Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

So, my friend Jennifer told me about this book called "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" by, Jennifer Reese. This is part memoir, part cookbook, all enjoyable, easy-reading fun time. After being laid off, the author decided to pour her efforts into making many things that are typically storebought and gauging whether those products taste better/are too much effort/are too costly and saying whether you are better off making or buying it (or both). The author is a food blogger, and her prose reflects that--easy going, funny, and personal.

As I was reading it in bed the other night, her description of and recipe for bagels got to me. I've made bagels in the past, and they were very good. But what I remember was that the crust was a touch too tough and chewy, such that biting through was presented some difficulty. Jennifer Reese's recipe looked super simple--and she included a modification for cinnamon-raisin bagels. As I realized that I had everything except whey (which you can swap out for water) in my house, I cozied up to the idea of making bagels again on a Saturday filled with nothing but homework.

This was 100% the right move.

What can't be said about these bagels? They are perfect in every way. They are like storebought bagels, but even better because they're so fresh (and, you know, don't have scary preservatives). The crust is perfectly chewy and flavorful, the inside crumb tender and appropriately dense, and the cinnamon and raisins aromatic and complementary to the dough.

If you have about 3 hours, you can have these bagels. They're cheaper to make (well, once you have the barley malt syrup on hand, anyway--that stuff isn't cheap) than to buy, they (allegedly) freeze well, and they are far superior to storebought. Plus, you'll have bragging rights, because everybody thinks that bagels are hard to make, but they're a snap (but nobody has to know that except you--talk up how hard it was so they think you're even awesomer).

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels (from "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" by, Jennifer Reese)
-3 1/2 cups high-gluten or all-purpose flour, plus a bit more
-4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (**I only had active yeast, which meant proofing it in 1/2 cup of 115-degree water with 2 teaspoons of sugar for 10 minutes until it was twice its size in foaminess. If you do this, subtract 1/2 cup of water and about 1/2 a tablespoon of sugar from the recipe below**)
-5 tablespoons granulated sugar
-1 tablespoon salt
-1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
-1 1/2 cups warm whey or water
-1 cup raisins
-Oil for greasing
-2 tablespoons barley malt syrup (**or dark brown sugar, but I'm going to add that barley malt syrup is 100% worth buying--for granola, pretzels, or bagels!**)
-Cornmeal, for sprinkling

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3 1/2 cups flour, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the whey/water and beat hard with the paddle attachment for a few minutes, switching to the dough hook once the mixture comes together. You can do this by hand, but prepare for a workout. If the mixture seems overly wet, add more flour, a little bit at a time. Stop adding flour as soon as you have a stiff dough (**Ultimately, I had to add a lot more flour to get to a dough that wasn't sticky/tacky/floppy**). Knead with dough hook (or by hand) for 5 minutes. Close to the end of the kneading time, add the raisins. If the mixer isn't doing a good job of incorporating the raisins, you may need to take the dough out and knead briefly by hand to get a good spread of raisins in the dough.

2. Place the dough in a greased bowl. You can either cover with a clean, damp dish towel OR do a trick I learned recently! Place the bowl in a plastic bag that's free of any holes. Gather up the ends, making a small opening. Take a deep breath and blow hot air into the bag to inflate it. Trap the air in there and close it up with a twist tie. I don't know why this works (because it's not like the air stays hot), but it does. It's helpful if your house is really cold/drafty, like mine is. Let it rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 400. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While the water is heating, sprinkle a baking sheet generously with cornmeal and lightly grease another.

4. Deflate the dough and divide into 10 pieces. Roll each piece into the neatest, roundest ball you can. With your thumb, poke a hole in the middle of the ball and coax the dough into a bagel shape. You can make the hole a little larger than you think is appropriate, because the dough shrinks back a bit.

5. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the malt syrup. Drop 3 bagels at a time into the water. Let them simmer for a minute, then flip them over, simmering for another minute. Remove with a slotted spoon, returning to the greased baking sheet to dry a bit. Proceed with the remaining bagels.

6. Move all the bagels to the cornmeal-sprinkled sheet. If you have any additional toppings to add, now's the time to do it.

7. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Store in a paper bag at room temperature for up to a week, or freeze, tightly wrapped for longer storage.

-Makes 10 bagels of decent size

Meatball Parmesan Subs

Look at that. I mean, really look at it. Is your mouth watering yet? Pretzel sub rolls, crisp-sauteed mushrooms, juicy meatballs, and marinara, all smothered with a nice medium cheddar. The sandwich is one of those that is truly enormous, and it hurts you to eat it all, but you can't stop eating it because it's so good.

Want to know the surprising part?

There's no meat involved whatsoever.

Don't go away, meat lovers! I promise you, it's not just an illusion that those meatballs look like real meat. Gimme Lean Sausage is a truly delicious stand-in for the real thing. I'm pretty sure that if you didn't tell someone it was fake, they wouldn't know the difference. I also used this for a stuffing recipe on Thanksgiving and it was awesome. Did I mention how low in calories it is? 2 ounces for 60 calories. Good thing, too, because this sub involves 1/2 the package.

Anyway, back to the main point: You know you want it.

Vegetarian Meatball Parmesan Subs (from A Thought for Food)
-1 package of Gimme Lean “Ground Sausage Style”
-1/2 small yellow onion, minced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-3 tbsp olive oil
-2 Sub rolls
-Cheddar cheese, approximately 10-12 thin slices
-1/2 cup jarred marinara sauce
-1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
-Fresh Parsley, chopped

1. In a bowl, mix the Gimme Lean, onion, and garlic with your hands, until combined. Roll out into 1 1/2 inch meatballs.

2. Add the oil to a large pan and set over a medium-high flame. Once heated, add the meatballs to the pan and cook until it has browned on one side. Using a spatula, flip over the meatballs and let the other side brown. Once this happens, gently toss the meatballs around in the pan until they get a little color on all sides. Turn off the burner and transfer the meatballs to a plate.

3. Add the mushrooms to the same pan that you used to cook the meatballs and set the burner to medium-high heat. Do not crowd the mushrooms. Cook them until they have gotten crispy on the outside, but not burnt. Transfer to a bowl.

4. To assemble the subs, cut the submarine bread almost completely in half, lengthwise. Line each side of the bread with 3 or 4 slices of cheddar cheese. Fill each one with 5 or 6 meatballs and top with the marinara sauce. Add another 2 or 3 slices of cheese on top of the meatballs.

5. Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and place the pan under the broiler in the oven until the cheese has melted, being careful not to burn the sandwich.

6. Take the pan out of the oven and top each with mushrooms and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

-Makes 2 very large subs (and probably some extra meatballs)

Beer Ice Cream with Edible Lace Bowls

I'm not sure if I've mentioned, but I hosted my family for Thanksgiving. Since I would be visiting Husband's family for Christmas, my family did Christmas on Thanksgiving. And since we're all gigantic lushes, we mainly decided to exchange various beers, wines, and liquors as gifts. If you can think of anything better than getting the gift of a variety of alcohol for Christmas before feasting on Thanksgiving, I'd like to hear it.

My brother's lovely girlfriend gave me a cookbook called "The Boozy Baker," by Lucy Baker. People. Come on. You KNOW how much I love cooking with alcohol--and baking? That's even better, because I'm always afraid that adding alcohol will ruin the science behind the baked good. And here are 75 vetted boozy recipes. Yes, please.

This recipe came as part of a larger recipe--"Beer Profiteroles with Chocolate Beer Sauce." Though I do desperately want the profiteroles and beer sauce, I was making this ice cream for my New Year's Eve celebration and that was too much effort. For photo presentation's sake (a week later), I thought I'd try making edible bowls to house the beery goodness. I'm glad I tested out the recipe, because I made some important notes that will improve your success with it. Huzzah!

Beer Ice Cream with Edible Lace Bowls
For the ice cream (recipe from "The Boozy Baker," by Lucy Baker):
-2 1/2 cups heavy cream
-1 1/2 cups whole milk
-5 large egg yolks
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-1 cup (8 ounces) chocolate stout, or other dark beer (**I used New Glarus' Chocolate Abbey. AMAZING.**)

1. To make the ice cream, combine the heavy cream and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is almost just barely simmering (you will see steam rising from the surface, and small bubbles at the edge of the pan). Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until thick and pale yellow. Very slowly, whisk a 1/4 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture to temper it. Then transfer the egg mixture to the saucepan with the rest of the cream mixture and return to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon without running.Remove the saucepan from the heat and strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Add the vanilla extract and stout. Chill for at least four hours (preferably overnight) and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

**Note: I think the large amount of alcohol keeps this ice cream very soft right out of the ice cream maker. It was not even really reaching "soft serve" consistency. So, I put it in a long, rectangular tupperware container, put saran wrap directly on the ice cream (to prevent freezer burn!), and covered it. I let it freeze for 3+ hours and voila! Ice cream!

For the ice cream bowls (Recipe from the LA Daily News):
-1 1/4 cups sugar
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
-1/3 cup water
-1 tablespoon vanilla

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Have ready an offset spatula and several small overturned glasses. (**NOTE: I used a large offset spatula--the original recipe calls for a small one--and I found that overturned pint glasses worked great**)

2. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment to mix sugar and flour. Drizzle in butter and mix to fully incorporate. Slowly add water and vanilla while continuing to mix.

3. Scoop a tablespoon of batter onto prepared baking sheet and spread into a 4- to 5-inch circle. Leaving plenty of space between them, repeat with 2 more spoons of batter. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 10 minutes or until dark golden-brown all over. You may need to rotate the baking sheet halfway through to achieve this.

4. Remove from oven. Let baking sheet sit on counter 1-2 minutes, until you're able to very gently slide an offset spatula underneath and slowly lift up. It may help to loosen the edges a bit with the spatula first. If cookie sticks to spatula wait another 30 seconds. Drape each round over an overturned glass, immediately and gently pressing the sides down to form a bowl shape. Let cool on glass until firm. Very gently remove, always holding the bottom (not the sides! very fragile!) and set aside.

5. Repeat in batches with remaining batter. Once cooled, the bowls can be stored in an airtight container up to a week.

-Makes 15 bowls, 119 calories and 6 grams fat each.

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars

Happy 2012, everybody!

I realize that my posting is not particularly timely, as these cheesecake bars would've made a lovely addition to your New Year's Eve parties. Well, what can I say? I am a pretty terrible, no good, awful, superbly horrible blogger.

Oh, Heather, don't be so hard on yourself, I'm sure you're all saying. How could you have known what we needed to whip up for New Year's Eve?

I can be hard on myself, because EVERYBODY needs these cheesecake bars. Yes--everyone. You, your thighs, everyone. Yeah, I said it.

These are little slices of heaven. Sweet, creamy, lightly bready, crunchy cinnamony, gloriously buttery heaven. They're the perfect way to ring in 2012 (especially if the Mayans are right and we're all going to die--you might as well indulge!), the perfect way to celebrate a special occasion, or the perfect way to spend a night of sobbing/eating your way through The Notebook. You know, whatever works best for you.

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars (from Cookies & Cups, adapted from Pillsbury)
-2 cans Crescent Rolls (or the new canned Crescent Roll "Sheets," which have no seams to pinch together--perfect!)
-2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese (room temperature)
-1 cup sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-1/2 cup butter, melted
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 tbsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Unroll 1 can of crescent rolls and lay flat in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Stretch the rolls to cover the bottom of the pan. Pinch any seams closed.

3. In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and vanilla until combined and smooth.

4. Spread this over top of the crescent roll.

5. Unroll your remaining can of crescent rolls and lay this on top of the cream cheese mixture, again, pinching closed any open seams.

6. Pour your melted butter on top of the crescent roll.

7. In a bowl mix the remaining sugar and tablespoon of cinnamon together and sprinkle that evenly on top of butter. (**NOTE: I found that I didn't need all of the cinnamon-sugar mixture, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to put it all on.**)

8. Bake for 30 minutes until top is golden brown.

9. Let cool for approximately 20 minutes and then put in refrigerator to completely chill before cutting into squares. I know it's difficult, but try.

P.S. Did I say how easy these are? I think I neglected to say that. They are SO EASY. You pretty much need to be able to melt, mix, and unroll things. What I'm saying is that there are no excuses--no barriers between you and sweet, tasty sin. So, do it now!