I stopped watching The Great British Bake Off when it moved from the BBC and Mary Berry et al left. I realise that is probably silly, but I feel like Paul Hollywood was the least of the programme. I do keep meaning to buy a Nadiya cookbook, but haven’t yet got round to it. She was definitely one of my favourite contestants.
Bagels came up in a couple of comments last week. I bake them and I did a batch this morning, so I thought I’d post some pics. The recipe, which I found online, is easy to follow and usually turns out quite well (this batch certainly did, though mine don’t tend to be completely smooth and round). I am old school when it comes to bagels – ie, savoury only. So, mine usually get caraway seeds, sesame seeds and salt. I sometimes attempt an Everything topping, but I haven’t yet mastered that.
Baking bagels reminds me of living in and visiting New York. When we were with my father in Park Slope, I’d pick up bagels from his local place, 5 minutes away: an Everything slathered with plain cream cheese. Oh, and iced coffee – whatever the flavour of the day was with half and half. Sublime. Not really something you get here. You can find iced coffee drinks, but shops don’t have bubble machines (or whatever you call them) with iced coffee going all day.
Decades ago, on the way home from secondary school with my mother (she taught at the school I attended), on a Friday night, we’d sometimes do a circuit of Zabars on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for bagels, lox and cream cheese and then zoom down to the Lower East Side to visit Russ & Daughters (my father was very partial to bialys and we loved the small onion baguette things). If my mother was feeling relaxed, we might even stop at Yonah Schimmel’s for a potato knish. School was on the UWS and home was north, in Westchester. So, it was a bit round-about, but a really pleasant extension to the journey home.
When I lived in NW London the house was a 10 minute walk from an awesome bagel bakery. The softest, most delicious ones I’ve had in the UK. Far better than the famous Brick Lane Bagel Bake in East London.
I don’t bake a lot of different things (ie, there isn’t a constancy of breads, cakes and cookies coming out of the oven in this house), but I do bagels fairly frequently and my soft pretzels (far more labour-intensive than bagels, which themselves are fairly labour-intensive – I have a heavy-duty stand mixer with a dough hook for kneading) are fairly good. I also am pretty good at banana bread using James Beard’s recipe, but Sara’s, at the bakery in Topsham, with walnuts is even better.
Beyond being able to eat the results of baking, the house smells awesome for a day or two. I love the smell of yeasty stuff doing its thing. I totally get why food-based fragrances are so popular, particularly things with vanilla — especially in our current strange times, when soothing things are so welcome.
So, are you baking? If so, what? Do you have a specialty regarding which you no longer need the recipe? Is there a foody perfume you love or are just enjoying at the moment?