Bagels

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If you don’t live near a good bagel shop or if you just enjoy a challenge, these bagels are really fun to make and taste great.

To mix home-made high-gluten flour, we combined 98% King Arthur bread flour with 2% Bob’s Red Mill wheat gluten (which said it was 75-80% gluten) by weight.  Although I rarely weigh out my ingredients, this recipe is a lot simpler if you use a kitchen scale!

Original recipe

 

Bagels
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 12 bagels

For sponge:

  • 1 teaspoon (0.11 oz) instant yeast OR active dry yeast
  • 4 cups (18 oz) unbleached high-gluten flour OR bread flour OR home-made high-gluten flour (see above)
  • 2 1/2 (20 oz) cups warm water

For dough

  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.055 oz) instant yeast OR active dry yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups (17 oz) unbleached high-gluten flour OR bread flour OR home-made high-gluten flour (see above)
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons (0.7 oz) salt
  • 2 teaspoons (0.33 oz) malt powder OR 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz) dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar

To Finish:

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting baking sheets
  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, ground cinnamon, etc.

 

Day 1:

  1. To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl.
  2. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter).
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly.  It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the counter.
  4. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir.
  5. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt.
  6. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.
  7. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test. If the dough seems 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.
  8. Immediately divide the dough into 12 (4.5-oz) pieces and form them into balls.
  9. Cover the balls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.
  10. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil.
  11. 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 2.5 inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)
  12. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
  13. Place pan in refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days).

Day 2:

  1. Position racks to divide oven into thirds and preheat to 500ºF.  While oven preheats, bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better; it doesn’t have to be very deep), and add the baking soda.  Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.
  2. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute, flip them over and boil for another minute.
  3. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour.  (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.)
  4. If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water.  You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination thereof.
  5. When all the bagels have been boiled, bake bagels for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180º rotation.  (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180º.)
  6. After the rotation, continue baking for 5-10 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.
  7. 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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Quick and Easy Pizza Crust

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The beauty of making pizza at home is that you can customize it to your heart’s content.  This pizza dough is quick and easy to make (probably the most complicated step is rolling it out), and the spices make it particularly fragrant and delicious.

Original recipe

 

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust
Adapted from All Recipes

Yield: 12-13″ pizza crust

  • 1 (.25-oz) package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (110ºF if you want to be precise; I just stick my finger in it to check that it feels warm)
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning  (I use McCormick’s Perfect Pinch blend, which doesn’t have salt)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 450ºF.  Lightly grease a pizza pan, if it is not non-stick.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.
  3. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in salt, Italian seasoning, and oil.
  5. Stir in flour and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes.  If the dough feels sticky or tacky, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough should feel soft and smooth to the touch.
  6. Let dough rest in bowl for 5 minutes.
  7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round.
  8. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough into a 12-13″ circle.
  9. Transfer crust to pizza pan and spread with desired toppings.
  10. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
  11. Let baked pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Ciabatta

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This recipe is very straightforward and reliable.  It doesn’t require kneading or special tools.  It’s also remarkably difficult to mess up – even if you don’t do all the steps correctly, the bread still turns out well.  We discovered that it goes well with ribs, because you can use it to soak up any extra sauce.

Baking note: The bread takes 2 days to make: 1 hour the first day, and another 3 hours 40 minutes the second day.

 

Ciabatta
Adapted from Peter Reinhardt

Yield: 1 loaf

  • 284g (2 1/4 cups) bread OR all-purpose flour
  • 227g (1 cup) warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil

 

Day 1:  Takes about 1 hr

  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well (stir with wooden spoon).
  2. Repeat 4-5 times:
    1. Cover with plastic wrap and place in warm place.
    2. Wait 10 min.
    3. Lightly oil a work surface and wet your hands so they don’t stick to the dough as much.
    4. Remove dough from bowl and fold in thirds like a letter.
    5. Rotate 90º and fold in thirds like a letter again. The dough will be extremely wet and gloopy at first.
    6. Return to bowl with folds facing down.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for ~23 hours.

 

Day 2: Start at the same time as day 1, takes about 3 hrs 40 min

  1. Take dough out of fridge and set it in a warm place.
  2. Wait 1 hour.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and liberally flour it.
  4. Transfer dough gently to paper.  Try not to degas it, but it’s okay if it happens.
  5. Dust top of dough and hands with flour, and gently coax dough into rectangle shape.
  6. Fold like a letter, gently.
  7. Place seam down on parchment.
  8. Wait 2 hours.  Halfway through, preheat oven to 500ºF.  (You won’t bake the bread at this temperature, but it will help offset the temperature drop when you open the oven to put the dough in.)
  9. Reduce heat to 425ºF.  Quickly put baking sheet into oven. Bake for 12 minutes.
  10. Rotate baking sheet.
  11. Bake 15-20 more until bread is golden brown all over and sounds hollow when tapped.

Flour’s Famous Banana Bread

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The toasted walnuts in this banana bread recipe from Flour Bakery in Boston really enhance the flavor.  Toasting the nuts first really makes a big difference and is well worth the extra 10 minutes.

Original recipe

 

Flour’s Famous Banana Bread
Adapted from Joanne Chang

Yield: 9″ x 5″ loaf pan

  • 2/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2-3/4 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you want it
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3-4 bananas, very ripe, mashed
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

 

  1. Spread walnuts in the pan of a toaster oven and toast at 350ºF for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper, or line entire pan with aluminum foil.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and eggs with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes.  (You could do it by hand too.)
  4. Beat in oil, mashed bananas, creme fraiche or sour cream, and vanilla.
  5. Beat in baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  6. Mix in flour just until blended.
  7. Fold in nuts.
  8. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  A thin knife inserted in the center should come out clean.

Chinese Hot Dog Buns

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I’ve found that Chinese hot dog buns are great travel foods – you can pack them for a long car ride or plane flight.  They’re also good for lunch in general.  Of course you can find them in any Chinese bakery, but if you don’t live near one, now you can make them yourself.  The advantage to that is picking your favorite type of hot dog.  I prefer Hebrew International’s 97% Fat-Free Beef Franks…because they seem a little healthier.

Original recipe

Chinese Hot Dog Buns
Adapted from Woks of Life

For the bread:

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, at room temperature or slightly warm
  • 1 cup+1 tablespoon milk, at room temperature or slightly warm
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose OR cake flour, tap measuring cup to avoid air pockets
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour, tap measuring cup to avoid air pockets
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the filling:

  • 12 hot dogs
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the egg wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water

For the simple syrup (optional):

  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons hot water

 

  1. Fit a stand mixer with the dough hook.  In the bowl of the mixer, add heavy cream, milk, egg, sugar, all-purpose OR cake flour, bread flour, yeast, and salt, in that order.
  2. Stir them together with a wooden spoon until all the flour is moistened.  This way flour won’t fly everywhere when you turn on the mixer.
  3. Set mixer on “stir” for 15 minutes, occasionally stopping the mixer to push the dough together.  It will feel somewhat sticky.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until the dough grows to 1.5 times its original size.
  5. While the dough proofs, heat oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add hot dogs and allow them to crisp slightly.  (I found out the hard way that this step seals juices inside the hot dogs so they don’t make the surrounding dough soggy.)
  6. Line a plate with paper towel to absorb excess oil and put hot dogs on it to cool.
  7. After dough finishes proofing, return it to the mixer and stir for another 5 minutes to get rid of air bubbles.
  8. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or with aluminum foil.  If using foil, spray it with cooking spray.
  9. Flour a work surface, turn dough onto it, and cut it into 12 equal pieces.
  10. Roll each piece into a 12-14 inch rope, keeping the middle thicker than the ends.
  11. Roll each rope around a hot dog, tucking in the ends. Repeat until you have 12 hot dog buns.
  12. Place buns on baking sheet, spacing 2-3 inches apart.  Cover lightly with a kitchen towel or paper towel.
  13. Let buns proof in a warm spot for 1 hour, until they almost double in size.  After 45 minutes of proofing, position racks to divide the oven in thirds and preheat to 350ºF.
  14. Whisk egg with water to make egg wash.
  15. When buns finish rising, remove kitchen or paper towel and brush buns with egg wash.
  16. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown in color.  Rotate pans halfway through baking.
  17. If desired, dissolve sugar in hot water to make simple syrup.
  18. Remove pans from oven.  If using the simple syrup, brush buns with it to make them shiny and sweet.  (I skipped this part and the bread tasted good anyway.)  The buns taste best the first day.  If they last any longer, you can store them in the freezer in a Ziploc bag.  Defrost overnight and toast briefly.

Chinese-Style Milk Bread

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Lately I’ve been craving the soft, sweet bread that you find in Chinese bakeries.  I was very excited to find this recipe and have made it multiple times now.  Shaped into dinner rolls, it is great for not only dinner but also breakfast and snacks.

 

Original recipe

 

Chinese-Style Milk Bread
Adapted from Woks of Life

Yield: 2 loaf pans OR 16 dinner rolls

For the bread:

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, at room temperature or slightly warm
  • 1 cup+1 tablespoon milk, at room temperature or slightly warm
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose OR cake flour, tap measuring cup to avoid air pockets
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour, tap measuring cup to avoid air pockets
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the egg wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water

For the simple syrup (optional):

  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons hot water

 

  1. Fit a stand mixer with the dough hook.  In the bowl of the mixer, add heavy cream, milk, egg, sugar, all-purpose OR cake flour, bread flour, yeast, and salt.
  2. Set mixer on “stir” for 15 minutes, occasionally stopping the mixer to push the dough together.  It will feel somewhat sticky.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until the dough grows to 1.5 times its original size.
  4. While the dough proofs, grease two baking pans on all sides with butter or cooking spray.  You can use a 9″ x 4″ loaf pan and a 9″ round cake pan.
  5. After dough finishes proofing, return it to the mixer and stir for another 5 minutes to get rid of air bubbles.
  6. Flour a work surface, turn dough onto it, and cut it in half.  To make a loaf of bread, divide one of the halves into three pieces and place them in the loaf pan.  To make dinner rolls, cut the other half of the dough into eight equal pieces and shape them into round buns.  Arrange them in the cake pan.
  7. Let dough proof in a warm spot for 1 hour.
  8. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350ºF.
  9. Whisk egg with water to make egg wash.
  10. When dough finishes rising, brush it with egg wash.
  11. Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until golden brown in color.
  12. If desired, dissolve sugar in hot water to make simple syrup.
  13. Remove pans from oven.  If using the simple syrup, brush buns with it to make them shiny and sweet.  (I skipped this part and the bread tasted good anyway.)  The buns taste best the first day.  If they last any longer, you can store them in the freezer in a Ziploc bag.  Defrost overnight and toast briefly.

Pains au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants)

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Having mastered croissant dough, you might as well use it for as many types of pastries as possible!  In addition to plain croissants and savory ham and cheese croissants, you can also make chocolate croissants, or pains au chocolat, for dessert.

Baking Notes:

  • The dough is best if refrigerated overnight, so you should prepare it one day (about 2 hours) and shape and bake the croissants the next day (another 2 hours).
  • The croissants taste best within a few hours after baking.  If you plan to eat them after that, toast them briefly.
  • The dough is reasonably forgiving, so don’t fret too much as you make it.

Original recipe

 

Pains au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants)
From King Arthur Flour

Yield: 9 croissants (plus 2 Danishes)

  • 1/2 recipe of croissant dough, made with a dough hook or by hand
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 18 pain au chocolat sticks OR about 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips OR dark chocolate bar(s) cut into 18 pieces about 3” long x 1/2” wide x 1/4” thick

 

  1. Dust a work surface and rolling pin with flour.
  2. Roll dough into a 12″ x 18″ rectangle.  Pick it up and dust the work surface with flour underneath the dough as you’re doing this; the dough should move freely over your work surface as you roll.  (Don’t worry if you can’t get it to the perfect size; it will still be okay.)
  3. Trim the very outside edge of the dough with a knife, or if you’re being very particular, with a straight edge and pizza cutter. This takes off the sealed edges of the dough that could inhibit its “poof.”  (Save the scraps for later and tuck them under some plastic for now.)
  4. Cut the dough in thirds in both directions.
  5. Take a piece of dough and turn it sideways. Place a chocolate bar or 2 lines of chocolate chips about 1/3 from the right side, like this:
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  6. Wet your finger in water and draw a line down the center of the rectangle.  Fold the right edge over onto the damp line and press gently.  Then lay down another chocolate bar or lines of chocolate chips next to the folded edge, like this:
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  7. Wet the left edge of the rectangle, fold it over the chocolate, and press gently so it looks like this:
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  8. Turn the pain au chocolat over and put on the baking sheet.  You want the seam to be on the bottom of the pastry so it doesn’t unroll as it bakes.
  9. Take the scraps from earlier and lay them out straight.  You can put some cinnamon sugar or lay down a line of chocolate chips on one strip, and put a second strip on top.  Twist them together into a spiral to make a Danish.  If you want, you can put a spoonful of preserves in the center.  You can make 2 Danishes from the scraps.
  10. Place the pastries on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. You can freeze the unbaked pastries at this point (such as in a rigid plastic container with a lid) for up to 2 weeks.  Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before egg-washing and baking.
  11. Beat together an egg and 1 tablespoon water to form an egg wash.
  12. Take pastries out of the refrigerator, and preheat the oven to 425°F.  Make sure the rack is in the center of the oven so the bottoms won’t burn.  While the oven is heating, brush the tops of the pastries with the egg wash.
  13. Let pastries sit on the counter for about 15 minutes.
  14. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven’s temperature to 350°F.  Bake pains au chocolat for 15 to 20 minutes.  (But remove the Danishes after 8-10 minutes so they don’t burn.)  The pastries should be a deep golden brown.
  15. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.