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Last week, while on our winter vacation, Hanna and I went down to the Brattle and picked up a whole stack of books from the $1 cart. One of them was a much-used paperback copy of the 1970s classic Tassajara Bread Book, published by the San Francisco Zen Center.  This is a cookbook along the lines of the Moosewood cookbooks or Diet for a Small Planet: the hand-drawn illustrations are whimsical and the descriptions all sound vaguely as if they were written while the authors were slightly high. A recipe for alfalfa ice cream: “Take it like you find it, or leave it like it is.” For “Oriental” spice muffins: “Inscrutable.” For unkneaded unyeasted bread: “Never made this, but it must be all right.”

And all of the quantities would feed an army. The recipe we ended up making (bagels) we halved and still ended up with two dozen fist-sized bagels.

None of this detracts from the tastyness of the recipes therein, at least to judge by the two we have made thus far: Egg Bagels (#55) and Cheesecake Bar Cookies (#83).  The bagels don’t have a very springy bagel texture on the inside, but are a lovely bread regardless — and fairly easy to boil and bake. They also taste nice reheated in oven or toaster for breakfast or teatime.

TASSAJARA EGG BAGELS

Halved from original; makes 24 small bagels

Sponge:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 Tbl yeast
1/4 cup sugar or honey
3 whole eggs, well beaten
3 cups flour (I used 1 cup white, 2 cups multigrain)

Stage two ingredients:
2-3 cups flour
1/2 cup oil
1/2 Tbl salt

1. Whisk together warm water, yeast and sugar until dissolved. Add in eggs and flour to make a thick muddy “sponge.”

2. Cover the sponge with another 1-2 cups flour (from “stage two” ingredients) and cover the bowl with a towl. Place in a warm, sheltered location (i.e. inside an unheated oven) for about 50 minutes so yeast can ferment.

3. After rising, fold in oil, salt, and work in remaining flour, kneading well until dough comes together away from the sides of the bowl.

4. Cover and let rise for 50 minutes. Punch down and knead lightly.

5. Let rise 20 minutes.

6. Punch down, knead lightly and cut in half. Set half the dough aside and divide the remaining half into half again, then each half into six equal pieces for a total of twelve lumps of dough. Roll each lump into a worm and then pinch the ends together to form rings. (The wider the rings, the more likely you’ll end up with bagel shapes rather than buns!)

7. Boil the rings of dough in water for 10 seconds each (the bagels will float to the top of the water, making it easier to scoop them out) and place on a pan either greased or dusted with cornmeal to reduce sticking.

8. Rest bagels for 20 minutes under a towl while oven heats to 425 degrees (Fahrenheit).

9. Bake bagels for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

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