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B is for… Bagels

Alphabetti Kitchen challenge number two is for one of my all time favourite foods… the bagel. Now I, like many of us, usually turn to the nearest bakery aisle in the supermarket to get my bagel fix but the last time I was home my mum made her very own bagels and I was so impressed that I knew I would have to try to make my own one day.

So what better excuse than for Alphabetti Kitchen! I called up mum, got her to send over her ‘secret bagel recipe’ (it’s from one of her cookbooks at home but currently I don’t know which one so can’t recommend it to you!) and set out to make surprise Saturday morning bagels for my unsuspecting guinea pig Sam who was up visiting me in Edinburgh for the weekend… luckily I’ve found myself a wonderful man who is just as obsessed with bagels as I am so I knew I’d gain extra domestic goddess points this week!

Not many ingredients needed for this one, and the great thing is that once you’ve got them you will have enough to make lots of batches of bagels if you so desire yay! (Or you can be brave and branch out into other bread-based baking bonanzas):

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According to the ‘secret recipe’, you’ll need:

2 tsp (teaspoon) dried yeast

1 1/2 tbsp (tablespoon) granulated sugar

300 ml water (100ml for yeast mixture, 200ml for dough mixture)

500 g strong white flour (plus extra for kneading)

1 1/2 tsp salt

Now looking at the recipe and reading it properly I have a sneaky suspicion that actually I only used 1 1/2 TSP of sugar, not TBSP… and I thought I’d done so well this week! Ah well, it now explains why the yeast wasn’t quite as active as it should have been…

Now the recipe this week is actually surprisingly simple, just time consuming. Which I didn’t realise through my skim of the recipe. Which is why surprise breakfast bagels became lunch time ‘are they ready yet’ bagels (but still very much appreciated by the guinea pig I’m sure)

I found this blog, Sophisticated Gourmet, which has a recipe closest to the one I followed (and has lots of other great baking treats too for those that are interested)

Here’s the close approximation to the recipe I followed:

New York style bagels yum!

I was going to proudly say at this point how most of this week’s challenge went without a glitch, but as the photographic evidence below shows, I definitely did only use 1 1/2 tsp not tbsp of sugar. As far as I can tell it didn’t actually have much of an effect on the end result, I think it just meant I didn’t feed my yeast enough to get it really going (sorry yeast)

So other than me completely misreading the ingredients list, the first steps to making the dough were very easy. To speed up the yeast even more some recipes recommend using 100ml of warm water, but I found leaving the yeast and sugar to sit in room temperature water for 5 minutes worked just fine. After 5 minutes just give the mixture a stir to dissolve and voilà your mix is ready to go into the well you’ve made in your dry ingredients.

Now I don’t know about you, but I am often left baffled by what recipes mean by some of their descriptions, particularly when it comes to cakes or breads. My recipe instructed me to keep adding water until I had formed a ‘firm, moist dough’. I was not convinced at the end of my allocated water allowance that I had achieved that, so added some more contraband water until I got this:

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How firm, I hear you cry, how moist (well, actually looking at this is still looks a bit dry, but it did feel moist honest!)

The recipe then helpfully tells you to knead this until ‘smooth and elastic’. So here goes:

(Had to upload the video to YouTube as I can’t just embed my own video here, but it is me!)

Now of course any sane person would knead the dough with two hands, but my guinea pig was still asleep, so I had to try and film AND knead at the same time (after which I then returned to sanity and kneaded the dough for 10 minutes with BOTH hands)

After achieving a ‘smooth elastic dough’ aka looking at it and going ‘well that looks kind of smooth, and isn’t crumbly so I guess it’s ready’, it was time to let the yeast do its stuff and get to work on making my dough rise (this is where the process would be quicker if you used the right quantities of ingredients… took well over an hour to rise)

Abracadabra!

You then get to punch your dough to get your frustrations, uhhh, the air out and leave the dough for another 10 minutes to recover.

Now for the most fun and bizarre parts of making bagels…

Firstly you get your dough into 8 balls. Then you shove a floured finger through the middle of each dough ball and swirl the ball around your finger, shaping it into a bagel shape

Once you have your bagel shapes you leave them alone (AGAIN) for another 10 minutes of rest under a damp tea towel.

Then you boil, yes BOIL, them for a minute or so (I guess this helps get that wonderful bagel texture we all know and love, but it still felt weird boiling dough) Just to be straight, the bagels go in simmering water, not technically boiling water, I would imagine dough in properly boiling water would not be pretty! After which bung them in the oven for 15-20 minutes until deliciously golden brown.

I found adding a tray with some hot water in to create steam also helped to get that bagel texture, although I don’t think this is necessary if you can’t be bothered.

And then gloriously, finally, over 2 hours later (and much later than breakfast time), the bagels were complete:

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All that was left to do was to fill them, watch the guinea pig’s eyes fill with gratitude that I was finally going to feed him, and sit down to enjoy my first ever home-made bagels. Definitely a hit, and definitely a new recipe for my domestic goddess arsenal!

Next week, C is for…

 

 

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A is for… Apple Roses

So, in the immortal words of the Sound of Music, let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to start!

My first alphabetical cooking challenge is one that I have been wanting to try since I first saw the idea on Tip Hero (if you haven’t ever checked out Tip Hero it’s brilliant, you can follow the group on Facebook and voilà, your news feed is full of weird and wonderful tips, hints, and tricks to try at home)

Now Tip Hero made Apple Roses seem simple but effective… and in many respects they are. Not many ingredients, not many instructions, not many problems right? Uhhh sort of… anyway I’m getting ahead of myself.

Firstly the ingredients:

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(NB… other supermarkets and brands and what not are available ahem)

4 apples (leave skins on)

Lemon juice (half a lemon/ 1 small lemon would do)

3 tbsp fruit preserve (aka favourite jam)

2 tbsp water to mix with jam (plus more to soak apples in)

1 sheet of puff pastry (pre-rolled just makes life simpler)

Cinnamon (if you want it)

Icing sugar to hide the burnt bits… I mean uhh give a nice decorative dusting to your roses

I actually found that 3 apples were more than enough for the size of my pastry etc, and that 3 tbsp of jam seemed a bit excessive (although it was only at the end that I realised that I probably was meant to use ALL the jam mixture on the pastry and not be a stingy so-and-so as the jam would definitely help with sweetness!) but otherwise not much tweaking required.

Once you have your ingredients in place, the fun really begins. The video below is a great simple demonstration of what you SHOULD do…

Here is also the link to Tip Hero’s very clear instructions as to how to make the roses if you’re interested in trying it out for yourself:

Tip Hero’s Apple Roses (the real deal!)

Of course things are never quite as simple…

After starting to pre-heat the oven to 190C, the first step is to core and half the apples ready to be sliced thinly (as demonstrated in the video). Tip number one GET AN APPLE CORER. I failed miserably at coring the apple just with a knife… which is how I learnt that 3 apples were more than enough (which is lucky as I destroyed the other one…)

Step two was a little easier… place apples in microwavable bowl. Check. Squeeze lemon juice over apple slices. Check. Fill bowl with water until all apple slices are submerged. Check. Microwave on full power for three minutes… ummm it wasn’t my microwave and for some reason it decided to try and defrost the apples rather than work on full power so my ‘soften the apples’ technique was not as successful as it should have been! So tip number two MAKE SURE MICROWAVE IS ON CORRECT SETTING. I didn’t realise until I was trying to fold up my first rose…

Steps three and four went without a hitch, unroll pre-rolled puff pastry, cut it into 6 strips and voilà, pastry prepped for apple rose construction. Mixing the jam and water and spreading it on the pastry was also easy, lulling me into a false sense of domestic goddess security. Even layering the apples, sprinkling on some cinnamon and folding the pastry over on to the apples posed little challenge.

Now remember how I had said that the microwave was not on the correct setting and so the apples had not softened as they should have? Well it all became abundantly clear to me as to why softening the apples is such a key step when I came to the next stage…

Here is what a rolled up rose should look like:apple10A

Beautiful right?

Here’s my first attempt (with un-softened apples)…

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Nailed it! Ahem. So, uhh, yeah, if your apples aren’t soft enough they break all the pastry and create what can only be described as an apple cactus…

After re-microwaving the apples, the next roses were slightly more successful at which point I bunged them in the oven for 30-40 minutes and vowed to keep an eye on them. I then promptly forgot what time I’d put them in, remembered half way through cooking that I hadn’t greased the tin so there was every chance that they wouldn’t come out of the tin even if I had baked them properly, and felt the domestic goddess security ebb away. Luckily my gorgeous guinea pig of the week (my lucky boyfriend Sam who is probably going to be ‘treated’ to the fruits of my challenge most weekends) was on hand to save the day, remembering what time I had put them in, giving me a reassuring pat on the back, and making appropriate “mmm they smell nice” comments every time I opened the oven to check on the beasts.

In the end, the roses only caught ever so slightly (although the pastry could have done with a bit more time, probably not helped by the fact that I kept opening and closing the oven door every 30 seconds) But at least they all made it out of the tin in one piece, so for a first attempt they turned out better than I had expected…

A bit of icing sugar sprinkling later, they looked (almost) good enough to eat. My guinea pig and I settled down with an apple rose each and a nice cup of tea to enjoy the last part of our afternoon together before I flew back to Edinburgh.

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All in all, not a bad start to Alphabetti Kitchen’s culinary escapades!

Next week, B is for… bagels! (I hope)

Oh by the way, feel free to comment below of any suggestions you may have for letters in future weeks. Some letters have already been snapped up with requests/ideas, but I’m always open to suggestions (as long as it won’t cost the earth to get the ingredients, I am a student after all!)

Happy Monday to all!

Greetings and Welcome!

Hi all, welcome to Alphabetti Kitchen!

This year I’ve undertaken an MSc in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), a great opportunity to learn more about the profession I love and to make new friends along the way! One course in particular this semester has got me returning to the blogging world, of which I was an avid member for a whole three and half days way back in 2010 when I first headed out to South Korea (then I got so busy exploring and meeting people that I forgot to ever update it!)

As I’m sure you’re all aware, gaining a Masters is tough and it’s hard to find time to relax, unwind and do the things you love. I love many things, but one of my favourite pastimes is to try out new recipes (or just revisit old favourites) in the kitchen. My Online Language Learning course has given me the perfect excuse to get my bum in gear and start trying out all those recipes that have been building up over the years (if I’m writing a blog I may as well make it about something I love doing!)

So here we are, a new year, a new challenge. Over the next 26 weeks I will be working my way through the alphabet on a culinary road of adventure, attempting to tantalise the taste-buds of my guinea pigs… uhh loved ones… with a different recipe each week.

Who knows if all recipes will be a success, but one thing’s for sure, it’ll be a fun ride!

First up… A is for…