pretzel bites.

pretzel bites.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

sunday morning bagels.

over the weekend jake and his girlfriend gaby, joey and his fiancee hannah, and josh and i went home for the wedding of a family friend. it was the first time we'd all been together, with my parents, under one roof, and it was sensational. and loud. there was a lot of talking and a lot of laughing and a lot of eating. (oh, and there were dogs, too. my parents' 85 pound lab emmy and jake and gaby's 5 pound something or other mia. cute doesn't begin to describe their friendship.) i know how blessed i am to genuinely like my family. to actually want to spend time with them. to consider them my closest friends. even when they annoy me.

sunday morning i woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep. as i learned on saturday, jake and gaby and joey and hannah are exceptionally good at sleeping late. josh had a couple hours of work ahead of him. my mom probably wouldn't stir for another hour or so. i tiptoed downstairs and found my dad reading the paper and emmy stretched out on the couch. it's funny that a space so filled with life and noise and movement at night can transform into a silent baker's heaven by morning. the dishes had been put away. the counters had been cleared. the timing was perfect. there was nothing for me to do but make bagels.
i made bagels once before on a lazy weekend afternoon when josh was out. i loved everything about the process, from the kneading and the rising to the shaping and the boiling. they came out beautifully and they were delicious. josh and joey agreed, and we're a tough audience for bagels because we have some of the best ones in the world a few blocks in any direction. i couldn't remember what recipe i used the first time, so i chose this one because it looked simple and quick enough. also it would produce eight bagels. and there were eight of us (not counting the dogs).
fist bagel experiment.
ingredients for the bagels:
kneaded dough
1 packet dry active yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/3 cups warm water
3 1/2-4 cups flour (i used all purpose)
1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1 tsp baking soda

ingredients for "everything":

poppy seeds
sesame seeds
dried onion flakes
dried garlic flakes
sea salt

to make the bagels:
1. combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. slowly add the water and either start mixing either with a fork or the lowest setting on a stand mixer. when it comes together, start kneading with your hands or pick up the speed of the stand mixer for about ten minutes. i know, it's exhausting. but it'll be worth it. when it's smooth and not sticky, spray a large bowl with non-stick spray or spread some oil around it and put the dough in it, then cover it with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let it rise for an hour to an hour-and-a-half.
2. when the dough has risen, gently turn it out onto a counter dusted with flour and let it rest while you preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and bring a big pot of water to boil. when the water starts boiling, reduce it to a simmer and add the teaspoon of baking soda.
3. divide the dough into eight even pieces and form each piece into a ball. use your finger to press a hole through the center of each ball and stretch the whole so it's about 1/4 the diameter of the ball. cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and let the bagels rest, covered in plastic wrap or a tea towel, for another 10 minutes.
4. while they're resting, prepare your toppings. you can make plain bagels or any combination of toppings you'd like. use as much or as little as you'd like, depending on your preference. i like my bagels really covered in "everything" so i mixed heaping tablespoons of the seeds, garlic, and salt on a plate.
5. slowly lower the bagels into the uncovered, simmering water two or three at a time. flip them after a minute and then let them float in the water for another minute. and yes, they should float. remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and rest them on paper towels before transferring them back to the parchment lined cookie sheets.
6. dip your bagels on your "everything" plate and cover as much as you want. i left one plain and covered one in only sesame seeds because that's what my mom likes. i also made two into flagels, or flat bagels, because my mom and hannah prefer those to big, puffy bagels. i don't have any idea why.
7. bake the bagels for 20-25 minutes, or until they're golden brown on top and look scrumptious. i left my mom's bagel in for a couple extra minutes cause she likes them nice and dark.

they're best eaten fresh, and i'd recommend toasting them if you eat them after the day they're made. and they're great with all kinds of spreads, like butter or cream cheese.

by the time the bagels were done everyone was awake, hungry, and making noise in the kitchen. 
we were really lucky. we got to eat them with my mom's perfect tuna salad. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

chocolate. peanut butter. pretzels. again.

sometimes you just need chocolate.
and peanut butter.
and pretzels.
in a happy little cup.
2 1/2 cups chocolate chips (i recommend dark, but milk will work fine, too)
1 tbs. butter
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup crushed pretzels 
to make the cups:
1. line a mini cupcake tin with mini cupcake liners, which are so cute and will make you feel so happy!
2. melt the butter and chocolate chips in a microwave, double boiler, or over the stove top, and then carefully drop a small spoonfull into the bottom of each cupcake liner. make sure the whole bottom is covered. then stick it in the freezer to cool briefly.
3. mix the peanut butter with the brown and powdered sugars. if you want a thicker consistency, keep adding powdered sugar bit by bit.
4. when the chocolate bottoms have hardened take them out of the freezer and drop a small gob of peanut butter mixture in the center of each. the peanut butter mixture shouldn't touch the sides of the liners.
5. spoon more melted chocolate to cover the peanut butter mixture and coat the sides. the top should look smooth and even.
6. crush the pretzels as much or as little as you like. i put mine in a mini blender and make a kind of chunky pretzel dust, but bigger pieces would work, too. sprinkle the pretzel bits on top of the chocolate peanut butter cups, then stick 'em in the fridge until they harden, which should take about an hour.
they're little. and they're cute. but be prepared. sometimes the richest, most luxurious things come in the tiniest little bites...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

birthday cookies for my dad. one batter. six ways.

i love my dad. to say i'm lucky to be his daughter is insufficient. blessed is more like it, but even that word doesn't seem like quite enough. he is spectacularly hilarious and a terrific joke teller. his humor, inherited from his father, is so irresistible he's able to use it to diffuse the most miserable of situations into absolute hysterics. and his presence makes already happy moments all the more wonderful. he's also completely, startlingly brilliant. watching him seemingly effortlessly reason through an answer to a question, whether it's serious and significant (can democracy really work in all places for all people?), or slightly less so (where should we go for dinner?), is an incredible thing, and i've learned more from him about assessing and analyzing the world around me than i have from the greatest of school teachers and college professors. he's also tremendously accomplished (i'd give you his cv but then you'd feel bad about yourself) and astonishingly generous. the strength and comfort he has provided my family cannot be qualified. he's the embodiment of courage and it is from him that jake and joey and i learned, before we were even old enough to be aware we were learning it, what it means to pursue justice, fight for good, important causes, and choose moral and righteous paths.

so that's my dad. in a nutshell. and every single year i have the same exact problem with him...

what in the world do you get a man like this for his birthday?! how is it even remotely possible to choose a material gift that properly expresses the gratitude i feel for his existence?!

it's not.

so this year, i baked him cookies.
one batter, six ways.
cause sometimes chocolate chips just don't quite cut it.

i have a go-to cookie batter. the same go-to cookie batter i've had since the second grade, when my friend and best sledding buddy peter farrell gave me my very first cookbook as a birthday gift. though i can't for the life of me recall the name of the book, i know the cookie recipe by heart.
ingredients for the cookies:
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/8 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
your choice of chips or nuts. as many or as few as you like.
i used: cinnamon and sugar, semi-sweet, white, and dark chocolate chips, mini chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butterscotch chips.
to make the cookies:
1. preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. melt the butter and stir in the white and brown sugar while it's still hot, then set it aside to cool a little.
3. mix the flour, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and set it aside, too.
4. add the egg and vanilla to the butter and sugar mixture and stir it together, then slowly add the flour mixture until it's all incorporated.
5. here's where you'd add chocolate chips or whatever kind of chips you're using. since i wanted to make a number of different kinds of cookies, i divided the batter up and added my chips and mix-ins bit by bit, so in the end i had six kinds of cookies:
triple chocolate chip
mini-chocolate chip
cinnamon and sugar
peanut butter
6. roll the dough into whatever size you want (i made tablespoon sized balls) and place them on an ungreased cookie sheets or sheets lined with parchment paper. bake them for 10 minutes.
7. enjoy!!!
when the cookies cooled i bagged them up and labeled them and sent them on their merry way. apparently the cinnamon and sugar ones were the first to go.

one more thing. i feel the need to tell you the name of this batter. it's called darrell's "forget-the-cookies-just-give-me-the-batter" chocolate chip cookies. if only...

i don't know who darrell is, but i sure like his cookies.