Author: James Cooper

Ben Platt is deep in pseudo-science as well as Tony awards

benplattBroadway actor Ben Platt sings the title role in Dear Evan Hansen, a spectacularly successful show nominated for 9 Tony awards, included one for Platt as Best Actor. Platt was profiled in last Sunday;s New York Times “He sobs 8 times a week,” in a article discussing the stress the character puts on Platt, who sings six songs, including a gut-wrenching second act number that he sings while crying. If you sing at all, you have to admire Platt’s dedication and talent, because this is really hard to do. Neil Patrick Harris is quoted as saying that he couldn’t do it, “I’d sound like a goat.”

But the Times article while praises Platt’s enormous talent, is way too accepting of some of the alternative medicine crap his coaches are putting him through.

First off, the article describes 4 circles on his back from “cupping,” a weird Gwyneth-level fad where small flasks are heated and applied to the skin, causing suction as they cool. This is supposed to impart relaxation or something. It doesn’t. We have previously discussed cupping when Olympic swimmers were trying it last summer. But as we noted, there is simply no evidence that cupping has any effect at all. Articles by Brian Dunning and Orac  (David Gorski) confirm that this is superstitious nonsense. All it does is leave ugly circular bruises. Some web sites suggest the cupping can help “detox” your body, but as we have noted before, there is no such thing as “detox.” Your liver takes care of this by itself.

Platt is also on a gluten free diet, which is only sensible if your have celiac disease. For anyone else, it is just a fad, as there is no clear evidence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity. He also is on a dairy-free diet, perhaps to keep his weight down, but in fact studies have shown that full fat dairy is linked to a reduced rate of obesity.

Platt also takes oregano supplements, despite the fact that there are no studies showing any benefit. He also takes a zinc supplement, which is only useful in developing countries. In the US, there is no evidence that it helps with the common cold.

Finally, his voice coach used peppermint oil to treat his voice when he had an infection, but there is no evidence that it provides any relief for any malady at all.

Plat is undeniably one of Broadway’s finest young actors who certainly deserves his Tony, but it is a shame that his “handlers” are forcing these quack regimes on him. It is also a shame that the New York Times doesn’t question this quackery in their articles.

And remember:

Alternative medicine is made up of things we don’t know work and things we know don’t work. If something works, it is called medicine.

benplatthansen

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The Pastry Hideaway opens in Wilton

The Pastry Hideaway opens in Wilton

Pastry chef Pamela Graham has been working for months to bring her vision of fresh baked pastries to Wilton, and now after more renovation than she had expected, The Pastry Hideaway is in full swing, offering the kind of delicious baked goods Wilton has long been without.

The Pastry Hideaway opened a week ago and is now stocked with the sort of rolls and muffins you’ve been longing for. The store really is a sort of a “hideaway,” at 126 Old Ridgefield Rd in Wilton Center in the lower level of that building. Turn at the sign and park behind. You then are a few steps from a great bakery!

We stopped in for breakfast rolls this morning and found that she and her staff had already put out monkey bread (with and without caramel coating), croissants (plain and filled), muffins, cookies and Danish pastries.

croissants

While the caramel monkey bread was excellent her blueberry muffins were outstanding: fresh, crumbly and flavorful. And really sizeable, too.

The Pastry Hideaway is open Tuesday through Sunday 7:30 am to 3pm, serving breakfast fare and lunches. Be sure to drop in!

We make Chicken in Milk

Last Sunday, the Times published its version of Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk recipe. It is rare that you read articles about attempts to replicate experiments (or recipes) but this is such a report.

The relatively simple recipe says that you season a whole chicken and brown it in butter and olive oil in a snug-fitting pot. We chose a 3-liter Corningware casserole. Then you drain out the fat, add a cinnamon stick and garlic cloves and brown them briefly and put the chicken back and add whole milk, sage leaves and strips of lemon peel, and bake it for about 90 minutes.

The result is supposed to be “chicken in a thick, curdled sauce.”

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken, 3-4 lbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 10 cloves garlic, skins still on
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 handful fresh sage leaves (about 15-20 leaves0
  • Strips of zest from 2 lemons

Perhaps because the chicken fit snugly, the milk didn’t clot or reduce much. But the flavor was terrible, dominated by way too much sage. We didn’t get any note of cinnamon and very little of the garlic flavor.

roasted

If we made it again, we’d probably use about 5-6 sage leaves, maximum, and a little bigger pot. We’d prefer to make Chicken Baked in Cream instead.

Worried about diet soda? Strokes are not likely.

diet cokeLate last week, the popular press began touting a paper by Matthew Pase and coworkers in the journal Stroke on the newfound risks of diet sodas, (artificially sweetened beverages, ASBs) as compared to sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs). Most of the articles have been pretty accurate, NBC, CNN and Arstechnica got it pretty much right. Only Meredith Bland, writing as Scary Mommy went a bit off the deep end.

What the researchers did was examine data on 2888 participants from the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort, looking at their reported consumption of ASBs and SSBs, and the results of their regular examinations, which ended in 2001. Surveillance continued for 10 years, ending in 2011.

They found that “higher recent and cumulative consumption of ASBs were associated with an increased risk of ischemic stroke, all-cause dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease dementia.” Specifically, they found that stroke was 2.96 times as likely and dementia about 2.89 times as likely.

This sounds really worrisome, but bear in mind that this is a single study, and that they found a correlation, not any actual cause. In fact, they didn’t propose any cause, because these results are very difficult to explain medically. They do, of course, note that “future research is needed to replicate our findings and investigate the mechanisms…”

What many writers did not specifically mention, is that there is an accompanying editorial in this same journal by Wersching, Gardener and Sacco, that is quite critical of Pase’s paper. In addition to pointing out that they show correlation and not causation, the editorial notes that while Pase reported that those consuming SSBs did not seem to have strokes or dementia, they suggested that this could be because of selection bias because those consuming sugary beverages may have died earlier. They note that previous studies have indeed found negative outcomes from those consuming SSBs.

As regards those consuming diet beverages (ASBs), the editorial suggests that “reverse causation” cannot be ruled out. What they mean is that those who know they are at risk may have chosen to switch to diet beverages and thus their strokes and dementia were incorrectly being correlated with the diet beverages instead of their already existing risk. They specifically point out that “disentangling these effects” is “challenging” in such studies.

Finally, they note that there is no obvious biological pathway to explain these cardiovascular events in those consuming diet beverages. They suggest that the current body of research, including this paper, is inconclusive and that carefully designed studies, following subjects from childhood would be necessary to establish these effects for certain.

So, for the moment, it would seem that nothing has really been established concerning diet beverages, and you can go ahead and sip yours without new worries.

 

 

Harbor Lights Restaurant in Norwalk

Harbor Lights Restaurant in Norwalk

facadeWe had dinner at Harbor Lights in Norwalk last Saturday and found it to be uniformly excellent. Despite the unprepossessing façade, this is a very fine restaurant that gets everything right: the food, the service, and the atmosphere are all top notch. While primarily a seafood restaurant, they do have steaks and lamb on the menu as well.

Located on the waterfront, Harbor Lights provides a view of the harbor and, in good weather, outdoor seating as well.

harbor

CrabcakeWe both started our dinner with a substantial Crab Cake, served with tartar sauce and a small Greek salad. The crab was plentiful and bits of chopped red pepper added just the right amount of spiciness.

One of our entrees, shown above, was called French Sea Bass, served with strips of carrots, asparagus, potatoes, olives, mushrooms and tomatoes. Not only was it delicious and substantial, it was a fascinating presentation.

shrimp

The other delicious entrée was Shrimp Mykonos, served on rice with feta cheese, peppers, and red onions. Again, imaginatively prepared and delicious.

Finally, one of our desserts was Profiteroles: three scoops of vanilla ice cream in a puff pastry with chocolate fudge and whipped cream.

Our other dessert was the traditional Crème Brulee, with a warm crunchy top and a creamy filling. Like the crab cake, this traditional dish was elevated by its thoughtful preparation.

Everything about Harbor Lights shows how much the staff cares about your experience. As an example, we noticed that a woman at the next table spilled her water glass. They were there in seconds to dry the table, mop up the floor and provide a new glass of water. Simply excellent attention to detail: you will enjoy this restaurant again and again.

Even the salt and pepper mills match, and smaller tables get smaller versions, with larger versions on the longer tables.

salt

Teaching organic farming in the classroom

Teaching organic farming in the classroom

According to the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom grants of up to $1000 are now available for teachers to “creatively enhance the understanding of organic agriculture for kindergarten through eighth grade students.” The purpose is to integrate organic agriculture into regular classroom instruction. The grants are jointly supported by the California Certified Organic Farmer’s Foundation, and the application deadline is May 15, 2017.

From the scientists’ point of view, teaching students about organic agriculture would be intriguing because while historically, experiments led to the procedures, organic farming is essentially pre-scientific and much is based on the naturalistic fallacy.

However, there is a lot to be learned by studying the ideas and best practices of organic agriculture, and herewith we present an outline for an ideal curriculum.

Indore

Much of the earliest work by Sir Albert Howard at the Indore Farms he supervised in India had to do with the development of compost from vegetable and animal waste, and his first book in 1931, The Waste Products of Agriculture may have been his most important work. Howard noted that decomposition of compost only took place at neutral pH and added lime to achieve this. He believed that good soil aeration and quality humus were all that one needed to prevent disease, which was not supported by later scientist’s work, and his book, An Agricultural Testament contained a number of such ideas which caused him to lose support among botanists.

Sir Albert correctly believed that understanding of the mycorrhizae that lived on most plant roots was important and should not be left to mycologists, but his attacks on overspecialization in agricultural science as well as flaws in his later theories caused him to lose much of his initial scientific reputation, but this only increased his stature among non-scientists.

Lady Eve Balfour

Lady Eve Balfour was one of the first women to study agriculture at a British University and upon graduation she used her inheritance (she was part of the prominent Balfour political family) to buy farm land in Haughley Green in Suffolk, where she began experiments comparing her organic methods with conventional farming methods. Many of her experiments were published in her book The Living Soil in 1943.

Lady Eve was also the founder of the Soil Association, which although small in size, is a major proponent of organic farming in Britain, and she eventually donated her Haughley Green farms to the Association. She also attempted to moderate some of Sir Albert Howard’s extreme positions, but because of some of her other extreme spiritualist positions, Howard refused to join the Soil Association.

The Soil Association has also taken some extreme positions that are unsupported by science, suggesting that animals be cared for by homeopathic means (which cannot possibly work) and taken extreme positions on genetically modified crops which have no scientific basis.

J.I. Rodale

In the United States, Jerome Cohen, writing under the pseudonym of J. I. Rodale, took up promotion of organic farming and gardening with his Rodale Press and Rodale Institute, beginning in 1948, with his book The Organic Front, published by his own press. While Rodale promoted organic farming tirelessly, his views were hard to take very seriously because of his huckster style of writing:

Along comes your scientific agronomist, who should know better, but who recklessly throws a monkey wrench into this microbial universe, by dousing it with strong, corrosive chemical fertilizers. He believes that the conveyor belt method must be introduced into every aspect of farming.

Rodale took on all sorts on anti-scientific views, suggesting that the polio vaccine was a bad idea, and that rimless glasses and salt water cause cancer. He was also a racist. While he boasted that he would live to be 100, he died at 72, bizarrely during a taping of The Dick Cavett Show, although that episode never aired.

Rodale’s has also undertaken a study of organic versus conventional farming, which they published in a glossy brochure, but have never published in any peer-reviewed journal. An article by Pimentel and colleagues in Bioscience analyzes their findings: that organic and conventional farming techniques have similar yields and that in drought conditions, organic crops may do better. Pimentel also examined the economics and found that the two systems generated similar income, but only if you include a 10% organic price premium.

In another recent trial, they rotated their organically grown crop out and planted other soil enriching crops in 2 of the 3 years, and compared the yield with conventional crops grown without rotation. This was hardly a comparable trial.

The National Organic Program

Until the year 2002, farmers choosing to use organic techniques followed one of several sets of standards, but encouraged the USDA to set nation-wide standards so that organic crops would be comparable. The Agricultural Marketing Service within the USDA codified these standards as the National Organic Program, carefully noting that

Our regulations do not address food safety or nutrition. 

While the general fiction put about by the organic industry is that organic crops are grown without pesticides, this is demonstrably untrue, as there are quite a number of permitted substances listed as permitted. This is discussed in some detail by Porterfield.

Pesticides

Some consumers think that organic foods are somehow safer because they are not grown using synthetic pesticides, but plants make their own pesticides all the time and most of the synthetic pesticides in use are similar to the ones plants already make: toxic and carcinogenic in large quantities. But as Bruce Ames has shown, the plant-made pesticides occur at 10,000 times the concentration as the traces of pesticides added during farming.

Organic nutrition

You might think that organic crops grown with minimal pesticides and so forth might be more nutritious, but research has shown that there is essentially no difference. Dangour and coworkers systematically reviewed articles on nutrient content and found that “here is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs.” Similarly, Brevata and Smith-Spangler “found little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods.”

Organic Yield

Since organic rules prevent the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, you might ask if the yields differ between organic and conventional crops. There are a number of research articles indicating that organic yields are 50% to 80% of those from conventional farming. The diagram below is from de Ponti’s article “The crop yield gap between conventional and organic agriculture.”

COmparison yields

A similar gap was reported by Seufert. DePonti reported an average 80% organic yield and Seufert a 68% yield. And, the USDA’s report on yields was only a little better.

nov15_feature_mcbride_fig02

Carbon Footprint

When you plant and grow crops, and harvest them, you are taking away nourishment from the soil. You need inputs to replace those nutrients. In organic farming, this is usually composted manure and other plant debris. But the composting process itself produces greenhouse gases, as Savage notes. Farmers typically apply about 5 tons of composted manure per acre. In fact, the greenhouse gases generated for one acre are equivalent to those generated in manufacturing enough fertilizer for 12.9 acres. This doesn’t seem to be scalable.

Organic Farming causes more pollution

A study at Ben-Gurion University studied the groundwater runoff in a group of new greenhouses, some using manure fertilization and some using drip fertilizer irrigation. They monitored a zone well below the roots and just above the groundwater for nitrogen contamination, and found that nitrogen pollution in the groundwater was 10 times as much in the organic greenhouses as in those using drip irrigation to fertilize the plants.

No-Till Farming

One of the greatest advances in soil maintenance has been no-till farming, where the ground is not plowed up and turned over every season. When you use crops that are resistant to herbicides such as Roundup, you can kill the weeds before planting and plant using a seed drill without disturbing the soil. This preserves the soil structure and prevents soil runoff. Unfortunately, genetically modified crops that are resistant to herbicides are not currently permitted by organic standards. If soil care is important, this standard needs to be changed.

Organic Marketing

Organic foods are marketed throughout the United States by the Organic Trade Association, and the Organic Consumer Association (which regularly spreads misinformation). The definition of “organic” in the US is products “produced without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering or other excluded practices, sewage sludge, or irradiation. “ Since a number of pesticides have been approved for organic use, this is clearly misleading. The Environmental Working Group also is a major promoter of organic products, through its “Dirty Dozen,” which attempts to paint pesticide residues far below danger levels as being unsafe. It also clearly contradicts the findings of Bruce Ames we discussed above.

Thought Questions for Students

  1. What advantages do you see in organic crops?
  2. Are you concerned about pesticide levels on conventional crops?
  3. Why does the organic industry say that no pesticides are used?
  4. If a farmer has 1000 acres of farmland, and hopes to grow 160,000 bushels of corn, how much corn would he be able to grow if he switched to organic methods?
  5. If a farmer wants to make the same profit, how much would he have to raise his prices to grow organic corn on the same amount of land?
  6. Farmland is expensive. Would the farmer be justified in buying more land to grow the same amount of crops? Do you think there is unused farmland he can buy?
  7. In this article, Henry Miller argues that organic farming isn’t sustainable. Do you agree?
  8. In this article, Roger Cohen refers to organic farming as a “fable.” Is that fair?
  9. If you have a limited budget for buying food, as most of us do, would you be willing to pay 10% more for organic foods? How about 50% more? Why?
  10. Organic farmers can reduce their carbon footprint by using an Anaerobic Digester to compost their manure. How much do they cost? How big a farm do you need to pay for one?
  11. Roger Cohen argues that “organic” is actually just an ideology? Is that an exaggeration?
  12. How else could no-till farming work?
  13. By 2050, we project that only 2.5% of US cropland will be certified organic. Is that enough?

US Trend

Peepcorn: another use for Peeps

Peepcorn: another use for Peeps

Every year, people buy boxes of those sugary marshmallow candies and probably eat some of them, discarding the rest: but why not use them in delicious recipes? We decided to look into how you can cook with Peeps.

Each Peep weights about 0.25 oz (7 g) and has about 6.5 g of sugar in it, but the Peeps company thinks that a serving size is 4 Peeps. Wishful thinking perhaps? Peeps are made from marshmallow, corn syrup, sugar and carnauba wax, and in addition to the original yellow color, now are available in a number of other bright colors including pink, green and blue.

If you’ve had Peeps in your Easter basket for many years (even if you never ate them) you may remember that they used to be made by the Rodda Candy Company. It turns out that Rodda was acquired in 1953 by Just Born, a candy company in Bethlehem, PA owned, not surprisingly, by Sam Born. It was under Born’s management that the mass production of Peeps grew

Since they are so pervasive in the US and Canada we decided to see what else we could do with them.

One of our first experiments was to put some Peeps in our popcorn. You may not know this, but you can buy a jar of ordinary popcorn and put some in a paper bag and pop it in the microwave without any special packaging or seasonings. We found that about 1/3 cup of kernels is pretty much equivalent to what you pop in a large bag of microwave popcorn.

DSC_0003

So to use up a few Peeps, we cut one up and put it a bag with the 1/3 cup of popcorn and popped it using the usual microwave popcorn settings. The result was sweetish popcorn, rather like kettle corn.

In our second try, we cut up two Peeps and popped them with the 1/3 cup of popcorn. The result was sweetish popcorn with a caramel coating and was really pretty good.

When you pop corn with 3 Peeps, Peep-fatigue sets in and the marshmallow actually inhibits the popping. Stick with two and you’ll have a nice sweet snack.

 

 

 

Eggs Benedict for a special breakfast

Eggs Benedict for a special breakfast

Eggs Benedict is an easy dish to make, and you probably only need 15 minutes. If you have 30 minutes, you can serve a large household.

What exactly is Eggs Benedict? It is just

  1. A toasted English muffin
  2. Sautéed ham or Canadian bacon
  3. Two poached eggs
  4. Hollandaise sauce

So, what’s so hard here?

A lot of people stumble on poaching eggs, but we’ve already covered two foolproof methods in detail.

Method one: swirling water

vortex

Bring salted water to a boil in a wide 4 quart saucepan. Swirl the water into a little whirlpool in the pan using a whisk. Break each egg into a cup and slip it into the side of the whirlpool. Repeat with the second egg. You can make up to four eggs at a time this way. To make enough for a regiment, see the next section.

The eggs are done when you don’t see any remaining uncooked white. Don’t overcook them to the “golf ball” stage. (This is actually hard to do if you are watching. You’ll see when they are done.

Method two: a kettle of water with salt and vinegar

Fill an eight quart kettle (such as a spaghetti cooker) with water and add ½  cup of salt and ¼ cup of vinegar. Bring to a boil. Break each egg into a cup and slip it into the gently boiling water. The egg will drop to the bottom, and will float back up when it is done. Check it before removing it, as sometimes the “parachute” comes up before the whole egg surfaces.

Keep breaking eggs and slipping them into the pan until everyone’s eggs are cooked. Remove them to a pan of warm water to rinse off the excess salt.

 

Hollandaise

Hollandaise it pretty easy to make. For Eggs Benedict, we use the blender approach.

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 Tb lemon juice
  • ¼ lb (1 stick) butter
  • Salt and a trace of cayenne pepper

Put the 3 egg yolks and the lemon juice in the bowl of the blender and pulse briefly until mixed. Melt the butter in a glass pitcher in a microwave oven for one minute. It should be bubbling. Turn on the blender and immediately pour in the hot butter. It should cook on the spot to a thick creamy sauce. If it is too thin, you can heat it briefly over low heat in a saucepan.

The final dish

Place the sautéed ham or bacon on the toasted and buttered English muffin and place an egg on each half, using a slotted spoon. Pour the creamy Hollandaise over top. Time? About 15 minutes, unless you have an awfully slow stove for boiling the water. Decorate with parsley.

 

Cadbury Cream Eggs Benedict

Cadbury Cream Eggs Benedict

Here it is an Eggs Benedict recipe that uses Cadbury Cream Eggs! And it’s actually pretty good.

Easter and Passover and other spring holidays are a time for fun as well as religious observances, and why not come up with a really silly dessert that everyone will have fun with.

A classic Eggs Benedict is a poached egg on ham or Canadian bacon on an English muffin, topped with Hollandaise sauce. How to replicate this using candy?

The first thing to do is to “crack” the egg. Cadbury eggs are put together as two halves along a seam, and you can easily open one with a sharp knife. Once the egg is open, scoop out the “yolk and white” and put it in a small, buttered dish, and keep it cool in the freezer or refrigerator so it doesn’t soften too much.

melted chocolateThen melt the chocolate halves in a double boiler. Don’t use a microwave, as it is too hot and the remaining cream filling will burn while the chocolate melts. This particular chocolate formulation melts best at a lower temperature. When melted, pour into a small buttered dish so it will cool as a flat disk. Chill it briefly while it hardens.

on HersheysWe had two ideas about the English muffin layer. One was to use a square of white chocolate, and so we tried a square from a Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Crème candy bar. This looked really cool as you can see in the slide show, but had the disadvantage of being just more chocolate. It is too rich and all sort of the same flavor.

So instead, we decided to call the chocolate disk an English muffin (maybe a whole wheat one) and come up with a ham layer. The best idea was a Fruit Rollup. Yes, they still make them! And a square of strawberry actually looks a bit like ham! And its tartness cuts the sweetness of the “eggs.”

on fruit

So now we have the muffin, the ham and the egg. What to do for the Hollandaise? Marshmallow Peeps come to mind. If you melt yellow Peeps into a little cream, you will have a nice yellow sauce that looks rather like actual Hollandaise!

 

 

Cadbury Cream Eggs Benedict

melting chocolate

  1. For each person, open a Cadbury Egg lengthwise at the seam. Remove the filling with a small spatula or a melon baller, and chill it on a butter plate or bowl.
  2. Melt the egg “shells” in a double boiler and pour each portion into a small butter bowl to harden. Chill until they can be lifted out.
  3. Arrange the chocolate disks on serving plates and cover with a square of strawberry Fruit Rollup. Use other colors if you are feeling particularly weird.
  4. Place the chilled filling on top of each fruit square.
  5. With scissors, cut up three yellow marshmallow Peeps. Place them in a saucepan and add 2 Tb of cream. Heat with stirring until dissolved. Allow to cool so the sauce doesn’t melt the candy.
  6. Spread a couple of tablespoons of this mock Hollandaise on each “egg” and serve at once with a sly grin.
Delicious bagels you can make yourself

Delicious bagels you can make yourself

Really good bagels are hard to find outside of major East Coast cities. So we decided to tackle making our own, starting with Alex Baldinger and Becky Krystal’s recipe published about a year ago in the Washington Post.

There are only a couple of ingredients you need:  King Arthur Bread Flour (available at most supermarkets) and barley malt syrup (which you may have to order). It is this malt syrup that gives bagels their characteristic flavor, so don’t leave it out. Both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carry it, however.

The third major ingredient is rapid rise yeast, not the conventional yeast you may have in your cupboard. And it is important that you proof the yeast before using, as age and mishandling may have more or less killed it. Our first package (Bob’s), purchased at Stop and Shop did not foam up at all, nor did the packet we had in our cupboard, dated May, 2017. We bought some new Fleischman’s Rapid Rise to make these bagels.

The overall procedure is pretty simple: mix up the dough, let it rest and roll it into bagels and let them rest in the refrigerator overnight.  Boil them and add toppings. Then bake them on a piece of baking parchment on a baking stone in a 450° F oven.

  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • 1 pinch of sugar
  • 337 g warm water at 80° F (this is just under 1 ½ cups)
  • 623 g bread flour (a little under 4 cups)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tb plus 1 tsp barley malt syrup
  • 3 Tb cornmeal for dusting the chilling platter
  1. Mix the yeast, water and sugar and let it stand until it begins to foam. If it doesn’t foam in 5-10 minutes, get new yeast.
  2. Add the flour, salt and malt syrup to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  3. Add the yeast mixture and mix slowly for about 4 minutes, and then at medium speed for about 7 more minutes, until the dough has gathered into a smooth ball.
  4. Sprinkle a small baking sheet with corn meal.
  5. Divide the dough into 8 balls. The WP recipe suggested 4-oz balls, and that made 8 4 -oz balls and one 3-oz ball. So, by simple math, if you make each ball 4.38 oz, you should get 8 dough balls.
  6. Place the balls on the cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  1. Roll each ball between your hands into an 11-inch tube, avoiding letting the ends taper.
  2. Fasten the ends together using a bit of water to press them together.
  3. Cover the incipient bagels with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator overnight, for 12-18 hours.
  1. In the morning, put the baking stone (pizza stone) in the oven and preheat it to 450°F. Let it heat up for 30-60 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, put a large pan of water on the stove, and boil the bagels, 2-3 at a time for about 30 seconds. Drain them on a rack, and roll them in any toppings you like: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, Kosher salt, minced garlic or minced onion. An “everything” bagel has all these ingredients, plus caraway seeds. Put each topping on a plate and roll the bagel in it.

on peel

  1. Place 3 or 4 bagels on a sheet of baking parchment, on a baking peel or the bottom of a baking sheet, and slide them onto the baking stone.
  2. Bake 12-18 minutes. We baked ours for 14, and while they were delicious we might try adding 2 more minutes next time, as the interiors were a bit softer than we prefer. However, toasting them solved that.

ToppingsThe end result of this project is some of the best bagels we’ve ever made. Our only complaint is how expensive the toppings are at the supermarket, about $5 each. We’d order them in bulk next time. We tried a salt bagel using Diamond Kosher salt, and finding the crystals rather small, we also tried a jar of sea salt, where the crystals were probably too big. We’ll look for salt with a somewhat smaller crystal size next time.

Not only was making these bagels fun for us, it would make a great project for kids as well.