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.

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