Tag Archives: Jewish

Bagels

DSCF1023According to Wikipedia, the first written reference to bagels dates to 1610 in Kraków, Poland. Jewish immigrants brought bagels to the new world where slightly different versions became established in New York and Montréal. Today they are as American as apple pie but have suffered somewhat in the assimilation. As one gets more remote from the traditional Jewish communities on the East Coast they tend to lose their essential character. By the time you get to California what is passed off as a bagel is little more than a soft, puffy roll with a hole in it.

Funny story: some years ago, I was on a consulting assignment in Blacksburg, Virginia. When I mentioned that I had eaten a bagel for breakfast I was met with confused looks. As it happens, in the Appalachian mountain accent of the area a bay-gel is a dog you hunt with; the round bread with a hole in it is a bī-gel with a long “i.”

This recipe is for New York-style bagels using a hybrid of the traditional old-world sourdough sponge and the modern one using commercial yeast. If your sourdough starter is fairly lively and you have the time to let the sponge develop for 12 to 18 hours, you can leave out the yeast. If you don’t have a sourdough starter you can use 500 grams each of water and flour but increase the yeast to 3 grams (¾ teaspoon). Traditionally the dough is sweetened with malt syrup which usually available in the health food section of any large supermarket. At the risk of being charged with blasphemy you can use molasses. No one who is not from the Bronx will likely know the difference.

A note on units and measures: To get consistent results when making any bread you simply must use gravimetric units, i.e. weight. The amount of flour in a cup can vary by more than 10% depending on how you scoop it or whether the container has been shaken. Today, digital kitchen scales are inexpensive and every serious cook should have one. I prefer to use metric units because the math is easier—try dividing by 16 in your head. You really do not have to be familiar with the metric system to follow the recipe. Just set the scale to metric and read off the numbers..   

Yield: 12 to 15 bagels depending on how large you make them

The sponge

The first step to making bagels is to make a sponge which is basically the same as a French poolish or an Italian biga. In the days before commercial yeast was available, these pre-fermentations were used to produce enough yeast to leaven the bread. At the end of this step, a portion of the sponge would be set aside to start the next batch.

Ingredients:

200 grams 100% hydration sourdough starter

400 grams water

400 grams bread flour

2 grams (½ teaspoon) instant dry yeast

Method:

Place all the ingredients into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment or a spoon mix to combine but not enough to develop the gluten in the flour. Place a lightly-oiled piece of plastic wrap directly on the sponge and cover the bowl with a towel. Set aside at cool room temperature for at least 4 hours or, preferably, overnight.

The Bagel Dough

Ingredients:

18 grams kosher salt

36 molasses (about 2 Tablespoons)

446 grams flour/16 ounces/ 3 cups

Method:

Add salt, molasses, and flour to the sponge in that order. Attach dough hook to your mixer and knead at the recommended speed for 8 to 10 minutes.  The dough is quite stiff, so keep an eye on the mixer lest it walk across the counter and fall to the floor.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cover with a cloth. Rest for about 10 minutes.

At this point I like to weigh the dough then either divide by 12 to get the weight of an individual bagel or divide by the weight I want each bagel to be, adjusting to get an integral for each. Typically, this recipe will yield a dozen large, 125 gram bagels, or 15 smaller, 100 gram ones.

Divide the dough into however many bagels you are making. I portion them on my scale so they are all the same. Form each piece into a ball and set on the counter, covered by a cloth, to rest for another 10 minutes or so.

Making the Bagels

Ingredients:

Water as needed

Baking soda, see method

Toppings, e.g. sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried minced onions, sea salt, etc.

Method:

Prepare sheet pans by lining them with parchment paper. I find that a half-sheet pan can accommodate about six bagels, eight if you crowd them a bit.

Preheat the oven to 450°F (425°F for convection).

Take a ball of dough and flatten it into a disc about two inches in diameter. Make a hole in the disc with your thumb then spin the bagel a couple of time around your index and middle fingers to enlarge the hole. Set of the counter. Repeat with each ball. Cover the bagels with a cloth and allow to rise for 10 to 15 minutes.

Flip each bagel over and allow to rise for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Measure water into wide pan to a depth of at least three inches. Add 4 grams (½ Tablespoon) baking soda for every 2 liters (½ gallon) of water. Bring to a boil then turn down to a slow simmer.

Put the toppings onto a plate and set next to the stove where the water is boiling.

Drop the bagels3 or 4 at a time into the simmering water making sure they are not overcrowded. After about a minute, flip them over with a large wooden spoon and let them boil on the other side.

Remove one bagel with a skimmer or slotted spoon and place onto the toppings. Using your fingers, quickly move each one around to coat and put, coated side up, onto the sheet pan. Repeat with the rest of the batch. Repeat until all the bagels are done.

Bake in the preheated oven for 12 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. I like to swap the pans from one rack to the other about halfway through to make sure they bake evenly.

Cool then store in a paper bag for a couple days or freeze for later use.

Kasha with Root Vegetables

Buckwheat is an ancient crop that has been a staple food for centuries, especially in cold regions with short growing seasons. The word kasha comes from Persian for porridge although in the United States it commonly refers specifically to buckwheat groats after the Polish and Yiddish usages. Interestingly, it is not a true cereal grain actually an herb related to rhubarb. Nonetheless it is usually prepared in the same way as grain like rice, wheat, or millet. In this recipe, I prepare the kasha with root vegetables and onions as a colorful, tasty side dish. I used carrots and beets, but turnips, parsnips, or rutabagas would also work. Mushrooms would also be a nice addition. Chose the stock to complement whatever you are serving the pilaf with—I used shrimp stock to go with salmon cakes. When in doubt, chicken stock will always do as will plain water in a pinch. Because kasha cooks rather quickly, the roots have to be tender before adding since they will not have time to soften in the pot.  

Makes two to four servings

Ingredients

 

Kasha

100 grams

½ cup

Egg white

1

1

Oil or butter

As needed

As needed

Onion

100 grams

One small

Carrot

100 grams

One medium

Beet

100 grams

One medium

Stock

250 milliliters

1 cup

Salt and pepper

To taste

To taste

Method

Rinse the kasha and drain well. Put it into a bowl and stir in the egg white making sure that the grains are well-coated. Set aside.

Cut the vegetables into small dice, about 6mm (1/4 inch). Heat about 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon) butter or oil in a non-stick frying pan and sauté each of them in turn over medium heat starting with the onion and ending with the beet. As each is done, set it aside.

Bring the stock to a simmer.  

If needed add a bit of butter or oil to the pan and fry the kasha over medium heat until the grains are dry and separate. Stir in the stock then the vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover tightly and set over low heat until all of the stock is absorbed, around ten minutes.

Fluff with a fork and serve hot.

Latkes

Last night was the first night of Chanukah so I made latkes in honor of my Jewish friends and family members. My friend Marti was kind enough to send me a link to her favorite recipe at the Web site of Chabad Lubavitch of Downtown Baltimore from which I adapted my version. Yes, I know, garlic is not traditional in latkes but 1) I like garlic and 2) not being Jewish myself I do not have the little voice of a Bubbie in my head telling me I can’t use it (I have other little voices but that is a different conversation). A word of warning: do not make more than you want to eat because you will be able to stop eating them until they are gone!

Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 gloves garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 large, 3 medium, or 4 small russet potatoes, about 1½ pounds, peeled
  • 2 eggs
  •  ¼ cup flour (I used white rice flour to make the latkes gluten-free)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  •  ½ tsp. pepper
  •  Oil for frying

Method

Note: you can either chop the onion with the chopper blade in the food processor or grate it with the potatoes. In the latter case you may have to remove some large ungrated pieces.

Put a cooling rack onto a baking sheet and place in the oven. Preheat to 200°.

Peel the garlic and chop in a food processor. Remove the chopping blade and install a grating disc. Grate potatoes and onion. Place in a colander and squeeze out as much water as possible then lay on a clean kitchen towel and twist to remove as much more of the liquid as you can.

In a large bowl lightly beat the eggs. Add the potato mixture, sprinkle with flour, salt, and pepper, and mix well.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add ¼ inch of oil. Place a large tablespoonful of batter into the oil for each latke, pressing with a spatula into a 3-inch disc (I found that I could do 3 at a time comfortably in a 10-inch skillet). Cook until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to cooling rack in the oven and continue with the next batch.

Serve with applesauce on the side.