So here’s what I did last weekend…
Bagels! I made them! I also had brunch with my Gram and my aunt (the bagels joined us as well) and finally watched The Town. (My apartment is in it! For reals! You have to look quick, but the prettiest blue door in all of the North End is in it! Famous.) It was a low key weekend that was much needed (do you see how few things on that list involve leaving the house…jackpot!)
The bagels, I’ll admit, were stressful. Not, as it turns out, because they were difficult to make, but because I was very afraid that they were going to be difficult, and it wasn’t until they were cooling on the rack that I realized that they actually were not at all, and that I will happily make them again…maybe for Easter (I didn’t do this…oops.)
I also made gravlax to go with them.
I wanted to make cream cheese too, and really bring this home, but I couldn’t get rennet aside from mail order and I didn’t have time to mail order. Next time.
Anyway, gravlax are cured salmon (note: I do not like smoked salmon. Not. At. All. Why would you take delicious salmon and make it taste like campfire? It boggles the mind. Instead, gravlax are my preferred bagel topping.) I have made them before, so I was not nervous about that. There really is nothing easier. You buy a salmon filet and cut it into two equal sized pieces, mix yourself up a paste of kosher salt, sugar, pepper and vodka (just a splash) and sandwich the paste between the two pieces of salmon with some dill, and then wrap it and stick it in the fridge with some weights on it. (At the Hargraves homestead in CT, you know there are gravlax in the works when there is a large patio rock hanging out in the fridge…not weird at all.) Every twelve hours or so, you take the salmon out, unwrap it and baste it with the liquid that is being pulled out of the salmon by the salt, and in four days you have a two beautifully cured gravlax filets. Sounds like a lot, but trust me, writing about it took more work than making it.
I started the bagels Saturday evening, mix the dough, knead for 5-7 minutes, throw it in the fridge and do something else. (In my case, watch The Town very closely to pick out all of the reasons that Ben Affleck and co. took over my neighborhood for what felt like years two summers ago.) After at least one hour in the fridge, take the dough out, portion it, shape it and stick it back in the fridge overnight. Next morning take the dough out of the fridge, boil those suckers for a minute and a half each, top with the toppings of your choice (onion! sesame seeds! poppy seeds! salt! asiago cheese! whatever you want! except for cinnamon sugar! that one waits until after the bagels are baked!) and then bake them for 20 minutes. That’s it. Voila. Bagels. Good bagels. Bagels that will make you (and hopefully others) smile. Bagels that will impress your friends. Bagels that you will want to make again. Bagels! BAGELS!!
So go forth, make bagels!
1. Last week, I was suffering from a terrible hormone imbalance that made me at once want to burst into tears, put my fist through my monitor, and eat my own weight in bar food. How this particular hormone imbalance is able to sneak up on me on a fairly regular basis is a testament to something -what I am not sure, but I suspect it is not to my brilliance, I have often spent a good portion of days like this trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with me. Eventually it dawns on me… – but at any rate I went home and made batter fried chicken fingers, honey mustard sauce and french fries (and sat on my couch and ate them by myself while I watched the Celts and cursed the cheerleaders) so I will be talking about that one of these days.
2. Remember how I said I needed more hours in the day? That would actually still be helpful, but what I ACTUALLY discovered is almost as helpful is having less TV in my hours. I miss it though. I had the wrong channel on to watch the Celts last night for a minute (YES, the Celtics were on TV and I watched…I really have been good, but I have bent the rules for an occasional sporting event. It’s the playoffs, I think Jesus will be ok with this?) and I heard the opening of Law & Order SVU and practically had a Pavlovian response. I think TV was an excellent choice for a Lenten sacrifice.
3. Another thing that happened last week: I had to go to the dentist for a temporary crown to replace the giant silver filling that I have had in a tooth pretty much since this particular tooth entered my mouthspace when I was approximately eight. I was thinking, hey, no biggie, I have had a root canal and crown before, I don’t remember it being a big deal (even though I am PETRIFIED of dental procedures, unfortunate, since I don’t exactly have the luxury of strong naturally perfect teeth) until I realized that I was actually so paralyzed with fear before this was to occur the last time that at a visit just prior to the procedure my dentist gave me a prescription for Valium to chill me the heck out, which I was very conspicuously without this time. It may have been pretty apparent when I got there, because he kept assuring me that there was actually nothing to worry about (except for that drill, you mean? Right.) But then he gave me head phones and my choice of like 500 videos and I got to watch Bruce and the E Street Band live in Hyde Park, which was actually totally awesome and helpful even thought I could still hear the drill. Since then my mouth has tasted like metallic potpourri and nothing has helped all day, so I decided that lots of garlic may be the only fix. I made Garlic Scampi for dinner. I will also be talking about this soon.
4. I need to find a British noble family to be a part of so I can be part of society. Not this fake American new money society, REAL society. My new name will be Flossy (not my real name, that will be Beatrice or Florence or something, but my nickname that might as well be my real name because everyone forgets what my real name is – also, fun fact: my French class name in high school was Brigitte but my teacher couldn’t remember and always, ALWAYS, called me Beatrice…) and my last name will be something with a hyphen. And I will wear fascinators on the reg and will have an invite to the Royal Wedding. Actually, Hargraves is a British name, if anybody out there has a spare five minutes, do you mind checking if I may actually be descended from nobility? That could help me out. Also, Hargraves used to be spelled Hargreaves, so you may want to start there. Thanks bunches! Love you, mean it!
5. I just read “Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later.” IT WAS AWFUL. I mean, it was awesome with a capital A. But I’m not sure who wrote it or who allowed it to be published. I loved every minute of reading it, but I am devastated that professionals in the literary world allowed it to happen.
OK, this is going to take me another eight days if I don’t just get to it…make bagels. Thank me later.
Peter Reinhart’s Bagels (makes 6-8 bagels)
3 1/2 cups (1 pound) unbleached flour (bread or all-purpose)
3 tsp salt, divided
3/4 tsp instant yeast
1 tbl honey or barley malt syrup
1 cup plus 2 tbl water
1 tsp baking soda
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dehydrated onion, and other toppings of your choice.
1. By hand, mix the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, the yeast, honey and the water until the ingredients form a stiff, coarse ball of dough (about 3 minutes). If necessary, add a little more water. Let the dough rest 5 minutes.
2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until the dough feels stiff yet supple, with a satiny, slightly tacky feel, 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough seems too soft or too tacky, sprinkle over just enough flour as needed.
3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to several hours. Keep in mind that the bagels must be shaped before proofing overnight.
4. When ready to shape the bagels, line a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 6 to 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a loose, round ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand; do not use any flour on the surface. If the dough slides around and won’t ball up, wipe the work surface with a damp paper towel and try again – the slight amount of moisture will provide enough “bite” for the dough to form a ball. When each piece has been formed into a ball, you are ready to shape the bagels.
6. Using your hands and a fair amount of pressure, roll each dough ball into a “rope” 8 to 10 inches long. (Moisten the work surface with a damp paper towel, if necessary, to get the necessary bite or friction). Slightly taper the rope at the ends so that they are thinner than the middle. Place one end of the dough between your thumb and forefinger and wrap it around your hand until the ends overlap in your palm; they should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together and then press the joined ends into the work surface, rolling them back and forth a few times until they are completely sealed.
7. Remove the dough from your hand and squeeze as necessary to even out the thickness so that there is a 2-inch hole in the center. Place the bagel on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the other pieces. Lightly wipe the bagels with oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
8. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 90 minutes before you plan to bake them. Fill a large stockpot with 3 quarts of water (be sure the water is at least 4 inches deep), cover with a lid, and slowly bring the water to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on.
9. Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven to 500 degrees.
10. Test the bagels by placing one in a bowl of cold water. If it sinks and doesn’t float to the surface, return it to the sheet, wait 15 minutes and then test it again. When one bagel passes the float test, they are ready for the pot.
11. Gently lift each bagel and drop it into the simmering water. Add as many as will comfortably fit in the pot. After 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to flip each bagel over. Poach for an extra 30 seconds. Using the slotted spoon, remove each bagel and return it to the lined baking sheet. Continue until all the bagels have been poached. Generously sprinkle each bagel with a topping.
12. Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the sheet (if using two sheets, also switch their positions). Check the underside of the bagels. If they are getting too dark, place another sheet under the baking sheet. Bake until the bagels are golden brown, an additional 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the bagels to a rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.