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Monday, January 31, 2011

Cinnamon Spice Tea

Once upon a time my mother discovered the most wonderful tea in the world: Market Spice Tea, which comes from Pike Place Market in Seattle. For a while it was sold in a little tea shop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but eventually disappeared and my mother was driven to write to the company and start ordering it in bulk herself so that she and my dad could continue enjoying their nightly cup of tea after dinner.
Fast forward about 15 years and I'm out in Montana, away from the taste of home. I discovered the SECOND-best tea in the world-- Good Earth's Sweet & Spicy Original Caffeine Free (which actually does taste different from the caffeinated version because it uses rooibus tea as the base, and the caffeinated version uses black tea). This was great news for me...until two weeks ago. I ran out and the nearest store that sells it is half an hour away and I had nothing else on my list to warrant the drive. A week later, I did my shopping a day early, without properly filling out my list...AND THE TEA WAS FORGOTTEN! This will likely be the longest week of my life. Last week I at least had some other flavors to keep me company. This week, my cupboard is empty.
So I did what any rational human would do. I went to the cafeteria and stole a plain lipton tea bag. Then I came home and googled recipes. And now, I must share my discoveries with you.
The necessary ingredients are as follows:
A tea bag, an orange, and some form of cinnamon. You'll also need a mug and a grater. A toaster oven, funnel, and coffee filter also come in handy.
  1. Grate the peel off the orange. I used the biggest size grater, because I've seen big chunks of orange rind in teas before and I didn't think it would get too bitter. It didn't! 
  2. Lightly grease the little tray that fits in the toaster oven, and spread out the orange peel on it. I used two oranges and got about a tablespoon from each. 
  3. I toasted at about 250 degrees for 20 minutes (ish). 
  4. Boil some water. I wanted to test ground cinnamon and cinnamon extract (because the recipe called for crushed cinnamon sticks, but I didn't have any), so I used 1 1/2 cups water total
  5. In the measuring cup is the water, the tea bag, and 1/2 tsp orange peel (which is really hard to measure, so just guess!)
  6. In each cup is 1/16 tsp of either ground cinnamon or cinnamon extract
  7. Once the tea had steeped a little bit, I split the tea between the two mugs
  8. The ground cinnamon was better, but was WAY too weak, so I dumped all the tea back into the measuring cup and added another 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon. Then I microwaved it to get a little more flavor out of it.
  9. Lastly, I used the funnel and coffee filter to strain out the ground cinnamon and orange peel.
The verdict: I need to get some cinnamon sticks. I'm sure the taste will be way better. The tea was still a LOT weaker than the world's greatest Market Spice Tea, but it was close enough to keep me from crying! Next time I might add even more orange peel, and possibly in bigger chunks, including more of the white from the rind. I'll keep you posted on the developments, but won't post a recipe till I get it right!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bagel Disaster

This is now my third experience with bagels. I've started with Peter Reinhart's bagel recipe as posted on Smittenkitchen, since there was such an abundance of helpful comments there.
Attempt #1 was a tiny little batch, just to be sure I didn't mess anything up too terribly (and because I was worried I would eat the entire batch all in one sitting). I made six mini bagels, entirely whole wheat. Using the amount of water called for, they were very dry while I kneaded the dough, and therefore came out incredibly dense.
Attempt #2 was a much larger batch, made with my Dad for Christmas! We used half white, unbleached, all-purpose flour and half King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour. These were even more dry than I remembered my test batch being-- the kneading process was actually like a serious workout! We weren't even able to get all of the flour worked into the dough, and ended up with only about half as many bagels as we thought we should, and they weren't particularly smooth since the dough was so dry. We also didn't make the holes quite big enough and/or we didn't cook them long enough, and they were just a tad doughy.
Attempt #3 was started earlier this week and finished today.
Here's the sponge, including about 1/2 cup- 3/4 cup more water than the recipe called for.

Since I'd added so much extra water, the dough was actually a little too sticky during the kneading. I had to add at least 1/4 cup extra flour (in addition to the flour being added to the sponge anyway). Towards the end I could tell parts of it were getting dry even though the outside was sticky, so for the last minute or two of kneading I used a little bit of spray oil to keep it from sticking to my hands.
I ended up with eight little balls of dough (I was expecting twelve)
 I covered them and let them rest for 20 minutes (I used wet paper towels and plastic wrap to try to keep them from drying out)
 And poked the holes in them and let them rest again...
Once they passed the float test I stuck them in an airtight container to put in the fridge, since I don't have any "food grade plastic wrap" hanging around, which the recipe said I should cover them with.

Here they are after rising in the fridge overnight:
Very plump!
I then proceeded to find out that the upper heating element in my oven is broken, and things aren't baking correctly. Not good. I waited for three days for it to be fixed, but gave up hope and went to a friend's house to bake them. I wish I'd gotten a picture of the risen dough. The eight bagels were hardly distinguishable, and when I pulled them apart they were floppy.
Mental note #1: next time I should deflate the balls of dough and re-shape the bagels. I'm not sure if I would have then needed to let them rest again before boiling and baking.
Here they are a-boiling! they were VERY soft and floppy. and I had squished some parts back in toward the middle, but then see how the front right-hand bagel is collecting water? Not good.

Here it is after boiling.

The mostly-closed-up centers were totally soppy dough. It was almost like pancake batter in there. I should have known this wouldn't be good.

Here they are before baking. The ones on the right-hand side were boiled for a lot longer. I felt like they were a lot more solid and less battery.

Here they are baking

After the prescribed baking time, they didn't feel done. I tried flipping them over and found that they were nasty stuck (because the wet bottoms had rested on the pan for too long and had just gooped up and become rock hard once they started cooking. GUH. They were also still very obviously WET inside.

So then I put them back in for a hundred years, and finally the middles were just about dried out. The outsides were VERY dried out...and even weirder, they had done this odd collapsing thing too. It's like the middles were so soft still that they couldn't hold their shape. So they kind of felt like hockey pucks, and it was hard to cut into them because the sides practically had corners on them.

I tried one with cream cheese (I didn't toast it since it was still warm, and I wouldn't recommend toasting them. I'm sure they'll be rock hard). It was gummy in the middle and SO leathery chewy on the outside. That might have been partially since I boiled that one extra long.

All in all, a very educational experience. I'm glad I only made eight since they aren't particularly spectacular. I think deflating the dough and reshaping would have done wonders, but I also should have used less water to begin with. Apparently having stiff dough is useful in getting them get the right texture on the inside.

Next time I would use the following recipe (and if I were really committed I would also get a scale and weigh the flour so I could actually be consistent every time):
1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup gluten
1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp water (maybe needing to add a tbsp or two during the kneading, but waiting and adding it in then, rather than dumping in too much extra at the beginning)

Final Dough
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup gluten
1 1/2 cups flour (maybe needing to add a tbsp or two during kneading)