What’s for Dinner

One of the biggest challenges to getting dinner on the table, for me, is that during the hours between the end of school and dinnertime, when I would like to be cooking, I am usually in the car instead, driving to soccer, fencing, music lessons and other activities. This is not an insurmountable problem, but it requires me to do some planning, not really my strong suit. I find it very hard to think about what I might like to eat for dinner at 10 in the morning, when I have just had breakfast. In the past, I would start thinking about dinner about half an hour before I wanted to eat, and hope to have it done within about an hour. I am trying to reform. However, on days when I just can’t decide, I usually just set a batch of bread dough to rise. Even a simple dinner of scrambled eggs and a salad becomes special with a loaf of fresh bread to go with it. Here is a link to an article containing my current favorite bread recipe.

Sometimes, instead of a loaf of bread, I make bagels, especially in the winter, because the bagels are boiled before baking, making the kitchen warm and steamy. A pleasure when the air outside is cool and dry, but not so much in the summertime. The recipe makes about 10 medium sized bagels, but it’s worth doubling. They freeze beautifully and taste so much better than your typical suburban bagel. The recipe comes from Molly O’Neill’s New York Cookbook, although I have modified her method of shaping the bagels.

1 package yeast

3 t. brown sugar

1 1/2 cups warm water

1 T. salt

4 cups flour

cornmeal for dusting

1. Place the yeast in a large bowl. Add the warm water and half the brown sugar. Stir well and set aside for about 5 minutes.

2. Add the remaining sugar and the salt and stir well. Add the flour one cup at a time. Using  your hands, mix the dough until the flour is well incorporated. Knead the dough in the bowl until smooth about 7 minutes. Cover and set aside in a warm place to rise for 40 minutes.

3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Lightly dust a baking sheet with corn meal. Pull off a chunk of dough just big enough to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. Roll it between your hands into a snake about 5″ long. Wrap the dough around your hand, twisting as you go, and seal the edges together. Place the bagel on the cornmeal-covered pan. Repeat until all the dough is used up. Set aside in a warm place, uncovered for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the over to 425. Heavily dust another baking sheet with cornmeal (you will probably need two).

5. Fill a large wide pot two-full of water and bring to a boil. Using a wide slotted spoon, drop the bagels in batches into the water; they should not touch. Boil on one side for two minutes then turn and boil on the other side for 1 1/2 minutes. They will firm and puff up. Carefully remove from the water and allow to drain for 1 minute on a rack.

6. Place the bagels on the prepared baking sheet (you can sprinkle them with sesame or poppy seeds or coarse salt if you want). Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 12 minute. Turn the bagels over and bake until deep golden brown all over, about 7 more minutes. Remove from the baking sheets to cool on paper towels.


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