Saturday, March 14, 2009

Blueberries, potatoes and bagels...

...but not all together.
I'm not sure how good that would be.

You see, yesterday while I was at work, Mrs. JP was out running errands. During those errands, she picked up four very nice blueberry bushes to add to our little fruit orchard. If it wasn't cold and steady raining here, we would be out there putting those new bushes in the ground. They all have buds and are ready to burst out with spring growth.

With the addition of these four, we will have a total of seven blueberry bushes in five different heat hardy varieties to give us good cross-pollination and larger fruit. We have two O'Neals, a Jubilee, an Ozarkblue, two Austins and a Tiffblue. Once these bushes are full grown, we should have plenty of blueberries for pies, jams, dehydrating, freezing and sharing with family and friends.

While she was out, she also got us five pounds of starter potatoes at the farmer's co-op. We are going to try out TennZen's suggestion of growing potatoes in old tires.

When I came home after work last night, we made today's breakfast. A couple of years ago, I realized one area of cuisine that I had never tried was bread making, so I proceeded to buy some good books on the subject and to develop the skills. One of the breads I attempted was bagels, but the recipe I used as a very simple one and the results were disappointing. Since then, I have been picking up a little more information about making bagels here and there, and as my craving for some good bagels increased recently, I decided to try again. I began Thursday evening by making a starter: I mixed ½ cup of high-gluten bread flour, ¼ cup of water and a pinch of instant yeast in a bowl, covered it with plastic wrap and left it on a cool place on the counter to get all foamy and yeasty smelling. This starter adds flavor as the yeast feeds on the flour. Yesterday afternoon, I added the starter to my mixer bowl, then added the following dry ingredients: 4 cups of high-gluten bread flour (sifted), 1 ¾ tsp. kosher salt, ¼ cup of non-diastatic malt powder and 1 ½ tsp. instant yeast. I put the bowl onto my mixer and started it mixing with the dough hook attachment. I measured 1 ½ cups cool water and as the mixer turned, I drizzled the water in little by little until the dough formed. It took all but about two tablespoons of the water, but this will vary depending on conditions when you are making bread. You want a firm, sticky dough.

Then I let the mixer knead the dough for eight minutes, and placed the ball of dough in a lightly greased glass bowl, covered with a damp towel and set it in a warm spot to rise for an hour. After an hour, I punched it down, recovered with the towel and let it rise another 30 minutes. We placed some lightly greased parchment paper on a couple of baking trays, and as evenly as possible, divided the dough into twelve little balls and placed them on the parchment paper. We recovered them with damp towels and let them rest another 30 minutes. Then we used two fingers to pinch a hole in each one, rolled and stretched the hole to about two inches in diameter and set them back down on the parchment paper, recovered with the towels for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, we started preheating the oven to 425° F, put three inches of water in a pan, added a tablespoon of the non-diastatic malt powder to the water and brough it to a gentle boil.

We boiled four bagels at a time, 2 minutes on the first side, turned them and 1 minute on the second side, then removed back to the parchment paper.

Once they were all boiled, we put them in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. When they came out, they were lightly browned, and we placed them on a rack to cool.

How did they turn out? Bagel PERFECTION. They are sooooo yummy. They have the perfect chewy texture and taste just like authentic New York bagels. I had mine with cream cheese, some sliced olives and some capers, and a cup of Columbian coffee.

Mrs. JP had half of one of hers with cream cheese and mango preserves. She let me taste that one, and that is a great combo. The remaining bagels got sliced in half, put into a freezer bag and went into the freezer to be toasted later when we want another one. I am so thrilled that this went well. About three weeks ago, I finally mastered the ability to make good, made from scratch, moist southern biscuits. Now I can also make authentic bagels. The next step will be to learn to make flavored bagels, especially onion bagels and sun dried tomato bagels.

Meanwhile, it is still raining outside and the dogs are getting a little cabin fever. I suspect we will have some dogs walking on the treadmill soon. Mrs. JP is playing some very nice music on the piano, I love to listen to her play. It's a very nice, blessed Saturday morning in the holler. Scrappy is under the desk by my feet giving me her sad, how can you resist petting me look.

Y'all have a great weekend, and be sure to thank God this weekend...


Mrs. JP said...

I must say that I was skeptical about the bagels but oh my you haven't had a bagel until it's fresh outta da oven! Man oh man,,it was soooo delicious as our granddaughter would say. We're already planning the next batch. It's a must try for bagel lovers but we think the malt stuff made all the difference. Blessings to you and yours

TennZen said...

Oooh, those bagels look fabulous. I am going to have to give them a try!

Have fun with the 'taters. We finally got all of ours planted this weekend.

JP said...

@TennZen: They really were good! Just be sure to get the high-gluten flour and the non-diastatic malt powder (I had to order it from King Arthur Flour Co., only place I could find it). Those two ingredients made ALL the difference between my first disappointing attempt and the yummy ones.

JP said...

@TennZen: By the way, I found the high-gluten flour at Sam's, in a 25 lb. bag, so we will be making a lot more bagels. We also use it to make a great homemade pizza crust, but that's for a future post...

Lena said...

The bagels look yummy! I will have to give that a try someday. I'm so excited you got more blueberry bushes - we love blueberries, and I can't wait to read some new recipes!
Hi Scrappy. You are adorable and I love your sad little "pet me now" face. Hugs.

Oh, and Thank You for all the lovely rain!!!!

YD said...

Bagels, yum! I have never made bagels before.
I love blueberries too, hopefull we'll get to plant some this year.

Scrappy is very cute.