It is Bagels this month for Fresh From the Oven – the incredible bread baking community. This month’s challenge was hosted by Claire of Purely Food. I couldn’t let this opportunity pass. Bagels are my absolute favourite but I keep away from them because it invariably means I will have to slather it with plenty of cream cheese and then chomp-chomp it down with some hot coffee. It is my ideal breakfast, after eggs on toast. Okay, bagels fight for a second position with Granola, fruit and yogurt in my list of favourite breakfasts.
The first time I sampled bagels was in London and it was a close friend who bought my first bagel-cream cheese breakfast for me. From then on I was hooked. I ran an extra mile just so that I could have a bagel with cream cheese. It was like I had found manna. The only other time I felt like that was when I discovered Hummus. Love that thing!
I had a favourite coffee shop in Cambridge ( I was there in 2006 for a company project) and they had the most amazing bagels. I would have them just fresh out of the oven. The cafe owner told me that bagels taste better 5-6 hours after they have been brought out of the oven. I thought, fresh out of the oven they tasted nothing short of divine. The other tiny tidbids he shared with me were – Bagels taste the best when toasted and they have to be golden brown all over to taste the best. If the bagels are blondish in colour it means they haven’t made the ‘great bagel mark’. I remember all that so well. It didn’t mean much to me as my only concern was how much cream cheese was I getting in my bagel. I guess he must have noticed that my liking for bagels was bordering on obsession and thought I might be interested in such trivia.
Bringing my batch of freshly baked bagels out of my gas -fired oven made me dizzy with nostalgia. They didn’t wear a golden brown that the cafe owner would have approved of but I knew that once toasted they would gain a beautiful colour. I am so happy that Fresh from the Oven made this possible and sent me down a wonderful memory lane.
Recipe for Bagels
Strong white flour -450g
Fast acting yeast -7g
Salt -2 tsp
Warm water -250ml
Honey -2 tbsp
Vegetable oil -1 tbsp
Egg, beaten – 1
Your choice of topping – I used roasted pumpkin seeds, sesame – black and white, caraway seeds
1. In a large bowl add the salt to the flour and then the yeast (I usually put the yeast in a small well in the centre to keep it a way from the salt).
2. Measure the warm water and then stir in the oil and honey.
3. If kneading by hand, make a well in the centre of the flour and pour the liquid in gradually, bringing the dough together with your hands. Turn the dough on to a clean, dry and floured work surface. Start kneading the dough by stretching it away with the palm of one hand and folding it back again with the other. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. You may need to add more flour as you go if the dough is too sticky.
4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl and turn to coat in the oil. Cover with cling film or a plastic bag to create a draught-free environment and put in a warm place (not hot) for between 1-3 hours or until doubled in size.
5. Lightly oil two baking trays.
6. Remove the dough from the bowl, punch it down to knock the air out and knead briefly.
7. Roll in to a sausage shape and divide into 7 chunks. As you work one, keep the others covered with a clean tea towel.
8. There are two ways to shape the bagels. One is to firmly roll out each chunk in to a long sausage shape, then form a ring and seal the ends together with a tiny splash of water and squeezing. The other method (my prefered method) is to roll each chunk into a ball. Piercing a hole in the centre with your finger, pull the dough open wide by twirling it round your index fingers (wider than you think you need as the hole will shrink when the dough proves, is poached and then baked).Place on the prepared baking tray and repeat with remaining dough.
9. Cover and allow to rise for a further 10-20 minutes.
10. Preheat the oven to 220C (200C fan), gas 7. Fill a large sauce pan with boiling water (from the kettle) and return to a simmer. Gently lift each bagel into the water to poach (do not try to put too many bagels in at once as they will expand slightly). Poach for about 90 seconds on each side, turning gently with a slotted spoon.
11. Remove the bagels from the water, allowing them to drain first and place on the prepared baking trays spacing them about 3-4cm apart.
12. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with your choice of topping. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn upside down for a further 10 minutes to cook the bases. Cool on a wire rack.
The recipe instructions were so easy to follow and I felt no need to refer to any other source for further explanation. The largest chunk of time went in poaching the bagels. I have to admit I was pretty bored by the time I was on my 3rd bagel. Rest of the steps take no time at all.
Toasted, these bagels were an instant hit with my daughter, my hubby and my friends. With cream cheese they were already addicted. I have only 3 left and I baked them last night. I know I will be baking these again for sure.
December is such a wonderful month for resolutions and nostalgia. I am always high on nostalgia and find myself fleeting several feet high up in my past, rarely wanting to get down. While resolutions and me don’t really go hand in hand, I did have a bunch of resolutions written down last year, more out of peer pressure than anything else. But nostalgia is my friend. That is because my past and present are as evident to me as night and day.
All the time before 2009 was the past and time after that would be my present. As for the future, it’s not really my bother because I have always been the take-it-as-it-comes kind of person. You must be wondering about, how I got to this clear division of my past and present? Well it is simple really. I got pregnant in Jan 2009 and since then I have been living in the moment; in the present. Any event, occasion before that time is my past. When I think about my past, I see a very different person because, I looked different, I did different things and lead a different life. The year 2008 was an important year for me in many ways. Not only because I fell pregnant the next year, but I did a lot of growing up in that year alone. Out of the 12 months, I had to be on my own for the half of it. That alone time, gave me lot of time for reading, watching movies, working out and reflecting. Now when I think about that time, I experience mixed emotions. Alone-ness sometimes turned to fierce loneliness and sometimes the sheer joy of being in my own company surprised me to no end.
In my opinion at a sub-conscious level my mind and body were preparing for a life altering event; arrival of Mimi. But ofcourse at a conscious level I wasn’t aware. I can say this now with some ounce of surety, because I lived a whole life in the year 2008 before embarking on this wondrous journey of being a mother.
The year started with prepping for the half marathon in November. A healthy diet and exercise became the norm and I completely enjoyed my running jigs.
Middle of year saw my hubby moving away to Seattle for next 5-6 months. To fill my time, I joined spinning classes apart from my regular gym and running jaunts.
I haunted all the book shops in the city and gathered an enviable collection. Weekends were devoted to reading through different books at the same and at a rate that surprised me. I can proudly claim that I may have read more books in that year than the rest of the life put together. It is during this time, that I read a life changing book , ‘ Eat Pray Love’. To me, during that phase, this book made so much sense that it has etched an indelible mark. I even bought extra copies for my girlfriends and my mum too. I also read the Harry Potter books several times and you can quiz me about anything in the books and I am sure, I won’t disappoint.
I also watched a whole lot of movies that I always wanted to watch but never had time to. I was able to watch brilliant movies like ‘Closer’, Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind’, ‘ My house in Umbria’, ‘ Talented Mr. Rippley”, “Under the Tuscan Sun’ and many more. Under the Tuscan Sun and My house in Umbria clearly remain as favorites even today. If you haven’t seen them yet, get your copy of the DVD and watch it. I also watched the entire Kill Bill series and I think, Uma Thurman is a Goddess. I worship her.
In between, when I felt the world was closing in on me, I took a breather and went visiting my parents in Kerala. I spent a whole lot of time with them discussing, chit chatting and mostly just being around them. I am so glad I took that time off.
I went around Delhi to explore places I hadn’t been before and stopped for coffee at the quaintest little coffee shops that served the most amazing coffee.
I also went partying on weekends and danced the nights away. I was always the quintessential party girl and dancing was my first love and my greatest stress buster.
For an office assignment, I found myself wandering the streets of Amsterdam ( The Netherlands). I spent my time admiring the mannequins on display in shops only to realize they were actual people displaying their ‘wares’. It was here I fell in love with the foulest smelling cheese and the heavy wooden clogs.
Just around Christmas, I traveled to Stockholm ( Sweden) to see Santa Claus and tell him my little wish. It is here, I started to believe again in the magic of Christmas and Santa Claus when I saw my wish come true.
Just before my wedding anniversary and the year-end, my husband returned. He bought my first Chanel perfume and we celebrated it with Champagne. That was my first taste of Champagne and I loved it.
We took a memorable trip to Goa with friends and that was my last real vacation.
2008 was a year that I experienced momentous joys and also fell into the deepest chasms of despair. During my trying moments I picked myself up by rewarding myself with little things that made me happy. It could be a new dress or a new music CD or sometimes a guilty dessert. I always felt chocolates loved me unconditionally. They always set my mood up and I felt positive even on the dreariest days.
It was during this year that I also coined the term, ” Earn your dessert”. According to this, only after doing my 7 km run every weekend, I would reward myself with a dessert and it had to be Tiramisu. I loved Tiramisu in puddings, in biscuit flavours, in cakes and in ice creams. Funnily, I may have never had an authentic Tiramisu, if there is any such thing. In the most up market Italian restaurants in Delhi, I was certain that they had a sponge cake or a pound cake dipped in coffee essence and not the lady fingers which made it more Italian. But what the heck, it tasted wonderful, this not-so-authentic Indian version of the Italian Tiramisu.
So 2008 was the year of the Tiramisu for me; bittersweet.
So to toast my Nostalgia that December, I made some kick -*** Tiramisu inspired from a lovely blog –Sunshine and Smile. Kankana’s blog has become my go-to blog for most of my experimentation in the kitchen and I must add, the success rate has been 100%. I tried this decadent tasting Tiramisu only to realize how ridiculously easy it is to make it. To stay true to my fond memories of Tiramisu, I decided to use pound cake strips dipped in espresso.
Recipe for Tiramisu
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp mascarpone cheese
24 lady fingers or strips of pound cake or sponge cake
2 tbsp cocoa powder plus extra for dusting
1 cup strong espresso, cooled down to room temperature
1/2 cup bitter-sweet chocolate shavings, for garnish
1. Beat the egg yolks and sugar in an electric mixer or whisker until they are thick and pale.
2. Add mascarpone cheese and continue beating until smooth.
3. Add 1 tbsp of coco powder and mix until its thoroughly combined.
4. Dip each ladyfingers/ pound cake strip/ sponge cake strips into espresso for about a second and place on the bottom of the serving bowl (I placed 3 in each).
5. Next, pour the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers.
6. Now, arrange another layer of soaked ladyfingers and top with remaining mascarpone mixture.
7. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (I keep it overnight).
8. While serving, sprinkle some more coco powder with chocolate shavings.