Just Bagels and Pizza

August 23, 2014

You and I both expected some thoughts on aging. For me, the prompt was the fact that I’ve started working out at the UA Student Rec Center again, and I’m sure I’m in the 95th percentile by age, among all users. After three boring starts, I realized I don’t have anything original or meaningful to say about getting old. So, in the immortal words of the amazing—and sorely missed—Emily Litella (Gilda Radner) “never mind!” (Here’s Ms. Litella on busting school children.)

On to bagels and pizza. I’m three weeks into Bagel Making 101, a self-taught course. Pretty satisfied, as they’re pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good! Also pretty authentic, I think. I ate one and was stuffed. Chewy and too filling … but pretty real!


The recipe is here, and it comes via my sister Pam, from www.thefreshloaf.com. I did adapt a bit. First, the recipe says it’s designed for fresh bagels in the morning. I have read and re-read it and don’t find anything in the instructions about when to stop on day one. So for me it’s a same-day production. Second, I substituted ¾ of a cup of white whole wheat flour in the second flour addition.  It softened the bagels just a bit:  an improvement. Third, I recommend staying away from the baking soda in the boiling water. Tried it last week and the bagels had a chemical taste. Not good!

Finally, the rising times are pretty short. I lengthened them. I think, and much of what I read bears this out, that many recipes call for a bare minimum of rising time. My theory? Cookbooks are written for people who want to open the book, make the dish, and eat it ASAP. It takes no more time or effort to let your dough rise for days—my pizza dough rarely gets used without at least a four-day cold rise—but it does take a bit of planning.

Expect more bagel reports and, perhaps, brunch pics one of these days! It’s my least favorite meal, but I fear Ms. J’s office will get tired of the bagels soon enough, so we need an outlet. (Note: The bagels look a bit light because I wanted to be able to toast one without burning it.)


The pizza includes roasted fennel-pistachio pesto, a barely-there bit of mozzarella, some roasted Hatch green chiles (in season now), asparagus, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Smells great, and it’ll get eaten later.

So as I was finishing up, I asked myself, “Why do you do this?” I supposed I could play golf instead, but … yah, yah, I hear the few of you who have shared that particularly dreadful experience with me. “Never again” does not feel like an overstatement!

Certainly, there’s some ego involved; I do enjoy the compliments, plain and simple. I think that’s the least of it, though, and I think three other factors are at play.

First, bread and bread products amaze me, even after being a baker for almost 40 years. Flour, yeast, salt, and water come together, almost as if by magic, and we get a basic food stuff that, made well, can be extraordinary!

Second, bread-making is easier by orders of magnitude than most people believe. So I guess I’m a bit of a proselytizer for gluten and its magic powers. (Truth be told, I do worry about gluten intolerance. It’s hard not to in today’s environment, and I have some reason to be concerned, but also can’t imagine my world without bread!)

Finally, and such as it is, it’s my form of art! No talent for painting, sculpture, music, or any more traditional art forms. My best is a nice looking, tasty pizza pie!

Leave a Reply