Recipe 2. Bagels

img_8406Bagels. Who doesn’t love a good bagel? Chewy. Toasted. Slathered in cream cheese. I was pleased to find out that bagels were the second recipe in the book. I never thought in a million years I’d ever make bagels. I’d seen tutorials online and in books and thought it looked too involved… especially that water bath. For those of you who don’t know, bagels are a type of yeast bread that not only requires a rise and proofing, but also a “retarding” of the rise (slowing it down really) in the fridge for a time before dropping them into a pot of boiling water. It was that part that scared me – what if they fell apart in the water? What if I left them in there too long?

I ordered the high protein flour (bread flour) and the diastatic malt syrup (I settled on barley malt syrup) from a big online retailer who I shall not name and was ready to go. The recipe calls for high protein flour, instant yeast, water, and salt – much like the lean bread did – but it also needed the syrup. That is what helps with the color and fermentation – it provides sugar to feed the yeast and help with the rise. I ended up getting a non-diastatic malt syrup which simply means it did not contain active enzymes. Diastase: Any one of a group of enzymes that catalyses the breakdown of starch into maltose. (Source: Diastase page on Wikipedia.) I assumed the barley malt syrup would work given a quick search of online recipes. (As an interesting aside – at least I think so – the Hubs made beer over the weekend and he bought huge cans of barley malt syrup and amber malt syrup. Note to self: Beer supply stores may be where to get some of my supplies. Just saying.)

I had the day off last Friday so I had plenty of time to get started on my project. What a great day – I just did stuff around the house and took my time. I was asked a few times what was taking so long, but after reading the recipe I knew I had time plus I had figured out my measurements and weights.  While it wasn’t difficult per se, it was just involved and I imagine if you were kneading it by hand it would get tiresome. The cool thing about having a stand mixer though is you don’t have to do all that kneading. The mixer and the dough hook is a wonderful invention. Anyway, I got my ingredients together (mise en place or “everything in its place”) and went to work around 3pm. You combine the flour and the yeast in one bowl. You add the salt, water, and a little syrup to the mixer with the dough hook attachment. Then you add in the flour/yeast mixture until combined. Mix on low for four minutes and then medium for five minutes. That was it to get the dough. Super easy.

I think I read the lean dough recipe page by mistake because I put the dough in a lightly oiled glass bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, and walked away for half an hour so I could continue to watch Cable Girls. (If you haven’t seen this show on Netflix and you like mindless telenovela type stuff, this one is for you. It was a bit weird to get into at first since the version I have is dubbed but I got over that pretty quick. It takes place in 1929 so there are pretty people and costumes and scenery to look at which I feel makes it even easier to watch – even with the mouths not following the voices completely.) Anyhoo, I wasn’t supposed to do that. Oops. No matter. I then proceeded to weigh dough bits in 5 oz chunks. Uniformity is key. I let them sit for 10 minutes and then I rolled them as described in the book – roughly ten inches long and uniform and then you attach the ends to make a circle like this:

After shaping them, I covered them, put them in the fridge, and let them do their thing overnight. The recipe said a minimum of eight hours or overnight so I just figured we’d have fresh bagels Saturday morning. What a treat that would be!

Here they are after weighing and final shaping.



In the morning, I got up early because … well, if you have a four-year old you totally get why. They don’t sleep in unless it’s a school day. (Why is that,  hmmm?). I looked at my bagels and they had kept rising even in the fridge. The holes I made weren’t as big and in some cases, a few bagels looked like donuts. Note to self – next time I must leave more space.

After boiling some water with additional barley malt syrup, I placed the first bagel in the water and after 10 seconds, flipped it for 10 seconds more. I used a strainer to pull it out and shake off the excess water before putting it back on my cookie sheet. I followed suit with the others, though in a few cases I dipped the bagels in an ice water bath after the boil. That was supposed to produce a chewier bagel, but I was too lazy to separate them so I had no idea which ones had the ice bath or not. I then placed them into a 500 degree oven on top of a heated pizza stone. They sizzled when I placed them down – and stuck promptly. I got five of the six in the oven, deciding to leave the last one when I had some more room on the stone. I baked them for 25-30 minutes until they had some color. Some could have stayed in longer for more color but I was afraid of burning them.

In the end, it didn’t matter. I may have made a few missteps, but they were perfect. I was so elated. We sampled one while still warm with some butter – heavenly. I was giddy all day. Really feeling myself. I DID THIS. I MADE THESE. I CAN do what I set my mind to. Yay me. Join me next time for wheat lean bread. Definitely not as exciting as bagels, but hey, gotta learn to make wheat rolls and loaves, too.


“A bagel is a doughnut with the sin removed.” – George Rosenbaum

Recipe 1 – Lean Bread

I was excited and fearful all at once. It was time to get this project started and produce some lean bread, the first recipe in the textbook herein called The Book. Lean bread is basically crusty French bread. It contains only four ingredients – flour, water, yeast, and salt.

The Book lists large batch recipes. This one called for five pounds of flour. My mixer could never handle that. Plus, do I really need eight loaves of bread? The entire book is this way so I have an added challenge of having to shrink down all of the recipes. I decided to make two loaves. I must have spent an hour on my calculations. I had to look up conversions – pounds to ounces (1 lb equals 16 Oz), ounces to grams (1 ounce to 28.35 grams), etc. Sadly, I did not calculate correctly. The first batch did not rise and the finished product was a mess, undone and entirely too salty. Oops. The bread was under dome and just plain awful. Second batch was worse because I was trying to hurry it along but no rise and too salty. That figures because I didn’t adjust or taste the dough. Lesson learned. I was hoping I would have wonderful, fresh out of the oven bread to bring to the neighbor’s dinner party but alas, no. I was brave and let everyone try it. Hey, it’s ok. I expected failure because I’ve never made bread before, but it still stung.

I regret not taking a photo of the inside, but here are some from those batches.

On Sunday, I tried again. I admit I was starting to doubt my abilities after that second batch failed. I told my husband and he encouraged me not to give up and look at different recipes like I was thinking to do. But, my husband reminded me that I could do this and he sat with me and helped me recalculate the measurements. He also brought out a scale he had that performed exactly as I needed – .1875 ounces, really? I am so appreciative of the support because this is a big project and undertaking and I need a cheerleader. I decided then and there I would make it as many times as it took to produce something edible. And guess what? Third time’s a charm. Yay me!

Was it perfect? No it wasn’t perfect – I had trouble with the preshaping and final shaping of the loaves. I opted to freestyle and thankfully it worked. I got the rise I was expecting and it was just… fun. I was so proud. Giddy. I felt like I just climbed a mountain. Well I imagine that’s how I would feel if I ever climbed a mountain which I have not but hey, I did it. Here are some pics from my third attempt.

I’m ready to make bagels on Friday. I ordered the ingredients on Amazon and got them on the weekend. I will spend that day making the dough and watching Cable Girls on Netflix, my new favorite binge. Hopefully we will have yummy delicious bagel treats on Saturday morning. It’s also possible that I’ll have another fail or three and have to redo it but this time I’m ready. This is an adventure after all and I need to enjoy the journey.

“Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all.” Nelson Mandela

Let’s Do This!

I haven’t always been someone who bakes. I can’t even remember when I started getting interested in baking – maybe it was in my 20s. I don’t even recall making cakes or cookies when I was younger though I know my mom used to make bundt cakes – the kind you got from a box. I think it was Pillsbury. Anyway, I dabbled as I got older – making Toll House cookies, a cake from a mix, things like that. One day I decided I would try and make something from scratch. Couldn’t tell you what it was but I’m guessing it came out ok. I started realizing that baking was something I could do. You just follow the steps and voila – sugary treats await. Of course, it’s not that simple but I learned from my missteps. NOT failures – missteps. I make the distinction because every time I screwed something up, I learned from it and moved on. I started challenging myself to do things that I had never done before, like yeast breads or pie crusts. I made cinnamon rolls one day from scratch which took all day long. It was a Paula Deen recipe I found on the web and it was a hit. My neighbor and I ate the entire pan. I made lots of things like that, but mostly easy stuff – cookies, brownies, banana bread, muffins, cupcakes. There was the occasional challenge and fail – lemon meringue soup, anyone? I also had a particular friend who shared my love of baking – she’d done a lot more than me and I was so impressed with her “goods.” I wanted to be like her. (Jill S., you rock.)

I went to Paris in 2008 with my father, step-mother, and brother. It was my first time going to Europe. I was 38 years old. It was awesome. I fell in love with French pastry then – mainly eating it. I told my dad that if I ate nothing but pastry and bread for each meal while in Paris with some occasional cheese, I didn’t want a lecture. It was Paris! Weight be damned!

When I was dating my husband (2011), we stopped in a kitchen gadget store one day and I saw a book on classic French pastry – sweet and savory – written by a French pastry chef (Pastry by Michael Roux). It not only had detailed recipes, but it had lots of photos of how things should look along the way which I found extremely helpful. I bought the book and started challenging myself to make things in the book. I decided I would take one type of pastry dough and make it each winter. First up was pie dough – pâte brisée and the like. Essentially pâte brisée is a butter crust that’s more delicate and crumbly than other types. There are variations depending on how much butter is used with additional fancy french names that I won’t go into here. I didn’t get through the book as planned because having a baby and being sleep deprived will do that to you, but I did attempt other recipes including choux dough – think cream puffs and eclairs – but I failed at getting through the book.

Things kept going and spinning in different directions from there. Having a child made me more interested in cakes – I wanted to make all her birthday cakes and so it started picking up from there. My creativity started to increase and I realized I just love decorating cakes, too. I honestly discovered I LOVE all aspects of baking. I adore the television baking competition shows too, though I have no desire to go on them because I hate being rushed. I made the Sofia the First cake with fondant cutouts. It turned out better than I had hoped for. I made unicorn strawberry cupcakes for her last birthday, and just this past weekend I made my best cake yet. Was it perfect? No. Was it really good though? Hell yeah! At least I think so and that’s all that matters (though awesomely I got great feedback – yay me).


I got the crazy idea over the summer that I wanted to teach myself pastry arts and write a blog about my experience. Not just any blog. I wanted to do something different. Sure, writing about new learning experiences isn’t anything new, but maybe I could make it more interactive – invite people to join me on this journey and have them learn/entertain me while I do my thing. I’ll fail. I’ll succeed. We’ll laugh. We’ll cry. We’ll eat. I’ll work on that. Anyway… I decided that if I wanted to be a pastry chef without going to school, maybe I should get a textbook that would be used by those learning the craft. So, I purchased Mastering the Art and Craft of Baking and Pastry by the Culinary Institute of America. This book is HEAVY – a whopping 1,116 pages of heavy. I originally thought I would just try every recipe in the book and just see how it goes. I may veer from that initial idea since there are entire chapters on topics. For example, the chapter on icings, glazes, and sauces has almost two hundred listings alone. I might just pick and choose at some point, but I think it’s a good starting point for my blog. I hope you check in now and again to see what I’m up to. I’ll create an Instagram account at some point. Maybe even a Youtube channel. Stay tuned and thanks for stopping by.  -Dina

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton