Posts tagged ‘bread’


Basic Bagels

Yes, these are New York Style bagels, because there are no other bagels. Anything else is just small toroidal loaves of bread, with which one might as well not really have bothered. This is similar to the way that one can get some rather tasty Chicago-style cheese-and-tomato-sauce-bread, but not actual pizza.

(I’ve been reading Nancy Mitford, and there may be the odd little Britishism sneaking into my diction here and there.)

This recipe for six; it can be straightfowardly doubled for a dozen, or two-thirds’d for four.

Three bagels in dough formSix Bagels

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 Tbs or ~2 packet active dry yeast
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs veg oil
1 tsp salt
5 C or so (bread) flour
One pot of water
2 Tbs or so of barley malt syrup (or honey)

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, gradually add flour, oil, and eventually salt, until it begins to be dough. Do not add the entire 5 cups of flour; stop when the dough is kneadable but not dry.

Knead the dough well, and then put into a covered bowl to rise for an hour in a warm draftless place, or a couple of hours in a cool draftless place, or (ideally) overnight in the refrigerator.

Punch down and form into six tori. I find the best way to do this is to make six spheres, and then flatten each one, poke a hole in the center, and spin it around a bit on your fingers to make the hole gently larger.

(There is also the “make a snake and then convince the head and tail to stick together” method, but I find (perhaps especially when the air is dry) that this results in croissant-shaped bagels distressingly often.)

Let these rest while you preheat the oven to 450 degrees (F), boil the pot of water, and dissolve the barley malt syrup in it.

Once the water is boiling, lower the bagels in (likely three or so at a time, depending on the sizes of your pot and your tori), and boil for about one minute per side, turning them over halfway through (obviously).

Put the boiled bagels onto a sheet of baking paper on a cookie sheet.

Once the bagels are boiled and the oven is hot enough, put the cookie sheet (the one that the bagels are on) into the oven (most likely on the middle rack) for something like 15-20 minutes, or until just before the bottoms get too dark. Let cool on a wire cooling rack (or, you know, whatever).

The boiling is the key part of the recipe, and what makes them bagels rather than just weird small bread loaves. The barley malt syrup is supposedly extremely key, but I admit I’ve done it with honey instead and I won’t swear that I could tell the difference. I’ve also entirely forgotten to put anything into the water, and they were still, I would say, actual bagels.

If you compare this recipe with yesterday’s Basic Bread, you may suspect that some of the quantities don’t entirely make sense, and you may be right. The amount of flour is especially approximate; purists will know that it’s really the weight of the flour and not the volume that matters, and I don’t know the weights that I use, I just sort of put in more flour until it seems about right.

All Purpose Flour may be used instead of Bread Flour, and it will be easier to knead and somewhat less chewy and bagel-like (but still bagels) as a result.

You may use barley malt syrup instead of some or all of the sugar. This is said by some to be even more authentic, but note that (1) the substitution ratio is for you to figure out, (2) barley malt syrup is considerably harder to obtain than sugar and if you do this you will run out faster, and (3) if you keep your syrup in the refrigerator after opening (which one in instructed to do), you will want to warm it up and dissolve it in the water, rather than attempting to incorporate a basically solid lump of cold syrup into your flour mixture.

And that’s it! It’s really not a big mystery, which leads one to wonder why the things sold as “bagels” in (for instance) Florida, appear to be small toroidal loaves of bread instead. Possibly it’s something about the water, in which case I can only advise using water from within say 80 miles of New York City in the above recipe, just to be on the safe side.


Basic Bread

I love baking, especially bread baking. I’m sure I’ve told the story before about how we came early to a friend’s party back in college to help with preparations, and she handed my a 3×5 card and said “Okay, you can make the bread”. I’d never made bread before, so that was rather terrifying, but the bread came out delicious. It did have some dense bands because the baker was clueless, but as it was a rich sweet bread the bands were good.

The recipe for that exact bread is a secret, but I’ve posted (long ago) a recipe that eventually evolved away from it far enough that I felt okay posting: Our Golden Bread. It’s a sweet buttery bread, and amazing both for dessert and for sandwiches. I’ve also made various cheesy breads and eggy breads and things over time.

The other month, for some reason, I decided to write down an extremely basic bread recipe (I think there was some reason, but I’m not sure what it was; maybe it was in the uncertain beginning of the pandemic, and I was figuring out the fewest ingredients we’d need to make our own bread if we had to).

It’s not the simplest possible bread recipe (it has more sweetening and oil than it strictly-speaking needs just to be bread), but it is simple. This is it:

Sun shining on a slice of breadBasic Wheat Bread

2 cups warm water
2 tsp or 1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vegetable oil
5-6 cups wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt

Sugar can be reduced to like a teaspoon if you really want to, and vegetable oil can conceivably be left out entirely. Up to half (or all, if you’re bold) of the flour can be Whole Wheat. The flour can be “all purpose” or “bread flour”, and you might or might not notice the difference. Salt is optional, but it’ll be a bit bland with none.

Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water and let it sit for awhile if you feel like it, so the yeast can start doing its thing. Add the vegetable oil and enough flour (two cups or so) that the mixture is like thickish mud. Add the salt last (because it discourages the yeast to some extent).

Give this “sponge” (the muddy mixture) about 100 strokes with a wooden spoon (hey, I like wooden spoons), to incorporate a good amount of air into it (whatever that means, really), and then cover with a warm damp cloth and let rise at least 45 minutes somewhere warm and not windy; inside your oven (when the oven is not on) is good for instance.

Take it out and add more flour until it feels like dough; not quite sticky but not dry. Knead it (probably with floured hands on a slightly floured board) until it feels right; ideally sort of silken and alive. Put it back into the bowl (generally using a touch of oil or butter or cooking spray on both the inside of the bowl where the dough will be sitting, and on the top of the dough itself, for some reason), cover the bowl with a warm freshly-damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm and windless place for another at least 45 minutes.

Punch it down and form it into either one or two loaves (one will be quite large, two will be more normal), and put the loaf or loaves into the corresponding number of lightly oiled or cooking-sprayed or buttered bread pans. Let the loaf or loaves rest in the pan or pans while the oven pre-heats to 350 degrees F.

Put the pan or pans into the oven, on the middle rack I suppose, for 40 or 60 minutes, until it seems done, the bottom thumps nicely, and so on.

Remove from pan or pans and let cool on a cooling rack or whatever until you feel like cutting it open.

And that’s the recipe! You can play with pretty much anything from there; substitute an egg or milk for some of the water, fold in some cool butter instead of the oil, substitute honey for some or all of the sugar, add things like cheese and raisins and vanilla extract and so on.

I was going to include the bagel recipe in this post also, but I think that’ll be tomorrow.

(Partly because just getting WordPress to slightly indent the recipe (and then use a very slightly smaller interline spacing while I was in there) was such a ridiculously large amount of work; I had to convert the paragraphs to “Classic”, and then hand-enter a bit of CSS style separately into every paragraph element in the Code Editor. The new shiny “Blocks” style couldn’t deal with it at all, and kept telling me that I had Invalid Things. How does someone make an editor that has neither “indent paragraph” nor “search and replace” in 2020?)

So that is Basic Bread, and tomorrow-or-soon, I will put up Basic Bagels.


Liebe ist ein welthaftes Wirken

Kaufmann translates this, from Buber’s “I and Thou”, as “love is a cosmic force”, but gives us the original in a footnote to see for ourselves.

One thing I like about German and how synthetic it is (in the technical sense that I just learned; I was going to say “agglutinative“, but that turns out to be wrong) is that you can look at the parts of many words, and see how the meaning compares to the sum of those parts.

The most simple-minded translation of that phrase might be “Love is a worldly work”, which has the same nice consonance of double-ues, but a very different sense, since the English “worldly” has strong connotations that are almost the opposite of Kaufmann’s “cosmic”.

It’s interesting that the translator chose “force” here, rather than the obvious “work” (which would have read a bit awkwardly), or perhaps “act”. Because Buber is talking about love in the context of “those who stand in it and behold in it”, “force” probably makes more sense than “act”, since you can stand in a force (a force field!), but not so much in an act.

$50 FINEBut then I wonder why Buber wrote Wirken rather than say Kraft. And then I am at, or perhaps well beyond, the very end of my competence as a translator. :)

The other day the little daughter, watching me staring into my phone and clicking and swiping without end, commented more or less “you’re taking in so much content; I don’t know if that’s healthy”.

I found myself very much in agreement with that thought, and put the phone away (temporarily) and looked at various stacks of books sitting unread here and there, and picked up “I and Thou”, read the Acknowledgements and Translator’s Key, skipped Kaufmann’s very long Prologue (these things should generally be at the end of a book, in my ever so humble opinion, so that one can encounter the work itself with more or less fresh eyes, and then read the prologue-writer’s thoughts about it afterward, when one has already one’s own ideas to compare them to), and started very slowly into the work (Werk, Wirken, Kunstwerk?) itself.

It’s a very dense book, or feels like it deserves to be treated as such, which means that I have to be careful not to spend so much time on each sentence that I eventually drift off and do other things before I get past the first chapter.

As I tweeted not long after starting (and yeah, I know; somehow Twitter and the Face Book and now even plague have all taken up residence in my ways of relating to the world):

I can’t of course actually empty the cup, and I admit I’m not really trying all that hard to.

Currently, a few more pages in, I’m wondering if Buber will go from talking about the ineffable relating that is I-You (and that he identifies with, or as, love in some sense), to a realization that the duality present even in I-You (because after all there is still I, and You) is at some level an illusion. Because that would be so Buddhist.

There are no sentient beings,
And I vow to save them.

It will be interesting either way; if he does get to some kind of non-duality, I’m sure it will have a flavor all its own. If he doesn’t, it will be interesting to see if he simply stops short of it, actively considers and denies it, or goes off in some other direction entirely.

I’ve been meaning to read this book since college sometime :) and it’s nice to finally get to it.

Solstice was nice, thank you for asking, if a little atypical. All four of us were here together, but instead of the usual Christmas Dinner with ham an’ all, we went out to the local diner.

The story: M smelled gas in the basement, so on I forget maybe the 22nd we had the gas man come and test things, and he found there was a leak somewhere in the kitchen range, and while we were moving the range out from the wall it got caught on something and when we pushed on it a little to get it past the something, the entire glass front of the oven door very enthusiastically shattered into a zillion pieces and fell onto the floor.

That was exciting!

We called the appliance place who sent out a person who determined that the range was old enough to vote, and that no one makes parts for it anymore (either for replacing the door glass or fixing any possible leak).

A new range arrived yesterday and I have baked my first loaves of bread in it, but between the breaking of the old and the installing of the new we could cook only in the microwave and crockpot, and although we considered trying to design a satisfying Solstice dinner around those, in the end we decided the local Diner would be more fun.

And it was very nice.

How do Diners do it, by the way; anyone know? How can you have that enormous a menu of available things, and be able to produce absolutely any of them in a reasonably short span of time? Are they all designed to be producible from some smallish set of ingredients, and you keep those around and ready at all times? Do all of the chefs know how to make all of the things? Are there big recipe books? Or do they look at the menu when the order comes in, figure out what you are probably expecting, and wing it?