Homemade Bagels

It’s the spookiest day of the year, and what screams “Halloween” more than a basket of homemade bagels?

Just kidding. I didn’t really go with the Halloween theme today, but I have no regrets. It’s never a bad time for bagels, especially the homemade kind.

I used the same recipe as I did last time—from Sophisticated Gourmet—and once again it was delicious. I did make one change, however. After our last experience with these, I knew that this time I would have to make a double batch! The recipe makes 8, but I doubled it and also separated it into smaller bagels, so I got 24 in all.

Since the cinnamon raisin bagels were so popular last time, I didn’t make any plain ones today. 14 were cinnamon raisin and 6 were just cinnamon (to give to my friends—for some ridiculous reason they don’t like raisins! I don’t understand that). I also tried making 4 pumpkin-flavored, since I had a bunch of pumpkin leftover from last week’s muffins.

Adding the purée made the dough super moist, but they turned out okay. The pumpkin taste wasn’t really apparent, but we still liked them. Next time, though, I think it’s going to be all cinnamon-raisin!

I can never seem to get these bagels smooth and seamless, but I think the bumpy, twisted, imperfect surface actually gives them a really neat look.

The entire bagel-making process is surprisingly fun, but my favorite part will always be the boiling. It’s one of those things that’s hard to describe—you just have to try it for yourself! I took a video this time, but honestly not even that can capture the experience.

Maybe I’m being weird, but I really do love boiling those things. This is what gives them that “skin.” You have to boil them for at least a minute, but I like to go longer to make the outer layer thicker. If you’ve never had homemade bagels, this may not sound so appetizing, but I’m telling you, it’s something amazing that’s completely unmatched by any store-bought bagel.

After they’ve been boiled, the bagels need to go in the oven for about 20 minutes. The outsides get that slight crunch, and mmm…that’s what I call perfection.

These make an amazing brunch, as well as next-day sandwiches! If you ask me, toasting them for just a minute brings them to perfection.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Back at it again with brunch! Today I made chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. I’ve made these once before—about this same time last year, actually—and they’ve been delicious both times.

I used my own fresh, homemade pumpkin purée for this. Since I haven’t cooked with the canned kind, so I can’t really compare the two, but I do think it’s fun to bake the actual pumpkin.

I’m not exactly sure where the original recipe for this came from, but I did make a few changes to it today. First, I replaced half of the oil with applesauce, and then instead of two cups of sugar I put in one, plus a half cup of Stevia. Still tasted great!

My brother said today: “I hope we’ll see more of these in the future!” and I can guarantee that we will.

Berry Pancakes

A couple of years ago, my family was in Chicago and we had these AMAZING pancakes at a place called Wildberry. I still think about those pancakes…so for Father’s Day, I made them myself!

These were a hit. I made three kinds of sauces/toppings to go with the pancakes: a crème anglaise, a raspberry coulis (originally it was blackberry, but I didn’t have any of those so I substituted raspberries), and a sort of whipped cream topping, which I found in a crêpe recipe. Personally, the whipped topping was my favorite, but of course the pancakes tasted best with all three!

Call me lazy, but I just used store-bought pancake mix for the pancakes themselves. I was running short on time after making all of the other things, and the mix we have is actually pretty good.

Eggs Benedict

This week, I had planned to make English muffins, but then I decided to take it a step further with Eggs Benedict! I’ve never actually had Eggs Benedict before, but I think these were really good!

The hardest part of making these was doing everything at the same time. All of the steps were simple, but when I was cooking the muffins, poaching the eggs, cooking the bacon, and making the sauce all at once, it was a bit chaotic. Let’s just say I have a new appreciation for all of the multi-tasking my mom does when she cooks dinner every night!

Here’s the English muffin recipe I used: https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/homemade-english-muffins/

Blueberry Muffins

Week #3 of surprise brunches: blueberry muffins!

A few days ago, while we were on a walk, my dad mentioned that blueberry muffins sounded good to him. I kept this in mind and made them for brunch today! Just so you know: I’m always thinking about what to bake next, so if you’re ever craving a certain treat, just drop a subtle hint…they might just happen to show up within the next few days!

I had a hard decision to make when choosing a recipe: should I make regular blueberry muffins, or blueberry oatmeal muffins? I’d narrowed it down to two recipes…it was just a choice of one or the other. The hard thing about these surprise brunches is that I can’t ask my family for their input! Being an incredibly indecisive person, this is unbelievable difficult for me. Eventually, I caved and asked my mom which one to make. She said regular blueberry—so that’s what I went with! I think it was a good choice, too. As for the other recipe, I’ll have to try it sometime soon, as well.

When baking these muffins, I made quite a few changes to the recipe. First of all, I thought that 1¼ cup sugar sounded like way too much, even when I compared it to other recipes. I ended up putting in just shy of 1 cup, and they were still plenty sweet. Next time, I think I’ll probably reduce it even more.

I’ve read about substituting applesauce for butter or oil in muffins, and I thought I’d give it a try. This being my first time, I didn’t want to make a big mistake, so I only replaced a third of the butter. Better to be safe than sorry. I’ve heard that using applesauce can make muffins too dense, but that wasn’t a problem for mine. They had a perfect texture—moist and soft, and neither too dense nor too airy.

There were two more changes I made to these muffins. I didn’t sprinkle sugar over the top—just a minor difference, but I thought I’d mention it. Personally, I’m not a fan of sugar-sprinkled muffins. Next, I changed the baking temperatures a little.

Before going into this, I read a lot about muffins, and how doing different things can make them turn out differently. Actually, here’s one of the posts that proved to be very helpful and interesting: https://www.handletheheat.com/ultimate-guide-muffins/

One thing I learned was that by putting the muffins in the oven at a higher temperature for the first few minutes, then lowering it for the rest of the bake time, you can get taller, rounder muffins with bigger tops. Well, mine certainly rose…many of them too much so! I don’t think that the high-low temperature method was to blame for that, though. A lot of the muffin tins were just filled too high. At least I got three perfect looking muffins: just enough for a nice photo!

Strawberry Cheese Danishes

For my second week of surprise brunches, I made danishes! Since it was such a lovely day, we got to eat them outside on the back patio.

I started making these danishes two days ahead, though I’m sure you could manage it if you started just one day in advance. The danishes are made using what’s called “rough puff pastry”, which is similar to puff pastry, but instead of having a layer of butter, you mix it into the dough in chunks. This makes the process faster and easier, though the layers aren’t quite as defined.

When making the dough, I must have made a mistake, because it came out very wet. It was more like batter than dough, really. I’m still not sure what I did wrong. I re-read the recipe many times, but I still can’t figure it out. Luckily, the addition of a little extra flour fixed my problem immediately.

Other than that, I didn’t have any mishaps when baking these. For me, that’s quite the achievement. I divided the dough into sections, folded them up, added the cheese, topped them with a bit of jam, and baked them. They came out perfectly!

I got this recipe from NYT Cooking—click here to see it.

Homemade Bagels

With all of the safety precautions currently in place for COVID-19, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. Perhaps too much time—a lot of which I’ve been spending browsing through delicious recipes on Pinterest. I’ve pinned more things that I could probably ever make in my life, but that’s just how Pinterest is, isn’t it?

Among these recipes I’ve compiled, there have been a lot of neat breakfast/brunch foods I’ve been interested in trying. A few weeks ago, I was struck with a brilliant idea: what if I tried a new one every weekend? I further developed this idea into a full-fledged plan to cook up a surprise brunch for my family every weekend. Not only would it be a fun an delicious way for me to practice my baking skills, but it would also give me an opportunity to test out a lot of new recipes! When I told them about my plan, my family was 100% on board with it.

One of the main things I was eager to try was homemade bagels, and I figured they’d be a great way to kick off my new routine! The recipe I used can be found here.

I started making the dough the night before, so that it would have time to proof in the refrigerator overnight. Once I had mixed it up, kneading this dough was like a workout. It was so firm! I didn’t want to use the mixer, though. Kneading it by hand, though difficult, was actually pretty fun. Let’s just say that it took me longer than the 10 minutes the recipe estimated.

In the morning, I divided the dough in two and added a cinnamon-raisin mix to one of the halves. The recipe, while offering topping suggestions, didn’t include instructions for cinnamon raisin bagels. I, however, had my heart set on cinnamon-raisin bagels, so after taking a look at a few other recipes, I came up with my own mix. To make it, I used a half cup of raisins, one teaspoon of cinnamon, and one teaspoon of vanilla. I had a lot of leftover cinnamon-covered raisins (which I snacked on as I baked), so I think that next time I’d just make half of that, but otherwise it was perfect. I kneaded the raisin mix into the dough and sprinkled in more as I shaped the bagels.

Instead of making 8 bagels, as the recipe said, I divided my dough into 12. I had worried that they might be too small, but they expanded to the perfect size when I boiled them. I wouldn’t have wanted them any bigger.

Speaking of boiling the bagels, you wouldn’t believe how FUN this step is! There’s something about it that’s just so entertaining, though I’m not quite sure what it is. It’s certainly a unique method!

We could not wait to eat these things! Multiple members of my family (including myself) burned our fingers trying to take them off the tray too soon. It was totally worth it, though! The outsides of the bagels had a slight crunch to them. Maybe that’s not what you think of when you envision a bagel, but I thought it added a wonderful contrast to the chewy texture of the insides.

Let me tell you, these bagels disappeared so quickly. All twelve were gone by noon the next day! As it turns out, they make great sandwiches!

I really enjoyed making (and eating!) these bagels, and would definitely make them again. There’s only one problem I had with them: now, I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to eat store-bought bagels again!