Best Homemade Bagels

Emeril Lagasse Bagel Recipe
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
This winter we traveled to Colorado and Wyoming to visit our family. During our visit we were treated to a truly special breakfast with a New York twist: homemade bagels. Our nephew and young chef, Keith, woke up early in the morning and, with his dad’s help, prepared us the best homemade bagels we had ever had. We enjoyed an assortment of warm bagels right out of the oven, including asiago cheese, everything, garlic, salt, sesame, poppy seed and chocolate chip. Sharing this breakfast with our talented nephew was one of the highlights of a restful and healing vacation.
Keith uses Emeril Lagasse’s Homemade Bagel recipe. The bagels are soft and chewy on the inside and crusty on the outside. Our nine year old nephew impressed us with these fantastic homemade bagels and inspired me to try to make these at home.
According to Keith, they are time consuming, but easy to make.
Emeril’s Homemade Bagels
2 cups warm water, about 110 degrees F
2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dry yeast
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
Optional Toppings:
1/2 cup lightly toasted chopped onions (2 teaspoons each)
2 tablespoons poppy seeds (about 1/2 teaspoon each)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (about 1/2 teaspoon each)
1 tablespoon kosher salt (about 1/4 teaspoon each)
1. Combine the water, yeast, and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add 4 cups of the flour and the salt, and mix until the mixture comes together.
2. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups additional flour 1/2 cup at a time to make a stiff dough, either stirring with the wooden spoon or working with your hands. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes, adding just as much flour as needed. (Dough should be heavier and stiffer than regular yeast bread dough.)
3. Grease a large bowl with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
4. Remove from the bowl and punch down the dough. Divide into 12 equal pieces, about 2 to 3 ounces each, measuring about 4 inches across. Form each piece of dough into a ball. Roll each ball into a 4 to 6-inch log. Join the ends and place fingers through the hole and roll the ends together. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place on a lightly greased surface, cover with a clean cloth, and let rest until risen but not doubled in a draft-free spot, 20 to 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining teaspoon of oil.
6. In a large, heavy pot, bring 12 cups of water and the remaining tablespoon of sugar to a boil. In batches, add the bagels to the water and boil, turning, for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Flip bagels onto the prepared sheet pan. Bake for 5 minutes, turn over and cook for another 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Makes 12 bagels

Chicken Escabeche

Chicken Escabeche Appetizer Recipe
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
If you are planning a Three Kings Day party to mark the end of the holiday season, try this savory appetizer. Chicken escabeche (pollo en escabeche) is delicious, easy to make and can be prepared days ahead of a party.
Escabeche refers to a marinade of fragrant olive oil, vinegar (or citrus), onions, garlic, black peppercorns and bay leaves. It originates from Spain and can be found throughout Latin America. There are many different applications of the escabeche marinade. You can use escabeche to poach fish, seafood or chicken for juicy entrées. Another application is to add the prepared escabeche marinade to cooked starchy vegetables like yuca and green bananas to make a savory side dish like yuca escabeche (yuca en escabeche) or green banana escabeche (guineos verdes en escabeche – a personal favorite). Most escabeche recipes are best served after marinading for a day and served at room temperature.
The recipe I share with you today is for a chicken escabeche appetizer. You will poach chicken breasts in the escabeche marinade, then shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces to serve on crackers. It’s a perfect party appetizer as you can prepare it a day or two ahead. Serve the escabeche at room temperature with a simple cracker. My favorite cracker to serve it with is the most humble saltine cracker. It’s also great with matzos or cracked wheat crackers. Try it, your guests will love chicken escabeche.

Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Chicken Escabeche Appetizer (Pollo en Escabeche)
2 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 large onions, sliced across into thin rounds
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1. Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until it simmers. Add the chicken, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Top with the sliced onions, garlic and white vinegar. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Remove the chicken breasts and cook the escabeche marinade in low heat until the onions are clear (don’t allow the onions to caramelize). Use two forks to shred the chicken into bite size pieces and return the shredded chicken to the escabeche marinade.
3. Transfer the chicken escabeche to a glass container and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 24 hours to allow the flavors to develop. Serve at room temperature with your choice of crackers.
Makes 4 cups of escabeche.

Pito’s Traditional Coquito

Puerto Rican Coquito Coconut Drink Recipe
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
A Puerto Rican Christmas is all about families and friends gathering to dance, drink and eat. At the center of all Puerto Rican holiday festivities is coquito. This silky, sweet, coconut milk-based drink spiked with rum and spices is Puerto Rico at it’s best.
Coquito is often referred to as the “Puerto Rican eggnog” even though the traditional drink contains no eggs at all. Each family has their own version of coquito. Most versions use some proportion of coconut milk, cream of coconut (Coco Lopez), sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and rum.
If you do an online search for coquito you will find an abundance of recipes that all call for egg yolks. If you are looking for a traditional Puerto Rican recipe, then stay away from these egg yolk recipes.
The recipe I share with you today is my grandfather Pito’s recipe. It’s the best coquito recipe I’ve tried. It’s Pito’s twist on the traditional coquito recipe by adding salt and lime rind and omitting the sweetened condensed milk to cut back on the sweetness.
Coquito is best served as an after dinner drink. Keep it refrigerated in a glass bottle and serve it very cold in small sherry glasses with extra ground nutmeg. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.
For a non-alcoholic coquito, Pito suggests substituting the rum for some tropical fruit juice such as pineapple or guava. Simply holding back on the rum also makes a great non-alcoholic coquito. As a child I remember sticking around the kitchen so I could taste the coquito before they added rum and it is simply delicious.
For another Puerto Rican holiday recipe, check out Pito’s pernil roasted pork recipe.
Feliz Navidad to all!
Pito’s Coquito
1 can cream of coconut
6 ounces coconut milk
2 12 ounce cans evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon lime (limón) rind
1 pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into smaller pieces
2 cups Bacardi rum
1. Mix all ingredients (excluding the rum) in a large bowl. Add rum to taste.
2. Transfer the mixture to a glass bottle and refrigerate for 24 hours to allow the flavors to develop. Serve chilled in small sherry glasses and garnish with fresh ground nutmeg.

Baking with Butter Tips

Baking with Butter Tips
Photo by Francesco Tonelli, The New York Times.
The New York Times article “Butter Holds the Secret to Cookies That Sing” by Julia Moskin is a fantastic resource for home bakers seeking the perfect holiday cookie. It talks about the importance of softening butter correctly to maximize it’s ability to hold air that will later give cookies and cakes their structure and texture. It even goes into the differences between domestic butters and imported cultured butters and features some buttery recipes, including one for Orange Butter Cookies by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree from “The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread
Here are a few buttery tips that I found helpful:

  • “butter should be creamed… for at least three minutes”
  • “The best way to get frozen or refrigerated butter ready for creaming is to cut it into chunks. (Never use a microwave: it will melt it, even though it will look solid.) When the butter is still cold, but takes the imprint of a finger when gently pressed, it is ready to be creamed.”
  • “For clean edges on cookies and for even baking, doughs and batters should stay cold — place them in the freezer when the mixing bowl seems to be warming up. And just before baking, cookies should be very well chilled, or even frozen hard.”

Chocolate Ginger Crackles

Chocolate Ginger Crackle Cookie Recipe
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
These are a favorite holiday cookie in our household, so well liked that, when I make them, Angelica spontaneously gives me a hug. Not that I bake to win people’s affection, but getting a spontaneous hug from my teenage daughter is all the encouragement I need to make these cookies.
Chocolate ginger crackles are little mounds of moist chocolate cookie studded with bittersweet chocolate chips and candied ginger pieces and covered in powdered sugar. They are delightfully easy to make. The dough can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for a few days until ready to bake. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.
This recipe first appeared in Food and Wine magazine, October 1997.
Chocolate Ginger Crackles
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup minced candied ginger
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1. In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the granulated sugar with the butter. Mix in the eggs, then add the cocoa and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the bowl and add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix the dough for 2 minutes. Stir in the chocolate chips and ginger. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or foil. Form the dough into 1 inch balls and coat them generously with the confectioner’s sugar. Arrange the balls 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the tops look cracked. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
You can store these in an airtight container for up to three days.
Makes 30 cookies.

Herbed Buckwheat Stuffed Chicken

Herbed Buckwheat Stuffed Chicken Recipe
Plate by Scott Bartolomei Edmonds. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Personal chef and colleague, Peter, is probably up late tonight making a gorgeous thousand layered crêpe cake. He saw the cake in the latest Dean and Deluca catalog and, despite the fact that he is halfway through his fruit-only detox, he will be making this cake tonight.
I have to thank Peter for inspiring me to make this dish. When I told him I had some leftover buckwheat to experiment with, he suggested I make a stuffed chicken breast. “It’s easy!” he said. I was skeptical about how easy it would really be, but his enthusiasm inspired me to try it anyway.
To make the stuffing I started with day-old cooked buckwheat groats (also known as kasha). To that, I added some onions, finely diced carrots, roasted almonds, fresh thyme, fresh Italian parsley and some finely chopped orange rind. Then, I sliced the chicken breasts, stuffed them, and browned them in a skillet. These were finished in the oven in a parchment paper pouch with oranges and wine.
As complicated as stuffed chicken sounds, I have to say it is a moderately easy meal to make. I encourage you to try it. Give yourself about 45 minutes to prepare it. It’s also a good idea to cook the buckwheat groats the day before. Fresh cooked buckwheat tends to be on the delicate side and you risk mushy stuffing if using it straight from the pot.
Herbed Buckwheat Stuffed Citrus Chicken
1 1/2 cup cooked buckwheat groats (kasha)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1/4 cup toasted almonds
2 teaspoons thyme, stems removed plus 4 sprigs
1/2 teaspoon orange rind
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons Canola oil
4 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
1 orange, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1. Melt butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat and add onion, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrot, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in cooked buckwheat, almond, orange rind and thyme to warm. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place a 15″ long sheet of parchment paper in a 9″ x 13″ roasting pan to create a shallow bowl. Set aside along with a second 15″ sheet of parchment paper and some kitchen string.
3. Pat chicken dry and arrange, skinned sides down, on a work surface. Cut a pocket in each breast by slicing the breast horizontally, stopping about 1 inch from opposite end. Open the breast to create a pocket. Pack one quarter of the stuffing into each pocket. Use a toothpick to seal the opening.
4. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat. Brown chicken in 2 batches, about 2 minutes on each side, transferring to the parchment paper in the small roasting pan as browned.
5. Add the wine and arrange orange slices and a thyme sprig on each chicken breast. Place the second sheet of parchment paper over the chicken and fold the long edges of parchment paper together to seal the sides. Gather a short end and tie with kitchen string, repeat with the other end. Make sure that the juices will not seep through the seams in your parchment pouch. Place chicken in the middle of the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
6. Let chicken stand for 5 minutes in the pouch, then carefully open the pouch and remove each breast. Slice and serve.
Makes 4 servings.

Pumpkin Cookie with Penuche Icing

Pumpkin Penuche Cookies, a fall favorite
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
I love the fall because it gives us pumpkin at it’s best. It’s an incredibly versatile vegetable that is particularly good in baked goods. Baking pumpkin cookies is a fall tradition in our family. This particular recipe has been in our family for over ten years. It yields a moist, cakey cookie that is not too sweet. The penuche filling is a sweet, caramel flavored surprise.

Pumpkin Sandwich Cookie with Penuche Icing
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
Makes 60 cookies.
1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside. In a standing mixer beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin, vanilla and egg until they are fully incorporated. Add flour mixture until just combined. Drop dough by tablespoon 1 inch apart onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
2. Bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown around edges. Immediately remove from cookie sheets and cool completely.
3. While the cookies are cooling, make the icing. In a medium saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once it starts bubbling, cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add milk carefully and stir until the caramel is disolved. Beat in enough powdered sugar for desired spreading consistency. Ice cookies, working quickly as the icing will crystalize as it cools.

Spiced Pumpkin Scones

Spiced Pumpkin Scone Recipe
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
It’s pumpkin time! My favorite time of the year. Pumpkin is the perfect fall vegetable. Delicious and versatile it lends itself to many applications in anything from breakfast to dessert.
I love to sneak pumpkin into my dishes whenever I can, especially in the fall. Sunday morning I made a batch of pumpkin scones that I wanted to share with you. They are moist, light, with a touch of spice and sweetness. Serve them with a little butter and dark maple syrup.
When you make these, keep in mind that this particular recipe will yield a very wet dough that will likely stick to your hands. Don’t get frustrated, the results are worth the mess! If you are new to making scones, take a look at these scone baking tips.
Also, if you love pumpkin as much as I do, try these pumpkin muffins.
Spiced Pumpkin Scones
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon turbinado sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 450°. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, pumpkin, egg, vanilla extract, and spices. Stir the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture with a few swift strokes until a loose wet dough forms.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather the dough into a ball. Gently press the dough into a ¾ inch thick disk.
3. Sprinkle the disk with turbinado sugar and cinnamon. Using a knife, cut the disk into 8 wedges.
4. Arrange the wedges ½ inch apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.
Makes 8 scones.