Friday, July 19, 2013

Challenge time: Making bagels

So far the theme of this week has been facing my fears. Some challenges I have faced ... others,well call me a coward. I'm guessing nobody really cares to hear about the mouse that took up residence in my classroom's closet over the summer. I'm sure no one is interested in how behind I am on setting my classroom up for the upcoming school year since I'm too much of a coward to step foot in the closet.
Someone may have stopped by for the kitchen challenges I've faced this week. 
Obviously, making any type of dough is the kitchen feat that eludes me. 
Challenge #1 was attempting a pie crust to make a peach pie/cobbler. I visited The Peach Truck for the first time and decided I should make something special to commemorate my visit. The peaches were good, but the crust ... not so much. Although it was the best crust I've made sans Granny thus far. 
Granny thought the crust was quite tasty, but the look of it... well we'll just say it didn't look so tasty.
Since that challenge was a semi failure I was now even more frightened by the challenge that was still to come. 
Heather from Life by the Spoonful somehow talked me into accepting Love & Olive Oil's kitchen challenge for the month. 
So I did what any novice, nerdy, analytic baker would do.  I searched bagel recipes on Pinterest, I watched people make bagels on YouTube (mainly Julia Child), I read books about bread making and finally I attempted to make bagels. 
After I figured out how not to proof yeast (I used active dry instead of the suggested instant), I was able to follow Peter Reinhart's recipe in The Bread Baker's Apprentice pretty easily.The recipe can also be found at the Brown Eyed Baker
We decided to complete day 1 of the bagel making festivities on our own and meet up to complete day 2 of the recipe together.
Usually when kneading dough I have a little Granny angel sitting on my shoulder telling me, "don't over work that dough or it will be tough!" But Mr. Reinhart's recipe actually said to knead for approximately 10 minutes.  Most baker's probably cringe at that amount of time. Not me, I was in heaven! I no longer heard Granny but now had a Julia Child devil on my shoulder saying "bang it down, be rough!"
I explained to an impatient friend that the hardest thing about making bagels is all of the waiting. 
Wait 2 hours for this and 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there, 20 minutes everywhere, 10 seconds for that, and wait overnight for this.
 After my bagel passed the float test I knew my waiting had paid off.
The next morning when I finally arrived at Heather's to boil and bake I noticed I wasn't the only one having a challenging week...
After comparing our bagels we boiled them, and I may have dropped one.
With a later batch I deviated from Reinhart's recipe and gave the bagels a brush of egg white. I went out on a limb and very lightly sprinkled a few with brown sugar and cinnamon.
When they were finally boiled, baked, and cooled We were able to taste them. 
I was eager to hear what Heather thought of them since she spent most of her life in Philly.  I on the other hand have only had bagels of the Tennessee variety (grocery store & Panera).  I'm thinking I should take a field trip to NYC before making my next batch (any one interested in sponsoring that trip?). 
Heather thought they were lacking salt.  I thought they were pretty good (given I have no "true" bagel taste to compare them to).
We soon learned we needed to cook them a bit longer than the recipe called for. We both got tastes of raw dough in our bites  I now know why Paul Hollywod made such a fuss about it on the "American Baking Competition."  I'm very interested in finding out what the malt barley syrup that neither Heather or I could find would have done for the taste of the bagels (we used honey instead).  

Bagel making wasn't as challenging and intimidating as I thought it would be.  In fact I'm already planning my next bagel making adventure.  
Read about Heather's bagel challenge here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Patriotic Brownies

Happy Birthday America!
I've  never really made a holiday themed dish.  Of course I make plenty of recipes for the holidays but you can't usually look at my creation re-creation and know what holiday it belongs to. 
Needless to say I was thrilled when my colleague and blogging buddy Heather from Life by the Spoonful invited me to come do some patriotic baking with her and her sweet little Baby Spoon. 
My mission was to find something patriotic [looking] to bake. My first plan was to make red, white & blue cupcakes, but when the my 4th of July plans changed a bit I decided to go with a different recipe. 
I decided I wanted needed to make Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies. These brownies have been in my Pinterest "to make que" for quite a while now and they already had two of the three colors I needed for making them patriotic-ish. 
It was Heather's idea to add a little blue to the mix.  Although I didn't really like the look of them in the beginning, they have sort of grown on me (pun intended). My mom thinks they look a more like something out of a Dr. Seuss book than a patriotic treat.
Now I didn't know when I started, but I now know I'm helping America (okay mainly just my family) by making these brownies. The recipe calls for the use of dark chocolate pieces. The use of dark chocolate in these brownies means each time my family and I eat one we will lower our blood pressure, improve cognitive function, improve blood sugar, consume antioxidants, prevent cavities, and load up on vitamins & minerals! Thanks for cluing me in on that information
Yeah I know the sugar, butter and cream cheese probably definitely negate some of the positive properties of the dark chocolate, but I'm going to pretend I don't know that. So I've officially decided that these are not brownies they are: Red, White & Bluies and of course they are good for America!