From the tray to the palate!
From the tray to the palate!
A couple of years ago, in Canada , I saw this: bagels in a deep oven wood fire and had an ambition to start doing this in Sheffield.
Having spoke to Gary, owner of Nether Edge Pizza Company a couple of weeks ago, we decided to give it a go.
I set about making some bagel boards: should i look for some cedar, or will pine do? What weave of burlap do i need? Well, like lots of these things, you can do all the research you like but it seems to be simply a matter of getting started and seeing what happens.
I chose some pine conveniently stored in my garage and bought some burlap from Whaleys in Bradford that would seem tough enough to deal with the oven. (Jute role is more for hemming and seems fragile) .
With the boards made i went down to the Abbyedale Road Nether Edge Pizza shop and met an enthusiastic Theo and Somerset. Theo is clearly an expert on the oven and, as i would find out, holds no fear in putting his hands in.
Preparing the bagels is no different of course : i had prooved them in the fridge beforehand, a bit shorter than ususal for practical reasons, and they are boiled cooled and then set on the boards, not oven trays.
So then to the key thing: the oven.
What was not clear to me before is that the oven has clear heat gradients – pizzas are placed first at the back and then gradually brought forward, Theo told me. But this flexibility is not possible with bagels. The idea is to place them top down on the boards , flip them after some minutes (how many will depend on the oven) so that the bottoms are on the stone and the tops face up.
Last night we had the oven too hot and this clearly showed that the for the first batch the crust formed too quickly and left a doughy bread. The second batch were better. Maybe the next batch better still. Watch this space!
The clocks are back and orange colours dominate the sunset, and the forecourts of most supermarkets, big and small as pumpkins and squash abound.
With so many scary and confusing things going on in the world (Israeli killing protesters in Gaza yet again, fanatical right wing shooting of Jews in Pittsburgh, 1 million Muslims detained in camps Northern China) it seems a bit odd to create make belief scariness, but there will be some method in it i am sure.
Scary or not, i had a bit of fun making this Halloween Bagel. The serious ‘foody’ thing is the colours and flavours just blend really well.
Take a small squash, I used a red kuri as pictured but you could also use a small pumpkin, wrap in silver foil and bake on a medium oven for about an hour or until soft. The aim is to be able to have it cooked but not have the flesh fall apart. (Test by using a baked potato skewer and seeing if it easily goes through the flesh: you want a bit of resistance not an easy slide)
As it nears being cooked slice some halloumi (quite thick) and place on a gentle heat in a fry pan. Turn every so often so it cooks both sides. Don’t be tempted to speed up the cooking as it takes away from the succulence of the cheese.
Take the squash from the oven when ready and slice off the lid and allow to cool so it is easier to handle. When you can handle the heat scoop out the seeds carefully. (Don’t forget the halloumi! – I only say that because i have and it is so disappointing).
Now with the squash on sitting on its bottom, slice chunks downwards. Place a bed of rocket on the bottom of the bagel and then place some slices of squash (or pumpkin). Place the halloumi when ready to the sides of these, almost like the act as a barrier to the squash leaking out (hence the thick slices).
Chop a chili pepper of your choice finely and sprinkle to taste with a bit of salt. Take two more – red with stalks are best, something like the Dagger Pod maybe – and see if you can insert them by the stalk in to the flesh of the squash.
Get some curved ones and they can be like claws.
Now spread some harissa on the side. And there you have it. Halloween Bagel!
Not long ago i had a brief, almost throw away conversation, with people at Regather. We were talking about where our food comes from and how important it is to understand what happens before it gets to our plate.
This subject spans a wide spectrum of topics – from GMOs to multinationals to deforestation to imperialism to poverty, war….and more.
One aspect is fostering an experiential approach to understanding food production.
So, children have been seen increasingly at city farms over the past 30 years; our own Heeley City Farm being a great example; and schemes like Food for Life are dedicated to ensuring we widen our collective understanding of food production and can access tasty and healthy food sustainably.
With regard to bread, the growth of sourdough bakeries has both stimulated and been a product of a discussion about and move away from manufactured bread products. Even so it seems there has not been a discussion at the next level of where the grain comes from and how it is processed . And this contrasts with wider discussions about organic vegetables, for example, or ‘food miles’.
Grain to plate experience.
When I learnt Regather might be linking up with Friends Field, some dots started to join in my head.
Friends Field is a social enterprise in the wonderful Moss Volley.
15 acres of land that has had green manure for three years cut three times a year and mulched for worms to do their magic.
So last week i hear they will be a planting winter wheat (i.e it is sown in the winter) in an acre and half of the field; and next year via harrowing, planting, harvesting, threshing , milling, bagging and baking, it may land on a Sheffield plate!
There is still lots to find out and do. Not sure yet if it is hard or soft, red or white …. but we will find out soon as it has to be planted by November 5th.
I was looking for something slightly different – and vegan.
Something that loaded up a bagel into a filling-dripping meal: lots of protein, a textured mix with a shift in flavours as you make your way through the bagel.
I chose to do this on a plain bagel but a seeded onion is also good for this:
This will be the vegan option at the November Bagel School, so to test the filling and have a fun day learning to make bagels like this, book now.
I love sport. And i love seeing people do great things with it. It is one of the reasons why i wanted to sponsor AFC Unity this season. Their inclusive approach is so encouraging when so much around us seems to shut people out.
At whatever level we play our sport – and by and large mine across a range of sports can be categorised as ‘competent and energetic but without flair’ – we can have times that trigger, years later, emotional memories. These can be ones of joy (or ones of deep regret) but alwasy emotion
I was struck by this when I read AFC Unity’s Rachel Rodgers’ ‘random fact’ – a delightful sporting memory. I imagine she crackles with glee each time she remembers her moment.
Me? My best memory is scoring no points but exhibiting that hard work trait against an international squash player. The phenomenon of being on the court with an athlete at a world class level was breathtaking (literally!)
Good luck to AFC Unity this season. It is a privilege to sponsor this team.
Come to Bagel School and learn how to do it!
Running from 10 am – 3pm , the first Sunday of every month between November and April next year, in the commercial kitchen at Regather, you learn how to shape bagels, the type of dough mixture you need to get that familiar bagel chew and get to learn tips and tricks to make them come out just right.
No need to bring any equipment, just a spirit of fun and curiosity.
You will take away your clutch of bagels and a specially designed tower of bagel notebook.
Vegan lunch included.
…or buy a voucher – look here find out more
A friend recently said that they had ‘gone vegan’ .
This is an odd phrase; it implies a lifestyle transformation rather than just a conscious decision to alter diet. We don’t weigh down other diet changes with the same baggage – such as not eating cheese or high fat products.
It is a hard choice in spite of the current supermarket trends, probably because so much of our lives are peppered with meat products and animal derivatives. And it can be more expensive.
But it need not be a life scrambler.
So when my friend, a loyal and valued beetroot bagel lover, bemoaned a lack of replacement for scrambled eggs on beetroot bagel, i came up with this vegan alternative.
1 medium onion finely chopped – i used white but red would also work well
150g Clearspring Silken tofu mashed (if you are in Sheffield, from Beanies Zeds or Nutshell)
1/2 green chilli finely chopped
Dash of soya sauce
Black pepper to taste
Steam some spinach – optional
Some sport on telly
If you are having spinach or spring greens from your Regather veg box (or your garden) with it, wash and prepare them for steaming.
Halve the beetroot bagel
Soften the onion on a low heat in some olive oil
Meanwhile finely chop about half a green chilli (i don’t have this very hot, just enough to let you know it is there; so i use about half a chilli, but your taste buds are different so use what you think is best for you.)
When the onion is translucent, add the chilli and leave on a low heat for about another five minuets stirring occasionally.
Mash the Tofu and add
Turn up the heat slightly, add soya sauce and black pepper and stir.
If you are steaming greens, put on a pan of water. If you do not have a steamer just a covering on the bottom of the pan is fine. Bring to the boil. Add greens, cover.
Stir the tofu – there is a bit of liquid with the silken tofu that can be boiled off but not so it becomes dry.
When the greens are slightly shriveled, all is done.
Plate up, find some great sport on telly , enjoy.
Summer baking it was blast
I had some bread, proofing so fast
I made some bagels with sesame seeds
They split their crust like shelling peas
Summer days so hard to bake
Oh oh – from night to daybreak
This is the first change of season in the new bakery. I have been amazed at how the flour is no longer cool but warm to the touch. How the dough is warm coming out the mixer and already feels airy. And with increased demand (cannot knock that!) this variation makes it hard getting the product absolutely right each time.
I imagine that in big manufacturers where they don’t really bake the bread (:>) they have control of the environment: heaters, air conditioners, humidity injectors and hi tech proofing cupboards.
So in my bakery the only tech i have is my own biological feedback system : my brain and my eyes and they don’t work so well some days.
The problem does not come from leaving a single mix longer to proove or shorter, though that is part of it. But more how can further mixes be done in tandem so that the bakery is as efficient as possible?
Whereas before i could do all my mixing and be confident that the first batch would be ready to shape by the time the mixing has stopped, the warmer weather means i have to mix two or maybe three batches then shape; then resume mixing any further batches after this.
It can feel disturbing to change a routine: the routine represents control, long worked for in the early hours, and is also a guarantee of quality – ‘if i do this then this then this, the quality is assured’. But it is also exciting, a new problem to wrestle with, a new challenge and once sorted, renewed confidence that the process can change and the bagels still be as good.
A small corner of Sheffield, a really lovely community set about doing a variety of things together.
This could be music nights, games nights, fund raising breakfasts or participation in a madcap auction of bagels!
A few weeks ago a bag of bagels was auctioned on ebay for the Cathedral Archer Project and some people also kindly gave some donations