Eating it, cooking it, thinking about it

Either eating it, cooking it or plotting it

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Toasting bagels for Thomas Stearns

Inadvertently, its been the week of sweetcorn. Monday saw an impromptu bbq, determined to make the most of summers last hurrah with a couple of friends. We had it baked on the bbq ,wrapped in foil, then charred a little with requisite butter dribbling down our arms and chins ( well, mine anyway). By 9pm it was fierce chilly but we were stoic. Til, ohh, 10pm , when eton mess and comfier seats called us inside. Tuesday was salt & pepper king prawns with egg fried rice. My egg fried rice always includes sweetcorn ( and peas) . Its akin to law in this house, and works as a great almost pillowy foil to the zippy salt and pepper king prawns - designed to make your mouth feel like that Dodo in the fruit juice advert, taste buds howling and  jangling "I'm Alive !". Well worth the inevitable tongue shrivel. Weds was left over egg fried rice for lunch, and for tea, cajun blackened salmon, sweet potato wedges and fresh boiled corn on the cob. Thursday was more left over fried rice . I'm constitutionally incapable of making a one-meal sized portion. I always hope for leftovers, like a sad eyed dog eyeing the table. I find leftovers almost as promising as a brown paper bag arriving into the house. Especially a brown paper bag with handles, theres every chance then its a takeaway or, thrillingly, it'll be from our local deli, Praze, purveyors of very fine cheeses and Elderflower champagne. Anyway, to make a succesful sandwich and throw a succesful party, you have to be generous ( another Law in this house) And so with cooking tea. Not like King Henry the 8th or anything, but enough going so as to not feel anxious. Thursday was sweetcorn free, but Friday returned to form with a chicken and sweetcorn soup. I have these little episodes, the new-best-friending of a particular food. Sometimes it'll be with a particular ingredient for Proper Cooking, other times, especially if left to my own devices , it'll be peanut butter and toast for a week. This coming week however, may well be a little heavy on the bagels ( with peanut butter ) . I made 15 of them this morning ( see, I didn't fib about the plotting of leftovers), some with poppy seeds, some just sprinkled with semolina. One just snaffled seconds out of the oven with butter. I had a small baking session underway as it was ( birthday cupcakes) so it was very little effort to measure out a few more ingredients and let the dough get on with its slow rising. TS Eliot's Prufrock, hauntingly, reductively and brilliantly had a life measured out in coffee spoons. I have a life measured out in baking tablespoons. Its a bit cheerier. Pull up a chair Tom, pop your collar and I'll toast you a bagel .

1 kg bread flour ( plain flour wouldn't be awful)
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
7g sachet of dried yeast
1 tbsp vegetable oil
500ml warm water
1 egg beaten
2 tbsps maple syrup ( or sugar would be fine)

Combine everything except the egg and maple syrup ( thats for later) in a mixer and mix for a good ten mins til elastic and pliable. This is a very stiff dough so it takes a bit more power than usual. You can of course do it by hand. Put the dough into an oiled bowl and cover ( I use a clean plastic carrier bag to cover. It gives room  for the dough to grow and is mightily convenient). It'll take about an hour to double in size. When it has risen, knock it back, the break it into 3 pieces. Roll each of these pieces into a fat sausage, and then cut this into 5 rounds. Roll them either into sausages again, and seal the ends with a bit of pinching and water, or roll into little fat rounds and stab through the middle with a wooden spoon, whirling the bagel about on it abit to make the hole bigger. Sit the 15 bagels aside on oiled trays to rise for 20 mins. After 20 mins, bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the maple syrup. On a good-ish rolling boil, drop in 2- 3 bagels at time and poach them for 1 minute, flipping over once. Return them to the oiled tray ( when I lifted my bagels off the tray I whizzed a bit of semolina under where it had sat) , brush with beaten egg and sprinkle on whatever you fancy, then bake for 15 - 20 mins, til nicely browned at approx 220 degrees ( 200 fan) . Use greaseproof if you are worried about them sticking to the tray.

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