Bagels 101

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Bagels, the delicious chewy rings of bread were a culinary discovery about 6 years ago on a conference trip to Chicago, staying at my sisters. Of course we had eaten bagels before, mainly from the UK supermarkets, with one of the lines even named on the lines of NYC bagels. But the UK bagels are  slightly sticky and bready rings and don’t even justify the name.

When my sister brought out a large bag of bagels for breakfast, I was so crest fallen, how was I supposed to survive the morning on those bread rings and manage the conference which I was going to till lunch time? She buttered each half and placed it in the toaster – no not the pop up toaster we get in the UK, but these are the US style toaster ovens, with horizontal shelves where you can place lightly buttered bagels with the butter side up with no risk of a fire. Put a buttered bagel, toast or whatever into a popup style toaster and you have a self made instant fire hazard! I digress. The toasted bagel with another top up of just butter was delicious… why did I not have this all these years? And why do UK bagels taste so awful?

Coming back to the UK, the hunt was on to find the shop which makes proper bagels. We found the next best thing in a place we often visit but have overlooked the bagels assuming they are not going to be good … Costco! Visits to costco, which I have also named “temptation island” as you go to buy bagels and come out with a TV or a table or some thing or the other … result – expensive bagels at a few hundred pounds each time. But tasty. The family favourite is the jalapeño bagels. So started this family’s addiction to bagels. If you are from NYC or the other bagel centres of the world that I don’t know about, and think, what is he talking about, costco and bagels? You have been spoiled and we can only judge by the best thing available here. So there. Continue reading

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Bread Baking 101

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Baking bread is a science and an art. Once mastered, gives you immense pleasure, and there is no going back to the mundane supermarket bread. I am self taught, and still learning and enjoy every time, the whole process – dough, bake and eat!

There is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread wafting around the house. It is the most comforting of all smells. Then there is the taste. Though you get excellent breads from many bakeries, there is nothing to beat a home baked loaf. Even the lowly plain white loaf, which I am starting with is better baked at home. Bread baking is the most satisfying thing you can do in the kitchen.

The history of how bread baking came to be is very interesting, as is all history. The discovery of farming wheat and other cereals as a more reliable source of food is probably the catalyst of people living in a fixed place, together and hence our civilisation. It is conceivable that ground cereals were initially eaten unleavened as flat breads. Accidentally leftover dough, fermented by wild yeasts, proving to be softer and better would have started the ball rolling and in the present time we are lucky to have an enormous variety of breads from all over the world and most importantly access to the knowledge of making them. Continue reading