Tuesday, March 31, 2015

100% Whole Grain No-Knead Bagels

As I've posted before, I'm in love with my Komo Fidibus grain mill. I am having such fun making recipes I've already converted to whole wheat pastry flour, as well as converting old recipes that used some white flour into 100% whole grain.

After the success with crumpets (though I want to do some tweaking of griddle temperature and cooking time to improve the texture further), I decided to re-visit bagels. The girls loved crumpet sandwiches in their lunches and I thought that bagel sandwiches would also be great with the advantage that no-knead bagels are much easier to make than crumpets (in my opinion) despite the dual boil/bake cooking method.

I started with my own Homemade Bagels recipe, based on the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method. I and my in-laws had thought that the sourdough starter they've had for over 40 years was gone forever--ours had died a few years back and theirs got lost in the move they made to our neighborhood. That would have made it difficult for me to follow my original recipe. Thankfully, I mentioned this to my friend Melanie (featured in the original bagel post) and discovered that she had the starter! I'd completely forgotten that we'd gifted her some when Elspeth was a baby and it's still going strong. This stuff is robust! She gave us some and I charged it up enough to have some to give to my in-laws and I know they are absolutely delighted to have it back again. The moral of my story is twofold: starter is for sharing AND so are problems. Many times I've casually mentioned a problem to a friend, not thinking they could help, and suddenly the solution appeared.

Back to the bagel recipe, I'm having a love affair with spelt at the moment, so decided to use that for the bulk of my grain, along with hard red wheat for its higher protein. The first batch I made was delicious, but the dough was very sticky. Spelt absorbs water differently from regular wheat and as I was using a higher proportion of spelt to wheat, my dough was just a bit too wet. All I did was reduce the water to 2 1/4 cups instead of 2 1/2 cups and that was all it took.

This second batch was still well-hydrated, but it was easy to work with and the finished bagels came out beautifully--glossy on the top and slightly crusty with moist but not gummy interiors. I changed the cooking water to use only 2 TBSP of honey rather than 1/4 c. sugar and baking soda. I really should be using barley malt syrup or diastatic malt powder but my interest in authenticity doesn't stretch that far. Finally, I lowered the cooking temperature to 425F from 450F because ours is a convection oven and the first batch was a bit too crusty.

You can still make this recipe if you don't have a grain mill. Just use the same weight of pre-ground spelt and hard red wheat--the advantage of ingredients by weight over volume.

Yum! We are going away to a cabin in the San Juans after Easter and I'll make ahead a big batch to serve as our picnic lunches either stuffed with turkey, ham and cheese or peanut butter and jam. And now I have a new school lunch in the rotation, as well!

2 1/4 cups (18 fl oz) water
1 cup sourdough starter (the batter-like kind)
2 TBSP kosher or Maldon salt
1 1/2 TBSP sugar or honey or barley malt syrup
1 lb spelt
12 3/4 oz hard red wheat

5 quarts water (approx--I just fill our largest Dutch oven to within an inch of the top)
2 TBSP honey, barley malt syrup or baking soda

  1. You'll need a clean 6 qt container that is not absolutely airtight. I use a Rubbermaid 'Servin' Saver' 6 qt square container and have been very happy with it
  2. Put the water, starter, salt and sugar in the container and give it a mix
  3. Put the container on your scale and zero it out
  4. Add the spelt and wheat (I just grind the flour right into the container)
  5. Use a large wooden spoon to mix the flours into the water. You are not aiming to knead the dough and you should expect a pretty wet dough. After I mix as much as I can with the spoon, I went my hands and mix the dough with them until the flour is incorporated. Again, you're not kneading, you just don't want dry and wet patches
  6. Place the lid on the container loosely and put the dough in the fridge for a day or two (or three). Using the starter makes the rising take longer but the flavor is superb. You can speed things up slightly by leaving the dough out at room temperature for 8 hours.
  7. You know your dough is active when you see air bubbles in it and it has risen
  1. Set out a baking tray lined with Silpat or parchment for your dough lumps
  2. If you're going to bake your bagels right away, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F with a pizza stone set on the middle rack and a broiler tray on the shelf underneath
  3. Remove the dough container from fridge and sprinkle with all-purpose flour
  4. Weigh out as many 3 oz (or smaller) dough lumps for the number of bagels you wish to make. Because I want to try the boil-n-bake-later approach, I'd weigh out all of my dough and would expect about a dozen and a half bagels (always less than the authors say--maybe it's the starter)
  5. Working quickly, shape into a flattened ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you do this (that's nearly verbatim from the book but is still hard to explain until you've done it)
  6. Place on your lined baking tray and cover lightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes (I've let them sit for longer with no ill effects; in fact, I think a longer rise might be even better). Proceed to the boiling step
  1. Prepare another baking tray lined with a tea towel and sprinkled with flour
  2. If you are going to use the freeze-ahead method, you'll need a baking tray lined with Silpat or parchment
  3. If you are going to bake the bagels right away, you'll need to prepare a peel to get the bagels in the oven by sprinkling it with flour. I highly recommend the Super Peel; I don't think I could use a regular peel successfully. If you don't have a peel, take a baking tray and line it with Silpat or parchment and either put the whole tray in the oven or lift out the lining and put the lining directly on the baking stone. The latter works just fine and eliminates any issues with bagels sticking to the pizza stone, which happens from time to time
  4. Using a large Dutch oven (ours is 7+ quarts) or a stock pot, bring the water to a boil. The bagels do sink to the bottom of the pot and stick for a while until they float
  5. Once the water has boiled, lower heat to a simmer and add the honey, barley malt syrup or baking soda
  6. Now you'll form your bagels. I was surprised at how easy this was--the dough felt wonderfully silky and behaved well. Take each dough lump and use your thumbs to make a hole in the center. Work the dough around the outside so that it's evenly distributed around the hole. The hole needs to be 2-3 times the width of the bagel wall or it'll close up entirely during baking
  7. Drop the bagels gently in the water one at a time trying not to crowd them too much (I can do four at a time in my Dutch oven)
  8. Simmer for two minutes. Most times, the bagels will sink to the bottom and then float up before the two minutes is up. If they haven't, I gently prod them with a slotted spoon and ease them off the bottom of the pot
  9. Flip the bagels over and simmer for an additional minute. Test for doneness by using a slotted spoon to lift the bagel out. Several of mine have been really squashy so I've let them cook a bit longer. The surface will be gummy because of the water, but they should still feel firm to the touch. The bagels shouldn't be hard or anything, but you'll get the hang of it once you've handled a squashy one
  10. Remove the bagels to the tea towel sprinkled with flour to absorb some of the water
  11. Proceed either to the FREEZE FOR LATER or BAKING DIRECTIONS sections
Bagels are great eaten hot from the oven. These days I'm too lazy to bake them ad hoc and I'll freeze them baked and split, but you can give this freezer method a try if you wish
  1. Once your bagels have sat on their tea towel for a moment, line them up on your baking tray with Silpat, parchment or waxed paper. You're going to freeze the bagels on this tray first so that when you bag them, they won't stick together
  2. Put the tray in the freezer (we're lucky to have an outside freezer with lots of room. If you've got a small or full freezer, you'll have to improvise) and freeze until solid
  3. Transfer the bagels to a very thick freezer bag, or you could wrap them in foil and then bag them. They'll be susceptible to picking up odors/flavors from the freezer, so wrapping them well is key
  4. On the day you're ready to bake them or the night before, set the desired number of bagels onto a metal tray (this helps them to thaw faster) and leave until thawed. It may be possible to bake from frozen, but I suspect you'll have a better result if you thaw them fully first
  5. Once the bagels are thawed, proceed to BAKING DIRECTIONS
  1. Twenty minutes before you want to bake the bagels, preheat the oven to 425 degrees if you haven't already done so. You want the rack in the middle, preferably with a baking stone on it (hence the preheating for so long). A second rack should have a broiler tray or something that can hold water.
  2. Boil 1 cup of water or have really hot water from the tap and have it ready by the oven. I forgot this the second time and my bagels were fabulous, so don't stress out about this step
  3. Prepare your peel by sprinkling it with flour if you haven't already done so. If you don't have a peel or Super Peel, take a baking tray and line it with Silpat or baking parchment
  4. Place the freshly-boiled or thawed bagels on your prepared surface and sprinkle with the desired toppings
  5. Use peel to transfer the bagels onto the baking stone. Alternatively, put the whole tray in the oven or lift out the lining and put the lining directly on the baking stone
  6. Quickly add the boiling water to the broiler tray and close the oven
  7. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the bagels are golden
  8. Eat immediately or cool and split them before freezing. They'll stay fresh in an air-tight container on the counter for about four days

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Whole Wheat Crumpets

When I and my good girlfriends worked downtown, we would often meet to have lunch or tea at The Crumpet Shop in Pike Place Market. I usually had ham and egg on crumpet and it made a tasty lunch. But I haven't worked downtown for years, so if I want crumpets, I have to make them myself. Frankly, the urge didn't come upon me particularly often. I've made crumpets a few times using the King Arthur Flour recipe, but I was never totally satisfied with it.

Well, someone on my baking group posted a beautiful photo of her homemade crumpets and I was inspired. She told me she used the Paul Hollywood crumpet recipe and I had to give it a go. I nearly followed the recipe as-written except that instead of using strong white flour, I used strong (hard red) home-milled wheat flour, from which I sifted out some of the bran. I also used the stand mixer to do the beating for me, but you could do it by hand. The Hollywood recipe is a bit fiddly because of the two leaveners added at separate times and the two rest periods, but the results are well worth it! They were far better than the King Arthur ones and, I dare say, better than Crumpet Shop's (though that could be due to their freshness). The children and I were having a "moment" yesterday afternoon, but after we ate our crumpets slathered in butter, homemade nectarine freezer jam and honey (we're big on doing halvsies in our house), suddenly our moods were dramatically better.

Today's challenge was to see if I could make the crumpets using all home-milled whole wheat\ flour. I opted to use half soft wheat berries and half hard wheat berries. I sifted out the (biggest particles of) bran and ended up with 11.5 oz flour, which worked great because I find I need more liquid in a recipe when I use whole wheat flour. The yeast easily did its job and they were no less light and delicious than the other kind, though of course they're darker and taste more, well, wheaty.

I had a problem getting the crumpets out of the rings both times, definitely worse with the whole wheat batch, but that's a small price to pay. Still not sure why Hollywood has you turn the crumpets in their rings instead of removing the rings before the flip--adding the amount of batter to each ring that he suggests didn't give me a crumpet tall enough to reach the griddle if I flipped it in its ring. I tended to flip the crumpets then remove the rings (with difficulty) so the second surface could reach the griddle. I cooked on a cast iron griddle and I find that long, slow preheating is key.

Next time I'll be doubling the batch and hoping that means we manage to freeze some, but I'm not too optimistic...

Revelation in May 2017 is that there are two secrets to very bubbly crumpets: add quite a bit of extra water to compensate for the extra absorption of whole grain flour (I've long since given up sifting out any bran!) and only add a smallish scoop of batter to the ring so it can freely rise and cook through.

6 oz (175g) soft wheat berries or whole wheat pastry flour
6 oz (175g) hard wheat berries or whole wheat bread flour
14g instant yeast (or two packets or 4 1/2 tsp)
12 fl oz warm milk
1 tsp sugar
10 oz  warm water (Hollywood recipe calls for 5-7 oz)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Oil for the crumpet rings and griddle

  1.  Mill the flours and add to the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the flours and yeast together
  2. Dissolve the sugar in the warm milk. My milk was just over 100 degrees, but you have more leeway when using instant yeast and mixing it with the flour first so as long as you're under 140 you should be ok
  3. Pour the milk into the flours and stir in a bit so it doesn't slosh everywhere
  4. Beat on low to medium for up to three minutes until you get a very smooth batter
  5. Cover and let rise 40-60 minutes. I found Hollywood's tip that the dough should rise and then start to fall super helpful. I err on the long side of rising time because the whole wheat dough does take longer
  6. Stir down the dough, then dissolve the salt and baking soda in the warm water. Add the water to the dough and again stir a bit by hand to avoid sloshing. Mix until well blended. Another helpful Hollywood tip is that the batter should be the consistency of double cream. I thought my batter reached that texture, but it was also very springy--my gluten strands were strong. Don't be afraid to add more water as you will definitely get better bubbles with a thinner batter
  7. Cover and let sit 20 minutes. While the batter sits, heat a cast iron griddle on medium-low so it has a nice long time to distribute the heat
  8. After the final rest, grease the griddle and 4-6 crumpet rings (my griddle fits 6). Turn up the heat to a bit higher than medium (I do 5.5 or 6 out of 9)
  9. Fill each ring until it's about 1/2 full  if you want crumpets tall enough to split. My size 16 portion scoop worked perfectly
  10. Cook until the top is set and you're seeing lots of bubbles. I find that my crumpets need a LONG time to cook, up to ten minutes a side. This is not consistent with Hollywood's recipe but is what I've found all the times I've made crumpets
  11. Either remove the rings before or after flipping and cook just a few minutes on the second side. Despite the greasing, I always need to use a knife to get the crumpets out and it is irritating (just think of that warm crumpet dripping with butter to regain your will)
  12. Serve warm or if you're managed not to eat them all at once, toast (splitting optional) before serving

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Welsh Cakes

Most of the members of the dessert group I'm part of on Facebook seem to live in the UK and there are several who either live now or once lived in Wales. Thus, March 1 for them means St David's Day and a good reason to make Welsh cakes. While I am a fan of soda bread for St Patrick's Day, haggis for Burns' Night and pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, I have never eaten nor made Welsh cakes until today. I hadn't really heard of them, in fact.

After seeing a photo on the group, I was determined to give it a go. I decided to use Jamie Oliver's recipe, though I did halve it because 35-40 cakes seemed a bit much for a family of four. I only made a few slight modifications, otherwise. I used home-milled soft wheat berries for the flour and added baking powder and salt to compensate for it not being self-rising. I used a whole small egg instead of halving a large egg, made up my own mixed spice, and substituted dried tart cherries for the raisins or currants.

Welsh cakes are so interesting: the recipe reads like a reasonably standard scone recipe, but you cook them on the stove. I was very dubious that they would cook through and I couldn't quite imagine the texture. I think the reason they work is there is so much butter in them and it melts and cooks. At any rate, they're crisp on the outside and tender on the inside but not exactly in the way a scone is. I'm a new convert and will be adding these to my repertoire. They also make a fair amount (I think I got something like 10-12) so I can make a big batch and possibly freeze a few to accompany an egg on a school morning.

240 g (two cups assuming 120g per cup) whole wheat pastry flour or milled soft wheat berries
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
Scant 3 TBSP sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
pinch ground cloves (you could also add some nutmeg if you like)
1/2 c dried tart cherries
113 g (1 stick, 4 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 small egg
1-2 TBSP milk

  1. Put the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine
  2. Add the dried tart cherries and pulse a few more times to cut the cherries into smaller pieces
  3. Add the cubed butter and pulse 10-15 times until the butter has been cut in and the mixture looks like coarse meal with irregular lumps of butter
  4. Tip the mixture out into a large bowl and make a well. Crack the egg into the well and mix in with a fork
  5. Add the milk, a tablespoon at a time until the mixture barely comes together
  6. Dump out the dough onto a clean counter or piece of parchment or waxed paper and pat into circle
  7. Because I am using whole wheat flour, I let the dough rest for ten minutes so it can absorb the liquid a bit more. While the dough is resting, heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet on medium heat
  8. Once the dough has rested, roll out to about 1/2 inch thick and cut into rounds. You may need to flour the dough a bit. My biscuit cutter is bigger than the one Jamie Oliver used, so my yield was less
  9. Do a test cake and adjust the heat so that the cake will cook in about 4 minutes on each side. I started out at the exact middle setting, but had to go up to a medium-high for a while until my cast iron got really hot. Turn the cakes when they are a deep brown. They will puff slightly when you turn them
  10. Remove to a plate and eat as-is or dust with cinnamon-sugar or serve with cream as you would a scone