Lemon almond bread

From Two Peas and Their Pod

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It’s playdate time! I love making quick breads for play dates. They are always a hit, can be made a day or two ahead, and can be put together in a snap. Yeast breads take longer, and while delicious, they are often best on the first day – not always practical for a morning gathering. This lemon almond bread is diary free (due to allergies of the group, this is a requirement). It’s perfectly refreshing for a spring morning (or lunch, or afternoon, or dinner, or dessert…). It’s both tart and sweet, with a hint of nutty almond. Yum. I had to stop myself from eating the whole thing the day before, it’s that luscious. I served this bread with homemade gummies, breakfast cookies, and bananas. This bread was by far the favorite – and Myla and I polished it off before the day was over, to the dismay of my lemon loving husband. You really must make this bread, it’s the perfect treat to get you in the mood for spring. Just try not to inhale it all at once, but if you do, no judgement from me.

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Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

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In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

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In a small bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest.

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Rub together with your fingers until fragrant.

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Whisk into the flour mixture, and set it aside

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In a separate medium bowl, combine the almond milk, oil, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla, and almond extract.

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Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

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Stir until combined.

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Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

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Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

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Place the loaf on a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Loosen the sides of the bread with a knife. Carefully remove loaf from pan. Let cool completely on wire rack.

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While the bread is cooling, make the lemon glaze. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, lemon juice, and almond extract. Whisk until smooth.

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Drizzle the glaze of the lemon almond bread. Sprinkle sliced almonds over the bread. Cut and serve.

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Yield: One loaf

Ingredients

For the bread:

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 c granulated sugar

2 T lemon zest

3/4 c unsweetened almond milk

1/2 c canola or vegetable oil

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract (make your own!)

1 tsp almond extract

For the lemon glaze:

1 c powdered sugar

1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice

1 tsp almond extract

3 T sliced almonds, for garnishing the loaf

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a small bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest. Rub together with your fingers until fragrant. Whisk into the flour mixture. Set aside.

In a separate medium bowl, combine the almond milk, oil, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla, and almond extract. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir until combined. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Place the loaf on a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Loosen the sides of the bread with a knife. Carefully remove loaf from pan. Let cool completely on wire rack.

While the bread is cooling, make the lemon glaze. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, lemon juice, and almond extract. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze of the lemon almond bread. Sprinkle sliced almonds over the bread. Cut and serve.

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Breakfast cookies

From Sally’s Baking Addiction

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These breakfast cookies are divine, and totally adaptable to your preferences. No pepitas – no problem! Add sesame seeds, or your favorite seed. Not a fan of raisins? Try dried cherries. Only have almond butter? Great! Use it! And to top it off, these use no flour or refined sugar. I can’t help but eat these for a satisfying dessert, or as a midday snack. Oh, and for breakfast too.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies, depending on size 

Ingredients

2 c quick oats (not whole oats)

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 c almond butter, peanut butter, or sunflower seed butter

1/4 c pure maple syrup (or honey)

1/4 c apple butter (I used homemade – or you could use unsweetened applesauce)

1 large banana, mashed (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 c dried cranberries

1/2 c shelled pumpkin seeds

1/2 c raisins

1/4 c ground flaxseed (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

Combine all of the ingredients into a large bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer). Mix until all of the ingredients are combined. The dough will be quite stiff.

Take 1-2 T of dough and drop onto prepared cookie sheet. Slightly flatten the tops into desired thickness. The cookies will not spread in the oven.

Bake for 15-16 minutes or until edges are slightly brown. Allow to cool on the cookie sheets completely.Cookies stay fresh at room temperature for 1 week. Cookies can be frozen up to 3 months.

Vanilla extract

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Mmmmm, vanilla. Good extract can be expensive, so three years ago, I began making my own. And I haven’t looked back since.

Homemade vanilla extract requires two ingredients – vanilla beans and alcohol – plus the storage bottles. Be sure to use high quality beans, so you end up with high quality extract. Beans should be flexible, soft, and plump with moisture. I prefer Madagascar beans, which are rich and creamy. You will also need a flavorless alcohol – I use a middle shelf vodka (which I hide in the pantry so my husband doesn’t use it). And last of all, be sure to use dark bottles, as light is not good for the storage of your extract.

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I have a rotation of six (yes, six!) bottles, that way I never run out. When you empty one bottle, simply add another bean or two (depending on bottle size) and top off with vodka. No need to remove the previously used bean. On the back of each bottle I write the date I have refreshed it, as it will be ready to use after 2 months time.  When the bottle is too crowded with beans, I take the beans out and gently pat them dry. Then I scrape out any seeds left inside, and add the seeds and dry pods to a container of plain white sugar. This creates vanilla sugar, which is just wonderful to have around (on top of grilled peaches, on cinnamon toast, with baked apples, in coffee … the possibilities are endless).

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Vanilla extract is so simple to make, once you start, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing this all along!

Ingredients

Vanilla beans

Vodka, such as Smirnoff

Dark bottles for storage

Directions

Split vanilla beans in half lengthwise, leaving the very top and bottom in tact. Use about two beans per 4 ounce bottle, up to five beans per 8 ounce bottle. Bend or slice beans in half, if needed, and place in bottle. Use a funnel and fill bottle with vodka, covering beans. Store in a cool, dark place for two months. Shake daily, if you want (I rarely do this), or at least once a week. After two months, use as needed. Store in a cool, dry place.

Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah + bonus french toast

From the Smitten Kitchen

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I purchased some dried figs on a whim earlier last week (this is how all delicious stories begin, right?), and was looking for a recipe to use them in. I was also planning a special treat for dinner, as one night last week it was just Myla and I. This fig, olive oil, and sea salt challah was the perfect solution to both dilemmas. And what better indulgence than homemade french toast with pure Wisconsin maple syrup? I served this french toast with brussels sprouts, of which Myla ate 15 (if you know Myla, you know I underestimated the amount of brussels sprouts to steam) and so I was left with 5 (though few, they were tasty). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this pairing, except you know, toddlers and nutrition and mommy guilt required me to do so.

This may look fancy, but it is relatively easy to make. I whipped up this bread the day before Nathan left, and this two day old challah made the perfect french toast and was delightfully divine. A fig and orange paste is woven into the rich layers of this lightly salted and browned loaf. The first night, I kept it simple and served it with pure Wisconsin maple syrup, but for our traditional Sunday morning pancake breakfast, I strayed from tradition and made this french toast yet again and served it with ricotta and honey. Both delighted my palate and required two slices to satisfy my taste buds.

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Here goes!

Whisk the yeast and 1 teaspoon honey into warm water, and let it stand for a few minutes, until foamy.

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Mix the wet ingredients with a whisk…

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…then add the salt and flour.

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Mix everything together with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together.

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Turn the mixture out onto a floured counter, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until a smooth and elastic dough is formed.

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Transfer the dough to an olive-oil coated bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour,

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or until almost doubled in size.

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Meanwhile, make fig paste: In a small saucepan, combine the figs, zest, water, juice, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper.

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Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the figs are soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, and let cool to lukewarm.

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Process fig mixture in a food processor until it resembles a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Set aside to cool.

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Insert figs: After your dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured counter and divide it in half.

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Roll the first half of the dough into a wide and totally imperfect rectangle (really, the shape doesn’t matter).

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Spread half the fig filling evenly over the dough, stopping short of the edge.

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Roll the dough into a long, tight log, trapping the filling within.

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Then gently stretch the log as wide as feels comfortable (about 3 feet), and divide it in half. Repeat with remaining dough and fig filling.

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Weave your challah: Arrange two ropes in each direction, perpendicular to each other, like a tight tic-tac-toe board. Weave them so that one side is over, and the other is under, where they meet.

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Take the four legs that come from underneath the center and move the leg to their right — i.e., jumping it.

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Take the legs that were on the right and, again, jump each over the leg before, this time to the left.

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If you have extra length in your ropes, you can repeat these left-right jumps until you run out of rope. Tuck the corners or odd bumps under the dough with the sides of your hands to form a round. Transfer the dough to a parchment-cover heavy baking sheet, or, if you’ll be using a bread stone, a baker’s peel. Beat egg until smooth, and brush over challah. Let challah rise for another hour, but 45 minutes into this rise, preheat your oven to 375°F.

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Bake your loaf: Before baking, brush loaf one more time with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt.

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Bake in middle of oven for 35 to 40 minutes. It should be beautifully bronzed; if yours starts getting too dark too quickly, cover it with foil for the remainder of the baking time. The very best way to check for doneness is with an instant-read thermometer — the center of the loaf should be 195 degrees.

Cool loaf on a rack before serving.

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Yield: 1 large loaf

Ingredients

Bread

2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast

1/4 c plus 1 tsp honey

2/3 c warm water (110 to 116 degrees F)

1/3 c olive oil

2 large egg

2 tsp flaky sea salt or 1 1/2 tsp table salt

4 c all-purpose flour

Fig FIlling

1 c stemmed and roughly chopped dried figs

1/8 tsp freshly grated orange zest, or more as desired

1/2 c water

1/4 c orange juice

1/8 tsp sea salt

Few grinds black pepper

Egg Wash

1 large egg

Coarse or flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Directions

Whisk the yeast and 1 teaspoon honey into warm water, and let it stand for a few minutes, until foamy. Mix the wet ingredients with a whisk, then add the salt and flour. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together. Turn the mixture out onto a floured counter, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until a smooth and elastic dough is formed. Transfer the dough to an olive-oil coated bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.

Meanwhile, make fig paste: In a small saucepan, combine the figs, zest, water, juice, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the figs are soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, and let cool to lukewarm. Process fig mixture in a food processor until it resembles a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Set aside to cool.

Insert figs: After your dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured counter and divide it in half. Roll the first half of the dough into a wide and totally imperfect rectangle (really, the shape doesn’t matter). Spread half the fig filling evenly over the dough, stopping short of the edge. Roll the dough into a long, tight log, trapping the filling within. Then gently stretch the log as wide as feels comfortable (I take mine to my max counter width, a pathetic three feet), and divide it in half. Repeat with remaining dough and fig filling.

Weave your challah: Arrange two ropes in each direction, perpendicular to each other, like a tight tic-tac-toe board. Weave them so that one side is over, and the other is under, where they meet. So, now you’ve got an eight-legged woven-headed octopus. Take the four legs that come from underneath the center and move the leg to their right — i.e., jumping it. Take the legs that were on the right and, again, jump each over the leg before, this time to the left. If you have extra length in your ropes, you can repeat these left-right jumps until you run out of rope. Tuck the corners or odd bumps under the dough with the sides of your hands to form a round.

Transfer the dough to a parchment-cover heavy baking sheet, or, if you’ll be using a bread stone, a baker’s peel. Beat egg until smooth, and brush over challah. Let challah rise for another hour, but 45 minutes into this rise, preheat your oven to 375°F.

Bake your loaf: Before baking, brush loaf one more time with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in middle of oven for 35 to 40 minutes. It should be beautifully bronzed; if yours starts getting too dark too quickly, cover it with foil for the remainder of the baking time. The very best way to check for doneness is with an instant-read thermometer — the center of the loaf should be 195 degrees.

Cool loaf on a rack before serving.

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BONUS RECIPECHALLAH FRENCH TOAST ADAPTED FROM INA GARTEN

Yield: Four slices french toast (from two 3/4″ slices of fig challah)

Ingredients

3 large eggs

1 c whole milk

1 tsp grated orange zest

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 T honey

1/4 tsp kosher salt

Fig challah

Unsalted butter

Vegetable oil

To Serve

Pure maple syrup

-or-

Good raspberry preserves and sifted confectioners’ sugar

-or-

Ricotta and honey

Directions

In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, orange zest, vanilla, honey, and salt. Slice the challah in 3/4-inch thick slices and cut in half. Soak as many slices in the egg mixture as possible for 5 minutes, turning once.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a very large saute pan over medium heat (I used the griddle pan for my middle fifth burner on the cooktop; it was nonstick and I did not need the butter/oil). Add the soaked bread and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. If needed, place the cooked French toast on a sheet pan and keep it warm in a 250 F oven. Fry the remaining soaked bread slices, adding butter and oil as needed, until it’s all cooked. Serve hot with maple syrup, raspberry preserves and confectioners’ sugar, or ricotta and honey.

Easy Greek Pita Bread 

From Half Baked Harvest

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Sometimes plain old weeknight dinner recipes call for some bread. Sometimes I can’t bring myself to buy it, when I know I could make it. This provides me with great inspiration for trying new recipes. Thus, when making baked chickpeas with pita chips and yogurt (swoon) I had to make the pita bread myself. And I’m so glad I did. So easy! So tasty! We may have devoured the chickpeas and pita chips before I had a chance to take a photo, so you’ll have to trust me when I say it was one of the best meals I’ve made in a while. Therefore, I think you should totally try these pitas and the chickpeas. But really, this is such a simple recipe you should never have to (or want to) buy pitas again. 

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Mix the water and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer (a large bowl will also work if you do not have a mixer), and let sit for about five minutes until the yeast is dissolved.

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Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour (saving the last half cup for kneading), salt, and olive oil.

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If using a stand mixer attach the dough hook and knead the dough on medium speed for 8 minutes, adding more flour until you have a smooth dough.

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Clean the bowl you used to mix the dough and run it with a little olive oil. Set the dough in the bowl and turn it until it’s coated with oil. Cover with a clean dishcloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

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At this point, you can refrigerate the pita dough until it is needed. You can also bake one or two pitas at a time, saving the rest of the dough in the fridge. The dough will keep refrigerated for about a week.

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Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and gently flatten each piece into a thick disk.

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Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the pieces into a circle 8-9 inches wide and about a quarter inch thick. Lift and turn the dough frequently as you roll to make sure the dough isn’t sticking to your counter. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if it starts to stick. If the dough starts to spring back, set it aside to rest for a few minutes, then continue rolling. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. (Once you get the hang of it you can be cooking one pita while rolling the next one out.)

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Warm a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat (you want a hot pan). Drizzle a little oil in the pan and wipe off the excess.

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Lay a rolled-out pita on the skillet and bake for 30 seconds, until you see bubbles starting to form. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside.

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Flip again and cook another 1-2 minutes to toast the other side. The pita should start to puff up during this time; if it doesn’t or if only small pockets form, try pressing the surface of the pita gently with a clean towel.

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Keep cooked pitas covered with a clean dishtowel while cooking any remaining pitas. These are best eaten fresh, but will keep in a ziplock bag for a few days or in the freezer.

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Yield: 8 pita rounds

Ingredients

1 c hot water (not boiling)

2 tsp active dry yeast

2 1/2 – 3 c all-purpose flour

2 tsp salt

1 T olive oil

Directions

Mix the water and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer (a large bowl will also work if you do not have a mixer), and let sit for about five minutes until the yeast is dissolved.  Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour (saving the last half cup for kneading), salt, and olive oil. If using a stand mixer attach the dough hook and knead the dough on medium speed for 8 minutes, adding more flour until you have a smooth dough. If using your hands sprinkle a little of the extra flour onto your clean work surface and turn out the dough. Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, but try to be sparing. It’s better to use too little flour than too much. If you get tired, stop and let the dough rest for a few minutes before finishing kneading. Clean the bowl you used to mix the dough and run it with a little olive oil. Set the dough in the bowl and turn it until it’s coated with oil. Cover with a clean dishcloth or plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

At this point, you can refrigerate the pita dough until it is needed. You can also bake one or two pitas at a time, saving the rest of the dough in the fridge. The dough will keep refrigerated for about a week. Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and gently flatten each piece into a thick disk. Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the pieces into a circle 8-9 inches wide and about a quarter inch thick. Lift and turn the dough frequently as you roll to make sure the dough isn’t sticking to your counter. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if it starts to stick. If the dough starts to spring back, set it aside to rest for a few minutes, then continue rolling. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. (Once you get the hang of it you can be cooking one pita while rolling the next one out.) Warm a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat (you want a hot pan). Drizzle a little oil in the pan and wipe off the excess. Lay a rolled-out pita on the skillet and bake for 30 seconds, until you see bubbles starting to form. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside. Flip again and cook another 1-2 minutes to toast the other side. The pita should start to puff up during this time; if it doesn’t or if only small pockets form, try pressing the surface of the pita gently with a clean towel. Keep cooked pitas covered with a clean dishtowel while cooking any remaining pitas. These are best eaten fresh, but will keep in a ziplock bag for a few days or in the freezer.

Peter Reinhart’s Bagels

From Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

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It can get chilly here up on the ridge, so the smell and taste of freshly baked bread is often welcomed (mostly by me). A few weeks ago was just such a weekend; gloomy and rainy and in need of bread. When looking for different breads to bake, I often browse some of my favorite cooking blogs, pinterest, and the few cookbooks I have on hand. These bagels are from Peter Reinhart’s amazing book, which I’m going to start working my way through (so stay tuned!). As such, I must work my way alphabetically through the book (because the thought of working haphazardly through it makes me shudder). So I begin with B, and delicious bagels. I made 12 bagels, but they were extremely large – next time I plan to try mini bagels. I did use the recommended malt syrup and high gluten flour (but only half). Be warned, this recipe is not for the faint of heart. But if you are looking for something to occupy a cloudy weekend, long for a bit of a bread-baking challenge (in effort, not difficulty), absolutely love bagels, or need an arm workout, then please try these bagels. They are completely worth the work. They are soft and chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside, what’s not to love?

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Day 1

To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl.

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Add the water…

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…whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter.

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Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly.

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It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.

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To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining ¾ cup flour to stiffen the dough.

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Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour–all ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81°F. If the dough seems too dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

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Immediately divide the dough into 4½ounce pieces (12) for standard bagels, or smaller (24 pieces for mini bagels) if desired.

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Form the pieces into rolls.

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Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

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Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Proceed with one of the following shaping methods:

Method 1: Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2½ inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)

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Method 2: Roll out the dough into an 8-inch long rope. (This may require rolling part of the way and resting if the pieces are too elastic and snap back, in which case, allow them to rest for 3 minutes and then extend them again to bring to full length. Wrap the dough around the palm and back of your hand, between the thumb and forefinger, overlapping the ends by several inches. Press the overlapping ends on the counter with the palm of your hand, rocking back and forth to seal.

Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

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Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

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Day 2

The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500°F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven.

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

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Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds).

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After 1 minute flip them over and boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side.

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While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.) If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water. You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination. I used a combination of sesame and poppy seeds.

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When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450°F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.

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Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

Revel in your hard work, and enjoy a fresh bagel.

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Yield: 12 large or 24 mini bagels 

Ingredients

Sponge
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (I used half and half)
2½ cups water, room temperature

Dough
½ teaspoon instant yeast
3¾ cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (I used half and half))
2¾ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar (I used malt syrup)

To Finish
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal (what I used) or semolina flour for dusting
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, or chopped fresh onions that have been tossed in oil (optional – I used poppy and sesame seeds)

Directions

Day 1

To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.

To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining ¾ cup flour to stiffen the dough.

Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour–all ingredients should be hydrated. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81°F. If the dough seems too dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

Immediately divide the dough into 4½ounce pieces (12) for standard bagels, or smaller (24 pieces for mini bagels) if desired. Form the pieces into rolls.

Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Proceed with one of the following shaping methods:

Method 1: Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2½ inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)

Method 2: Roll out the dough into an 8-inch long rope. (This may require rolling part of the way and resting if the pieces are too elastic and snap back, in which case, allow them to rest for 3 minutes and then extend them again to bring to full length. Wrap the dough around the palm and back of your hand, between the thumb and forefinger, overlapping the ends by several inches. Press the overlapping ends on the counter with the palm of your hand, rocking back and forth to seal.

Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans. Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

Day 2

The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500°F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute flip them over and boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.) If you want to top the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water. You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination. I used a combination of sesame and poppy seeds.

When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450°F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.

Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

Revel in your hard work, and enjoy a fresh bagel.