101 in 1001 {III}: 093 learn to make bagels at home [completed 02.22.13]

ye homemade bagels

a few things one should know about making bagels: the process is in no way arduous (a mere hour of rise time! you could decide to make bagels at nine in the morning and be eating them by like 11!*) and virtually idiot-proof, one can sub flours and toppings in and out at will (the heartbreak of poppy seeds between your teeth need never happen again!), and you can eat more than one when you're done (because they're much smaller than the carb bombs you'd buy from someone else, and also listen, you just made your own bagels and can do whatever you want).

this zenlike-in-its-simplicity recipe got to me by way of my college roommate jen, a brutally talented baker who, for example, rejiggered her famous-in-multiple-metropolitan-areas pie crust recipe with algebra and vodka to eliminate the need for crisco (that post features weight, volume, and ABV charts; it's a thing of beauty). she, in turn, picked it up from jennifer reese's make the bread, buy the butter, a book on when cooking from scratch is and isn't worth your time (her blog is here). ye recipe, with my adaptations and notes:

homemade bagels

- 3 1/2 cups flour (i made my first batch with ye olde white flour, and my second with 2 cups white and a cup and a half of whole wheat; both were great)
- 4 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
- 3 tbsp. cane sugar (i used vegan cane sugar)
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt (i kicked this up to more like 5 tsp, as the dough was a bit sweet)
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- neutral vegetable oil for greasing (i used a can of pam organic olive oil spray i found at work)
- 2 tbsp. barley malt syrup or dark brown sugar (i had neither and used tupelo honey)
- cornmeal, for sprinkling
- 1 egg

combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. add the water and beat hard for a few minutes. if the dough is too wet, add more flour, but just a bit at a time until you have a stiff dough. knead for 5 minutes. place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a clean, damp towel to rise about one hour and double in size. preheat oven to 400 degrees F and bring a large pot of water to boil. while water is heating, lightly oil one baking sheet and sprinkle another generously with cornmeal. divide dough into 12 pieces.** roll each piece into a ball and stick your thumb through the middle to coax it into a bagel shape. let bagels rest on the greased baking sheet for 10 minutes (or not; i've skipped this step and the bagels don't seem to care). once the water is at a rolling boil, add the brown sugar or barley syrup (or honey). drop the bagels into the water, three at a time. let them simmer for a minute and flip them over to simmer for another minute. remove with a slotted spoon back to the greased baking sheet. repeat with the remaining bagels. move all the boiled bagels to the cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet, flipping them over when putting them down so the drier side sits in the cornmeal. give the top of each bagel a wee egg wash (one beaten egg was enough for the whole dozen), then sprinkle on the toppings of your choice; i used grey sea salt, penzeys dehydrated onions, and five diced garlic cloves.*** bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. serve with cream cheese and the satisfaction of fresh bagels acquired without the application of pants.

we split our first batch of carb DIY with our sweet downstairs neighbor who's been stuck at home since foot surgery a month ago. we brought our second batch along for yupster brunch on our train trip to washington last weekend.

homemade everything bagels on the train to DC

mimosas on the train to DC

yeah, those are faux-bois paper plates and napkins. not pictured: vanilla skyr, my quilting supplies (quilting and homemade bagels on the train: this is how childless cat ladies spend their time), joe biden (though i feel he was there in spirit), the $300 we had to spend on the much-less-genteel ride home on sunday when we missed the 6:20 train by five minutes. but this is not the story of that sadness; this is the story of bagels, and the story of bagels ends happily. go forth.

*if you're baking before nine in the morning, most of this website will not be of use to you.

**the original recipe is for 10 bagels, but i like mine slightly smaller, and, let's be honest, 12 is the best number.

***i am not usually a gadget fan, but my life changed for the better the day i found a garlic chopper at the office. i have and love a microplane, but a chopper is great for dishes which call for bigger chunks and social occasions which don't call for garlicky hands.


Q: what could be better than photographing garbage?
A: photographing frozen garbage.

frozen garbage (1 of 3)

frozen garbage (2 of 3)

frozen garbage (3 of 3)


snow on the LES


every love story is a ghost story: a life of david foster wallace (book). a number of people have said that this biography made them like DFW a bit less.* i was afraid i would be one of those people, and it is hard to read about how, say, he wanted to kill mary karr's husband. i made it to the other side, though, and while it's entirely possible that he and i would not have enjoyed each other's company, i think he was at least as hard on himself as he was on everyone else. max does a fine job of mapping the philosophical territory DFW loved so well, and he offers meaty background notes on characters and plot points in his fiction and essays. i think i wanted every love story to be more of what i got from david lipsky's companionable although of course you end up becoming yourself (THUNDERTOMED here), but i've read plenty of folks' accounts of what it was like to sit across from him at a diner. it's time, alas, for me to get serious about wittgenstein and friends. somewhere in queens my philosophy-major husband just felt a sweet frisson of schadenfreude and has no idea why.

the flame alphabet (book, ongoing). i thought it was fate when a hardcover copy of the flame alphabet materialized at our local housing works thrift store after i pinned it to my "media needs" board (suck it, folks who argue that pinterest is a graveyard of the unrealized; i use the recipes and DIYs i post as well). children's speech becomes lethal to adults: what a weird, promising premise! i'm now about a hundred pages in, and i'm bored and sad. i will finish it, by gum, but as j. robert lennon noted in the times, the novel "doesn’t fulfill its own promise as a hybrid of the traditional and experimental, [and readers hoping for a ripping good yarn] may find it vexing; it’s a strange and impressive work, but in the end, it’s mostly sermon."

flight (film). i am tempted to call flight the most ham-handed deployment of a soundtrack (and the most misguided use of "gimme shelter") i've ever seen, but forrest gump (and mick and lady gaga's execrable work in december) stay my hand. "that was a movie-length AA speech," joe noted. denzel washington's character has zero interiority. i wish i could unwatch him and see jeff bridges in crazy heart again instead.

lincoln (film). daniel day-lewis does such fine work that one almost doesn't mind spielberg's treacly, lord-of-the-rings-style quintuple ending (the movie should wrap about five minutes before it does, on a lovely shot of lincoln descending the white house stairs on the way to ford's theater). tony kushner's language is outstanding as well - i am a weird, rabid new kushner fan after his recent paris review interview - and i hope he takes the oscar for his adaptation of doris kearns goodwin's material. i also hope someone decides to make a gentleman-rogues buddy movie with christoph waltz and james spader, for it would be goddamn delightful.

the master (film). as joe noted, p.t. anderson has a way of dropping the mic at the end of his best movies (magnolia, there will be blood, &c), and the master is no exception; it's ambiguous, shocking, weirdly beautiful. while joaquin phoenix and philip seymour hoffman as unhinged disciple and charismatic, l.-ron-hubbard-ish cult leader are both in danger of Acting rather than acting, the bizarre dynamic that develops between them (based in part on the hooch phoenix makes out of things like jet fuel) is actually pretty affecting. on bizarre, i still don't know what to make of the possibly-hallucinated scene in which all of the women in a house full of hoffman's rapt acolytes are suddenly, inexplicably naked, but it raised more interesting questions than any of the T&A i've endured on girls and game of thrones thus far (we have free HBO for the next few months and are marathoning accordingly; more on that later). it's a shame the best supporting actress field is packed with battle beasts this year; in different circumstances, amy adams would have an easy oscar for her work here.

thayers tangerine slippery elm lozenges (beelzebub's fewmets). there was a little marie antoinette of a neighbor-kid on our street when i was growing up who, when she decided she was no longer interested in whatever she was chewing, would simply open her mouth and let it fall out. barbarism, i thought, but man did i want to be rid of my first and last thayers tangerine slippery elm lozenge as i waited on the platform for my train when i had walking pneumonia a few weeks ago (i did not spit it out; the rats on the tracks deserved better than that). i don't want to talk about what it tasted like. never, ever eat a slippery elm lozenge, and i say that as someone who once ate a pigeon feather.

*aside: that times reviewer asserts in the course of her otherwise not only plausible but often quite incisive wallace-chatter that his "best work, perhaps by far, is 'The Pale King,'" which (though i enjoyed several things about the pale king) is crazy talk.


the weekender

the veterinary oncologist called back to discuss chuck's results with joe and me at six o' clock last night. the slides weren't entirely conclusive: it's possible, ironically, that the oral steroid our vet prescribed on thursday (and which we gave him at home for the first and only time that night) changed the look of his cells prior to the collection on friday afternoon. she told us we could try to strengthen the diagnosis - which one wants to do because cancers' responses to various treatment options can vary so widely by cell type - by sending what they've already collected out to colorado for a PARR test, an assay which identifies lymphoma in dogs and cats via DNA. a negative PARR test, she explained, isn't very useful, as false negatives are possible; a positive, on the other hand, could be treated as a certainty. with that certainty, the big remaining question is whether we're dealing with small cell lymphoma (which tends to progress more slowly and for which she would likely prescribe oral chemo) or large cell lymphoma (which moves faster and would in turn potentially mean intravenous chemo to be administered at the hospital; i was thinking about that scenario as i weighed the facility we chose against the one our vet recommended, as the latter is across town and not easily accessible by train). she strongly suspects it's small cell, given that chuck's weight loss was significant (he's just under 10 pounds now and was at about 13 last february) but not sudden (it's been happening over the fall/winter; we thought for most of that time that he was simply eating less because he has old-man teeth) and he seems to be in high spirits (he chirrups and follows me around the apartment at shoulder level just as he always has). i asked if we could be more diagnostically aggressive - of course, i want to give him the best possible treatment at the earliest possible date, not to move through clue-style eliminations of rooms, weapons, and suspects - but the other immediate option would be a comparatively invasive biopsy. chuck would need to recover for a week or two before beginning chemo based on the results, and we would traumatizing him with a potentially-unnecessary major procedure.

so we are starting him on leukeran, also known as chlorambucil, chemotherapy which we'll administer via two-milligram pills every other day (we're going to talk about adding the steroid, prednisone, back in after we get the results of the PARR test). after about a month, we'll bring him back in for more ultrasounds; if his cancer seems to be responding well, we'll keep that up for a year and re-image again. veterinary chemo prioritizes the minimization of side effects, since companion animals don't know (as human patients do) that they're suffering in order to feel better. the bad news is that with that in mind, dosages are much lower and recurrence is therefore more frequent; the good news is that chuck might have some gastrointestinal distress, but it's also possible that the leukeran and prednisone could stimulate his appetite. if we're lucky, he could feel better than he does now.

if we're lucky. i folded up on the phone at my desk as the oncologist began using the words "year" and "years" when she spoke of what could happen next. as i said a few days ago, the panicked googling i was doing last week made me feel like chuck was dying in our arms. our vet, in turn, was so unenthusiastic about the idea of aggressive treatment that i was convinced chemo would be joyless time purchased at our poor little cat's expense, and the caretaker narratives i found online were feel-good rainbow bridge stuff that contributed nothing to my understanding about what i should do for my family. friends and friends' friends have been incredibly generous with their experience and support, i'm building the lexicon i need to find real talk and hard data about what we'll face, and i'm finally starting to feel like i am doing the best i can.

i made some shockingly good bagels this weekend - like, i-think-i-might-formally-be-a-real-new-yorker bagels - and i'm one movie away from the end of ye olde death-by-academy-award-nominee marathon. i have been meaning to tell you about antarctica (the researchers down there really love tom jones, among other things). my blog is not eat pray chuck, and i won't be journaling his bowel movements. i will, however, continue with my customary, random tales of my excellent black cat, and i'll share everything i learn about how to take care of him. if you find us in the course of panicked googling, i hope we help you do the best you can.


catbag (1 of 3)

i want to post photos of chuck all day, but i feel like taking pictures when he's just home from the doctor is unfair (this one is from our old apartment in hell's kitchen). you should know, however, that he is as handsome as he has always been. he has a little priest's collar of lighter shaved skin on his neck where our vet drew blood last week, and a panel on his belly that was shaved for his x-rays and ultrasounds on tuesday and thursday. the skin there is stone grey, so he looks a bit like a statue that has come to life. this is reasonable, for he is a magical cat.

joe and i decided on thursday night that we needed to find out what sort of chemotherapy might be available for chuck, so i called our vet as soon as i got to the office on friday morning. he told me that he would try to refer us to a specialist at a large, venerable veterinary research hospital here in the city, but when he called back he said that it would be two weeks before we could get in to see one of their oncologists. that was unacceptable - according to my nauseating, interminable internet research, an aggressive, untreated cancer could take chuck from us in a matter of weeks - so i kept going. i tried the specialist who interpreted chuck's original ultrasound: she could see us, but her practice is an hour away on long island. i tried calling the hospital myself and mentioning their conversation with my vet; they sounded harried and didn't recognize his name. at last i found another group of veterinary specialists a few blocks from my office. one of them had been named one of the city's best doctors a few years ago, a friend of a friend responded to the call for help in my last post and told me that same vet and his colleagues had taken wonderful care of the cat she and her husband lost to cancer last year, and that i needed to call him and drop their names immediately, and our friend lesley's excellent dog hayley underwent emergency surgery (and has since recovered beautifully) in their care. they had appointments that afternoon and could begin staging chuck's cancer (that is, aspirating his growths and determining how far they had progressed and what course of treatment would stand the best chance of arresting them or perhaps even, oh, my dear cat, putting him into remission) immediately. i arranged for his records to be transferred, took the train home and bundled chuck into his fifth car of the week, and spent two hours pacing a glass-walled exam room and speaking with his new doctor. we're now waiting to discuss his cytology results with her.

a cab driver carried chuck and me downtown in silence on thursday afternoon as i called joe to break our original vet's cancer news, as i called my office to ask if i could spend the rest of the afternoon at home, and as i cried raggedly in the backseat. he then apologized for his broken english and told me that i was a strong person, and that he believed in god, and that he knew god was going to take care of me. he refused the money i offered him when he pulled to the curb in front of our building, and he blessed me and said that he would pray for us. god bless you, too, i said.


that fuzzy stuff in the back of the fridge

after joe and i adopted him, chuck lived with my college roommate jen for six weeks. we had no apartment and i had no job, but i knew that i needed a black cat in my life as soon as possible.

chuck is now nearly thirteen. he had an ultrasound this morning (at his yearly checkup this week, we learned that he'd lost three pounds over the course of this past year, and his doctor felt a mass when he palpated his chest) and the specialist found that his spleen is enlarged, his intestines are moderately thickened, and he has multiple severely enlarged mesenteric lymph nodes; the assessment is that he has lymphosarcoma, a diagnosis we can confirm with a guided aspiration. we're giving him steroids as of this evening, and we're going to get in touch with an oncologist tomorrow to talk about the possibility of veterinary chemo, something we know almost nothing about. if any of you know someone who's pursued that kind of treatment for a cat in their family, i would be grateful to know how they felt about it; they can reach me at cuttlefish [at] gmail [dot] com.


1: i think we should go to ina soho. or maybe abc, and then old town.
2: we can do all of those things.
1: or dirt camp.
2: dirt camp?
1: yeah, you know, dirt camp.
2: [...]
1: you make stuff.
2: [...]
1: and sing.
2: [...]
1: about dirt.