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Karen DeMasco's Carrot Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting


Hoo-ee, folks. I've had a rough couple of days. The mean reds or the deep blues, or whatever you want to call them, got me in their bony little claws and shook me around for a few days, making me feel useless and despairing and generally not fit to get up out of bed. (I did get out of bed, though. I even managed to get dressed, a minor success.)

I hate it when that happens.

I had a girlfriend in town from New York this weekend and when I saw her walk out of the gate at the airport, I swear she had New York City pixie dust floating around her, glittering in the early morning Berlin light. That pixie dust reached my nostrils and suddenly my weird mood was a full-fledged case of heartaching homesickness. 

Story of my life. Literally.

When that happens, I try to keep putting one foot in front of the other, reminding myself that this too shall pass, that it'll just be a few days before the fog dissipates and I can see my life again, this one that I chose, and everything will make sense again. But it's always easier said than done. Maybe you know what that's like? When you try to talk some sense into your self and your self just buries her head into her arms and sobs?



Let's talk about cupcakes. Cupcakes always make people smile. Babies always make people smile, too, or at least this person. So I went to a co-ed baby shower a few weeks ago and brought a whole army of cupcakes along, chocolate, cream-filled ones and these spicy, carrot-flecked ones. A lot of Germans don't really know how to deal with cupcakes, so my little guys just stood rather forlornly (beautiful! but forlorn) in the corner of the table for a while, while the guests dug into their slices of homey, familiar, German apple cake instead. I felt sort of sad for my little cupcakes, so misunderstood, so alone. Then Max decided to break the ice.

"These are really good", he said, or that's what I think he said, in any case. There might have been some mascarpone cream frosting obstructing the way. Yeah, yeah, I thought. You're just trying to make my ignored cakelets feel a little better about themselves. Sweet, but I see right through you. Then someone else came up to me, the grandmother-to-be, actually, with half a cream-filled cupcake in her hand and a wild look in her eyes. She seemed to agree with Max, but her mouth was full, too. After that, the cupcakes got a lot more popular.


The recipe comes from Karen DeMasco's The Craft of Baking, which is also the home of my favorite cashew brittle of all time and other wonderful little things, like apple cider jellies, for example, or bittersweet chocolate meringues. The batter is easy thing to whip up, since it's oil-based with a touch of sour cream, no butter to cream in sight. Grating the carrots is a little bit harder. The batter, all folded together, looks almost pink in the right light. It's pretty.

The cupcakes bake up into light little things with a gorgeous texture and a nice balance of spices. But what makes these really special is the frosting. Eschewing a more classic cream cheese frosting, Karen has you whip together mascarpone and heavy cream and crème fraîche, flavoring this loose, floppy mixture with vanilla and fresh lemon peel. It's sort of like a lemon fool, but instead of eating it out of a bowl like a louche 17th century English countess, you pile the cream on top of the cupcakes, the higher the better.

Oh, who am I kidding, you will end up eating it out of the bowl like that countess. (Because no matter how high you pile, there will be leftovers, don't worry.)


Mascarpone and whipped cream are a lot subtler than cream cheese and I wondered, as I licked the bowl, if the frosting would work with the cupcakes. But later on at the party, when I finally tried a cupcake myself, I realized how perfect the combination was. The lemon peel coaxes out the spices and the cloud of cool, slighly sour, sweet cream is the perfect foil to the tender little cakelet.

Happy Monday, everyone. One foot in front of the other, nice and easy. Here's to a good week.

Carrot Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting
Makes 14 cupcakes

1 pound carrots (about 5), peeled
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup Demerara sugar
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk

1 cup mascarpone
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners, and line 2 more cups in a second muffin tin.

2. Grate the carrots using a food processor fitted with the shredding blade, or the medium holes of a box grater. You will need a total of 2 1/2 cups.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the Demerara sugar, oil, sour cream, and vanilla. Add the egg and egg yolk and whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Using a spatula, fold the carrots into the batter. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about three-quarters full.

5. Bake, rotating the tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Invert the cupcakes onto a wire rack, turn them top side up and let them cool completely.

6. To make the frosting, combine the mascarpone, cream, crème fraîche, sugar, salt, vanilla and lemon zest and beat on medium speed with an electric whisk or mixer until the mixture becomes thick, about 5 minutes. (The frosting can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a day. Let it come to room temperature and whisk together if necessary before using.) Using a metal spatula or a butter knife, spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the frosting over the top of each cupcake.

7. The cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Stephen Williams's Salsify in Black Forest Ham


You know, most days I think I'm a pretty good catch. I have all my teeth, I earn my own keep, I speak four languages and I can cook (at least perfect spaghetti, a decent loaf of bread and poached eggs the old-fashioned way). Then along comes one man and cooks me a dinner made up of a few different root vegetables, for Pete's sake, and a simple roast chicken and I realize that I am a hack and a fraud and I might as well be serving cold cereal every night for dinner.

I guess I should explain. Stephen Williams is no ordinary man, you see: he's a Michelin-starred gastropub chef and the friend of a friend of mine who very kindly invited me over to dinner the night that Stephen was in town and cooking for her.

Now, I don't know if you know this about me, but I do truly believe that fancy food is sort of wasted on me. Give me a plate of spaghetti over a seven-course tasting menu any day. It's not that I don't appreciate the skill and artistry that go on behind that seven-course menu. It's just that I really kind of prefer, say, a plate of boiled vegetables and a good olive oil. Let's call it the Italian peasant in me.


I am not entirely a Philistine. Because as I sat at that dinner table, chewing on a stub of ham-wrapped salsify (oh, fine, five, no, seven of them), I distinctly felt the earth move.

My goodness, it was good.


And also slightly terrifying. If such glory was lurking behind a black-peeled root, what on earth else had I been missing my whole life? What other kind of magic was Stephen able to practice, if given a home kitchen and, say, a cabbage or a pound of carrots or celery root or a hulking rutabaga, for crying out loud?

(Only a few of us will be able to find out - Stephen's leaving the Harwood Arms and traveling in Australia for a while before going to work at the Auberge de Chassignolles this summer. In other words, you must go to there.)

It's too upsetting to comtemplate, really, so instead let's just get down to what actually matters: How to cook salsify yourself.

First of all, find the salsify. Not such an easy task! You're looking for what basically look like black carrots. Black as night, with little white roots emerging from their spindly ends. Here's a visual aide, since I wasn't able to find any to photograph for you (the season is ending, even in Berlin, but remember this for next year!). Buy four or five or six salsify roots. Go to the butcher and get some real Black Forest ham, which should be the cured and smoked German kind, not the cooked American kind you see in sandwiches. You could also use prosciutto or jamòn Serrano, I suppose, though those are sweeter, unsmoked hams.

At home, take out a pot with a lid and pour a couple of inches of water into it. Add a splash, just a splash, of white wine vinegar. Next, peel the salsify. This is a little unpleasant. The salsify, upon peeling, excrete the oddest sort of goo that makes your hands rather tacky and can be a little tough to wash off (though using the scrubber side of a sponge did the trick for me in a matter of seconds). The second you've finished peeling a salsify root, cut it in half and drop it in the pot of water. When you're finished, the salsify should be entirely submerged in the water.

You parboil the salsify, then wrap them in the Black Forest ham you've painstakingly sourced. (You won't regret it, I promise you!) These little packages are laid lovingly in an oil-smeared baking dish (does the oil actually do anything here? I'm not entirely sure) and then roasted for about 20 minutes, until the ham has crisped and the salsify is satiny-fudgy in texture.

Good luck plating these: I guarantee at least three of them will not make it from the dish to the plate. Somewhere in mid-air, you will swoop in, your mouth agape. You will chew and taste sweetness and salt and the faintly mysterious flavor of the salsify, balanced somewhere between this world and the next. You will, quite unlike you, not offer anyone else the last one, but take it as your divine cook's right to finish it.

And then you will give your inner Italian peasant a hard look and contemplate attending cooking school, if only to learn what Stephen knows.

Salsify in Black Forest Ham
Serves 2 as a side

5 salsify roots
1 glug of white wine vinegar
5 slices real Black Forest ham
1 teaspoon olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and add the vinegar to the water. Peel the salsify quickly, cut each root in half after peeling and drop into the acidulated water.

2. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Drain the salsify. Oil a baking dish large enough to fit all the salsify in a single layer. Cut the ham slices in half lengthwise. Wrap each piece of salsify in a slice of ham and place, seam-side down, in the prepared pan.

3. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the ham has crisped and the salsify are entirely tender. Serve immediately.

Friday Link Love


Oof, what a week. Mostly I'd just like to crawl into bed and stay there until Monday, burying my nose in a good book. Instead, I'm going to be on the hunt for the last of the winter's salsify, which I'll tell you about early next week. Holy cow, people, I have fallen for it in a big way.

We also just got our wedding invitations, so I'm bracing myself for a few days of hand-lettering envelopes, and we have to finalize our registry tomorrow at a department store where they still write out the list by hand and then take photographs of all the items we'd like in the in-house studio before putting everything online. Quaint? Insane? Discuss.

Also, if you had to pick one thing to put on your registry, what would it be?


Have you ever heard of an upside-down cheesecake? With rhubarb compote and a crumbled gingersnap topping, no less.

Jane Lear's ode to her favorite Le Creuset pot (that also includes links to her favorite whisks and steamers) comes just at the right time.

Mark Bittman brings potted shrimp (don't you want to just want to cuddle that recipe title?) into the 21st century with pimentón and garlic. I need to throw a party!

Canal House Cooking's sixth volume, all about cooking from the grocery store, is ready for pre-order. Have a look here.

xo breakfast, a sweet little blog all about breakfast, tells us how to make Jim Lahey's Pizza Bianca without a pizza stone, with some seriously irresistible photos.

Molly gave me a jar of these hot pickled peppers in oil for Christmas and I'm now rationing them out in order to make them last longer. (In other words, I am currently hiding them in the fridge to keep a certain someone from gobbling them all up. Shh.) They are a revelation.

Speaking of which, have you heard about Molly and Brandon's new venture, The Pantry at Delancey? Classes on meat-curing and misunderstood vegetables, private dinners, a kid's cooking camp plus frozen pizza and cookie dough to bake at home - Oh, to be a Seattle-ite!

A massive Bay Area bake sale, with proceeds going to the Japanese relief effort, will be taking place on April 2; here's hoping it spreads across the country.

And, to completely change the subject, in my next life I'd like to come back as a florist. Sarah Ryhanen is my idol.

Stay safe, lovelies, and have a good one.

Alice Medrich's Kamut Pound Cake


When I am feeling strange and out-of-sorts, I like to bake. Who doesn't, you ask? I don't know. To me, baking is one of the best ways to soothe an uneasy heart and a jumpy mind. There's the gathering of the ingredients: the smooth, cool eggs, the stodgy packets of flour, the slab of butter, the pouring of thick buttermilk, perhaps, or milk. Maybe you're chopping up chocolate, focusing on the cutting board, taking care with the sharp knife, watching the shards of chocolate spray out. Or you're putting together your mixer, beaters sliding into their grooves with a satisfying snap. Out come the bowls, one - two - three, the clean measuring spoons, so full of shiny promise. You stop thinking about the end of the world or your ragged cuticles or your looming taxes or human misery. You can only focus on what's in front of you: the recipe, the equipment, the counter.

And the results are almost beside the point.

It's not the cake I crave, or the cookies, or the loaf of bread. It's the rhythm and the music of busying myself in the kitchen, of scraping batter into a prepared pan and washing a sink of dishes while whatever's in the oven starts to smell very good. It's the warmth of a hot oven and sitting in the living room reading while the apartment tightens around me, holding me safe in its cocoon. It's the feeling of having accomplished something, even if it's as small as a little loaf cake. Something other than worrying and fidgeting and generally allowing unease, like poison, into my mind.

So it's rather inconvenient when the cake I start to bake with every intention of either giving away or just ignoring turns out to be so delicious that I can't stop myself from slicing off a sliver every time I pass it. Silly cake, I think to myself. Your creation was supposed to be enough! And now it's got me contemplating cake for breakfast, which - if you know me - is rather out-of-character indeed.


The cake in question, as slim and simple as a shift dress, is a pound cake from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert. (Has that woman ever written a bad recipe?) But it's a pound cake with a sly little twist: a measure of golden, rich Kamut flour poured in alongside the regular flour, which produces an exceptionally buttery pound cake that almost glows. Most intriguing, however, is Medrich's pound cake method: Instead of tediously creaming together butter and sugar, and then moving forward with the rest, it has you fill a bowl with dry ingredients and then dump in the cubed butter and half of the liquid ingredients at once. This you beat for exactly 60 seconds. Then you add a quarter of the remaining liquid and beat for exactly 20 seconds. You finish with the addition of the final bit of liquid and another 20-second beating, which leaves you with a silken batter ready to put poured into a tin and baked.


Fastest pound cake ever.

It's actually a little disconcerting, especially if you planned on being leisurely in the kitchen. Well, that, and realizing just how easily you could be whipping up Kamut pound cakes at a moment's notice whenever your little aching heart desired.


And as is that wasn't enough, this pound cake bakes up into the most beautiful golden loaf. It's a work of art if you're into rustic, homey desserts (give me a slab of this over foam any day!) and would be a killer gift if you had a housewarming to go to or a dinner party. It keeps well for several days - we had it out on our counter loosely draped with parchment paper for two days and it was fine, even improving with the rest - and if wrapped tightly in plastic would stay fresh for longer.

Right after cooling, a slab sliced off the loaf is gorgeously damp and very rich. Almost too much so. But if you leave it out overnight, the loaf sort of sturdies up and reabsorbs the butter (or something) and what you get the next day are absolutely perfect slices of pound cake, sturdy but still light, fragrant but not too sweet, just as perfect eaten out of hand over the kitchen counter as they would be plated and topped with sugared berries for a pretty dessert. The crumb is super-velvety but if you pay very close attention while you let each bite melt in your mouth, you'll possibly taste the faintest shimmer of texture, almost graininess. It's lovely. Bewitching. I'm obsessed.


In fact, after I kept finding myself sneaking back into the kitchen and cutting off slice after slice, I forced myself to wrap the cake up and put her in the freezer. There was much protestation from the other member of this household who happens to have the metabolism of a 14-year old boy. Lucky him! This lady has a wedding dress to fit into this summer.

All of this to say, really, that I'm going to have look somewhere else for a long, meditative baking recipe to distract me from the rest of the world. But in the meantime, I discovered my holy grail pound cake and that was an unexpected gift.

Kamut Pound Cake
Makes 1 loaf serving 8 to 10

3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (3.5 ounces) sifted (before measuring) cake flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (1.75 ounces) whole-grain kamut flour 
¾ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
13 tablespoons (6.5 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350º F. Line the loaf pan with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the milk, eggs and vanilla to combine.

3. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl; if any bran is left in the sifter, add it to the mixture. Cut the butter into chunks and add it the flour mixture, then pour in half of the egg mixture. Beat on low speed with a hand-held mixer just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the speed to high and beat for 1 minute only. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

4. Add half of the remaining egg mixture and beat for 20 seconds. Scrape the bowl. Add the rest of the egg mixture and beat for 20 seconds.

5. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the surface. Bake until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. 55 to 65 minutes. (If the cake is browning too quickly, cover the loaf loosely with foil after 30 minutes.) Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then remove loaf from the pan and cool completely on the rack.

Baked Endives with Ham


It is confounding to sit halfway across the world, safe in my warm little office, with food in the fridge, my beloved books in their shelves, my loved ones wanting for nothing, and contemplate the havoc and terror wreaked on Japan. It leaves me speechless. All I can do is read the reports and look at the photos and grasp my head in disbelief. I cannot believe my eyes. The violent water coursing through streets, hurling boats aside as if they were made of feathers; entire villages obliterated; the newspaper saying that "one bright moment" was a man rescued on the roof of his house carried nine miles out to sea while his wife was washed away.

I look at that white plate with two baked endives sitting up there and I see so much more. A hungry, black tide swallowing up everything in its path. An old man walking along a cleared path through utter devastation, weeping. Two parents kneeling in front of the muck-slicked car that held the body of their daughter at the wheel. Nuclear reactors on the precipice. And everywhere desperately frightened people, bereft of everything. How on earth, I wonder, do you make sense of that? I can't.

And writing about anything else, about lunch or cupcakes or Paula Deen's artichoke-spinach dip, feels deeply weird. What I'd really like to do is bake a plate of ham-wrapped endives for every Japanese in need. But they wouldn't be just any old baked endives. They'd be magic endives, you see, that upon consumption would bring back the people washed out to sea. Would rebuild the houses in the blink of an eye, mop up the streets, repair the broken windows, straighten the downed power lines, make the nuclear nightmare simply disappear. And heal all the broken hearts, with just a few bites.


But I can't. These baked endives taste good, but they can't do any of the above. They can distract you while you cook, I guess, from the neverending loop of unbelievably bad news coming from the web, the radio, the television. But they can't make things right again, not even close. Stupid endives.

I don't really know what the right thing is to do at this moment. Besides donating money (please give, please). So I read about the small acts of kindness in Japan that show just what kind of a country it is, even when everything falls apart. I think about that woman washed away to sea and hope that I'll never forget her. I feed the one I love and bless the safe, flat country I live in, and give thanks for the strong walls of my apartment and the faraway ocean. I cook lunch and dinner and breakfast, over and over again, in gratitude for all that I have. That is, to paraphrase Ruth Reichl, my own moral responsibility.


And still, I wonder about devastation and tragedy, why some of us are spared, why so many aren't. In a way, it makes me marvel at humanity. How we keep going in the face of the kind of news - from all parts of the globe - that makes your knees buckle and your heart break, over and over again.

Baked Endives with Ham
Serves 2
Adapted from this recipe.

4 Belgian endives, halved vertically
Juice of a lemon
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk, room temperature
4 slices Black Forest ham or cooked ham, up to you, halved
2 ounces grated Gruyère cheese

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the outer layers of the endive, trim the bottoms and cut out the cores. Put the endives, cut-side down, in a large skillet. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with lemon juice. Add 2 cups of water to the pan, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Drain.

2. Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, whisking all the time, in increments. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the sauce is thick and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Lightly butter a baking dish big enough to hold the endives in a single layer. Wrap each endive in a piece of ham and place, seam down, in the baking dish. Spoon the béchamel over the endives. Sprinkle with the cheese. Bake the endives for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has browned. Serve hot.

Friday Link Love


So, dear readers, what are you up to this weekend? I've been tasked with providing the cupcakes for a co-ed baby shower on Sunday, and as a result I've got visions of ganache-capped devil's food cakelets and cream-cheese-topped carrot cupcakes swirling in my head. No pink and blue buttercream here!

Also, we've started a new tradition of making pancakes on weekend mornings. I introduced Max to buckwheat pancakes two weeks ago (he liked them, sort of), last week we had buttermilk ones studded with blueberries that I picked last summer and froze, and tomorrow we're going to try whole wheat. Do you have a favorite pancake recipe?

Here's what I'm reading, cooking and craving this week:

Francis Lam waxes rhapsodic about Gabriel Kreuther's turnip sauerkraut.

I can't tear my eyes away from the soft, glowing pinks, creams, yellows and greens in these photographs of baby root vegetables.

Scaccia Ragusana looks like a cross between a jelly roll and a pizza, but in the best possible way.

Do any of you grind your own flour? Old-fashioned grain grinders are a dime a dozen here, so I'm tempted to give it a try.

Marisa's vanilla-flecked orange Creamsicle Jelly looks dreamy and I love the idea of stirring it into plain yogurt for the full Creamsicle effect.

Don't miss Sara Dickerman's little mustard overview in the Wall Street Journal and her blink-and-you'll-miss-it tip to swirl a spoonful of mustard into lentil soup before serving. Brilliant.

Might soy-pickled mushrooms be my gateway to cooking like a Momofukan?

And finally, I've been in an Edna Lewis state of mind lately, can't stop thinking about her, really. I've been re-reading her books and poring over her recipes. Then I found this short documentary about her life, which includes some stunning photographs of her as a young woman, regal as always, footage of her cooking, and some bittersweet memories from her friend and companion (and so much more) Scott Peacock. Oh, what I wouldn't give to go back in time, sit down for a roast chicken dinner at Café Nicholson with a slice of caramel cake for dessert, and see her peeking out of the kitchen now and then to gaze at her guests (Williams, Faulkner, Capote, Magnani!)

Have a nice weekend, folks. I don't really know what to say about what's happening in Japan right now. I keep writing something, deleting it, writing something else, deleting that, too. The footage is terrifying to watch; I can only imagine, though I don't want to, what it's like to experience it. I hope those of you who are in Japan are safe, and your loved ones are, too.

Peter Reinhart's Bagels


Hey, so, I kind of need you to do me a favor. It's no big deal, really. Just a little favor. Leetle.

What are you doing Sunday morning? Want to come over for breakfast? Please?

See, the thing is, I just figured out how to make bagels. I spent my whole life convinced that they were complicated and difficult to make at home, that there was no point in even trying, that bagels were just one of those things best left to the experts. My whole life! And now I'm trying to make up for lost time. Thirty-three years' worth, to be exact.

Because - because! - it turns out that making bagels is about as difficult as tying a shoelace. Or washing your hair. Or licking a stamp. I'm only exaggerating a tiny bit, I promise.

All you really need is Peter Reinhart's recipe. Oh, sure, it says you have to use fancy bread flour, but I made this with the plain, old all-purpose in my pantry, and the bagels were perfection: chewy on the inside, crisp on the outside. It also asks for barley malt syrup, but I was far too lazy to go out hunting for that when I had honey in the pantry (which Baker Reinhart says is an acceptable replacement) and the bagels were delicious as can be. You can even do it all by hand, needing no stand-mixer or food processor or anything of the like.

Easy. So easy! I can't get over it.

Here's what happens. You make a stiff little dough just by mixing together the flour, water, yeast, honey and salt. It'll look a little coarse when you get it all together, kind of like this:


You let that sit for a few minutes, just to relax. Then comes the fun part: kneading! Don't worry, it's just for a little bit, two, three minutes, tops. A few slip slap, slip slaps and you've got this:


I don't know about you, but to me a gorgeous ball of bread dough, luminous and glowing in the late-winter light, is a thing of beauty. I could sit and gaze at it for hours, so full of promise and possibility. And the way it feels! Satiny smooth, like the underside of my grandma's arms. Some people have Apple products, others have automated vehicles; me, I've got dough to moon over.

Once you've finished gazing at your ball of dough adoringly, you pop it in an oiled bowl and refrigerate it for a while. For example, if you wanted fresh bagels for Sunday morning breakfast, you could make the dough on Saturday around lunchtime, pop it in the fridge until just before bedtime and then shape the bagels and refrigerate them before going to sleep.

Let's say you're doing it that way and it's now Saturday evening and the dough's been in the fridge since lunch. You take the dough out of the fridge and gently remove the now-puffed dough from the bowl. Divide it into six or eight pieces. (I made eight bagels out of this batch and I loved the modest size of them, but my mother complained that her bagel wasn't big enough. So if you like puffier bagels, just make six.) This next bit is really the most complicated part of the whole deal:

Take each piece of dough and roll it out into a snake. Form the snake into a ring, pressing and working the ends of the dough into each other so that the ring doesn't come apart. This takes more pressure than I expected and I kept thinking, as I squeeeezed, that I was hurting the bagel dough or something like that. (Maybe I should spend less time gazing lovingly at dough balls and more time telling myself that anthropomorphizing dough isn't the best use of my critical faculties.) You'll get the hang of it. Luckily, bread dough is pretty forgiving. Plop your pretty little rings on an oiled piece of parchment paper, cover them with plastic wrap, stick them in the fridge and go do something fun with the rest of your evening.


The next morning, get up a little earlier than everyone else. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature. The best part is right around the corner, I'm so excited for you! Boil some water and add baking soda and salt to the water. Then gently slide the bagels, all puffed and wondrous under your fingertips, into the water (just a few at a time, unless you're working with a cauldron). In the water, the bagels expand a little and develop a bit of a skin. You turn them around, letting the other side have a go as well, and then you take them out and put them back on the baking sheet.


I happen to think poppy seeds were put on this earth to be paired with bagels, but you can do whatever you like with the bagels at this point. Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nothing at all, this is up to you. (Only the cinnamon sugar route should be done after baking - check the original recipe for more on this.)


Just looking at these photographs is flooding me with warm, fuzzy feelings. I want to hug Peter Reinhart! I want to festoon myself with bagels! And I want to have you all over for Sunday breakfast so I can make a triple batch of these again!

Once the boiled bagels are adorned with their cap of seeds, slide the baking sheet into a hot oven and get the breakfast table ready. Lox! Cream cheese! Butter! I hope you are prepared. Rouse those sleepy heads who have no idea just how good they've got it, or not yet, in any case.


Because just about 15 minutes later, you're going to have a tray of gorgeously brown and crisp-skinned bagels in your kitchen, making your house smell like H&H (I used to live across the street from their 80th Street outpost - I know that smell like I know my own mother's). It will seem barbaric, completely inhumane, but you have to force yourself to wait about thirty minutes before slicing open a bagel and eating it for breakfast. Busy yourself with other things, like buying stock in a flour company.

Excruciatingly, the minutes will somehow tick by and then, finally, you can throw yourself at your table and have yourself a bagel so good you will not believe your mouth. They're chewy in all the right places, their crust is speckled with the tinest, prettiest blisters, they have little pockets just waiting to be filled with a smear of cream cheese. And you made them. From scratch. Unbelievable.

I swear to all that is holey (har) that these bagels are so good you won't even need H&H anymore. No, not even you, New Yorkers! I know you might not believe me. But that's what brings me around to my original question. What are you doing on Sunday morning?

Makes 6 to 8 bagels

3 1/2 cups (1 pound) unbleached flour (bread or all-purpose)
3 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon honey or barley malt syrup, if you've got it
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon baking soda
Poppy or sesame seeds

1. By hand, mix the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, the yeast, honey and the water until the ingredients form a stiff, coarse ball of dough (about 3 minutes). If necessary, add a little more water. Let the dough rest 5 minutes.

2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until the dough feels stiff yet supple, with a satiny, slightly tacky feel, 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough seems too soft or too tacky, sprinkle over just enough flour as needed.

3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to several hours. Keep in mind that the bagels must be shaped before proofing overnight.

4. When ready to shape the bagels, line a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 6 to 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a loose, round ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand; do not use any flour on the surface. If the dough slides around and won't ball up, wipe the work surface with a damp paper towel and try again - the slight amount of moisture will provide enough "bite" for the dough to form a ball. When each piece has been formed into a ball, you are ready to shape the bagels.

6. Using your hands and a fair amount of pressure, roll each dough ball into a "rope" 8 to 10 inches long. (Moisten the work surface with a damp paper towel, if necessary, to get the necessary bite or friction). Slightly taper the rope at the ends so that they are thinner than the middle. Place one end of the dough between your thumb and forefinger and wrap it around your hand until the ends overlap in your palm; they should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together and then press the joined ends into the work surface, rolling them back and forth a few times until they are completely sealed.

7. Remove the dough from your hand and squeeze as necessary to even out the thickness so that there is a 2-inch hole in the center. Place the bagel on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the other pieces. Lightly wipe the bagels with oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

8. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 90 minutes before you plan to bake them. Fill a large stockpot with 3 quarts of water (be sure the water is at least 4 inches deep), cover with a lid, and slowly bring the water to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on.

9. Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven to 500 degrees.

10. Test the bagels by placing one in a bowl of cold water. If it sinks and doesn't float to the surface, return it to the sheet, wait 15 minutes and then test it again. When one bagel passes the float test, they are ready for the pot.

11. Gently lift each bagel and drop it into the simmering water. Add as many as will comfortably fit in the pot. After 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to flip each bagel over. Poach for an extra 30 seconds. Using the slotted spoon, remove each bagel and return it to the lined baking sheet. Continue until all the bagels have been poached. Generously sprinkle each bagel with a topping.

12. Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the sheet (if using two sheets, also switch their positions). Check the underside of the bagels. If they are getting too dark, place another sheet under the baking sheet. Bake until the bagels are golden brown, an additional 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the bagels to a rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.