scone, post-oven

Top o’ the morning — er, evening! — to you!

Maybe the above statement is more Irish than British (or Scottish, the apparent host country of the scone), but nevertheless, I feel quite Western European after having noshed on a scone with a spot of tea. “Hmmm, tea, you say?” “Why, yes, it’s a lovely way to relax in the afternoon after a long day of linguistics in the library.” “You don’t say! May I try one, good madam?” “By jove, you may.” “Bloody hell, these are scrumptious! How ever do you make them?” Well, I’ll tell you, bloke.
lemonspoppyseed closeup
butterheavy cream
First, I must explain how I got on the scone track in the first place — my 12 (sometimes going on 30)-year-old brother, Matthew, had a school project in which he needed to demonstrate how to make something. He approached me with the idea of helping him make scones. I obliged, and so, together we concocted this recipe of the perfect flaky lemon poppyseed scone — plus, he now has a project, I now have a blog post. Jolly good! (OK, I promise I’m done sounding like Harry Potter.)
folding the doughrolling out the dough
rolling out the dough, part deuxcutting the dough, part deux
Scones (properly pronounced “skawn,” as in gone, according to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible) are surprisingly simple to make. It’s really all about getting the dough — sticky and buttery and as heavy as an anvil — into a one-inch thick slab the size of a piece of paper, with straight edges to ensure the classic triangle shape. Apart from this turning and rolling and turning and rolling, etc., the rest of the process is easier than I expected. There’s no yeast, and therefore no need to wait for the dough to rise, and all it takes is 15 to 20 minutes in the oven before they’re done.

cutting scones

scones pre-oven

The flakes of butter mixed in with dark, spherical poppyseeds and curly pieces of sun-yellow lemon zest make these substantial “tea cakes” a beautiful, as well as delicious, mid-afternoon treat (or breakfast). And, if you make them with someone you love, the process is just as good as the result.

lemon poppyseed scones

Debrief: The original recipe calls for currants instead of the lemon poppyseed version we made, which I might try next time. Really, you could put anything you want in scones — apples and cinnamon, blueberries and lemons, dried cranberries or chocolate chips — the list goes on.

Flaky Scones
courtesy of The Bread Bible

Makes 12 or 16 4-in-by-1 1/2-inch-high scones

Ingredients:
1 cup (8 oz.) cold unsalted butter
4 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 liquid cups heavy cream
2 tbsp grated lemon zest*
3 tbsp poppyseeds*

*or, per the original recipe, omit poppyseeds and lemon zest and add 1 cup currants

Chill the butter. Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or freeze for 10 minutes.
Mix the dough. In a large bowl or electric mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the butter and with your fingertips, press the cubes into large flakes (Or use the electric mixer, mixing until the butter is the size of small walnuts). Stir in the cream just until the flour is moistened and the dough starts to come together in large clumps (at this point, my electric mixer went into overload and could barely stir the dough, so I had to use my hands to incorporate the ingredients). Stir in the lemon zest and poppyseeds (or whatever ingredient(s) you choose). Knead the dough in the bowl just until it holds together, and turn it out onto a lightly floured board.
Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F 30 minutes before baking. Have an oven rack at the middle level and set a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.
Shape the dough. Lightly flour the top of the dough (or use a floured pastry sleeve), and roll it out into a long rectangle 1 inch thick and about 8 inches by 12 inches; use a bench scraper to keep the edges even by smacking it up against the sides of the dough. Fold the dough in thirds, lightly flour the board again, and rotate the dough so that the closed side faces to the left. Roll it out again and repeat the “turn” 3 more times, refrigerating the dough, covered with plastic wrap, for about 15 minutes as necessary only if it begins to soften and stick.
Roll out the dough once more. Trim the edges so that it will rise evenly. (To use the scraps, press them together and roll out, giving them 2 turns, then roll the dough into a 1-inch-thick square and cut into 2 triangles.) Cut the dough in half lengthwise so you have 2 pieces, each about 4 inches by 12 inches. Cut each piece of dough into triangles with about a 3-inch-wide base and place them about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. (The dough will rise but not expand sideways.) If the dough is soft, cover it well with plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for 1 hour before baking.
Bake the scones. Bake the scones one sheet at a time; cover the second sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you bake the first one, then bake the second pan directly from the refrigerator. Place the pan on the hot baking stone or hot baking sheet and bake the scones for 15 to 20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the tops are a golden brown and firm enough so that they barely give when pressed lightly with a finger (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a scone will read about 200 degrees F). Check the scones after 10 minutes of baking, and if they are not browning evenly, rotate the baking sheet from front to back. Do not overbake, as they continue baking slightly on removal from the oven and are best when slightly moist and soft inside.
Cool the scones. Place two linen or cotton towels on two large racks and, using a pancake turner, lift the scones from the baking sheets and set them on top. Fold the towels over loosely and allow the scones to cool until warm or at room temperature. (Since linen or cotton “breathes,” the scones will have enough protection to keep from becoming dry and hard on the surface but will not become soggy.)

3

rosemary-raisin monkey bread

So, after a series of days of movie-watching, article-reading and conversing with the husband, we decided it is in our best ethical interest to go what he says is called “flexitarian.” The term, if you are too lazy to look it up, refers to people who live on a mostly-vegetarian diet but will occasionally consume meat. For us, this means we will no longer eat meat or buy egg/milk products unless they are grass-fed or cage-free. It’s been tough for someone like me who loves her meat and has always had it readily available at the family table, but it’s important to me to start eating food that coincides with my morals.
egg separationbuttermilk for monkey bread
2 1/4 tsp yeastrosemary
Which is why I am so happy that my morals recently coaxed me into making this recipe, which (though the name refers to an animal) is friendly to both the environment and to my empty tummy.
buttahbrown sugar and rosemary
ballz, againbundt pan pre-fridge

I first read about monkey bread from another bread blog I highly regard, and when mine eyes laid upon it they widened in awe that this! — This satiating creation! This caramel-coated wonder! — was bread, indeed! I knew right then it had to be made, in my kitchen. I didn’t use that exact recipe but found another on the Food Network Web site, an overnight recipe courtesy of Mr. Alton Brown.

closeup rosemary-raisin monkey bread

At first, the idea of mixing rosemary with butter, brown sugar and raisins sounded a little funky, but after stirring all of said ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, the aroma was so deliciously sweet and savory that I thanked the rosemary for sticking through the fight despite my initial cynicism.
This recipe does require a bit of patience (as in, waiting overnight to eat it), but let me tell you, it is so much better than rolling pieces of store-bought biscuit dough together. May your own morals coax you soon.

Debrief: Not too much to change. Maybe I’ll try a different recipe for monkey bread altogether? I know The Bread Bible has its own with pecans. And yet, that rosemary…

Overnight Monkey Bread
courtesy of Food Network

Ingredients
Dough:
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large whole egg, room temperature
2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil or cooking spray

Topping:
8 ounces unsalted butter, approximately 16 tablespoons
8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary
3 ounces raisins, approximately 3/4 cup

Coating:
2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 5 tablespoons
1 teaspoon ground rosemary

Directions
For the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough and add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the 8 ounces of unsalted butter, brown sugar, rosemary, and raisins. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Pour half of the topping into the bottom of 2 bundt pans and set aside. Cover and store the other half of the topping in the refrigerator until the next morning.

Place the melted butter and rosemary for the coating in a medium shallow bowl and stir to combine. Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Portion the dough into 1-ounce pieces; roll each piece into a ball. (You should have approximately 36 balls.) Roll the balls in the melted butter and rosemary.

Divide the balls evenly between the 2 bundt pans. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the bread from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the bread. Close the oven and let the bread rise until slightly puffy looking, 20 to 30 minutes. Once the bread has risen, remove it and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Once the oven is ready, place the bread on the middle rack and bake until slightly golden on top, approximately 25 to 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.

Place the remaining topping in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Reheat until the mixture is pourable, approximately 5 minutes. Fifteen minutes into baking, pour the remaining topping over the bread, and finish cooking. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then invert onto a platter or cutting board. Serve immediately.

2

homemade bagels

This weekend my grandfather (from my mom’s side) and my grandmother (from my dad’s side) came to visit. For lunch, my grandmother brought two pounds of German deli meat — all some sort of “wurst” — and rye bread for sandwiches, and for dinner made us her household-famous stuffed cabbage, making the house smell so much of warm bacon and sauerkraut I felt as though I was walking through the piping-hot platter itself dressed in a dirndl while simultaneously listening to “yodel-ay-hee-hoo”s in the background. After dinner we played a heated battle-of-the-sexes version of Trivial Pursuit, which only took two and a half hours for the ladies to prevail, and I thought the whole time how wonderful it is to be surrounded by family and home and actually like them, and how things so organic as these are what I love most in life.

This attraction to simplicity permeates into my thoughts about baking as well. I (almost) always refuse to eat dessert if it’s not homemade, and a good chunk of the reason I have been baking bread from scratch is because I am drawn to the idea of taking something so foundational to my daily diet and making it from tangible ingredients that I have personally divided and mixed and kneaded together into an edible (and hopefully delicious) item. I know where it came from and I know of what it is made, and I don’t need any additives or extra stimulants to make it better. Which is why, on any occasion, I would rather play a trivia game at the kitchen table with my 70-something year old grandmother and grandfather than sit on a couch and watch a rerun of “The Office” while eating Ho-Hos (which I would never do anyway, but the principle still stands).

envelope turn

envelope turn, part deux

envelope turn, part... tres

But enough of my rambling. I decided to take a stab at a recipe for a bread I think many of us take for granted when we buy them in those tube bags from the grocery store. When we buy bagels, we forget they are even bread, and we burn them and butter them and slab on top of them so much cream cheese and peanut butter and high fructose corn syrup — I’m sorry, jelly — that they become nothing more than a porous vehicle by which their gooey toppings enter our mouths. I, too, was a follower of this ghastly abomination, but since having bitten into a homemade bagel and undergoing a “bagel awakening,” I doubt I’ll ever go back to eating those oversized, cakey frisbees disguised in bagel form.
artisan bread toppingprebaked bagels
boiling bagelsegg wash
The process of making these bagels was — pardon my French — really freaking hard. Leave it to Rose Levy Beranbaum to make what she calls an “easy-to-read” bagel recipe one of the most confusing and particular recipes I’ve ever attempted (no offense, Rose, but you left me feeling quite daft). I added too much flour to the sponge at the start of the recipe, and in order to fix my mistake I opted out of adding flour when mixing the sponge and the starter in the stand mixer. It worked, but, finicky as these bagels were, the process still resulted in a fairly chewy product. The rounded dough also came apart in the boiling process, so I had to put them back together with toothpicks, which, if the eater was not aware, could have resulted in a terrible bagel experience.

levy's bagels

I must say that the “Artisan Bread Topping” from King Arthur Flour (given as a gift from my sister-in-law — thanks, Natalie!) was the best part of the bagel. Despite the fact that they were mildly overdone, their crusty outsides and soft, peppery insides made them taste fantastic all on their own — no fancy additions, no toppings, just what they were. And that was good enough.

Debrief: I think I’ll try the other method of shaping the bagels (not posted) to see if they come out less chewy. And I’ll leave off the seeds, or use one of the other topping ideas offered by Beranbaum. I learned through this process that I don’t care too much for chewy bagels.

Levy’s Bagels
Courtesy of The Bread Bible

Makes five 4-by-1 1/2 inch-high bagels

Dough Starter (Sponge) Ingredients:
1/2 tsp instant yeast (I converted this to a little less than 2/3 tsp for active dry yeast, as Beranbaum suggests using 1.25 the weight of instant yeast if using active dry)
1 liquid cup plus 2 tbsp water, at room temperature (70 to 90 degrees F)
1 1/2 cups King Arthur high-gluten flour, preferably, or bread flour

1. Make the sponge: In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, place the yeast, water and flour. Whisk about 2 minutes, until very smooth; scrape down the sides. The sponge will be very thick. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Flour Mixture Ingredients:
(Optional) 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup plus about 3 tbsp King Arthur high-gluten flour, preferably, or bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast (or 2/3 tsp active dry yeast)
1/2 tbsp malt powder or barley malt syrup (I used malted milk powder because that’s all I could find, and it worked for me)
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

2. Combine and add the ingredients for the flour mixture: In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the flour, the yeast, malt, sugar, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture lightly over the sponge; do not stir. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature, or, for the best flavor development, 1 hour at room temperature and then refrigerated overnight, or up to 24 hours. (During this time, the sponge will bubble through the flour mixture in places; this is fine.)

3. Mix the dough: Add the butter if using it (I didn’t) and all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining flour and mix with the dough hook, starting on low speed (#2 if using a KitchenAid), mix until all the flour is moistened, about 1 minute. Raise the speed to medium (#4 KitchenAid) and knead for 10 minutes if using high-gluten flour, 5 to 7 minutes if using bread flour, adding the remaining 2 tablespoons flour toward the end if the dough doesn’t pull away from the bowl. It should be very elastic and smooth and should jump back when pressed with a fingertip. Empty it onto the counter and knead in a little more flour if it is tacky (slightly sticky) to the touch. More flour will make a heavier, chewier bagel, which some prefer.

4. Let the dough rise: Place the dough in a 2-quart dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press the dough down and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Allow the dough to rise, ideally at 75 to 80 degrees F, or 1 to 2 hours until doubled (this part took about 3 hours for me, and even then it didn’t fully double… hmm). Deflate the dough by firmly pushing it down. Give it an envelope turn and set it back in the container. Oil the top of the dough, cover it, and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, or overnight for the most flavor. (If you want to make the bagels later, at this point the dough can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping.)

5. Shape the dough and let it rise: Set a sheet of the parchment or lightly floured towel on a countertop near the stovetop. (Alternatively, line the baking sheet(s) with parchment or floured towels and place the shaped bagels on them so you can move them easily when you are ready to boil them.) Transfer the dough to an unfloured counter. Cut the dough into five equal pieces. Allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes.
(There are two shaping methods here. For the sake of avoiding writing a novel, I’ll only post the method I used.) To develop slightly more chewiness, roll each piece of dough on an unfloured counter into a 12-inch-long rope. Make a ring, overlapping the ends by 2 inches and joining them by pressing down and rolling on the overlap until it is the same thickness as the rest of the dough ring. There will be a 1-inch hole in the center. This technique results in rounder, slightly higher bagels with smaller holes. Allow the bagels to rise for about 15 minutes or until they puff slightly.

6. Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F 30 minutes before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.

Water Bath and Toppings Ingredients:
2 tbsp molasses or 1/4 cup sugar (I used sugar)
1 tsp baking soda
Glaze and Toppings Ingredients:
2 large egg whites
1 tsp cold water
3 to 4 tbsp poppy, sesame or caraway seeds; kosher or sea salt; minced onions sauteed in vegetable oil; and/or dried garlic chips or dehydrated onions softened in hot water

7. Boil the bagels: Bring a large pot (about 9-by-4-inches high) of water to a boil. Stir in the molasses or sugar and baking soda until dissolved. With a skimmer, transfer the bagels, one at a time, to the boiling water, without crowding them; cook them in batches of 2 to 3 at a time so that they can swim around without touching one another. If they are slightly underrisen, they may sink at first but will then rise to the surface. Boil for 30 seconds to 2 minutes on each side, gently flipping them over with the skimmer; the longer time will make a thicker crust. Remove the boiled bagels, shaking off excess water over the pot and set onto parchment or the unfloured towel to drain, then move them, using a pancake turner, to the prepared baking sheet(s) or peel, after just 30 seconds to 1 minute, so that they don’t stick. The bagels will look wrinkled at this stage. Don’t worry — their appearance vastly improves on baking.

8. Glaze the bagels: Whisk together the egg whites and cold water to break up the whites. Pass through a sieve into a bowl, and brush each bagel with the glaze. Do not let the glaze drip onto the baking sheet or peel, or it will glue them down. Brush with a second coat of glaze and, if desired, sprinkle any topping of your choice evenly over the bagels. (If you are using seeds, lift each bagel with a thin pancake turner or your hand, and, holding it over the pan with the seeds, sprinkle some more seeds on top. This way, you don’t have any seeds that would burn on the baking sheet.)

9. Bake the bagels: If using baking sheets, place one sheet directly on the hot oven stone or hot baking sheet. If using a peel, slight the bagels onto the hot stone. Bake for 5 minutes. Lower the temperature to 450 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, without opening it and let the bagels remain for 5 minutes. Then open the oven door and leave the bagels in the oven for 5 more minutes.

10. Cool the bagels: Transfer the bagels to a wire rack and cool completely.

Extra punches: The bagels keep well for 1 day at room temperature in a paper bag. For longer storage, wrap each in plastic wrap, place in plastic freezer bags, and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw, still unwrapped, at room temperature.

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