Bagels, bagels, bagels…..

I’m not sure when my love affair with bagels began….probably somewhere back in college when my love affair with coffee shops, caffeine, pastries, and writing really took off. Without a doubt, every town should have a great bagel shop and a great coffee shop. Unfortunately, this is not the case in most towns. Usually towns have one or the other, but rarely both. When I moved from Cedar Falls, IA to Fort Worth, TX, I spent about 4 months searching for a coffee shop filled with the quaint aromas of pastries and beans and hard wood I’d grown accustomed to in college at Cup of Joe or The Vibe. This search ended up being futile and I soon settled for Panera Bread for my writing/studying/coffee drinking excursions. This ended up being just fine as Panera Bread in Fort Worth is the kind of place where every knows your name and you can stay for hours and leave your lap top unattended without fear. Panera bread is also home to wonderful bagels. I lived on these until I discovered something even better, just right down the road….

On a Friday afternoon I made my way over to a little shop I’d noticed on University near TCU. It was called Einstein Brothers Bagels and I instantly fell in love. Granted, this shop is a chain, but I’ve learned an important lesson about chains…chains are chains because they’ve cornered the market on something. Every restauranteur wants to duplicate his/her shop. It’s a sign of success. Einstein Brothers Bagels is such an establishment. Their bagels are thick yet not dense (as some store bought bagels tend to be) and I quickly discovered the cinnamon sugar bagel-a simple whole wheat bagel with a thick coating of cin/sugar on top-mmmmm. This is perfect with Honey Almond cream cheese. And let me tell you, this cream cheese will blow your socks off.
My friend, Laurie and I quickly began a tradition of skipping our grad school’s chapel (sorry, shrug) and grabbing a mid-morning snack at Einstein’s. There we’d chit chat with eachother about life or theology or boys and occasionally we’d run in a guy called Schmakey who was also skipping chapel but free loading off of free tables and music (he never bought anything). Anyway, this tradition led to others…my roommates, sisters, and I have enjoyed many a cin/sugar bagel on Saturday morning with coffee. There were other days post marriage that my husband and I would grab a USA today, split it up, and sip some joe with our bagels before beginning the weekend chores. Girls from the youth group I worked with and I would meet on summer mornings or winter afternoons. It’s a great place and unfortunately it’s a missing element in my life right now.
My husband and I moved from Fort Worth to Little Rock about a year and a half ago. Before we moved, the first thing I did was google Panera and Einstein’s. Both were sadly missing from Little Rock. We have since acquired a Panera (which I stalked during its entire construction).
But, I’m still missing Einsteins. I was lamenting this publicly the other day on Facebook when a friend sent me this recipe. I immediately tried it, and I gotta say…it’s wonderful. Almost as close to Einstein’s as you could get. So….without further adieu…and thanks to Elise K., here it is.
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
4-5 cups all-purpose flour, or half all-purpose and half whole wheat
2 tsp. salt
Sesame, poppy or caraway seed to sprinkle on top (optional)

In a large bowl, stir yeast and brown sugar into 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water until it dissolves; let it stand for 5 minutes until it gets foamy. If it doesn’t, the yeast is probably expired – toss it and get some fresh yeast!

Stir the oil and a cup of flour into the yeast mixture, then add the salt and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough – I usually use about 2 1/2 cups. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, gently incorporating more flour, until the dough is smooth and elastic. It should take about 10 minutes. Cover with a tea towel and let it rest for about 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 10 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and then shape it into a circle, pinching the ends together to form bagels. Let them rise for about 20 minutes while you boil a big pot (about 6L) of salted water and preheat the oven to 425 F.

When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and gently place a few bagels at a time into the water. Simmer for 1 minute, then flip them over and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack to drain. Once they have all been boiled, place them on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray, and sprinkle with sesame seeds or whatever toppings you like.

Bake for 20 minutes, until golden.

Makes 10 bagels.

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels: add 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1/2-1 cup raisins along with the second batch of flour. Mix and bake as directed.

Onion & Garlic Bagels: sauté 1 minced onion and a few cloves of crushed garlic in 1 tsp. oil until tender and golden. Cool and stir into the dough along with the second batch of flour. Mix and bake as directed.

Cheese Bagels: add 1 tsp. garlic powder and 1 cup grated old cheddar or 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese along with the second batch of flour. Sprinkle the tops with a little extra grated cheese if you like.

I (Anna) did this…

1. rolled in some choc chips in 2
2. rolled in some frozen blueberries in 3 (DO NOT DEFROST, I did this with some scones last year and it resulted in an unfortunate mass of blueberry playdough which I had to throw away and then the Beagle found in the trash can and then there was blueberry diarrhea to contend with and a trip to the vet.)
3. Topped two with cheddar cheese.
4. Topped three with butter and cin/sugar.

Honey Almond Cream Cheese
8oz of reduced fat cream cheese
1 T milk
2 T honey
2/3 T brown sugar
1/4 C. of chopped almonds

Whip together and enjoy!
I’ve already made 2 batches of these-and luckily I’m pregnant, so I’m not worrying TOO much about my waistline right now. In fact, twice, instead of sleeping in after my husband left for work at 6:30, I’ve gotten up because I can’t stop thinking about eating them. Once again, this may be because I’m pregnant, but it may also be because this recipe is just so dang good.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!
Ciao 🙂

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