Monday, January 16, 2012

caper and scallion cream cheese-stuffed bagels

stuffed everything bagel
i'll tell you this story and then,
i think you'll have an accurate picture
of me, who i am in the kitchen and,
probably, who i am in life.

picture me, on new year's day,
10:55 am, crouched down on the floor,
staring into my oven,
watching these bagels bake,
begging them not to be failure -
considering that i had invited
other people to eat breakfast
in ten minutes and was still in
my pajamas -
begging them to not lose their
cool and to please, please, please,
just brown without letting their
scallion and caper-laced
cream cheese centers
burst out from the sides.

and then,
one minute away from the 20-minute mark
of the 20 to 30 minute baking time,
i watched as one bagel -
the troublemaker,
the instigator,
the up-to-no-good bagel
as i now think of him -
oozed cream cheese out
its side.
stuffed bagel, exploded
i was pissed.

the best present larry gave me
for chanukah, was one i didn't even
know i wanted: milk,
the new cookbook from christina tosi
and momofuku milk bar.
i couldn't stop reading it.
every night that week, i pulled it onto my bed,
and eventually, read the entire thing
from david chang's forward to the bonus recipe
for crack pie.

the recipes are unique.
playful. childlike.
packed with technique
and a. lot. of steps. a lot.

after deciding i had a good handle on the book,
i realized i also
had high hopes of making three
recipes in the first week.
two - the banana cake and the corn
cookies - i was forced to skip,
after searching all around new jersey
for two hard to find ingredients
(banana extract and just corn,
dried onions, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic powder, salt
the third was the bagel bombs.
a bagel, made from a simple dough,
filled with frozen balls of cream cheese,
topped with poppy seeds
sesame seeds
kosher salt
dried onion
and baked until golden brown.

after i realized that three-quarters
of our new year's eve party would be
sleeping over, and we'd be adding two more
for brunch, it seemed
like the perfect time to experiment
with a recipe that serves eight.
yeast, flour and salt
so, on new year's eve,
while making appetizers,
and the boca negra,
we prepared the dough,
made the cream cheese filling
and stirred together the
seeded topping.
frozen cream cheese balls
everything bagel mix
the only thing was this:
the dough was kind of funky.
it was wet and not interested in
coming together.
i mixed a little longer.
i added more flour.
against my better judgement,
i poured it into a bowl and decided
to let it rise to see what would happen.

and then, an hour later,
when the dough had risen,
but was still sticky and unmanageable,
i realized i had two choices:
abandon the bagel bombs
start over.

and, probably because at this point,
i needed to provide brunch and,
maybe because i had already made
all the other components,
i surprised myself by choosing
to redo the dough.

i measured everything again.
i remixed the dough.
and while i couldn't tell you
that we had a perfect ball
at the end of the mixing,
it was closer than we were ever going
to get with the first batch.
so, i turned the mixer speed up a bit,
beat for an extra two minutes,
and dumped the dough into the bowl.
after the mixture had risen,
i covered the bowl, placed it in the fridge,
and decided that i better make
a frittata, too.
proofed dough
the next morning,
while everyone was still waking up,
i chided myself for throwing two parties
within 12 hours of each other, then pulled
the dough out of the fridge to allow it to come
to room temperature. i prepared the ingredients

by the time i was ready to get started,
i had an audience.
and let me tell you, that was the wrong
time to be on display.
my eight equal pieces, stretched out into
2 - 3-inch round discs, looked like this:
stretched dough
cream cheese ball and dough
i was so grateful for the frittata.
and, for the strawberries waiting in the fridge.

as my sisters read me the directions,
i topped each piece with the cream cheese balls,
rolled the dough around them and was pleasantly
surprised when somehow,
they looked like this:
dough balls
brushed with egg wash
i brushed the balls with egg wash,
sprinkled all over with the everything bagel mix,
and asked the rounds for not the first or last time,
to please, please, please
not let me down.

now, i was torn.
the bagels were not deeply golden brown
as they were supposed to be,
but we were at the 22 minute mark
and five of the bagels were leaking.
i gave it two more minutes,
and then i couldn't take any more.
i had one perfect bagel left.

after i had taken the time to mix together
cream cheese,
fried capers,
black pepper
and sugar,
then shape them into balls and freeze them
the day before,
i couldn't handle the thought of
all but one of my guests receiving empty bagels.
i pulled them out from the oven,
tried fruitlessly to gently tuck the cream cheese
back into the bread as instructed,
and realized that these were magic bagels
that spouted cream cheese, but were somehow,
sans culprit hole.

but then, when we sat down to eat,
everyone with a bagel and a slice of frittata on
their plate, i was thankful for a small miracle,
(and generously-sized cream cheese balls):
when torn open,
all the bagels were still stuffed.
there was enough, as my sister's fiance said,
to tear the top half off and dip it
into the cream cheese as you ate.

breakfast was not a bust.
the bagel bombs -
and heavily
seeded -
were a hit.
that's why, when i walked into the kitchen,
and saw the parchment paper, just sitting there,
holding seven splotches of cream cheese,
i tried really hard to no longer
be pissed.
caper and scallion cream cheese-stuffed bagels
adapted from christina tosi and momofuku milk bar
there are several components to the recipe, broken down below. every piece can be made a couple days ahead of time, but the bagels need to be assembled the day that you are baking and serving. tosi says they are best served warm, but can be reheated later on or the next day. i didn't have leftovers to prove that theory.

1/2 dough recipe
fried caper and scallion cream cheese filling
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon water
everything bagel topping

heat oven to 350˚f. line baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.

punch down dough; flatten the dough on a smooth and dry countertop. use dough cutter to divide dough into 8 pieces; using your fingers, gently stretch dough into a round, approximately 2-3" wide (note: i'd aim for three inches, if possible.)

top with one frozen ball cream cheese filling. bring edges of dough together around the ball and pinch together; gently roll dough between the palms of your hands until your dough resembles a ball shape. check to make sure that holes have not formed and all the cream cheese is enclosed. arrange 4-inches apart on prepared baking sheet. repeat with remaining dough and cream cheese balls.

in small bowl, whisk the egg and water. brush each ball with egg wash mixture. sprinkle top and sides generously with everything bagel topping.

bake 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

wrap remaining bagels in plastic and store in the fridge for up to three days.

regarding the cream cheese explosion, this is the exact note in the book:
"while in the oven, the bombs will become a deep golden brown and a few may have cream cheese explosions. continue baking until you see this happen! not to worry - serve them as is or use your fingers to tuck the cream cheese back inside the bagel bomb."

the dough
this is the recipe that tosi calls the mother dough. she uses it for several other recipes in the book. yes, i had trouble with it, but i don't know what my problem was and ultimately, the bagels turned out great, so i'm giving you tosi's recipe, as is.

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (550 grams)
1 tablespoon kosher salt (12 grams)
1/2 packet or 1 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast (3.5 grams)
1 3/4 cups water, at room temperature (370 grams)
grapeseed oil

in bowl of stand mixer, using the dough hook in your hand like a wooden spoon, stir together flour, salt and yeast. add the water in a steady stream, continuing to stir and mixing for 1 minute, until the mixture has come together.

attach the dough hook to the stand mixer. place the bowl in the mixer. on the lowest setting, mix dough 3 minutes, or until the dough is a ball, is smoother and is more cohesive. mix for 4 minutes more, still on the lowest speed. the dough should look like a wet ball and should bounce back softly when pressed.

brush large bowl with grapeseed oil; add the dough. cover with plastic wrap; let sit at room temperature 45 minutes to rise.

use to make bagel bombs; cover and put in the fridge or freeze for up to one week.

fried caper and scallion cream cheese
in milk, the mixture is made with scallions and thick cut bacon. much to larry's disappointment, i decided that i really wanted these to be vegetarian and crowd-friendly. so, using their recipe as a jumping off point, i tinkered to create a fried caper and scallion cream cheese - something i've been thinking about since eating, what i'm pretty sure was fried caper cream cheese under smoked salmon at a local breakfast spot. it was good, but i'm not sure it was worth the work or the oil, once frozen and baked. i'd probably just add plain capers next time.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon capers, dried well
7 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

in small skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil until shimmering. add one caper. when the caper begins to sizzle, add remaining capers. let cook 45 seconds to 1 minutes, or until the capers open and begin to look like flowers. using slotted spoon, transfer capers to paper towel-lined plate and let cool. reserve caper oil.

in bowl of stand mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese 1 minute, or until smooth. add 2 teaspoons olive oil from capers. beat 20 seconds, or until combined. add scallions, capers, sugar and salt; beat 20 seconds, or until combined.

divide cream cheese into 8 equal balls; place on aluminum foil-lined small sheet pan. freeze 1-3 hours, or until completely frozen. use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in freezer for up to 1 month.

everything bagel topping
i know how ridiculous this sounds, but once i started making the different components, this mixture was what i was most excited about. i've always had a soft spot for everything bagels and it made my day to realize that i could make the topping and use it for anything i so desired (i'm thinking fish).

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (3 grams)
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds (6 grams)
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds (4 grams)
2 teaspoons poppy seeds (4 grams)
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes (4 grams)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (2 grams)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (1 gram)

in small airtight container, stir together all ingredients. use immediately or use, ideally, within 6 months.

Monday, January 2, 2012

boca negra

slice of boca negra
2011 was a trying year for my family.
we flitted - or dashed - from family
emergency to family emergency and
spent our time in rest, figuring out
how to handle the situations that kept
smacking us in the face, contemplating
our next moves and crossing our fingers
that the worst was behind us.

needless to say, 2012 is a welcome change.
this is a year we have hung our hats on -
and as i write that, i realize,
my goodness, that's a lot of pressure on
a new year.

but, i think it can handle it -
after all, we have a wedding in july, not
to mention a family bond that's thickened
over the past 12 months and seeds of proof
that things are starting to turn around.

to kick it off with every ounce of
this-year-damn-well-better-be-good we
could muster, we had dinner and watched
the ball drop together, at our house.

larry and i cooked all day on
new year's eve, making appetizers,
prepping eight dungeness crabs for
orange sauce, getting ready for
new year's day breakfast (which i
can't wait to tell you about) and,
making this cake.

even though i had, for months,
thought that this new year's was
important to spend together, i hadn't
given the menu much thought. i had
channeled back to this new year's eve
and my mom's birthday and remembered
that crabs are always good for celebrations
and for a crowd. but, i wasn't really sure
if i would be able to get 8 of them, so somewhere
inside, i was thinking lasagna. but i found the crabs
and kind of, sorta, not really figured out the appetizers
as i shopped and saw what was in store.
but, the dessert. i hadn't really thought about that at all.

the day we went grocery shopping,
i quickly searched a few blogs.
then, i thought that i was tired, we had
to leave, we didn't have time for endless hours
of searching. so, i went to dorie greenspan's
web site and scanned the desserts for something
decadent, something celebratory, something...without
a million steps or layers of frosting or 20 bowls.

and, then i found boca negra,
with which a quick read and a glance at the reviews,
i was pretty sure was my dessert.
i asked larry if we owned bourbon -
he countered with maker's mark.
and then, i looked more closely.
things jumped out at me:
six ingredients
made in the food processor
30 minutes exactly.
i added 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate to
our shopping list (and 12 more white chocolate
for the accompanying cream), and didn't look back.

that night - the night before new year's eve -
i made the white chocolate bourbon cream,
in about 5 minutes. boiling heavy cream whirled
together in the blender with the chocolate,
bourbon was added and the whole thing,
thick and fluid and pretty dreamy in flavor,
went into the fridge.

the next day, i was a little more nervous.
after a more careful perusal of the reviews,
i realized that some people had wound up
with a molten cake (instead of the rich,
fudgy texture they were expecting) and that
the cake had to be baked in a water bath.
there was flipping.
of a hot, precious, delicate cake.
folded parchment
ready to cut
ready for batter
oh whatever.
it was for a new year.
so, when i woke up,
before even sipping my first sip of coffee,
i lined the bottom of my sheet pan
with parchment paper and then realized,
as i often do, that the eggs and butter
needed to be at room temperature.

so, i set them all aside, asked larry to chop
the chocolate and busied myself
making other appetizers.
45 minutes later, i came back to it all.
chopped chocolate
the chocolate was in the food processor.
the butter was cut into 10 pieces.
the eggs were cracked into a measuring
cup. the flour was measured.

i brought bourbon and sugar to a boil,
added it to the chocolate and processed
for about 15 seconds, until the chocolate
inside was no longer bouncing inside
and making noise. as the processor ran,
i added the butter, one piece at a time,
then poured in eggs, again one by one.
after the flour was in, we ran it a few
seconds more and had a very dark batter.
bourbon, sugar
chocolate, bourbon, sugar
butter, cubed
measuring flour, the lazy way
i transferred the batter to the cake plan
and placed it in the roasting pan. then,
i foolishly forgot the trick for adding water
to a roasting pan (but, didn't forget to tell
you, below), and instead, added it using the sink.
in water
it went in the oven and i begged the cake
to please show me a thin, crackly top layer
when the 30 minutes were up, so that i didn't
have to use my own judgement to decide
if the cake was finished or not.
and, it did!
crackly crust
ready to flip
but, then, the unmolding.
and the hot flipping.
i gently placed a layer of plastic wrap on
top of the cake, as instructed. i topped the
whole thing with a large plate. i held my
breath and flipped. so far so good.
i shimmied the cake plate off and smiled.
i was staring at an empty pan, a whole cake.
and then, i flipped once more, onto the
serving plate. the cake landed slightly askew,
but it was on the plate.
it was safe.
baked and safely on a cake plate
the recipe said the cake could be served
warm or at room temperature, but there was a note
that it could also be served cold, if you're
a fan of fudge. i liked that idea.
but, by that point, our fridge was filled with
bottles of prosecco, sparkling cider, 8 dungeness crabs,
a bowl of proofed dough and many, many
other things. this cake, on its pedestal cake
stand, was destined to be served room temp.

the white chocolate cream!
i almost forgot about it,
that night, and just now, too.
i remembered to check on it,
late afternoon. it was still stunning in
flavor, and satiny in texture, but also,
hard, like the ganache filling on a truffle,
that had spent a day in the fridge.
i would still serve it,
but i can't say that i understood it.

that night,
when the ridiculous amount of appetizers
that we all made had been eaten,
and the crabs cracked,
toasts to a better year, made,
and all of us full,
we sat around our coffee table in the living room,
set the television to dick clark
and pulled out a freshly bought box of apples to apples.
i looked at the clock. it was 11:30 and frankly,
none of us needed cake. or prosecco.
we left the bubbly in the fridge.
but at 11:50,
i pulled the cake from the counter,
sat it in the living room and we ate,
teeny, tiny slivers, of seriously fudgy,
room temperature cake, dotted with
thick white chocolate-bourbon cream.

we toasted in spirit and kissed
each other happy near year, while
giggling over the most recent
apples to apples play.

and that was it.
it was 2012.
we had made the decision to
make '11 end much better
than it had lived.
we laughed.
we ate a messy dinner.
some of us swore we
remembered all the words
to certain 90's rap songs and
some us used pandora to make
them prove it.
we ate cake.
and, for all of that,
we were thankful.
boca negra
boca negra
adapted from lora brody via dorie greenspan via
this is a serious cake for serious chocolate lovers. (interestingly enough, that's not me - but, still, i can appreciate it.) it's fudgy, fudgy, fudgy and while the recipe says that it serves 12, we managed to get eight wedges out of just over a quarter of the cake. yes, they were tiny (it was 11:50 at night. we were full.), but it was enough. it is worth noting, however, that even though this cake is rich and dense, it cuts beautifully.

i'm including the recipe for the white chocolate cream, below. it's definitely an interesting addition and, the bourbon nicely unites the two, but i think you could whip some whipped cream with a few drops of bourbon and still be happy.

below, are the directions for making the cake using the food processor. if you prefer to make it by hand (good for you!), or you do not own a food processor, the directions are here.

and, one last thing. we can now tell you that at room temperature, this cake is soft, supple and chocolate almost like a warmed chocolate bar. when chilled, it really is like a piece of fudge, which is how larry preferred it. i think that i've liked this cake the best when removed from the fridge and given 20 minutes to sit before serving.

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup bourbon
2 sticks (8 ounces each) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

place rack in center of oven. heat oven to 350˚f. lightly butter a 9-inch round baking pan. line bottom of pan with parchment paper. lightly butter parchment paper; set aside.

(here's how i do it, as shown in pictures, above: i fold a piece of parchment in half, twice. then, i fold the paper, corner to corner to form a triangle. i do that a second time, too. then i place the point in the center of the pan, and mark the spot that the paper hits the inside edge of the pan. cut the remaining paper off, at that mark, in a slightly rounded fashion. when you unfold the triangle, you should have a round that fits in the pan. see how mine was a little too big and went up the sides? sometimes that doesn't matter. this time, it did and resulted in creases in the cake. i would try to avoid that.)

place chopped chocolate in bowl of food processor. in saucepot over medium heat, bring sugar and bourbon to a boil, stirring occasionally. add to chocolate; run processor 15 seconds, or until mixture is smooth. it may look cool and harder than you think it should at this point - don't worry.

with processor running, add butter, one piece at a time, making sure it mixes into the mixture before adding the next piece. add eggs, one at a time, again making sure that the egg is absorbed into the batter before continuing. (i like to crack all eggs into a liquid measuring cup and then pour them, one at a time into the mixture.)

add flour and process 10 seconds.

transfer batter to prepared pan. place cake pan inside roasting pan. place in oven and, using a pitcher, carefully fill roasting pan with water. (you want the water to come up 1" on the cake pan.) bake exactly 30 minutes (the cake should have a thin, crackly-looking top crust).

remove the roasting pan from the oven. carefully remove the cake pan from the roasting pan. i used larry, a spatula and a silicone, waterproof oven mitt - i'm sure there's an easier, more graceful way. wipe cake pan dry. carefully and gently, cover cake surface with plastic wrap. place large flat plate over cake pan; flip over and place plate on work surface. carefully remove cake pan from cake; peel off parchment. place cake plate over cake; carefully flip cake and remove top cake.

serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

white chocolate bourbon cream
as i said, this mixture is more of a scoopable ball of chocolate than an accompanying cream, but it is interesting and i think it would be fun to use for other desserts. it does need to be made one day ahead of time.

12 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup bourbon

place white chocolate in blender. in small saucepot, bring heavy cream to a simmer (small bubbles should form around the sides of the saucepot). pour cream into blender. run blender 1 minutes, or until mixture is smooth. add bourbon; blend to combine. transfer to container. chill 1 day before serving.