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Yay Bagels!
I am quite a fan of bagels and was really excited to try them with the BBAC. I have never made them before so I pretty much went in blind. Now it should be noted…my dad is not the biggest fan of bagels.

Peter Reinhart does a great intro to these bagels as he describes his love for the perfect New York Bagel. Unfortunately for me, I suppose, I have not had the good luck to have a bagel in New York. So I think that I did not have too high a standard. This turned out to be a good thing.

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I usually find bagels too dense and hard for me. I am not a fan of the double calories found in bagels either. Now I don’t count calories, but I do acknowledge they exist, we have a love hate relationship, calories and me. So I was interested to see how these bagels would turn out for me.

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I decided to make them as a precursor to my mom’s birthday (it was on Victoria day, do you have Victoria Day in the US?). I made them for Sunday, the day before. I again rediscovered my love for kneading and making bread. It is just so satisfying and obviously a ridiculously good work out! The process went pretty smoothly. My only error was that I overproofed the dough before putting it into the fridge to retard overnight. There is a float test involved, and instead of coming to the surface in 10 seconds, mine floated right away. I knew that there was something not totally right as they looked a bit tooo puffy. I had a feeling they would flatten out. Oh Well!

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The next morning I got ready to boil and bake. I topped my bagels with poppy seeds. During the boiling it again became evident that they had overproofed when they floated immediately once more. They definitely didn’t puff up and look like commercial bagels. However, at this point I had not seen the more successful results of other BBA’ers and I was perfectly satisfied with what I saw.

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The final product was definitely a bit flatter than a regular bagel and had more air bubbles, much less dense than usual. Yet, this turned out perfect for us! We don’t really like super dense bagels anyways and these were soft and perfect. All’s Well that End’s Well!

Happy Baking!
-Natasha

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So I am very excited to take part in the BBA Challenge hosted by Pinch My Salt. The idea is that we are going to bake every bread from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice. One bread a week. I’m so excited! It’s going to be rough sometimes as I am still in school but I hope I can keep up. The deadline is May 10th (tomorrow) to join so hop on over to Pinch My Salt to sign up. There’s over 100 bakers already of all different experience levels. What’s great about it is how helpful everyone is… I love being in a community like that because you always have that support.

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The first bread on the list is Anadama, a traditional New England bread. Though apparently it’s not complicated, I have never done a sponge before so it was very new for me (I’m always so paranoid about these things, I stayed close to it all times and willed it to bubble I swear!). But everything ended up working out great. The bread is interesting because it has a cornmeal base with molasses as a sweetener so it produced a very unique taste.

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It basically consisted of soaking the cornmeal overnight, making a sponge, making the dough and letting it rise, then shaping it, putting it into pans and letting it rise again. What came out was pretty much an amazing sandwich bread. It had a thin but crunch crust thanks to the cornmeal and the inside was so soft and fluffy. Since I don’t bake bread a lot (at all!) I was fascinated by how delicate and soft the risen dough was.

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My family loved the bread, it made two loaves so we gave one to my aunt. The bread was slightly sweet due to the molasses and was excellent toasted with butter. Everyone said it was so different from what they had before (white bread, whole wheat bread, grandma’s amaazing whole wheat bread!). I would love to make it again if I didn’t have a year of different breads ahead. After though!

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Next is Artos, Greek Celebration Bread.

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So last weekend was my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary! So my gift was pretty much to cook the whole family dinner. This is the second time I’ve done this and I was really excited to try out a few new things. It ended up that I used a few recipes and also made up a few things on my own based on what I had in my house. Considering that one year ago I claimed that I could not make up a single recipe because I lacked the creativity, I have been making a lot of my own things recently. There are still things that I need to learn the basics of like breads, risotto, pastry, cakes, etc. These I can’t do without a recipe. But sauces, dressings, salads, meat, muffins, etc. I can do myself. It’s huge for me!

The first thing I made Pitas from Tante Marie’s Cooking School Cookbook (again). Great recipe in which I finally realized how to use yeast. Something apparently simple that I have managed to mess up several times. Now the recipe calls these tortillas, but my pan wasn’t as big as the one in the recipe, I think. The fun thing was that as I’m cooking (one pita at time) the dough kept rising. I had a roll of dough under a towel that persistently grew. It was pretty funny, since my last attempt barely rose at all. cooking-015

Everyone adored the pitas and there were only about 5 triangles left for the next day. Usually after my family dinners we have lots of leftovers (we have lots of food to start with) but this time everything I made got eaten completely! We are Russian and at our dinners we start with lots of little starters, caviar, salads, pickled things, etc. Then there is the main course and dessert. So lots of food to prepare and to eat.

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So here is the recipe…this one is all white flour but I think that next time I will make it half whole wheat to make it a little more nutritious. Watch that the pan is not too hot and take it off the burner between pitas unless you are using cast iron (something my dad taught me when I was making them).

Flour Pitas

(adapted from Tante Marie’s Cooking School Cookbook)

1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast

large pinch of sugar

3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled

coarse salt

  1. Stir the yeast into a cup of water (110-120 deg.) with the sugar. Let it proof until it is bubbly.
  2. Mix together the flour and 1/8 tsp of salt. Make a well in the center and pour in, two cups of warm water, with the butter, and add the yeast mixture. Mix the ingredients together with a spoon
  3. Mix with the dough hook until it is soft, smooth, and slightly sticky (about 10 minutes). Put it into a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with a towel and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour (mine took slightly less)
  4. Punch down the dough, bring it into a ball on the counter and roll it into a log shape about 3 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 1 1/2 inch lengthss and cover the dough you are not using. Sprinkling with flour as needed, shapethe dough into a round and roll as thin as possible.
  5. Heat a nonstick pan without oil to medium-high heat (closer to medium). Place a round ofthe dough and cook until light brown on the bottom. Flip. Cook each pita about 15-20 seconds on each side  until it is cooked through with  brown spots. press it down with a clean towel if it puffs up.
  6. Cut into rough triangles and serve!

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