I have muscle soreness in my arms and around my waist--I think this "kneading by hand" stuff is giving me a pretty good run for my money in the "workout" department--who knew?! Am I destined for HSN to hock my revolutionary new workout: The Kneader? I've seen worse. . . the chin exercise pump? Seriously.
I am a former bagel addict. I used to eat them by the sleeve--sustain on them for entire mornings. Then, serve them up in sammiches for lunch. The blueberry, cinnamon, plain--it didn't matter--I loved them! Then the whole "carbs:bad, bacon:good" movement took hold and I, like half the world, shunned bread of any sort. Such a black mark in our history in retrospect. Bread is the staff of life. Shame on Atkins.
I watched every episode of Worst Cooks in America with envy--I so wanted to be there. Hooray for Anne Burrell and Rachel--winning the final showdown last night. What a great teacher Anne was--what an intimidating force, too. I don't think I would have held up well under all that--"Don't mix like a girl" stuff. I am a girl and I have to mix this way, and I am slow. The show was terrific in my opinion--giving humility in the kitchen a whole new spin, plus acknowledging that to be a "home cook" is not all that easy--with the Mise en Place and all (Peter offers wonderful insight into the importance of this in bread baking).
I practice Mise en Place throughout my life--not just in cooking. Everything really does have a place--everything must be organized. However, I am not the most confident cook. I know: Well you have a food blog for crying out loud! I have this blog to help in the area of confidence. I don't show much of the "bad"--like my vegan brownie trials I've been going through. Last week my brownie attempt could have caulked the bathroom tub. It was awful--and the pan weighed like fifteen pounds when it was all said and done. I was crushed. Or my yellow vegan cake experiment gone bad--I just wanted a yellow cake: a Betty Crocker-ish box-tasting cake, why is that so hard? I attempted a recipe "combo"--taking two yellow cake recipes and making substitutions. When I pulled the cake out--I screamed and cussed. . .like a sailor. Mr. Thyme came in to assess and in his Mr. Science way said, Never change more than one variable per attempt. Per attempt?! Per attempt!? I want a yellow cake, I want it now--variables, shmariables. It was a sad ending to a good bread day. So, I refuse to try a vegan brownie recipe online until I have my own perfected, that goes for a vegan yellow cake, too. If you are a new vegan, really, just know, there is no substitute for the real deal in brownies. None. I have seen a hundred photos, read a thousand reviews--it's all in the egg. If the egg is missing, you will either have a dry brick or a sugar/maple syrup concoction that is offset with gobs of oil--and maybe topped with some sort of "frosting". So, my confidence went down again--the vegan brownie is a misnomer.
My bread explorations--written in precise detail and having received rave reviews by fellow bread-heads--is, on the other hand, all science. Never mind I may need a Sylvan refresher course in chemistry and math--for now, all I need is to have the right ingredients on hand and proceed as directed. The Peter Reinhart bagel recipe from Whole Grain Breads was a huge success! Huge. We had a good time yesterday. The method Peter outlines for many of his whole grain breads incorporates what he calls the "epoxy" method. That is, you will create two doughs to begin with--a soaker and a biga. In your final dough mixture--where you add the last amount of flour and liquids--you chop the soaker and biga into little pieces and place together in a bowl--add your last dough ingredients, then you sort of hand mix the whole thing and the two have a glue-like reaction to each other. (There's no Kitchen Aid in this house, sister--so we do this by hand and we like it that way!) I don't know why the biga and soaker react, they just do. Seemed like a big whoo-ha when I started down the bagel road. Epoxy? In baking. Well, the man is not a cookbook author for nothing--these rocked! Let me say first that I am a slow reader and an even slower baker--turtle slow. I don't know what it is about getting the flour and sugar out of the pantry, but suddenly, I am on crawl mode. Maybe because it's science--exact measures really do matter--and mis-reading the 1/2 cup for 1/4 cup could do great harm to a recipe. So I don't rush baking. As it was with these little gems yesterday. It took all frigging afternoon--why, because I am slow, that's why. There was a boiling step involved, and this really rocked my boat. I was timid about placing my beautifully formed bagels into anything that might cause harm. I would only boil one at a time. But Peter said to boil them, so I did. He said the bagel might sink, but to NOT remove them from the boiling water until they popped back up to the top. Mine never sank. I didn't know what this meant. I just counted my thirty seconds per side as described, then carefully removed them from the boiling water, placed them on the cookie sheet and topped them with my toasted sesame seeds and poppy seeds. In the end, would I want to just go out and buy a bag of bagels and skip the whole two-day affair? Not on your life! I've never had a better bagel, and I consider myself a pretty good judge!