipe that intrigued us). So what were we to do but make bagels?

We found a recipe on Smitten Kitchen that adapted a Peter Reinhart recipe. We didn't have high-gluten flour, but we did have bread flour. Unfortunately, the first attempt with bread flour didn't turn out quite right in shape (they smooshed overnight in the fridge), though we figure this might have just been because it was a wee bit wet. Regardless, the second attempt incorporated vital wheat gluten and turned out much more shapely.

Whether I found this so easy because I keep Amara (my sourdough sponge) on hand, or just because I'm quite used to baking many and sundry bread products, I don't know. I do know, though, that there will be many more renditions of our homemade bagels!

adapted from Peter Reinhart via Smitten Kitchen
yield 8 (3-3/4 to 4 oz) bagels

1-1/4 pound 100% hydration sponge (10 oz flour, 10 oz water)
1/4 teaspoon yeast
scant 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt (3/4 tsp table salt)
1/2 tablespoon malt syrup (or honey, molasses, or brown sugar, or 1 tsp malt powder)
8-3/4 ounces bread flour
1-1/4 ounces vital wheat gluten
(optional) 4 ounces of dried fruit, 1 teaspoon cinnamon

To add to the boiling water:
1 tablespoon baking soda

Plus any toppings, such as:
Asiago cheese
Chopped onion
Sesame seeds

1. Let your starter/sponge come up to room temperature if it has been in the fridge. If you do not already have a starter, add equal parts by weight flour and water (assume ~5 oz/cup for flour, 8 oz/cup water), along with 1/2 teaspoon yeast and let sit for at least 2 hours

2. Mix starter, malt, salt, and yeast together, giving a cursory stir to help begin to incorporate these ingredients

3a. Add the gluten and flour and knead for 10 minutes, adding flour as needed. The dough should be relatively firm at 1:2 water to flour, but still pliable and smooth, not at all sticky

3b. If adding dried fruit (such as raisins) and/or cinnamon I've found this is the best time to add it. Stretch out the dough, and add the dried fruit a small handful at a time and a sprinkle of cinnamon, folding inbetween additions, and kneading briefly after all the fruit is in.

4. Divide into equal portions, and cover with a damp towel. Let sit for 20 minutes.

5. Cover a pan in parchment paper, and lightly oil.

6. Make a somewhat large hole (2-1/2 inches) in your the dough balls by poking your thumb through the middle and using your finger to roll and shape the dough. Try to make the bagel as even as possible.

7. Place on the parchment paper, lightly oil the tops of the bagels, and let sit for 20 more minutes.

8. Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it.

9. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float. Return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

Next morning:
10. Preheat the oven to 500°F, and bring a large pot of water to a boil.

11. Add baking soda and malt syrup to the boiling water.

12. Get the bagels from the fridge, and slip them into the boiling water one at a time until there are as many bagels as fit comfortably floating on top of the water (2-3 for my pot).

13. Boil the bagels for 1-2 minutes (longer gives chewier bagels), then flip with a slotted spoon, and boil for 1-2 more.

14. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle a bit of corn meal on the parchment paper.

15. As you pull the bagels out of the water, place them back on the parchment paper (on the corn meal) and top them as you like.

16. Once you have a full tray of bagels, place them in the oven.

17. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the pan 180° and reduce the temperature to 450°F. Bake for another 5 minutes or until the bagels are a lovely golden to golden brown.

08 March 2011


It's that time of year again. The time when certain monotheistic cultures celebrate one last time before they deprive themselves until the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. The whole practice sounds kind of pagan to me (other than the fact that it's for Jesus), but hey celebrations are always fun.

All joking cynicism aside, although I didn't grow up with the tradition of pączki, being neither Catholic nor Polish, I took to it quite well when introduced by some of my friends. I have always liked sugary, yeasty fried dough, and the addition of jam in the middle (rather than some sort of custardy filling) just clinched the deal for me. So after four years of delighting in the wonders of pączki every Fat Tuesday, not being able to find a decent example in Boston last year (though I've recently found out that I just didn't look in quite the right places at quite the right times) was very sad.

I was up to the challenge, though, and after finding and bookmarking an appropriate looking recipe, I decided to try my hand at it myself this year. It was certainly easier than I ever thought it would be. Frying might have taken forever with a big batch, but I thirded the recipe and was very content with what I came out with--plenty for just Chris and me.

adapted from The Novice Chef Blog

4 egg yolks
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons yeast
4 teaspoons warm water
2 tablespoons room temperature butter
3 tablespoons sugar
7-1/2 ounces (~1-1/2 cups) flour (1-3/4 ounces pastry, 5-3/4 ounces ap)
1-1/2 tablespoons (sugar plum) brandy (rum or vodka will also work)
1/3 cup scalded whipping cream
Jam for filling
Crisco for frying (oil or lard work too)
Granulated sugar for dipping

1. Dissolve the yeast in the water, and let sit for at least 5 minutes.

2. Scald the cream on medium-low heat, then remove from heat and let sit

3. Add salt to the egg yolks, then beat until mixture is thick, slightly lightened, and forms a ribbon that takes a few seconds to disappear when the beater is raised (~5 min)

4. Cream the butter, then add sugar to it gradually, beating until fluffy.

5. Slowly beat in the yeast.

6. Stir in one quarter of the flour into the butter mixture.

7. Add brandy and half of the cream.

8. Beat in another quarter of the flour.

9. Stir in remaining cream.

10. Beat in another quarter of the flour.

11. Add egg yolk mixture, and beat for 2 minutes.

12. Gradually beat in the remaining flour until the dough blisters.

13. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise. When it has doubled in bulk, punch it down. Cover and let rise again until doubled. Punch it down again.

14. Transfer the dough to a board lightly dusted with flour, roll out until it's the thickness of your pinky.

15. Using a 2-1/2 to 3 inch cutter, cut the dough into circles, wadding up the scraps and re-rolling until all the dough is used. Place on a baking pan dusted with flour. Cover again and let it double in bulk.

16. Heat oil to 350°F in a wok, a deep fryer or even a wide skillet. This was at medium heat on my stove. You can test the temperature by frying a piece of bread; it should bubble and turn golden quickly. Fry as many pączki at a time as fit comfortably without touching each other. Do not crowd as this lowers the temperature and the pączki will absorb too much grease. When one side is golden, flip with a fork to fry the other side.

17. After you've removed the pączki from the oil, dip immediately in sugar, then place on paper towels to drain any excess oil.

18. Fill them with the jam of your choice by squirting about two teaspoons into them with a pastry bag fitted with a doughnut tip.