We have a problem with puns in my house. Well, no, we don’t. No one has a problem making puns. It’s just that there are rather more made than I’ve been led to believe happen in the average household. Not that we’re average. But I digress before I even start.
I didn’t grow up eating challah, just like I didn’t grow up eating bagels. And, just like she did grow up eating bagels, one of the housemates did grow up eating challah, so she’s been my sounding board on this stuff from day one. She’s told me several times that what I make is as good as or better than any she had at holiday feasts when she was younger.
It’s also about a million times less complex than I expected it to be. Some of that is due to the recipe I use, some of it is the fact that I grew up with a sister who had hair down to her waist. You learn to at least do a rudimentary braid pretty early on under those circumstances.
Most of the work in bagels turns out to be in the first day. Once everything is all risen, the boiling and baking goes like gangbusters.
On day two, I got all the stuff together for toppings. Feedback on those has been that everything is yummy, but since one housemate has some serious restrictions on seeds, there should be less seed-based bagels next time and about three times as many Asiago cheese bagels. To the right we have, clockwise from upper right: kosher salt, blue poppy seeds, grated Asiago cheese, sesame seeds, Artisan Bread Topping , and rehydrated dried minced onion. The bread topping, onion and salt were combined to make my version of an everything bagel. Those came out the prettiest of the bunch.
I don’t remember eating bagels until I was at least a teenager.
They weren’t a big thing around my East Tennessee hometown. White bread? Yes. Cornbread? Hell yes. Biscuits? With every meal if possible. But bagels? Not so much.
The first time I had a bagel, I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought of it and my very first question was “How do they make it shiny and chewy like that?” It was a while longer before I found out that the answer was “They’re boiled.” At the time, that seemed a little weird to me, but I wasn’t going to complain.
Baking is chemistry and biology and math all rolled up into one and it produces yummy things to eat. What more could a nerdy girl want?
Sourdough is wonderful stuff. It seems sort of magical to me. You take water and flour and stick them together. And then you add more water and flour. And more water and flour and before you know it, you’ve got this stuff that will make bread rise. This is fascinating to me. But, then, so is most of baking.
When I decided to do sourdough, I looked at about a million and a half ways to make a starter. Some of them had half a dozen or more ingredients to get started and they seemed like they were just a little too fussy. The simplest ones had just two ingredients (flour and water) and a couple had just three or, at most, four. I ended up using a hybrid of a couple different starter methods.
Before I go into what I did and why, I’m going to give a quick rundown on why sourdough actually works.
Most yeast-risen breads use some sort of commercial, storebought yeast. It comes in little packets or jars (or if you’re like me in one-or-two-pound bricks), it’s pretty inexpensive, and it’s generally foolproof if you pay attention to the dates on the container. Sourdough, on the other hand, relies on wee beasties that are living naturally on flour and in the air. They’re just about everywhere and they just need a little care and feeding before you can harness them to do your bidding.
So, my first proper post isn’t actually about bread.
This morning as I was gathering myself up to go to work, Jamie brought this to me and made ‘ahem’ noises.
To the untrained eye, this is just a simple half-gallon canning jar. However, it is actually the usual home of my cocoa mix. As you can see, it is sadly and forlornly empty. It was explained to me that this was an emergency. I explained back that it was an situation I would rectify after I came home from the phone mines. So, I gathered up the herbed bread, homemade butter and other accoutrements I was taking for my team to snack on during our meeting (You’ll get an herbed bread post later. I promise.) and took myself off to the place where I make the money.
Yeah, OK, that’s a little exaggerated, but I’m horrible at titles.
The short version is that this is a blog about my adventures in baking and various other kitchen experiments. The likelihood of me lamenting cheese-fail is high. Along the way, you’ll get to hear about my relationship with food, the reasons that I love baking in particular, and the reasons that it became a major hobby for me.
It promises to be at least a semi-interesting ride.