Mellow Bakers: Rocking the bagel

I like bagels. I won’t say I love them, because it’s not that intense between us. I don’t eat a lot of bagels because I have a tough time finding bagels that balance chewiness with the necessary crust. But when the Mellow Bakers added bagels to April’s lineup, I knew I was gonna try them.


Yes, I’m behind on this submission. I’ve been busy traveling. The good news is, this is a relaxed baking group, hence the name, Mellow Bakers. I had to order things I’d never heard of such as diastatic malt powder and syrup. I also got some of that¬†coveted high gluten flour because I’m¬†pretending to be serious about this bread making business.

I started the dough yesterday and was immediately struck by¬†the scent of¬†yeast. I’ve decided it is one of my favorite smells now. Slightly sweet, with an underlying pungency. Filled with the promise of glorious bread. Yep, I’m digging the breading.

I followed most of Mr. Hamelman’s¬†instructions for the home batch, but added a bit more salt because I use sea salt¬†instead of the regular stuff and about 1-2 tbsps more water to keep the dough pliable. I also¬†allowed the dough to ferment a bit longer before shaping, an extra hour to be exact.

This is the first time I weighed dough before shaping. Hamelman suggested making each bagel with 4 ozs of dough, but I wanted mine just slightly smaller, so I weighed to 3ozs and ended up with 22 bagels.

When it came time to shape them, I tried both methods: rolling and poking.

Rolling and wrapping:   roll each piece of dough to about 6-8 inches long, then wrap it around the broadest part of your hand slightly overlapping the ends. Roll your hand back and forth on the counter to seal the ends together.

Poking: shape the dough pieces into tight balls, poke a hole in the center with your thumb. From the center gently pull until you have a nice size hole in the center.

Place the finished bagels on a sheet pan that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with plastic wrap, they’re now ready to be stashed in the fridge overnight or at least for 6 hours.

The next day when you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven. The book suggested taking it to 500¬įF, but I’ve noticed that when I¬†heat the oven that high, it browns my breads too quickly, so I went for 475¬į and¬†placed my baking stone on the first rack.

First step requires the bagels to be boiled. I added malt syrup  to a large stockpan filled with water and brought it to a boil. I used enough syrup to make the water look like strong tea. The idea behind this step is to reactivate the yeast since it has been refrigerated for a while. The other benefit of this step is to gelatinize the starch on the surface so you end up with beautifully chewy bagels.

I had the benefit of reading the comments from other bakers before I began my bagel process, so I learned from some of their challenges and took some precautions or made some changes. The first change was to pull the bagels out of the fridge and allow them to slowly come to room temperature. This wasn’t intentional, but I noticed that the bagels I boiled & baked last were a lot puffier than the first batch. Since I didn’t have a bagel board, I boiled & baked in batches of 5-7 bagels at a time.

Also, instead of leaving them in the water for  45 seconds as suggested in the book, I allowed them to stay in for a few minutes until *I* noticed that they were swelling. Then I removed from the water and placed them in an ice bath as instructed for 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer them to a baking sheet/stone that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.

The first batch I made was plain, no toppings. For the second batch, I followed the same steps: boiling, icing, draining, but before placing them on the stone press one side into a plate of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion flakes, or seeds of your choice, then put them on the stone or sheet pan.

The instructions were to put the¬†seeded side down and then flip the bagels halfway through baking. As a matter of fact, the instructions are to flip them regardless of topping or not. I didn’t like the way the looked after flipping, they seemed flat and distorted. I’m probably doing something wrong, but¬†I liked them best¬†left alone. I baked the topped ones with the topping on top and simply rotated the stone at 5 minute intervals. They baked for a total of 15 minutes or so.

In the end, the bagels were chewy and crusty, just the way I like them. On the last batch, I noticed that while boiling, some of the surface gets very thin–gelatinous and it can burst allowing water to hide inside. In those cases, the center was a bit doughy. I caught on the very last batch and made sure to drain that water out before putting the bagel on the stone.

I’m so glad I tried these. I’m a happy bagel camper and if you’d like to check out the bagels by some of my other mellow cohorts, follow this link to the bagel gallery.

Cookingly yours,


Eating in Mexican Style

I’m totally lame, I know this. I didn’t make a new dish for today, to commemorate Cinco¬†de Mayo. In my defense, I’m too busy driving my OCD-self crazy with last minute¬†shopping and planning and preparing for my trip to Panama. In case you have forgotten, the Hubbz and I leave Friday…weeeeeeeeeeee!

Anyway, will you allow me to alleviate¬†some of my lameness with a trip down memory lane? Huh? Huh? Let me call your undivided attention to something old. Something that may very well predate our time together and, hence, be new¬†to YOU. It’s all about you, after all.

Here’s a humble roundup of recipes with a Mexican flair or, at the very least, a jalape√Īo. You can click on the images for the full recipes. Now grab a Negra¬†Modelo and a seat, enjoy the ride.

Let’s start with brunch: Huevos¬†Benedictinos¬†– a twist on the traditional Benedict. This one incorporated chorizo, a creamy salsa and queso fresco into puff pastry baskets.

The FDA suggests we have 2 snacks a day as part of a healthy diet. With that in mind, how about snacking on some Jalape√Īo Poppers.

Once you’re ready for dinner, why not try this creamy Chicken in Poblano Sauce. I know I want some right now.

And no holiday would be complete without dessert. Flan is a very common offering in Mexican/TexMex restaurants here in Houston, however, this one is made extra creamy thanks to the addition of cream cheese.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!
Cookingly yours,


Eating out: NoLa, Day…

This is¬†only the second entry for my New Orleans adventures, I mean work week, but I’ve been here for almost 4 days now. Technical difficulties kept me from giving you a play-by-play, but i will try to make up for lost time.

Yesterday I had an awesome omelette for breakfast at a little cafe right across from the hotel. I didn’t take pictures of it, I’m sorry to say, but it was perfect. Tasso ham, still moist in the middle. Beautiful! And they also gave me the best cup of coffee I’ve had on this trip.

So I thought I would try to top yesterday’s breakfast today. I headed out to Mother’s, a landmark in these here parts. You know how sometimes you hear a lot about a place, then it doesn’t live up to the hype? Mother’s is nothing like that.

I decided against another omelette, even though the menu was tempting me with a crawfish etouffe omelette. Instead, I went for the basics: 2 eggs, grits, biscuits and their homemade sausage. Let me tell you, when something this simple is that good, you know the place is a winner.

Now, I have to walk this off. I’ll be back!

I’ve gone bananas!

Once I won a ToastMasters¬†Impromptu Award for sharing my dislike of bananas. They still call me the Banana Lady at work. I have a banana mental block: its smell, the way it looks when exposed to air, the texture. Believe me, I have banana issues. Big ones, but I won’t bore you with them.¬†HOWEVER, there are 2 things I like banana hints in: banana bread and banana fritters. The fritters are another¬†goody¬†my mom used to make when I was growing up.

I’ve been thinking about banana fritters for a while now, so when I bought a share of produce from a local farmers market association-group-co op thing and it included bananas, I knew the time had come. I stared at them for days waiting for them to ripen enough to make these fritters. Then they were ready, so here you go:

Banana Fritters

About 10 fritters

2 very ripe bananas
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp sugar
1 cp flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp  milk
1 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp sea salt
Oil for deep-frying

Mash the bananas, it’s ok to have a few lumps. Stir in the egg, then the rest of the ingredients, until you end up with a pretty thick batter.

Preheat the oil over medium temperature; you don’t want to fry them too hot, otherwise they will brown while remaining raw in the center. Use a large soup spoon to pour the batter. Here’s a trick: dip the spoon in oil before scooping batter from the bowl, this will keep the batter from sticking to the spoon.

Drop the batter into the oil and spoon some of the hot oil over the fritters. This helps seal the top and makes it easier to flip. Fry for about 2 minutes per side until lightly brown and crisp on the edges. Once you flip them, give them a little squeeze, this helps to cook through the middle.


Drain on paper towel and serve dusted with powdered sugar.


I REALLY went bananas. *I*, Anamaris of Chef It Yourself, the same person who unloves¬†bananas and who cringes at the sight of banana splits, went for the chocolate. I did. I don’t know what happened.

I don’t know why I did it. Well, I think I do know why I did it. It’s become apparent to me that my palate is growing up, expanding, refining, becoming more flexible.

I gave it a try, and OH.MY.GAWD!


Just a light smear of it will do. There was something magical about the combination. The fritters are slightly sweet with just a hint of banana, they develop a nice crisp edge, while they’re goey¬†doughy inside. The Nutella teases you with its light chocolate taste.

Now I must leave you so I can come to terms with this choco-banana turn.


Cookingly yours,


Breakfast on the island: Pan de Mallorca

I’ve been bitten by the bread making bug. I mean a BIG bite. I’ve always shied away from bread making because I’ve not been successful at it. I either killed the yeast, used too much of it, added too much flour, forced the dough to bloom. Issues. I just faced a million issues when I tried making bread. I was sure my mom hadn’t shared that particular gene with me, because she’s an AWESOME baker.
Then I came across instructions for ciabatta and realized that I just had to try again. I’ve been stalking the guys over¬†at the BBA for months now, and though I’m not participating in their challenge, I¬†am baking as a result of it. I must admit I’m loving Reinhart’s approach to baking and may have found a¬†new passion in my life. But I digress.
There is another challenge I’ve been trying¬†to participate in, but kept missing the deadlines. Joan over at Foodalogue has a Culinary World Tour challenge. This round¬†was all about Latin America and the Caribbean. Yep, right up my alley. And yes, I missed it every week except for the last one. Hence, this post.¬†
This week they’re visiting Puerto¬†Rico and enjoying its wonderful cuisine. As luck would have it, I have the inside track on Puerto Rico. You see, I’ve been there a couple of times, my bestie’s¬†hubby is a¬†native and Puertorrican food is pretty similar to Panamanian food. Yeah, I’m in.
Originally I was thinking about pastel√≥n¬†or something along those lines, but with my new baking infatuation, I opted for Pan de Mallorca. A slightly sweet, creamy, egg-based bread that is traditionally served for breakfast¬†on the island. If you go to La Bombonera, they will slice, butter and toast it for you, and serve it¬†alongside a caf√© con leche. Or you can have it as a sandwich stuffed with cheese, ham, eggs, bacon, anything you love. So here’s my submission for Puerto¬†Rico:
Pan de Mallorca
Because I’m so into Reinhart’s poolish method, I decided to implement it for this recipe as well.¬†To get that poolish going you will need:
1 tsp dry yeast
1 cp warm water
1 cp bread flour
Dissolve the yeast in the water–I’ve been using warm water straight from the tap, it’s barely tepid. Add the flour to your mixer’s bowl, then add the yeast/water and mix until the batter looks smooth. About 3-4 minutes. Scrape the sides, cover with plastic wrap and allow it to sit on the counter for about an hour before you put it in the fridge overnight.
Next day, when you’re ready to finish the dough, remove the poolish from the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before mixing the rest of the ingredients.
1-1/4 tsp dry yeast
1 cp whole milk, warm
¬ĺ cp sugar
4 cps flour
3/4 tsp sea salt
6 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 stick butter, melted
1 stick butter, melted to brush on top
Powdered sugar
First, warm the milk, just enough to take the chill off it and dissolve the yeast into it; set aside. Into the bowl with the poolish, add the sugar, salt, yolks, milk and 1 cup of the flour and mix it until well incorporated. Then add 1 stick of the melted butter and mix evenly. Now you can start adding the rest of the flour.
Make sure you mix it well and that the dough looks smooth. It will probably need to be mixed for 4-5 minutes, the dough will begin to separate from the sides, but it will still be a very moist dough.  Set aside and allow the dough to rise for about an hour or so.
Lightly dust the countertop where you will work the dough. Make sure the second stick of butter is ready to go, you will also need a pastry brush. Turn the dough onto the countertop and divide it into 15 portions.

Roll each¬†portion under your hands making it into long strip–channel your inner kindergartener and have some fun. Once you have a long strip, brush it with butter and roll into a coil.

I found that the best method is to roll in one end, then pick up the length of the strip and roll it around the center. This kept the coils nice and flat. Make sure you tuck the end under the coiled dough and transfer to a greased baking sheet or one lined with silpat/parchment paper. Brush the tops with more butter and continue rolling the rest of the dough.

Set the tray aside and allow them to rise again until they have doubled in size. It took about 30-40 minutes for that to happen.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375¬į. Bake them for 8 minutes and¬†rotate the¬†tray, then bake for another 8-10¬†minutes.

When they come out of the oven, brush the tops with a bit more butter before transferring them to a cooling rack. Dust them with powdered sugar before eating.

Now, for your personal edification, I will toast one and serve it as it is served at La Bombonera. I must admit to you, this is NOT skinny toasty bread. It IS all about the butter. Lots of it. What they do in Puerto Rico is slice ’em in half, slather¬†them with butter, put them together again and press them on a giant Panini¬†press type thing. Since I don’t have a Panini, I use a more… rustic method.

After slicing¬† and buttering ’em I put them in a skillet that already has MORE butter melted and ready for ’em. I keep the heat on medium low to avoid toasting it too much. Also, place the Mallorca¬†in the butter, then flip it right away, this way you pick up butter on both sides of it. Then¬†cover it with piece of foil and put a heavy pan over it. Press down to flatten the Mallorca.

 The foil creates a bit of steam in there and this allows the butter to melt through the dough. The result is almost like a cake, the bready dough gets soft and goey and oh so yummy. Make sure you flip it halfway through cooking.
Remove from the skillet and GENEROUSLY dust it with powdered sugar. But wait, there’s more! You didn’t think I would leave it at that, now did ya? This bread makes awesome sandwiches. I didn’t have the traditional ham & cheese, but I made do with:
Queso Oaxaca:¬†Mexico’s take on a melty¬†mozzarella
and… bacon!!!
Just make a grilled cheese sandwich: slice the mallorca in half, butter each side. Be generous, now. Layer your filling, I laid down a slice of cheese, then bacon, then more cheese. Top it with the other half of the mallorca. Into the skillet with melted butter, cover with foil, press down and toast. Listo!
And it comes out looking like this:
I know it sounds weird, but top it with powdered sugar. I don’t know what it is, but it makes it really really REALLY YUM!

Cookingly yours,