Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fanagle a bagel...or five

There is a bagel place in my home town that is as famous for its delicious bagels as its surly saleswomen. The store looks like a hole in the wall, but like most holes in most walls, it has the best bagels in New Jersey. This place is so set in its ways that it refuses to toast its bagels because they don't want to ruin the perfected texture. They swear by the boil, then bake method that leaves the inside of the bagel moist and the outside crisp and golden brown. When I found this boil-n-bake recipe on 17 and baking I had to test it out.

2 tsp dry yeast
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour, plus extra for kneading
1 1/2 tsp salt

Mix yeast and sugar into 1/2 cup of water, leave for 5 minutes then stir to dissolve. In a separate bowl mix flour and salt together, then pour in dissolved yeast mixture.

Pour half of the water into flour mix than stir in remaining water as needed. Put dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth. Gradually work in some extra flour until it forms a stiff dough. Put dough ball in an oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it. Cover with a towel and let rise for an hour, until it about doubles in size. Punch down and then let rise for another 10 minutes (i don't know how necessary this step is, but its a great stress reliever).

Divide dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, pressing out air bubbles as you shape it. Take one flour coated finger and push it through each ball to form a ring. Slowly stretch the hole(I didn't make the hole large enough and some of the bagels expanded to become rolls while baking). Put bagels on oiled baking sheet and cover with damp paper towels, let sit for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 425.

Bring a large pan of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Carefully put bagels in the water, boil for a minute or so until they rise, turn over and boil for another minute.

Remove and put on baking sheet. Bake bagels for 20 minutes or until they reach desired crispness. Eat instantly, although you may burn your mouth, this is the best way to enjoy homemade bagels.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Queso Fresco

I love cheese. Eaten alone or melted on top of things, cheese makes everything taste better. Two summers ago I worked at La Porta dei Parchi, a agro-tourism farm in Abruzzo, Italy where I learned how to make artisanal sheep cheese and I haven't been the same since. Namely because my clothes still smell like smoked mozzarella, but also because I have become obsessed with fresh, handmade cheeses.

For Christmas this year I got a DIY cheese making kit from Urban Cheesecraft and now I can make ricotta and mozzarella in my tiny kitchen. The kit comes with cheese salt, a candy thermometer, cheese cloth, citric acid and vegetarian rennet tablets. Making ricotta with this kit is really easy, all you have to do is mix a gallon of whole milk with citric acid and cheese salt and then heat the mixture up to 185-195 degrees. Make sure to stir constantly, or else the curds will be scorched by the bottom of the pan. After the desired temperature is reached, and the curds have separated from the whey, let it sit for ten minutes and then strain through the cheese cloth.

Last night I made this ricotta to go on top of a ragu know, just to give it a light finish.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things

My mom and I went to Chinatown the other day and found this Hibiscus flower tea in an apothecary shop on Grand St. It's beautiful, delicious and not that expensive...I'm also convinced that it has magical Eastern healing properties.