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Baking: Better Bagels

As you may recall, about a year ago, I started learning how to make bagels.  I searched high and low for a good bagel recipe and I have finally created one that is fantastic!  Practice makes perfect and I had a lot of practice.  In a single day this summer, I made 40 bagels!  After all that practice, I have created this recipe, adapted from a recipe from AllRecipes.  I made it much better!

Erin's Homemade New York Style Bagels

Erin’s Homemade New York Style Bagels

What You’ll Need (makes 7-9 bagels)

  • 1 1/4 cup warm water (I microwave for about 20-30 seconds)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups bread flour
  • 4 quarts water
  • OPTIONAL: 1/2 cup honey or barley malt syrup
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced onion, garlic powder, kosher salt

Let’s Get Started!

If you have a stand mixer, I highly recommend using it to knead the dough.

  1. Combine water, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and let sit until yeast begins to bubble (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add oil and 3 cups of bread flour and knead until the mixture becomes doughy.
  3. Add the remaining flour 1/2 a cup at a time until the dough loses its stickiness.  You should be able to poke the dough with your finger without the dough sticking to you and without it looking flaky.  If it is too sticky, add 1/2 a cup of dough at a time until it becomes firmer.  If it is too flaky, add a bit more oil.
  4. Move the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl.  Use just enough oil to coat the outside of the dough to keep it from sticking to the bowl; too much oil will make the dough too wet.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm enclosed area (like your microwave or stove, but do not turn your stove on while the bowl is in there).  Let dough rise for at least 1 hour.
  5. Punch down the dough, place it on a cutting board, and use a knife to divide the dough into 7-9 equal pieces (depending on the size bagels you want).  Roll each into a ball and then punch a hole in the middle with your thumb.  Let the bagels rest for 20-30 minutes, until they have risen to the size you want (if they are a little small, don’t worry – they will puff up when you boil them).
  6. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Beat 1 egg in a small bowl and put aside for egg wash.
  8. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot.  Add honey or barley malt syrup if you want a chewier texture.  I usually use honey.
  9. Boil the bagels 2-3 at a time (depending on the size of your pot) about 1 minute on each side.  Remove bagels from the pot with a slotted spoon and place them on the baking sheet.
  10. Once the bagels have cooled (about 2-3 minutes), brush the beaten egg over the tops of the bagels with a pastry brush and add your toppings.
  11. Bake in the oven until the bagels begin to brown, about 15-20 minutes.  In some cases, I bake them for 25 minutes.  Just keep an eye on them.
  12. I usually freeze them so they will last longer.  If you are going to freeze them, let them cool after you take them out of the oven and then slice them.  Put them in a plastic bag and freeze.  Toast them when you want to eat them.

ENJOY!

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Restaurant Review: Post Office Pies

Post Office Pies

209 41st St S, Avondale, Birmingham, AL 35222

Marc and I went here for dinner at 7:45 on a Saturday night and it was packed, which was absolutely fantastic.  We ordered and wound up having to sit at the bar, because no tables were available, which is a good sign for popularity, but annoying as a customer.  As a Chicagoan, I know a good pizza when I taste one and this place does not have it.  Birmingham is not known for its pizza, but there are decent pizza places here, so if you’re in the mood for pizza, go to Trattoria or Slice.  Post Office Pies’s too-soft crust and runny sauce makes for a disappointing, mushy pizza.  The atmosphere and beer (from Avondale Brewery next door) are the really redeeming qualities of this place.  Hopefully they can improve the pizza and make it worth returning.

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Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Between dietary restrictions, food allergies, and the upcoming Passover season, cooking for friends and family can be a challenge.  Luckily, Quinoa Stuffed Peppers are the answer to all your cooking quandaries!

Kosher? Check!  It’s even kosher for Passover!

Gluten-free?  Check!

Vegan/Parve?  Check!

Delicious?  Double Check!

StuffedPeppersQuinoa-1

What You’ll Need (serves 2 people)

  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 2 peppers, tops removed and seeded.  I used red peppers, but you can use any color.
  • 1.5 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2/3 cups water
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 tomato, diced
  • 1/3 cup spinach
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • OPTIONAL: 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese (note: the recipe won’t be vegan anymore and, while I don’t usually turn down the option to add cheese, this recipe really doesn’t need it)

Let’s Get Started!

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add quinoa.  Stir quinoa in olive oil for 2-3 minutes to toast it.  Add water and bring to boil.  Reduce to simmer, cover pot, let cook for 10-15 minutes until water has been absorbed.
  3. Place peppers cut-side down on baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes or until skin starts to brown
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat.  Cook onions and herbs & spices for 2-3 minutes.  Stir in tomato, cucumber, and spinach and cook for another 5 minutes.  Stir in quinoa until heated through.
  5. Spoon quinoa and vegetables into peppers
  6. OPTIONAL: Top with cheese
  7. Return peppers to oven for 5 minutes

You don’t need to save the pepper tops, but if you do, you can serve it with the tops as a garnish.

Yum!

Yum!

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Shabbat Shalom

There is nothing better than the smell of fresh baked challah on Shabbat.

image

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Restaurant Review: Gianmarco’s

Gianmarco’s Restaurant

721 Broadway St, Homewood, AL 35209

As soon as I walked in, I knew this place would be great.  It smelled fantastic.  The food was delicious and our waiter was attentive and knowledgeable.  They have a fantastic wine selection.  I highly recommend the tomato and fresh mozzarella appetizer.  The eggplant parmesan and cheese ravioli were great vegetarian options.  If you can’t decide on a side, go with the mac and cheese.

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Tofu Chicken Nuggets

TofuChickenNuggets2

 

There are plenty of reasons to make your own tofu chicken nuggets:

  • You have recently become vegetarian/vegan
  • You keep kosher and don’t have easy access to kosher chicken OR you don’t want to wait six hours to eat dairy
  • You don’t know what else to do with the tofu in your refrigerator

It’s very easy, but does require some forethought.  Tofu is spongy and tastes like nothing if you don’t marinate it, so you have to plan ahead for any tofu recipe you try, but otherwise, it is very easy.

What You’ll Need (makes enough nuggets for 2-3 people)

  • 1 package extra firm tofu
  • 2 cups vegetarian/parve chicken broth
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon safflower or vegetable oil

Let’s Get Started!

  1. Open tofu, drain water, and press tofu until most of the moisture is gone from the block.  This will allow the tofu to absorb your marinade.
  2. Cut tofu into nugget-size squares
  3. Put 2 cups of vegetarian/parve chicken broth in a bowl (Whole Foods carries vegetarian no-chicken broth OR you can make your own using parve chicken-style consomme)
  4. Dump your tofu squares in the broth, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and put in the refrigerator for 6 hours (you can marinate it for less time, but try to leave it for at least 2 hours)
  5. Drain broth
  6. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat
  7. Put corn starch in a small bowl
  8. Coat tofu squares in corn starch and fry on both sides until browned
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Homemade Banana Pudding

BananaPudding2

 

So you bought too many bananas and a few of them have gotten kind of mushy before you had a chance to eat them?  Use them for banana pudding!

What You’ll Need (makes 2 puddings in 4.5 inch ramekins)

  • 30 vanilla wafers
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar

Let’s Get Started!

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Line the bottom of your ramekins with 5 crushed wafers per ramekin
  3. Cut one banana into 1/4 inch slices.  Layer the banana slices on top of the wafer crumbs in the ramekins.
  4. Line the sides of the ramekins with 8 wafers per ramekin
  5. Drizzle agave or honey over bananas in the ramekins
  6. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, flour, and 1/4 cup milk
  7. Whisk egg yolk into sugar mixture
  8. Add remaining milk and butter
  9. Slice second banana and add to saucepan
  10. Cook sugar-banana mixture over medium heat, stirring regularly about 15 minutes or until mixture thickens
  11. While still hot, pour 1/4 of pudding into each ramekin, leaving half of the pudding in the saucepan
  12. Sprinkle 1 crushed vanilla wafer per ramekin on top of the pudding
  13. Pour remaining 1/4′s of the pudding into the ramekins
  14. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar over each ramekin
  15. Sprinkle 1 crushed vanilla wafer per ramekin on top of the pudding
  16. Bake for 15 minutes and chill before serving
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