Monday, March 22, 2010

we all know how important these things are.

I have a lot to say about bagels. I have eaten quite a few of them in my life. I have buried many of them in my backyard due to intense bagel overhauls left over after large "gotta-feed-lots-of-people-oh-what-will-we-do-it-with" community events have come and went. I am guilty of large-scale bagel heists routinely performed at ungodly hours of the morning at an undisclosed campus dining establishment. For these reasons and more, bagels are important to me. So, I figured it was about time I learned how to craft them myself.

A real downer in this situation is that by making bagels yourself, you will be missing out on the trademark sass or charm of a bagel counter employee. I am referring to most New York City bagelries, as the help at the local joints are either too sweet to be charming or too mean to be sassy. Once you've made them, have a friend stand opposite you and fix one for you while they either critique your lack of an umbrella on such a rainy day, or compliment your hair's finesse. Or, both! It will help if they yell. I don't want to think we live in a world where we can't recreate the joys of a NYC bagel shop.

This recipe is from the beloved Isa Chandra Moskowitz's new vegan brunch cookbook, with a few of my own adjustments and embellishments. I am indebted to the lady, always.

You will need:

3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
2.5 tablespoons of dry active yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 teaspoons salt
vegetable oil for the rising bowl
any bagel toppings you want (onion flakes, sesame seeds in this case)

So, to start off, dissolve one tablespoon of the sugar in the water. Add the yeast.

In a separate big mixing bowl, mix together everything else (except the vegetable oil and bagel toppings, and remember to add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar). 

Add the yeast mixture and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is neither dry nor wet, but a good amount of tacky. I busted out my Kitchen-aid mixer to get this job done lickety split. I will be honest and say I don't get as much use out of the thing as I really really should, but that doesn't mean I love, cherish, and respect it any less. If you have one, use it! Get out the dough hook, and after sticking it into your long-sleeve shirt sleeve and pretending it is a deadly weapon, affix it to the machine and get mixing! It doesn't take long, just keep an eye on it and make sure it is all mixing well.

Oil up a bowl and put your dough in it. Cover it with a damp cloth and let it sit for an hour. 

Put a large pot of salted (about 2 teaspoons) water on the stove to boil. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Release your dough after its hour in the oil slammer and cut it up into 12 equal pieces. 

For larger bagels, cut them into fewer pieces. If you'd like tiny bagels (for replicating bagel bites? if you do this please invite me over), cut them into more pieces. 

By hand, roll each piece into a ball, and fold it back on itself with your thumbs until a hole appears in the center. Widen it a bit, until it is a little under an inch wide. 

Isa suggests patting them in the bagel topping at this stage, but I would advise to wait until after the boiling, myself. The water seemed to shove off most of the toppings, and I added more afterwards.

Once your water is boiling, plunk a few of the bagel forms in at a time, however many your pot size will house floating at the top. 

They should pop up pretty quickly and float, but if they don't, just nudge them up from the bottom. Reduce your water to a lighter simmer, and let them boil for one minute on each side, then switch them out for new bagels. Be careful to not burn yourself as you get them out of the water!

Now, put your toppings out on saucers and pat your bagels in them on both sides, or sprinkle them on top. I did onion flakes and sesame seeds, but poppy seeds and garlic and salt and everything would be rad, too! Put jalapenos on top, see if I care! (Again, if you do the jalapeno thing, please invite me over.)

When all your bagels have been boiled and topped to your satisfaction, lightly oil up baking sheets and arrange them. 

Bake them for 20 minutes, or until they have browned nicely. Due to a rather unsuitable oven situation at my house, I neglected mine a touch and they are a little browner than I would have liked. But there's always next time! Let them cool for a half hour and then eat the heck out of them! 

I slathered mine in coconut oil

It is hard for me to not slather everything in my life in coconut oil, so bagels are of no exception. You know very well what you like on your bagels, so go to town with it! I have yet to find a legitimate vegan cream cheese recipe that does not rely on tofu, so I have nothing to share on that front. I know that stuff can be delicious and all (the clouds in my dreams are sometimes made of la bagel delight's vegetable tofu cream cheese), but in all honesty, it all usually just scares me. I mostly stick to hummus when I order bagels out. The bakery's is so stuffed with garlic that after devouring, any possibility of a spontaneous and torrid wedding proposal from a stranger is completely eliminated. And getting proposed to by a vampire? Even less plausible! I take these small victories when I can.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Homemade ice cream!
the possibilities are almost endless. almost.

When I was 15, I obtained my first job working at a local ice cream shop. This job was, incidentally, procured immediately after I made my decision to go vegan. This made my  job very interesting, and provided me none of the perks that one would typically expect of working so closely with the darling frozen confection. Nonetheless, I learned discipline FAST. I also learned how to scoop large quantities of rock-solid hard ice cream into sugar cones like it was nothing at all. And my waffle cones adorned with sprinkles and chocolate? I was so good at making those! All of this being shared, I feel like ice cream and I go way back. I might even vote for it in the 2012 election. 

I was vegan for quite some time before I discovered that there were ice cream substitutes suitable for people with lifestyles like mine. This was very exciting. Ever since then, the world of vegan ice cream has only been advancing. The stuff I used to devour tastes like cold newspaper to me now. Tastes evolve! Mine has me now preferring coconut-based ice cream over most anything else. And why not cut out the middle human and make it yourself?

One of the most fun parts to making ice cream yourself is that you can make any kind you want. Simple or elaborate. Traditional or experimental. The recipe here is for a chocolate peanut butter newman-o variety. 

You will need:

1 can coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 newman-os
1/3 cup peanut butter
an additional 2 tablespoons of agave nectar

You will also need an ice cream maker. This is the big investment of the whole make-ice-cream-yourself operation. However, if you eat a lot of ice cream, sit down with a calculator and a pad of paper. Add up your projected ice cream expenses for the calendar year. From here, you will probably come to realize how economical it is to just start making your own! You know a lot about ice cream, after all. You've been eating it for years! Don't let anyone dictate your flavor choices! Yeah, that's right! You're getting all defensive and pumped up now! Also, remember that if you have a pal you can go in on the machine with, it will be that much cheaper. The one we have is around $50, give or take. Shop around, go with what you feel is right!

The ice cream maker we use and that I recommend doesn't use ice cubes. It comes with a mixer bowl that is lined with some mystery freezy stuff. I understand that "mystery freezy stuff" easily describes water, which it could very well be. Anyways, all that is required is for the mixer bowl to be frozen completely before you make up a batch. The perks of this is that you can just keep re-using it! The set-backs?: It can only be used for one ice cream cycle in a given period of time, as the bowl is thawed quite a bit by the end of a batch. The solution? If you are so much of an ice cream fiend that this is unacceptable, buy two machines! Heck, buy three! And while you're buying your fourth, see about getting a new freezer, too. That ice cream has to have somewhere to live!

As always, to give credit where credit is duly due, I learned of making ice cream in this way from my ultimate bff Alan. I was visiting him in Baltimore last summer when he blew my mind by showing me how incredible it is to make your own ice cream from such a few simple ingredients. And Baltimore+summer+ice cream? Surely the best. When I returned home, I was sunburnt from having seen the light. And from being in that light without proper sunscreen provisions. I understood I had to buy an ice cream maker immediately. Cheryl and I wasted little to no time, and we've been happier people ever since.

So, open up your can of coconut milk. The machine I have is big enough to make double this recipe, so if you're feeling into it, double up all the ingredients and make a bigger stash! Mix the coconut milk, vanilla, and agave in a bowl. Whisk it around! Add in your cocoa power, and whisk that until it is all smooth. Add extra of anything that you feel needs to be added to. Taste the mix, see if you'd prefer it to be a little sweeter or a little more chocolate-y. As always, do what you want! Freedom!

When you have your coconut base all mixed up, bring your ice cream maker bowl out from the freezer and dock it onto the ice cream maker. Put the mixer in and the top on, and turn that thing on! Pour in the ice cream base. 

If you have any lamps nearby, or lights beaming into the machine, turn them off for the process. It needs to get good and cold as it churns, and I've found that 100 watt light bulbs can be counterproductive when they're just streaming into your ice cream.

I didn't time this, and I never do. I just keep coming back to the machine periodically to see where it's at. In the beginning it will appear thin, and it will slowly get to be thicker. You will see it pass through looking like a fairly thick milkshake,  until it is thick and full-fledged ice cream, sticking to the mixer. 

While your ice cream is churning, work on some other things. On the stovetop, heat up your peanut butter with the additional 2 tablespoons of agave. Don't let it burn, and stir it constantly. Once it is heated up and somewhat runny, turn off the heat. Save it for later.

Cut up your 6 newman-os! Even add more if you want! Make them pretty small so that they don't get stuck in your ice cream maker's mixer.

When your mixer is looking like it's almost ready to be ice cream, add in those newman-os. Let them get mixed up for a few minutes, as the ice cream progresses further. When it looks like it has gone as far as it can, turn off the machine. Empty all the ice cream into a bowl with the aid of a rubber spatula, scraping the sides down. 

Take your peanut butter/agave mixture, and fold it into the ice cream. In order to maintain a peanut butter swirl, be careful not to mix it too thoroughly. Just give it a few fold-overs, and then leave it alone. 

Scoop it into your freezer container of choice, and stick it in your freezer. I have been known to just eat it then and there, at that stage of done-ness, but if you are after a less soft-servy ice cream, it will need to spend some time freezing. Give it a few hours, and then dig in. Last summer I made a double batch of vanilla the night before for a breakfast feast for our traveling pallies. In the morning I made a huge stack of pancakes, and then got out the ice cream to be piled on top! See? The addition of an ice cream maker to your home can only improve your host abilities three-fold.

When you're ready for it, take it out and treat it as you would treat any ice cream: with simultaneous compassion and ferocity. 

Making ice cream at home is sort of an art. Experiment with both flavors and times. My personal favorite flavors I've made are: peppermint chocolate (add mint extract and chopped up candy canes and chocolate chips!), whiskey swirl (make a reduction syrup out of whiskey and agave, fold it in an already whiskey-ed up ice cream!), raspberry chocolate (add raspberries! add chocolate!), and maple walnut. (use maple syrup as your only sweetener, and add chopped up walnuts!)

Aren't you excited by all these creative options that are suddenly before you? Are you ready to stop being a slave to the supermarket freezer and finally start living? Are you suspicious that I am working on commission for Cuisinart, hoping you will buy their beauty of an ice cream maker after this lengthy pitch? 

I can only hope so.