{Ramona West}

{J. Crew}

{Yves St. Laurent}

I have been thinking of spring, and elastic waisted dressed that are forgiving, high heels that elongate my bratwurst style middle and a purse that could theoretically be filled with sunshine and/or life’s natural antidepressant – Skittles.

Are you dreaming of spring yet?

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It really should be said that bagels are not the most photogenic of baked goods – at any stage. They go from looking like pancake batter to a bowl of psoriasis, from dry looking monster slugs to shiny boiled bread. It is only in their last moments that they lay in beautiful full baked and browned glory, transforming from yeasty pimpled teenager to sleek bronzed beach babe.

Hence, there is a distinct lack of bagel photos here. But fear not what is lacking in pictures is made up for in the extensive directions below! I would seriously recommend trying your hand at these – they were simple, easy, and though a little bit of a time suck they really are worth it. I would couch my encouragement in one simple suggestion: pace thyself.

I made the mistake of starting these late on Monday night, my baking day, and what I was thinking I will never know. Jared came home to me meticulously weighing dough on the only scale I could find (a vintage postage scale) and attempting to look up “the windowpane test” (bah humbug – never found it in time, and mine worked fine) on a flour covered Mac. I was up this morning at 5:30am trying to finish 1/2 a batch to photograph and have ready for Wednesday’s post. That smile you see in the following photos? Pure, caffeine induced delirium.

These bagels however were well worth it – crisp, delicious crusts, just enough of the homemade yeasty scent, crisp sesame seeds and a whole lot of delirious love. I’m going to freeze 1/2 and watch J, (who begrudgingly got out of bed as I leapt up and down on it this morning yelling “Look at my bagels, bitch!”) eat the rest.

{This Recipe is adapted from the Peter Reinhart Bagel Recipe.  Any changes are noted.}

Sponge
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached  bread flour (or high gluten flour)
2 1/2 cups water, room temperature

Dough
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 1/4 cups bread flour* (or high gluten flour)(originally called for 3 3/4, but I bailed after the first 1/4, my dough was perfect)
2 3/4 teaspoons salt

(This recipe also calls for 1 tbsp of malt syrup or 2 tbsp of malt powder. Given that I already have an allergy to wheat, adding any further guarantee of watching the Bachelor from the comfort of our washroom seemed unnecessary. From what I can tell, there isn’t much missing here as the bagels tasted phenomenal. Phenomenally dangerous.)

To Be Fancy: Sesame Seeds, Poppy seeds

To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour into a large mixing bowl.  Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop. (Mine never collapsed, and I put it near a warm oven and it took about an hour and a half to reach the desired consistency.)

Once the sponge is ready, add the additional yeast and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt (and malt if you choose to use it). I sifted the flour and salt together because I’m a bit retentive about distribution. Thanks Mom!

At this point the recipe instructs you to stir with a dough hook, however being too poor for a Kitchen Aid and unaware of any pirates for hire, I used my hands. Stir with hands until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough. (As mentioned, I only used 1/4 cup of that.)

Knead the dough until firm, approximately 10 minutes. The recipe says that it “should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough” however, I have no idea what that means, so I went with the other directions, that it should be “pliable and smooth” and “satiny but not tacky”. I tested this by running it across my face and thinking about sleeping on a slip. Science!

There should be no dry flour – all ingredients should be mixed in and nothing should be flaky or chunky. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 71 degrees F. (See the link. I had no idea what this meant at the time, I just kept kneading the dough until it felt like a nice pillow…) If the dough seems to0 dry and rippy, add a few drops of water and continue kneading, add flour if it’s too tacky.

Divide the dough into balls – I weighed mine to 65 grams each, and they were the perfect size later. Put these on a cookie sheet and cover them with a warm damp tea towel and let them rest for about 20 minutes. When this is done, take each ball and roll it into a sluggy worm shape, about the 2/3 the thickness of (shocking) a bagel. Put one end of the slug in your palm, stretch it around the back of your hand and place it on top of the other end piece. Roll your hand back and forth on the counter to seal the bagel together. Put these on a pan lined with parchment paper and lightly oiled, cover with plastic wrap, let sit for 20 minutes.

Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

In order to see if the bagels are ready to be “retarded” (I know, awesome.) do the “float test”. In a bowl of room temp water, drop one of the bagels and wait for it to float. If it floats within 10 seconds, you’re good to put them in the fridge (just pat off the wet bagel and put it in too), and if it doesn’t wait another 10 minutes, and try again. Once they float – put the trays in the fridge immediately.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop your bagels gently one by one into the boiling water, and boil for one minute on each side. (I boiled my bagels in batches of five in a really large pot, and this was a really manageable batch to deal with). The longer you boil your bagels, the chewier they are going to be. I got mesmerized by an A-Team trailer, so one batch boiled for at least three minutes. Whoops! Still delicious.

When the bagels are boiled, put them back on the parchment on the baking pan. Put the bagels in the oven for five minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking for another five minutes. (I took them out at five minutes, lightly brushed the tops with an egg wash and sprinkled sesame seeds on top before replacing for the remaining time.) I didn’t actually bake these for five minutes – more like 13-15 minutes total, and judged entirely by the color of the bagels.

Take them out.. let them cool.. enjoy!

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Inspiration: Objets Trouves

These Polaroid scarves from Objets Trouves are really incredible. While out of my price range, I will still lust after them. Given that I generally forget all accessories … everywhere, and barring that, slop some sort of sauce on the rest, “lust” is where it ends. {via UO}

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We really didn’t know what to say this February 4th. We tried to say all those things you should – I love you, I can’t believe it’s been three years, I can’t believe the things we’ve done, I can’t believe we moved across a country, travelled across borders, I can’t believe we haven’t killed, maimed or blinded each other, intentionally or accidentally….

A good friend and I spoke yesterday of  the pictures that we paint of ourselves here, how they are sometimes so perfect and sweet that even our failures are brush stroked into rosy hued optimism and funny quips. How in blog land we rarely talk about the rages, the betrayals, the pain, the heartache and the strife that evades even the most skilled writer or narrator. Sometimes, there are not enough words (or there are too many) that could protect the careful identity that we craft here for ourselves and still reveal our true lives and loves and pains.

So while Jared and I tried to say the things we should on the fourth, we found ourselves more aware of the things we don’t. The things we don’t talk about – the fights, the gulps, the vomit, the spit and the anger, the sulks, the exhaustion, the tears, the screams and the slams. They are the things that we quash under our “funny couple” routine, the things we wrestle with across the dinner table, the things that three years sometimes resolve and sometimes fortify. Yet amidst all the things we don’t say here and all the things we don’t say in our lives, there lives a space between fights and slams where we learned to stop saying another thing this February 4th.

We stopped saying “I don’t believe…”

Because we do.

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Real Food

{This is the second month of my 12 Resolutions – you can read about the start (and fail) here and here! Recipes will be coming out on Wednesday mornings, to coincide with my work schedule, the fact I only have time to cook and photograph Monday mornings, the limited sunlight in my living room/kitchen and the only time the people downstairs aren’t making whoopie/beer can pyramids/shame/me crazy.}

I try my best to be a healthy person. I get salads instead of fries, I don’t drink pop, I like steamed veggies. (lie. I hate them.) But sometimes I fail. Like last friday, when I worked all day with no lunch or dinner, then proceeded to eat a burger, ceasar salad, two beers, a box of popcorn, a package of peanut butter m&m’s, a package of skittles, 3 ceasars, another beer and a cup of hot nuts.

Fail.

Needless to say, when I came out of my self induced carb coma I figured the first recipe in February should be one that erred on the side of “real food” (see: something that didn’t come from a bar, heated box or movie theatre). I was highly skeptical of these brownies (black beans? two cups? really? really?) until I was tricked into eating them like a two year old, 1/2 a bottle of wine into a ladies night. (Unlike a two year old..)

And they are amazing. No word of a lie. They have the consistency of cheesecake, and I’m pretty sure they taste like a cross between delicious and a mouthful of angels singing James Brown. You’d never be able to guess that there are beans in them, which is kinda great, and also what tricked me into eating 1/2 a pan of them. As C. pointed out, you can now say “I need some protein” and grab a brownie. Bliss.

Thanks to B. for both tricking me into eating these and giving up the recipe with perfect modifications.

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups black beans (washed lightly to remove starch/salt)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. strong brewed coffee
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325`F.

Line baking pan with parchment paper, oil it if you like. (I didn’t.)
Melt chocolate and butter in microwave or on stove top (double boiler style.) Stir to melt chocolate completely. Taste, and set aside.

Place black beans, vanilla, and a few large spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture into food processor. Blend for about two minutes, until smooth. Taste, and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix melted chocolate mixture, coffee, and salt. Taste, and set aside.

In another bowl, beat the eggs until light and creamy. Add the sugar and beat well.

Add the bean/chocolate mixture to the coffee/chocolate mixture. Blend well. Taste, and set aside.

Add the egg and sugar mixture, saving about 1/2 cup. Mix well. Pour the batter into prepped pan. Beat the reserved egg mixture until light and fluffy. Drizzle over the brownie batter. Use a toothpick to pull the egg mixture through the batter, creating a marbled effect. (This is where the crispy top comes from.)


Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until toothpick comes out clean, center is cooked and edges are crispy.

Do not undercook.

Place pan in fridge until completely cool, overnight is best.

*These are best kept in the fridge and served very very cold.. Mmmmm…*

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little boxes

{me}

Everything in it’s place. The boxes in my day planner, the months that hang on the wall. The blocked off sections for to-do lists and appointments, reminders and resolutions. When it all goes tickety-boo, I am a happy girl. Barring being happy, I at least know where all the time went wherein I wasn’t happy, or planning to make myself happy, or putting “happiness and sunshine” on my short term goals list next to “hem pants”.

There is something about the best laid plans here. There is a quote that infers my boxes are shoddy, the plans tentative at best and the rest…”flexible”. There is advice here about learning to go with the flow, about knowing your limits and other sensistive mumbo jumbo that I prefer to steamroll with a few good hours of self flagellation and hard work.

But this week, the universe gave me no choice. The boxes caved, the plans were erased, the limit was reached and frankly, my legs gave out from underneath me in abject protest. I started the year with making a resolution a month, and each of them came with a caveat – that if I didn’t succeed, then I’d at least fail. Watching my little plans melt into oblivion this week one after another, January sucker punched me in the gut with a fist full of hot fail.

When I sat down this evening and peered into the boxes I had left, I expected to be disappointed. Instead, each one was filled with a little surprise – brunch with friends, an afternoon cooking with J, unexpected windfalls and gratitude nestled between laughter, heart to hearts and chats at the touch of a button. Somewhere along the way I booked a vacation, saw a movie and mailed a stack of letters.

As a result, January’s resolution is still on the way. It’s in a box, waiting, right next to the box o’ fail. And as of January, I’m ok with that.

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Sprint

{me}

It was a bit of a week last week, filled with a lot of slamming doors, long silences, 63 hours of work topped off sore feet, bruised feelings and teary faces. For a while we forgot that we were both running towards the same thing, and instead focused on the fact we kept knocking each other in the ribs with our mad flailing elbows. So today we played hooky – we turned off the phones, we didn’t answer the door, we just… hid. We churned out 3 lasagnas, 2 dozen momos, and a really good talk that felt like a finish line and a starter pistol at the same time. So we’re tying up our laces today for another sprint, and this week we’re holding hands.

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