Montreal-style Bagels

My effort at producing multigrain bagels two weeks ago was less successful than I’d hoped (I deleted that blog post) so my challenge last Wednesday, before Thanksgiving, was to perfect a chewy bagel that would rival those from the best bagel bakeries of my youth.

Once again I turned to a recipe from the NYT Cooking site for inspiration, and found a recipe for Montreal Bagels, chewy and with a hint of sweetness.  I was surprised to find the dough contained elements of a challah – sweetener and eggs – albeit in lesser proportion to the flour – and required only two very short rises before their boiling bath and baking.

I made several adjustments to the NYT recipe, making 9 large bagels versus 18 small ones, reducing the baking time to prevent burning of the undersides, using less honey in the dough  From start to finish, this took about 1-1/2 hours, and the verdict was unanimous – best bagels we’ve ever had.

 

MONTREAL-STYLE BAGELS

adapted from NYT Cooking site

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INGREDIENTS:

1-1/2 cups room temperature water

14 grams SAF Instant yeast (or 2 packets other instant yeast)

1 tsp sugar

2-1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk

1/4 cup vegetable oil + a bit more for greasing bowl

2/3 cup honey divided

5-1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour (or other bread flour)

3 quarts water for boiling

sesame and/or poppy seeds for sprinkling on top

TOOLS:

Stand mixer with 5-quart bowl and dough hook

A separate large bowl

Heavy wooden spoon or spatula

2 rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper

5-quart pot

A bread board or similar work surface

Kitchen scale – very helpful if you have one to make the bagels equal size

Large slotted spoon

PREPARATION:

  1. In the large mixing bowl of stand mixer, combine the water, yeast, sugar and salt.  Stir in the egg and egg yolk, oil and 1/3 cup of the honey and mix well by hand.
  2. Add 5 cups of flour one cup at a time, stirring by hand, and then knead with the dough hook to form a soft, supple dough (about 8 minutes).  Add remaining 1/2 cup of flour a couple of minutes into the kneading.
  3. Lightly grease another large bowl with oil and use a spatula to turn the dough out into it.  Cover tightly with plastic and let rest 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring the 3 quarts water and remaining 1/3 cup honey to boil, then reduce and cover to keep simmering until you’re ready to use. Preheat oven to 450º.
  5. Punch down the dough and remove it to bread board.  The dough should weigh about 1300 grams.  Divide it into 9 equal pieces, about 145 grams each.
  6. Roll each piece into a ball, flatten slightly and poke a hole through the middle with your thumb.  Work the dough around the whole with your fingers to enlarge it and place the shaped dough on parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving room between.  Only 6 will fit on one sheet, place the remaining 3 on the other.  Let them rest about 15 minutes.
  7. Return pot of water to gentle boil and drop 3 bagels in.  They will float.  flip them over with a large slotted spoon and continue to boil for a little over a minute.  Remove with the slotted spoon, place them back on the parchment-lined baking sheets and immediately sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.  Repeat this process for all nine.
  8. Bake first batch on center rack of oven for 20 minutes, to a deep golden brown -then repeat with second batch.  Remove to a cooling rack as soon as each batch is done.

These keep well in a plastic bag in your breadbox for 6 days, or can be sliced and frozen.

 

 

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Loaf-Pan Challah

This is something I’ve been wanting to try ever since discovering Trader Joe’s gorgeous brioche loaves.  Why not bake challah in a loaf pan so the slices can be uniform – for sandwiches, for French toast, or just for the sake of consistency.

Last week I experimented with one loaf – half the usual recipe I use from Silver Palate – in an oversized Dansk Kobenstyle loaf pan.  The result told me that the traditional braiding would not work – as it rose in the pan for an hour, the ends plumped while the middle stayed lower – and while still delicious, the loaf resembled the silhouette of an oil tanker.

Today’s called for a rethink.  I made the full recipe, which usually produces one enormous loaf (a small braided loaf laid upon a larger one to simulate a 6-braid technique).  This time, I also divided the risen dough 1/3 – 2/3 for a smaller and a larger loaf done in two separate loaf pans – the big Dansk pan, and a smaller (8×4-1/2) from Williams-Sonoma.  And to ensure even rising within the pans, I did a very crude braid, keeping the dough-snakes thick, and working from the middle towards both ends.

After an hour rising in the pans, I got just result I’d hoped for (larger pan lined with parchment, since it is not non-stick and I’m not taking any chances here):

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After brushing with egg wash and sprinkling with poppy seeds, these baked at 350º for 30 minutes, side by side with room in-between.  I did rotate the pans after checking on them at the 20-minute point, just to ensure evenness.  And then, once I took the internal temperature and found only about 185º, I removed them from pans and baked another 7 minutes to reach 200º.  This also helped brown the previously unexposed areas of crust.

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The original Silver Palate recipe is in my blog-post The Comfort of Challah.  The only difference is in the set-up for baking in pans.  I’m tempted to freeze one for our French toast after Thanksgiving, but freshly baked stays fresh for a week, so no-need!

Tsibele Kuchen (Onion Rolls)

My Nana Pearl baked her onion rolls, which she called tsibele kuchen, just about every Friday to have with a roast chicken dinner.  She never measured or weighed, she just knew by handling and observing exactly how much of everything to use and how long each step would take.  When you can still remember how those looked and tasted more than 50 years later, you know they were something special, and the desire to replicate them becomes an imperative.

Over the past several weeks of my bread-baking frenzy, I’ve become addicted not just to the superiority of home-baked breads and rolls, but also to the tactile and olfactory experience of baking.  During this process, some of Nana Pearl’s instincts have been awakened in me, but still I weigh and measure to ensure uniformity of size and baking outcome.  Today I applied the taste memory of her tsibele kuchen to my experience of baking brioche buns and challah.  I also wanted these rolls to be onion-filled, not simply onion topped as hers were, and am feeling a little pleased about how these rolls turned out:

PEARL’S 21st CENTURY ONION ROLLS 

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup lukewarm water

14 gram SAF instant yeast or one package other quick-rising yeast

4-1/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour or other bread flour

2 large eggs

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp sugar

2 tsp kosher salt

1 medium sweet onion finely diced (about 3/4 cup)

1 egg white whisked with 1 tbsp water

poppy seeds

PREPARATION:

In large bowl of stand mixer, dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water and immediately add 4 cups flour, the 2 eggs lightly beaten, 1/4 cup of the oil, the sugar and salt.  Use paddle attachment to combine thoroughly, and then switch to dough hook and run on medium-low speed for 10 minutes, adding additional 1/4 cup of flour once a sticky dough begins to form.  Lightly grease another large (5 quart) bowl and turn the dough out into it.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise 1 to 1-1/2 hours until doubled.

Meanwhile, lightly sauté the onions in remaining canola oil until just softened and remove to a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 375º and place a shallow pan filled halfway with water on bottom rack.*

Divide into 6-8 equal pieces (I made 7) and roll each into a ball.  (Dough will weigh about 1 kilo (1,000 grams).  Flatten each ball into a disk about 5″ and place about 1 tbsp of the onions in center of each, leaving a little bit of the onion mixture to sprinkle on top.  As you’re working, the dough will continue to puff up a bit.  Flatten out the edges a little more and pull the edges over the onion fill to completely encase, cradling in your hands to form a spherical bun.

Place the buns on a sheet of parchment paper on a large baking sheet, press down gently to flatten a bit, brush all over the with egg wash, and sprinkle each with a bit of the remaining onions and some poppy seeds.  Let rest about 15 minutes, then bake on center rack of oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool on a rack at least an hour.

*NOTE: the pan of water creates steam in the oven which helps the rolls rise again and gives the crust a light texture.  If you prefer not to do this, they will bake somewhat flatter and denser.

 

 

 

 

Our Birthday Veal and Mushroom Ragout

Today my husband and I celebrated our joint birthdays.  Born just one year apart, we have been sharing this birthdate since we first started dating as teenagers hundreds of moons ago, and for several years we also shared the occasion at a favorite restaurant. with my mother, who was born on November 13.

Today I did not feel at all like eating out, but rather inclined to prepare a special breakfast and dinner for a fraction of the cost of fine restaurant dining.  We started our day with challah French toast – made with the challah I baked on Friday – crispy bacon, Vermont maple syrup, juice and French roast coffee.  For dinner, my plan was to develop a richly flavored veal ragout incorporating the beautiful veal stew meat and portobello mushroom caps I found at our market on Friday.  It turned out exactly as I had hoped, the sauce layered with flavor, the veal fork-tender, and the meaty chunks of mushrooms an excellent counterbalance to the meat. Served over egg noodles with just some bright steamed broccoli and another slice of that challah alongside, a restaurant-quality meal by the fire in our dining room.

VEAL AND MUSHROOM RAGOUT WITH MARSALA

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INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs. veal stew cut into 1- to 1-1/2 inch pieces

Flour lightly seasoned with S&P for dredging

1 large onion and 1 large shallot chopped (about 2 cups total)

1 medium carrot chopped and 1 celery stalk chopped  (about 1 cup total)

2 tbsp each unsalted butter and EVOO + 1 additional tbsp butter

10-12 ounces cremini or portobello mushrooms halved and sliced thickly

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried sage

2 cups chicken broth (Better Than Bouillion)

¾ cup sweet Marsala

1 tbsp honey

½ tsp truffle oil

chopped Italian parsley for garnish

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat in 4-5 quart Dutch oven.  Dredge veal in seasoned flour and brown in batches, removing with tongs to a plate. In same pot, sauté the onions, shallots, carrot and celery until softened, scraping up any browned bits from veal on bottom of the pot.  Add the mushrooms and additional tbsp butter and continue to sauté until they just start to brown.

Add the Marsala to the pot, deglaze briefly, then add the oregano, sage, chicken broth and veal, and bring to simmer.  Bake about 1-1/2 hours until veal is very tender.

Remove solids to a plate, add truffle oil and honey to the sauce and reduce briefly over medium-high heat.  Return everything to the pot and keep warm until serving time.  Serve over egg noodles and garnish with chopped parsley.

 

Scampi Over Linguini, My Way

Whenever our local Stop & Shop has frozen easy-peel jumbo shrimp on sale, I snag a 2-lb bag for quick weeknight meals to be served either as an Asian stir-fry or an Italian scampi.  Tonight it’s scampi my way, with the addition of chopped grape tomatoes and shallots to the classic dish, and lobster broth in lieu of white wine.

In both cases, both Asian and Italian, the dishes come together quickly, so it’s a good idea to set up your mise en place instead of grabbing and measuring ingredients while cooking.  This will avoid the pitfall of overcooking your shrimp, and ensuring that it all comes out with taste and texture that are restaurant quality.

Peeling and refrigerating the shrimp early in the day is a time-saver as well, and I like to brine them for just 3-5 minutes in a solution of 2 cups water/1 tbsp salt, then rinse and pat dry before refrigerating.  I find this helps improve the texture, and does not impart any additional saltiness.

All that’s needed to round out this meal is a salad of mixed greens and olives and some crusty bread…or that focaccia I made two days ago.

SCAMPI OVER LINGUINI MY WAY

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Mise en place set to go, including my vintage Perrier Jouet bottle which I’ve used for EVOO since 1984

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb jumbo shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and prepped as described above

2 tbsp each EVOO and unsalted butter

4 medium cloves garlic & 1 medium shallot minced

1 cup quartered grape tomatoes, gently squeezed to remove excess liquid and seeds

1/2 cup lobster broth (1/2 tsp Better Than Bouillon brand dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water)

3/4 tsp kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

pinch of red pepper flakes

1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley

Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon, about 1-1/2 tbsp

8 ounces good linguini, such as Dececco brand, cooked al dente

PREPARATION:

In a 12″ cast iron skillet, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and shallots and sauté about 1 minute.  Add broth, salt, red pepper flakes generous grinding of black pepper, and tomatoes and simmer until broth is reduced by half.  Add shrimp and sauté until they just turn pink, about 2 minutes per side.  Stir in parsley and lemon juice and serve immediately over linguini.

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Corn and Red Pepper Bisque

Today’s chill in the air got me thinking once again about soup, and one of the favorites served as a first course over the years at our Thanksgiving dinners.  One thing I always try to avoid in a menu is redundancy.  If there’s butternut squash as a side, there’s no butternut squash soup to begin.  So whenever that’s the case, I’d prepare this gorgeously golden corn bisque with red bell pepper.

This recipe first appeared in Bon Appetit in 1998; I discovered it a few years later and have had it on our Thanksgiving menu several times.  It’s one of those simple dishes that’s short on effort and long on flavor – but only if you use the sweetest, most golden corn you can find.  Otherwise the result will not achieve greatness.  Trader Joe’s Supersweet Organic Corn beats all other in this regard, and I always make sure to buy mine well ahead of time because a few years ago they ran out…and my search for a substitute took forever combing the frozen vegetable aisles of half a dozen markets.Unknown

The soup can be prepared a day or two ahead, needing only to taken out of the fridge for about an hour and then reheated before serving.

CORN BISQUE WITH RED BELL PEPPER AND ROSEMARY

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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 stick unsalted butter (4 tbsp)

2 cups chopped sweet onions

1/2 cup each diced carrot & celery

7-1/2 cups Trader Joe’s Organic Supersweet Corn (about 42 ounces or 2-1/2 packages)

2 tsp minced fresh rosemary

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (this tiny bit adds a nice kick to the whole pot)

6 cups chicken broth

1 cup half & half

1 red bell pepper chopped

PREPARATION:

In a large heavy pot such as a 5-quart Dutch oven, melt 3 tbsp of the butter and sauté the onions, carrots and celery on medium high about 3 minutes.  Add 5-1/2 cups of the corn, the rosemary and cayenne and sauté another 2 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, pureé the soup in a blender (I originally did this step with an immersion blender, but the Vitamix works so much better).  Return soup to the pot, stir in the half & half and the remaining 2 cups of corn.  Season to taste with salt and pepper – it may not need any.

Melt the remaining  1 tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat and sauté the red bell pepper until almost tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir into the soup.  Done!

This recipe makes about 3-1/2 quarts of soup, enough for at least 12-14 first-course servings, maybe with some leftovers.

Harvest Fruit Puff Pastry Strudel

Over twenty years ago I fell in love with a recipe in Gourmet for a Harvest Tart – a combination of fresh and dried fruits, nuts, butter, sweetener and liqueur – baked in a sweet pastry crust and topped with a lattice crust.  It was a sophisticated and popular dessert at our Thanksgiving table.  The thick, slightly chunky fruit & nut filling was remarkably similar to the filling my mother used for her strudel – a taste memory I was thrilled to replicate.

Flash forward several years later to a few days after our Passover Seder, when I had an abundance of leftover “charoses”  Charoses (also spelled haroseth) is often just a forgettable mixture of chopped apples, walnuts and sweet wine, but the version I make is from an outstanding recipe in the NYT Passover Cookbook, incorporating a palette of ingredients very much like the filling for the above-referenced tart.  Rather than toss it or use it as a semi-chutney side dish, I experimented with turning it into a strudel like my mother’s, but baked in store-bought Pepperidge Farm puff pastry.  It worked!  And it tasted so much like my mother’s wonderfully complex fruit strudel that I did shed some tears of joy.

Now skip ahead to 2017, when all my instincts tell me that the Harvest Tart filling, when baked in Trader Joe’s wildly superior all-butter puff pastry, will yield a strudel worthy of center stage on your dinner-party dessert menu – especially for Thanksgiving.

Being under no time constraints to prepare this, I made the fruit filling yesterday and have let it chill in fridge before assembling and baking today.  This could actually be done a few days in advance of assembly and baking.  So let’s review the filling, because all that’s left after that is a package of TJ’s puff pastry thawed for 2 hours, rolled out to be filled and brushed with an egg wash, and baked:

HARVEST FRUIT PUFF PASTRY STRUDEL

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FILLING:

1 tart, crisp apple such as Empire or Granny Smith and 1 firm-ripe pear, such as Bartlett or Anjou, both peeled & coarsely chopped

8  ounces pitted prunes

6 ounces dried Calmyrna figs, stem tips removed

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dried cherries or apricots

1-2 tsp grated orange rind

1/4 cup sugar

4 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup Grand Marnier

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PASTRY:

1 package Trader Joe’s all-butter Puff Pastry (2 sheets weighing 18.3 ounces) defrosted for 2 hours and each rolled on a floured board to a 12 x 10″ rectangle

(NOTE: You could use Pepperidge Farm puff pastry if TJ’s is not available, but it’s made with shortening instead of butter.  The TJ’s is all-butter, from France, just like Dufour, but at $3.99/box it’s about 1/3 the price of a 14-ounce box of Dufour)

EGG WASH:

1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water

PREPARATION:

Combine all fresh and dried fruits and orange rind in a large saucepan with enough water to cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until softened – about 10 minutes.  Drain in a sieve or colander, and return to the pot with the butter, sugar and nuts, and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Coarsely chop the mixture in two batches in food processor with a few quick pulses, and remove to a covered container for storage in refrigerator.
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When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.   Gently roll out each sheet of puff pastry to about 10 x 12″  – they are almost that size to begin with – and spread 1/2 of the fruit filling on each, starting about 1″ from the bottom of one end, to cover about 2/3 of the sheet, leaving a 1/2″ margin on left and right edge.  Fold the bottom edge up over the filling and fold the other two edges in as well.   Then roll each into a log, making sure ends are tucked in.  Carefully move them to the parchment-lined baking sheet, lightly brush with egg wash, and make 5 or 6 shallow diagonal knife slashes across the top.  Bake until puffed and golden, about 35 minutes.  With a long spatula, carefully move to a rack to cool completely.  Cut on the diagonal into sections about 1 – 1-1/2 inches wide for serving.  Store in air-tight container.

NOTE:  If you seem to have more fruit filling than needed, reserve some as a delightful spread for toast or English muffins.