Being in graduate school affords me the opportunity to discuss great works of literature and to dissect my own attempts at creative work. But I often get lost in the process.
I walk around our neighborhood with my head in a book, channeling Belle from Beauty and the Beast, dodging the large Texas vehicles that drive way too fast down residential streets.
I forget that I'm living with another person in my house, and I ignore Ryan's attempts at affection. Reading and writing are wonderful, but they can be all-consuming.
And yet I have this to balance me out: I bake.
I break out the bags of flour and sugar, I decorate my counter with jars of cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder. Eggs are cracked, counters are floured, and my arms grow sore from kneading dough after dough.
But then after a few hours, I end up with bagels, or brownies, or a box of cookies that I can hand out to friends. I connect with my partner as we try new recipes, as we sample batter and as we sit together to enjoy our day's work.
Sore arms aside, these mornings and afternoons are life-giving. They remind me of the joy of physical exertion, and they transport me from the world of theoretical thinking into the simplicity of practicality: we eat and therefore we live.
Bagels are far easier to make at home than one might imagine. Not only do they taste better than what you can buy at the store, but the possibility of variation is dizzying. Ryan came up with the onion and rosemary combination, which turned out to be a real success--delightfully fragrant and flavorful.
But to make matters even better, Ryan made a delicious vegetarian sandwich after we pulled our bagels from the oven. The creation looked beautiful enough to sell, and so of course, I grabbed my camera.
This recipe doesn't require fancy equipment or special ingredients. If you have flour, yeast, salt and sugar...you are in the bagel-making business. I would love to hear your favorite bagel variety...perhaps it will give me inspiration for next weekend's creation.
And as to the books, I am hazardously reading while walking through Austin's streets?
Dear Rafe for my Chicano Literature Class
Plainsong for pleasure
Thanks to everyone who has offered such encouragement during Project Food Buzz. I am truly thankful for your votes. Voting for my second entry ends on Friday...and I hope that through your support I can make it to the third round!
*Adapted from King Arthur Flour1 tablespoon instant yeast
2.5 cups Unbleached Bread Flour
1.5 cups Whole Wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder, brown sugar or barley malt syrup
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) water, lukewarm
2 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 cup finely diced white onion
2 quarts (64 ounces) water
2 tablespoons non-diastatic malt powder, brown sugar or barley malt syrup
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1. Combine all of the dough ingredients in a large bowl attached to your stand mixer and knead for 10 minutes. Alternately, knead your dough for 10-15 minutes by hand. The dough will be quite stiff and will hold its shape when you stop your mixer. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and allow to rise till noticeably puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
2. Transfer your dough to a work surface and divide into eight equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth, round ball. Cover the balls with plastic wrap and allow them to rest for 30 minutes.
3. While the dough is resting, prepare the water bath by heating the water, malt and sugar to a gentle boil in a large, wide-diameter pan. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
4. Use your finger to poke a hole through the center of each ball, then twirl the dough on your finger to stretch the hole to about 2 inches in diameter (the entire bagel will be about 4 inches across). Place each bagel on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
5. Transfer the bagels, four at a time, to the simmering water. Cook the bagels for 2 minutes, flip them over, and then cook 1 minute more. Using a skimmer or strainer, remove the bagels from the water and place them on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bagels. Sprinkle poppy seeds on top, if so desired.
6. Bake the bagels for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown, turning them over about 15 minutes into the baking time. Remove the bagels from the oven, and cool completely on a wire rack. Yield: 8 bagels.
Anecdotes and Apple Cores