1. At least one hour where I can prop my head up against my Euro sham pillow and read while my husband sleeps at my side. I just finished a novel by David Michell called Black Swan Green that made me squirm as I remembered all the pain of teenagedom. So painful but so good.
2. NPR podcasts. Yes, I listen to NPR in my car, in my office, and now in my kitchen where early morning light reveals counter tops still covered in yesterday's flour. On Saturday or Sunday, I listen to This American Life, and Ira Glass so effortlessly eases me into my day.
3. A cup of strong coffee diluted only with a splash of cream. Freshly ground beans and the mug my little sister gave me for my birthday. Need I say more?
4. And finally....Bagels, freshly made bagels, that are covered with a slather of cream cheese or peanut butter.
Without much work, I can satisfy most of these desires. NPR streams seamlessly on my computer, my husband loves his extra hours of sleep, and the days of instant or cheap coffee are long gone.
But elusive number four has been harder to come by. So badly do I want to wake up, throw on a pair of slip-on shoes, and walk to a bagel store with a vat of boiling water and chewy bagels fresh from the oven. But I've discovered that Austin is not a bagel sort of town.
Breakfast tacos? We've got plenty. But a good bagel is hard to find.
A plate of pretty fruit is good too... Ryan and I went to New York City last May, and we ate bagels so good we wanted to forgo our plane trip home and camp outside of the bagel shop for the next three or four warm months.
Bagels are done best in places like New York City, where bakers and families have been perfecting their recipes for generations. In New York City, bagels are so good you don't dare ask to toast them. Such a habit befits only lesser quality stuff.
So because I live in Austin, my access to these round, holey gems is limited. Not wanting to compromise by buying a plastic package from Mrs. Sara Lee, I decided to start making my own.
And I've had a good go...making several batches of bagels, each improving upon the last.
But just this weekend, I hit bagel gold. I found a recipe that I want to make again and again. I've already thought of restructuring my weekends so that I can have a fresh batch of bagels each Sunday morning.
Because desire #4 has been long neglected.
This bagel recipe (from genius Peter Reinhart) requires more time than others I've tried...but good things take time, my friends. The bagels need to rest or retard in your refrigerator overnight. This resting period allows your dough's flavor to develop more complexity; a plain bagel skyrockets to new levels of excitement when it sits in your fridge for 12 hours (who knew?)
Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
*From Smitten Kitchen and Peter Reinhart
Yield: 12 large, 16 regular or 24 miniature bagels
This can be a two-day or one day project. Remember, the longer you let your bagels rest, the better they taste. I made two bagels the night of day 1, and they were tasty. But the ones I made the next morning? Even better.
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 1/2 cups water, room temperature
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3 1/2 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups loosely packed raisins, rinsed with warm water to remove surface sugar, acid, and natural wild yeast
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal for dusting
1. Day one: To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the water, stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for around 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly.
2. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl, add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour, cinnamon, sugar, salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 1/2 cup flour to stiffen the dough. The dough will feel very heavy, and it will take some time for all the flour to incorporate. In the last two minutes of mixing, add the raisins.
3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all ingredients should be hydrated. If the dough seems too dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
4. Immediately divide the dough into 12 (4 1/2 ounce) pieces for large bagels, 16 (3.375 ounce) regular-sized bagels, or 24 (2.25 ounce) miniature bagels. Form the pieces into rolls.
5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
6. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter for a large bagel, two inches for a regular one or just slightly more than one inch for a miniature. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible.
7. Place each of the shaped pieces two inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 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. 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.
9. The following day preheat the oven to 500°F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large, wide pot of water to a boil, and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.
10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only a few at a time. After 1 minute, flip them over and boil for another minute. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. Remove the boiled bagels to a wire rack while finishing the remaining bagels.
11. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on two middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately five minutes, then rotate the pans. After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450°F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown.
12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.
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