I have a new toy in my kitchen.
It’s a bagel cutter and it’s terrific. Called bagel biter and looking more like a guillotine than a slicer, it cuts perfect halves with ease.
No more lopsided pieces, no more worries about slicing my thumb. With my biter, morning bagels are a snap.
My first instinct was to find a homemade bagel recipe, so I began an internet search for the perfect one.
Most called for a sourdough starter but, alas, mine had died of neglect many moons ago. I put together another one. If looking for a starter, ask a fellow baker to share. If you don’t have a friend who bakes with sourdough, make your own. It’s easy and inexpensive. You can also email me for the recipe.
I started a starter, mixed it up and let it ferment. Meanwhile, I resumed my recipe search but was horrified at how much time and work goes into making bagels. It’s a 12-step process, 13 if you add toppings.
First, make the starter and let it rest overnight or for up to 24 hours. Then, combine with remaining ingredients and knead. Next, it must rest again, for one to two hours, then punched down, covered with plastic wrap and set aside for another 30 minutes.
Then comes a second rise. Next, divide dough into 12 pieces and roll each into a smooth, round, seamless ball. Cover again and let rest for another 30 minutes.
By now you’ve got one day plus three to four hours invested, they don’t resemble bagels and all of this before any cooking takes place. Plus, before baking, comes boiling and refrigerating overnight.
After all that, from now on I’ll buy my bagels — and devote this week’s Spoon to Easter eggs.
With that in mind, here’s a short tutorial on how to properly hard-cook eggs and ensure easy peeling.
Using a pin or thumb tack, pierce rounded end of each egg, place in a large pan to avoid crowding and add cold water to cover by at least one inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower to simmer for about two to three minutes, remove from stove and let sit in water until cool. Shake pan to crack shells, drain and peel under water.
By the way, older eggs are often much easier to peel than fresh. Not that eggs should be expired before boiling, just wait a week or two before boiling if using ones from backyard chickens, local co-op or farmers market.
If from a grocery store, it’s not an issue since most market eggs won’t be fresh off the farm the day you buy them.
And while we’re at it, if you want to go natural, here’s a list of do-it-yourself vegetable and fruit dyes. Although not as vibrant as commercial food colorings, these are fun and kids get a kick out of the results: Yellow - turmeric; red - beets, canned or fresh; pink - raspberries, fresh or frozen; green/blue - red cabbage; blue - red cabbage plus baking soda; purple - blueberries, fresh or frozen; violet - blueberry jelly; brown/bronze - strong coffee or tea; yellow/green - spinach, orange - annatto seeds; copper - onion skins.
For any of the above, use at least 1/2 to one cup ingredients — except for turmeric and annatto, start with just a little — which have been chopped or crushed, mix with one quart water and heat on stove. Don't boil, let simmer until water has turned desired color. Strain and use.
Some coloring agents have a strong flavor, so if you don't want any onion/spinach/beet-tasting eggs, be sure to dye them in their shells.