Jessie Raymond: No bag limit on bagels this season
At this time of year, when the temperatures drop below zero and the wind howls, I like to get my gear on and go skiing or snowshoeing, or maybe even do a little ice climbing.
I’m joking, of course.
Really, I prefer to stay inside and bake things. Lately, it’s bagels.
During the warmer months, you might consider me downright outdoorsy. I mean, not hike-the-Appalachian-Trail outdoorsy, but enough so that I have to check myself for ticks every day.
When winter comes, though, forget it. If I need to check myself for anything, it’s bedsores.
Granted, twice a day I have to layer up and head out to the coop to tend the chickens. It’s the only effort I make to get outside, but it’s plenty. Each five-minute trip requires me to recover by the woodstove for at least a half-hour. I examine my toes for frostbite and reflect on my good fortune: somehow I made it another day without having to be rescued by helicopter from a snowdrift.
I don’t handle winter well.
While some people embrace nature’s intensity at this time of year, I embrace carbohydrates. That’s where the bagels come in.
I know, I know: Eating refined carbs will rot you from the inside. But for the purposes of this column — and my winter survival — we are going to have to agree that bagels are an unqualified good thing. They just are.
Maybe I’m biased because I grew up in an age when carbs had not yet become vilified and no one had even heard of gluten. Believe it or not — and I swear this is true — bagels used to be sold at fitness centers as post-workout recovery snacks.
It was a magical time.
Unlike so many others who now shun all starches, I never gave up on bagels. When they come back in style as a health food — and we know they will — I’ll be right there waiting.
I’ve made bagels in the past, but this winter it’s become something of a passion. I’m running my own version of America’s Test Kitchen, except without the careful measuring or any culinary training.
Bagels are made from a simple dough of flour, yeast, salt and water, plus a bit of sugar — although I’ve graduated to barley malt syrup, because all the cool online recipes are using it.
You knead the dough, shape the bagels and, to give them their distinctive texture, poach them before baking. (By “poach,” I mean “boil briefly,” not “take out of season.” Happily, there’s an open season on bagels, with no bag limit.)
I’m working on fine-tuning my choice of flour, rising time, poaching time, etc., to come up with the perfect recipe. At least that’s what I tell people. In reality, I’m just looking for an excuse to make another batch.
I’ve been experimenting with various flours: all-purpose, bread, high-gluten, even 00. I only recently learned that “00” is a designation that indicates how finely ground the flour is, but I don’t see it as two zeroes. To me, it looks like the eyes of a gluten-intolerant person whose pupils have rolled back in their head.
I understand that for some people, gluten is only slightly less poisonous than strychnine, but for a satisfyingly chewy bagel, gluten is the key. And, as we’ve established, bagels are good.
Don’t worry, however, that I’m subsisting entirely on bagels this winter. I’m being careful to round out my diet with plenty of pasta and Italian bread as well.
I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t you the woman who was determined to resist the Great Christmas Cookie Onslaught of 2018? Yes, that was me.
By and large, I succeeded, and I think that’s my problem. In December I deprived my body of much-needed chill-fighting carbs, and now I have a deficit that I’m making up for, mostly in bagels.
This summer, I’ll be happy to chat about my love for garden vegetables and how they not only boast vibrant colors and a satisfying crunch but also pack vital nutrients.
But tonight it’s getting down to zero with wind chills in the negative numbers. So if you don’t see me out on the slopes tomorrow morning — and you won’t — don’t fret.
I’ll be right here by the fire, enjoying one of my homemade bagels. They may not be a superfood, but in weather like this, they are, without question, a super food.
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