In the Kitchen with Dad
This morning I woke up to Tilly and Otis. They were both sitting on top of me. Otis was staring at my bedroom window, eyes locked on a fly buzzing on the glass, and Tilly was lying on my stomach and gazing intently at me. Ever since we got Tilly back, I appreciate every moment with her more than ever and she seems to appreciate it too.
Although it’s been a week since Tilly came home, Dad still gets calls from people who think they saw her. While most are mistaken, a few have been right, and we’ve been able to piece together a bit more about what happened to her that night. Once again, I’m utterly amazed by how compassionate people are. Tilly was smack in the middle of a four lane 40 mph road, at night in the rain. A woman saw her and actually parked her car at an angle across multiple lanes to block traffic. Then she jumped out of her car to get Tilly.
Tilly ran, but this woman chased her between houses and through neighborhoods before finally realizing she couldn’t grab Tilly. She walked back, sopping wet, where a police car was parked, lights flashing, and an officer was directing traffic around her car. I honestly can’t believe it! Knowing people like that exist make me feel all warm and soft inside. Warm and soft as… a fresh bagel.
By the time I got out of bed, the house was warm and smelled like flour and yeast – one of my all time favorite smells. Dad was in pajamas too. He had already made the dough and it was rising in the microwave, one of my mom’s tricks. The kitchen counter isn’t warm enough in Seattle, so she microwaves a small cup of water for 3-4 minutes. This makes the microwave warm and humid, a great place for the bread to rise.
“Bagels?” I asked, seeing the open cookbook. “Can I help?”
The first thing I helped do was punch down the dough. As some of you might know, I have no bread experience at all and get a little nervous about it. But I’ve always wanted to make bagels, and I love the feeling of the dough. It’s soft and firm and elastic all at once.
Even though I mostly bake cakes, cookies, and sweets, there’s something about baking breakfast that brings me unique happiness. It’s something about the soft natural light, streaming in through the windows, and the birds making their first rounds around the yard. It’s the warmth of the kitchen in comparison to the cool wood floors of the rest of the house… And the fact that I’m in pajamas still and there is no stress whatsoever.
I watched Dad separate the dough into 8 and then we started forming the bagels. He formed each 1/8th of the dough into a ball by cupping the bottom between his palms and squeezing together. He rotated the ball and kept cupping and pressing together, so that it formed a smooth sphere. Then he floured a finger and made a hole in it, pressing straight through. Then he worked the entire thing, using more fingers, to expand the hole and smooth the sides.
The bagels rise a bit longer, then you boil them and bake them. And wow… there’s really something about pulling a rack of perfect, golden, puffy bagels out of the oven. It makes your heart flutter a little bit. It makes you wonder why you even bother with cinnamon raisin or chocolate chip or blueberry when you can make these simple, delicious ones all by yourself.
Of course, I have yet to make them all by myself. But my Dad is a good teacher. He mostly cooks dinner, which may or may not interest me depending on my mood. He bakes a little… not as well as me :) But his eclairs are always delicious and he will always make me a birthday cake if I want one, even though it’s admittedly not his thing. But the one thing I always like to see him make is bread. Challah, parker house rolls, Italian flatbread, spinach rolls, it always fascinates me and makes me suddenly forget all about chocolate and vanilla beans.
We ate our bagels outside with the dogs, and it was perfect. I went pretty simple. I spread some slightly cold cream cheese, which softened right away on the warm bagel. Then I topped it with some homemade blackberry jam that our friend A- made for us. The bagel was chewy and soft and puffy, and the jam and cream cheese was perfectly sweet and tangy. I think I ate the whole thing in record speed.
But Dad is a bit more sophisticated. He went for cream cheese too, but added some capers. Then he grabbed a Mr. Stripey tomato that he grew himself in his own garden and sliced it into thick, juicy rounds.
I was starting to wonder whether I should have forgone the jam.
He topped the bagels with the tomato and pulled out some of his very own homemade lox. If there’s one type of fish I can’t resist, it’s salmon, and his lox is the best.
How can any day go wrong when it starts like this?
From Ultimate Bread
Makes 8 bagels
2 tsp dry yeast
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) warm water
3 1/2 cups (500 g) unbleached flour, plus extra for kneading
1 1/2 tsp salt
Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into 1/2 cup of the water in a small bowl. Leave for 5 minutes and then stir to dissolve. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt together. Form a well in the center and pour in the dissolved yeast.
Pour half of the remaining water into the well. Mix in the flour and stir in the reserved water as needed, forming a firm and moist dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Gradually work in as much additional flour as possible while comfortably kneading to form a stiff and firm dough.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Punch down and let the dough rest 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball – cup between your hands and press the bottoms together between your palms. Press down to get rid of air bubbles and roll the dough between your palm and the work surface to form a smooth ball. Coat a finger in flour and press it through each ball to form a ring.
Work the rest of your fingers into the hole, stretching the ring and widening the hole to about 1/3 of the bagel’s diameter. Place the bagels on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 10 minutes and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Bring a large pan of water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Use a perforated skimmer to lowel the bagels into the water in batches of 2-3. Boil, uncovered, until they rise to the surface, about 1 minute. Turn them over once. Then remove from the pan, letting the water drain, and transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, until golden, and cool on a wire rack.
Dad’s Homemade Lox
1 lb skinless tail section of salmon (tail section doesn’t have pin bones)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup smoked salt (use kosher if unavailable)
Heaping tbsp dried dill
1 tsp finely ground black pepper
Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on a tray. Sprinkle half the cure over the wrap and place the fish in it. Sprinkle the top of the fish with the remaining cure, and wrap tightly. Cover heavily with weights (Dad uses a large pot filled with cans.) Refrigerate. Cures in about 24 hours, depending on the thickness of the fish.
Drain the drip tray and rinse the fish. Pat dry with a paper towel and slice thinly on a bias. Keep refrigerated.
Printer Friendly Recipe – Basic Bagels and Dad’s Homemade Lox