It was Saturday. I had time. So I baked some bread. And it was light and fluffy. Bread flour, that does the trick, I tell you. All that extra gluten stretches things out. Like magic. A big round fluffy loaf of goodness. Hot and fresh and delish. It went well with the soup I made. I put kale in the soup. Trying to be trendy? Nope. It just works in a vegetable soup. So, yeah, fresh bread and hot soup. Can’t beat it.
We lit up a fire outside Friday night. All summer I was thinking it would be great to have a fire in our fire ring outside. Look out over the dark field, watch the stars, flames dancing, sparks drifting up. All that romantic business. But the sun sets late in the summer. Start a fire just before dark and you’re up until 11:00. Some of us have to go to work in the morning.
But this time of year the sun sets much earlier. So crackling flames while we hang out and listen to the coyotes sing? That’s a good deal. We did smell a skunk that night, but we talked loudly enough we hoped to keep it away. Apparently we did.
Saturday we cranked up the fire pit again. It was windy, but at least that kept the flames alive the whole time. We nibbled on Halloween-themed Oreos, talked about summer and Christmas and school and traveling, and we watched the stars pop in and out from the behind the clouds that were whipping across the sky.
It was so much fun that when friends unexpectedly came over on Sunday night we lit a fire one more time. We polished off those Oreos, and the bread, and laughed under a starless sky. We wore jackets. Some of us had to go to work in the morning so were were not out there too late. But three nights in a row with the comfort of a fire on a beautiful night? Stellar.
We have one apple tree. The first year we lived in this house it was loaded with apples. Come October we had plenty for pies and jam and whatnot. Last year we had exactly zero apples. Spring frost got all the blossoms. This year we returned to the bounty of that first year.
These are Red Delicious apples. Those are your standard, stereotypical apples. You know the ones. They look like, well, like a storybook apple–red and shiny and tapered a bit at the base. They are terrible. Well, most of them are terrible. I would never buy Red Delicious apples from a supermarket; they are bland and mushy and dry. But these Red Delicious are, indeed, delicious.
These are sweet and juicy and crisp. I took advantage of their current ripeness to make an apple crisp today. I woke early, the only one awake, so I got cracking. I peeled and sliced and stirred and assembled a fine apple crisp. After 45 minutes and a house full of apple odor I pulled a perfect breakfast from the oven.
I know apple crisp is not your typical American breakfast, but if we can eat donuts and danishes they we can eat a fresh apple crisp. And it was, as expected, enjoyable to consume. I only had one bowl, at first, but I did have seconds later in the morning. Hard to resist, that.
I put the rest in the fridge, even though it is tempting to eat the whole dang thing. A guy needs to eat something for breakfast tomorrow, you hear what I’m saying?
Well it looked good. And it tasted good. But it was still too runny. The last time I made a pie it was delish, but just not holding together. The apples were soft. The crust was flaky. But inside, liquid oozed around the apples. Today I tried again with a new recipe (thanks, Mom) but it still didn’t stay together well.
Last time I used cornstarch as a thickener. That makes for a smoother pie, so I’ve heard. This recipe calls for flour as a thickener. It worked just as well as far as I can tell, but did it work well enough? I am just not sure.
My theory at this point is that my lack of patience is the problem. When I took this pie out of the oven I placed it on a cooling rack. I let it sit for about a half hour. I thought that was long enough. But my family was eager to dig in, as was I. So I sliced it open to find it was not all that cohesive. It seemed cool enough–warm but not hot. But I splashed some of the filling onto my hand. That burned.
I may need to approach pie baking differently, give it more time. I had planned to make this one a couple of hours before dinner. But then I took my daughter to the movies with friends. And I made some chili. The pie had plenty of time to bake and some time to cool. Apparently, my cooling time was not adequate.
We only ate half the pie tonight. The rest, at this point, is in the refrigerator. In the morning I will have to see how it is doing. I am sure my children will insist on pie for breakfast. Call it bad parenting if you want but I am going to let them have it. I mean, it’s for science. If it is cohesive enough at breakfast, I will have proved my theory. Thanks, Kids!
Update 10/16: I had some of that pie tonight, about 24 hours after I first pulled it from the oven. It was, granted, pretty cooled in the fridge, but it was also pretty held together. Even after a minute in the microwave it seemed to have no runniness. Inconclusive. But it was still dang tasty!
Last weekend we picked some apples. If you are not one to frequent an orchard to pick your own apples then you might not know how easy it is to pick too many. One bag is easy to fill, especially when the apples are the size of grapefruits, so it is tempting to fill a second, and a third. Even though there were several of us on this particular trip, adults and youth types, we did not pick too many. Pat on the back for us.
We did, however, pick enough to make an apple pie. I have been using a variation of the same recipe now for years. It is a tasty pie, no doubt. The crust, with a bit of dried mustard and cheddar cheese baked right in, is spot on. It is a good crust. And the filling tastes great–robust apple flavor, not too sweet. But the consistency I just can’t nail.
This recipe calls for two tablespoons of corn starch to thicken the filling. I used the recommended number of apples, and I tried not to add only the humongo ones. More apples means more moisture which means more starch is required to absorb the excess liquid. I know this. So even though the number of apples in my pie matched that in the recipe, I doubled the corn starch. I was going to add only one extra tablespoon but I added two just to be on the safe side.
But the dang thing was still way too runny. I even let it sit a while so it would not flow out just because it was too hot. So, like a late New Year’s resolution, I have decided to just bag this recipe and to find another. This one stinks. I am always afraid I will add too much corn starch and it always comes out runny. Lame, I tell you. Lame. So from here on out I toss that filling recipe into the bin. I’ll keep the crust, but the filling? Ain’t happenin’ no more.
So I am on the hunt for a new apple pie recipe. I have a few in books on the shelf, and I will certainly give the pie recipes in them a try. I guess I will need to just get baking to try a few. Do you have a tried and true recipe that makes the apples pop on your tongue and is just sweet enough? You let me know. I’m game. I’ll let you know how it goes.
When I mentioned to my wife late in the day yesterday that I was thinking about making bagels for the morning, but that we were out of bread flour, she volunteered to go out right that minute to get said flour. Once that happened I couldn’t very well not make bagels. So I made some bagels.
As I have said before here, making bagels is a piece of cake. OK I didn’t say it was a piece of cake but I did say it was easy. It is actually easier than making cake. Last night I churned up some yeasted dough in the mixer, cut it into pieces, and made some rings out of it to rise overnight.
Here is what it looked like pulled from the fridge in the morning:
After it warmed up a bit, and a big pot of water came to a boil, I dropped them into the bath for half a minute or so. Then I let them dry a bit on a rack:
I lined a baking pan with parchment paper and laid them out:
About 15 minutes of baking later, BAM! Bagels ready to eat.
A little cream cheese or, as my wife likes them, hot and naked, and breakfast is on. So easy. A piece of cake you might say. Total time, including clean up: hour and a half. Get someone else to clean up and it is a lot faster. I am thinking we need to make this a regular thing this winter. Fresh bagels when the snow howls? That’s what I’m talking about.
I decided to make bagels again this weekend. Friday I found some malt syrup at our local health food store. I still was out of luck with the high gluten flour but bread flour would have to do. It worked well enough last time. I quickly whipped up the dough yesterday afternoon and molded it into rings to sit overnight. In the morning I boiled them to poof them up.
Boiled bagels draining and ready to be baked
Again they only took about 15 minutes to bake. It took me maybe 45 minutes last night to get the dough into the fridge. I took another hour this morning, but only because our stove is not the greatest for boiling a large pot of water. If the water hadn’t taken so long to boil the time this morning would have been maybe another 45 minutes. An hour and a half for fresh bagels? Not too shabby.
I will do this again. Homemade hot bagels taste pretty dang good. I’ll have to branch out and work on some flavors in the future. Sesame seed? Onion? Maybe even pumpernickel? If I remember to pick up some ingredients, I’m in.
One of my goals this summer was to make fresh bagels. A neighbor of ours told us about making them for a big group and how easy it was. I thought: We like bagels, I can make bagels, I am going to make some bagels. That, of course, did not happen. Stuff happens and other stuff doesn’t happen and then you don’t get around to making the bagels. Until last weekend.
We had a friend staying with us so I thought it would be a good time to stop putting it off and to get cracking on the bagel production. Now I can say I done it.
So, I don’t have pictures. Sometimes I think I should document new things and then I document new things. Other times I get wrapped up in the experience and the camera stays on the shelf. This was a camera-on-the-shelf situation.
Making bagels was really easy. I mean, why haven’t I done this before? Granted, they could have been better. Key ingredients are high-gluten flour (makes them chewy) and malt syrup (the sweetener). I had neither and could not readily acquire either, so I substituted, I used bread flour (not the all purpose flour we typically have on hand) and honey. A few ingredients in a mixer the night before and the dough was stretchy and workable.
I divided the dough and formed it into eight rings. Those rings sat on a covered sheet pan overnight to rise slowly. In the morning I boiled them for about 30 seconds, then baked them for 16 minutes at 450 degrees. They turned golden on top and were tasty I tell you. Fresh bread is always tasty so it was hard to tell how much of the tastiness was the bagelness and how much was the fresh breadness. In any case, they got gobbled up with high praise. You get what you get and you don’t get upset.
I definitely want to make bagels again. Next time I hope to get high-gluten flour and malt syrup. The flour I should be able to get somewhere. The malt syrup I can steal from my home brewing ingredients if necessary. Even if I use the same ingredients again it would be worth it. I now have one more item to add to our menu, even if it is only occasionally. Bagel’s baby. Finally.