Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Tag Archives: Bread

New York City 2012: Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company

DSC_0538

Since I started on bagels, I might as well go the whole nine yards.  I’m aware that my less-than-qualified commentary on New York’s bagels is like dancing across a field of land-mines. Naked.

But in my defense, I’m a bread-snob, so it follows that I should know a thing or two about bagels. I have tried making bagels a couple of times since I got back. Let’s just say that I will try again.

Bagels may or may not have salt and malt added into the dough, but they are almost always boiled in water (sometimes containing baking soda, the science of which I will leave for another time) before baking. The New York bagel is almost always salted and malted, giving it its characteristic chew.

DSC_9735

My first and proper New York bagel was at Brooklyn Bagel. To be precise, my first half bagel was at Brooklyn Bagel. I had to share. A bagel here is the diameter of a three-month old child’s head. If I threw a bagel at you (I’ve got a sexy right lob), it would at least stun you, if it didn’t bruise. These are traditionally dense New York bagels, and –  just to put things into perspective – the equivalent of six bowls of rice, or so the rumour goes. That said, I’ve been to a number of bagel shops and can assure you that the Bagel of Massive Proportions is only found here, at Brooklyn Bagel. They sell mini bagels too, which I assume are regular-sized ones, and still about two bowls of rice I’m sure.

But these bagels pack a crunch and chew that blew my mind, and the maddeningly generous fillings almost landed me in a near-catatonic state.

DSC_9831

They have some of the freshest and most flavourful cream cheese spreads around – sweet, savoury, tofu spreads, flavoured butters, low-fat cream cheese, hummus, peanut butter…

Go wild. But don’t hold up the line. I don’t have any particular bagel and cream cheese combinations to recommend, but sweet bagels go with sweet cream cheese, and so on. This above is a Wholewheat Bagel with White Fish spread and Sun-dried Tomato cream cheese.

Personally, toasted bagels are the way to go, but some purists insist that if you’re in a bagel shop early enough, the freshest bagels needn’t ever be toasted. The buns stay warm enough to still give the cream cheese that semi-melty gorgeous texture.

Speaking of going early, I’ll be forthright and say that no one should ever have a bagel past noon. I’m not saying this for puritanical reasons, but for practical and scientific ones.

DSC_9829Studies have shown (actually, just one, and not even rigidly scientific at that), that a bagel’s half-life is no more than half an hour. The freshness of a bagel deteriorates exponentially from the moment it leaves the warm embrace of the oven. It is aptly coined the Heisen-Bagel Uncertainty Principle by the Serious Eats team in their search for New York’s best bagel, in which “The act of transporting a bagel to a second location produces fundamental uncertainties in its inherent qualities, such that determining a true “best bagel,” in a head-to-head face-off, becomes impossible.”

Or, in simple English, that merely means that the best tasting bagel is one in which you get up early for. I can vouch for it.

Pseudo-scientific principles aside, oddly enough, this doesn’t apply as strictly to other bread products, but I’ll hypothesize outside of this post.

Oh, and one last word of warning: Stick to two filling combinations at the very most, unless you’re willing to fork out more than USD$10 for breakfast. These are delicious, but pricey, bagels.

-


Address: 

286 8th Ave
(between 24th St & 25th St)
New York, NY 10001
Neighborhood: Chelsea

Hours:

Mon-Sun 7 am – 10 pm

Website: http://bkbagel.com/

Wholemeal Sourdough

Wholemeal Sourdough

I have bad news.

While this piece of news may not exactly bother much of anyone, it bothers me on a very emotional, fundamental, devastating level.

Someone threw away my 8-month-old sourdough starter from the fridge.

This wasn’t so much a proper sourdough starter since I used the Old Dough method of acquiring sourdough – I add this piece of dough to every batch of sourdough I make, cut off a piece from the main bulk of dough, keep it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, and let it sit in the fridge until I make a new batch where the process repeats again.

It’s not quite as exciting as the conventional way of creating sourdough, since I hear that intimately naming a newborn sourdough starter is just one of the thousand of loony things bread fanatics do from time to time for their sourdough starters.

Wholemeal Sourdough

Read more of this post

Dark Rye Bread with Raisins

Dark Rye Bread with Raisins

My first introduction to rye breads came in the form of pumpernickel bread, those dark brown, unimaginably dense bricks (not loaves) of bread made with coarsely ground rye grains and rye berries. I hardly think of them as bread. In fact, I placed my mug of iced tea on a slice lying on the table thinking that it was a coaster, and it was only after my mom picked up another hefty slice to slap me away - I suffered oblong bruises – that I realised I just ruined her snack.

I didn’t take to pumpernickel very well. The musky earthiness, sweet-sour tang, grainy bits and coarse texture made me feel like I was gnawing on rabbit food. Suffice to say, dark rye breads didn’t get much of my attention as well.

And then I started getting my bread geek on, and all of a sudden, I saw how unearthly beautiful the dark rye fissures in a misty blanket of white looked on the loaves I saw occasionally in Cold Storage or Carrefour. I wanted them. I wanted to craft those crevices.

And then, I couldn’t find dark rye flour (because what demented person would want to bake artisanal breads at home? I mean, sheesh!).

Dark fissures.

Read more of this post

Homemade Naan

Homemade Naan

Following up on my impassioned spiel about fluffy Middle Eastern flatbread: No, I have not gotten the chance to revisit Sofra to bully and harangue the chefs into handing over a recipe, or better yet, their oven.

I did, however, throw together Pita dough the next day, you know, for Pita bread. And Pita bread isn’t Pita bread without its ability to turn into a handy semi-circular pocket with which to stuff all things chunky and drippy and tasty, like so.

No, this is not a mistake. And no, I did set out to make pita. I can differentiate Pita from Naan, thank you very much.

So what in Hummus’ name happened?

Well, they didn’t puff.

And so they went the way of all disobedient Pitas and became Naan.

Very, very yummy Naan at that.  Read more of this post

Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant

Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant

Turkish cuisine remained much of a mystery for the better part of my awareness, since I must admit that I carelessly bunch Turkish, Moroccan, Tunisian and Lebanese all under the gigantic umbrella of Middle Eastern cuisine. I’m horrid, I know. It’s like how Chinese food is no different from Japanese, Korean or Thai to plenty of people. But I have an excuse, and you must grant me this at least: I have never had Turkish cuisine in my entire life, because if I had, I would have been making pita bread all my life had I known that homemade, freshly made flatbreads were just so darn good.

Doner Kebabs roasting on vertical spits.

We have some pretty good Middle Eastern restaurants scattered over the island, most of which I’ve heard are congregated in Haji Lane and Arab Street, some in East Coast, and a couple others on Bussorah Street. And I’ve never been to a single one. I know! What’s wrong with me?!

Well, Sofra is located in the unobtrusive and dowdy-looking Shaw Towers along Beach Road. It’s a reasonable, 8-minute walk from Raffles City, or cut through Bras Basah complex to shave of a couple of minutes. Here, I’m telling you that it’s just 8 minutes to exotic and affordable food (‘exotic’ because anything and everything else is shiny and new outside of Koufu and Kopitiam).

Chefs.

Read more of this post

The French Kitchen

 

The French Kitchen

 

It’s hard to come by authentic French establishments these days. Far too many cafes, bistros and restaurants quietly serve up fusion fare, sneaking in herbs and spices otherwise never used in French cooking. But, as Jean Charles Dubois proudly declared himself, The French Kitchen has the pleasure of offering bona fide, untainted French menu selections for lunches and dinners at incredibly reasonable prices. The menus change every now and then, and so if you’re in luck, there’ll be caviar, if not, then pan-seared foie gras, sea scallops, veal or duck leg confit and a myriad of other very possible appearances by seasonal French ingredients may pleasantly surprise you.

The French Kitchen is situated in Central Mall at Magazine Road, a little ways from Clarke Quay and should not be confused with The Central that is directly above Clarke Quay station.

It’s a humble restaurant and seats about 30 people modestly. We easily took up half the seating capacity, walking in blearily after finally having found our way through the downpour that day for a three-course lunch.

The decor is bright, elegant and minimalistic, none of that froufrou ambience characteristic of French fine-dining establishments. It isn’t casual, oh definitely not, but it’s comfortable, and there is nothing else more satisfying than dining at ease, without a choking collar of propriety around your neck. Read more of this post

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pizza

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pizza

Hi.

No, this isn’t me doing wacky stuff in the kitchen as a result of horrible jet lag.

In fact, you know what? I haven’t even been in the kitchen at all ever since I came back from tripping all over Europe. Why? Because I’ve been running myself against the wall, pulling the split-ends in my hair out and threatening my computer with a jack hammer because it refuses to detect over a hundred pictures that I took during my trip. No, they turn up perfectly fine on my camera but vanish in Windows. If you don’t pull your act together you stupid computer, I’m buying a Mac!

So, till I figure out where them pictures are hiding in my CPU or when my computer finally succumbs to my desperate wailing and sobbing, here’s a dessert pizza from a while back – before I went off and got myself deathly afraid of bread from eating it every single day.

This is but the first to come of a slew of dessert pizzas that I’ll churn out once I overcome my temporary aversion to flour and sweet things. That’s weird, you say? The Italians will strangle me with to death with spaghetti for butchering a pizza? Well I’m sure they’ll be welcoming me with open arms once I throw together Nutella and banana. Or baked apples, cinnamon and custard. Or dark chocolate and candied oranges.

Everyone else makes blueberry cheesecakes.

I make pizza.

How about that eh?

So go on, give your favourite dessert a twist. Anything on a crisp, thin crust is fantastic.

Although I should give due warning that not everyone cozies up to the notion of sweet pizza. Like how some people hate tamagoyaki (japanese sweet omelette). Shrugs. Weirdos.

Well less for them and more for you.

Read more of this post

Olive and Rosemary Fougasse

Olive and Rosemary Fougasse

I don’t make fancy breads often, because bread in my home is mostly consumed for breakfast in manageable slices that fit into the toaster to crisp up.

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fit this into the toaster, and just the mere thought of hacking up this fiery leaf- I mean loaf, of bread into misshapen pieces, slicing it open thinly just so I can spread or lay something over it would almost kill me. I’m not fond of making things that are too pretty to eat. Hence my lack of interest in cupcakes, food paint, fondant for cakes and food colouring.

But then this isn’t your typical breakfast bread, although please, feel free to do as you will with what you made fresh from your oven and with your two bare hands.

Yet when I saw how simple these were to make, and how they promised deliciously edible Ego Boost in the form of the heady fragrance of olives and perfume-y rosemary embedded in one of the most rustic and beautiful patterns one could carve out of dough, I just had to. And guess what? Everything - from the mixing to the heart-stoppingly frightening moment when it’s time to slide the fragile-looking doughs into the oven and to when they emerge crackly and golden – took less than 2 hours. I think I came out of the kitchen, a little dusted with flour and bearing what Richard Bertinet calls the Fougasse Grin, which essentially reads as ‘Look what I’ve made!’.

Read more of this post

Bistro Du Vin

Bistro Du Vin

I love surprises. 

I really do! 

Especially if you say you’re going to surprise me with food. 

But – and I know you’ve been expecting a ‘but’ – here’s where I stop getting giddy and giggly and springy and skippy, and where I show you that I am fully capable of doing a one-eighty and turn homicidal in the blink of an eye. 

I very much appreciate the quaint French bistro decor, charming and homey with deep-red walls covered with framed pictures, low-hanging cafe lights above marbled table tops with jet black finishing, handsome wine bottles reclining comfortably on racks… 

Which is when it hit me that it’s French and there isn’t such a thing as cheap French food anywhere, and heaven forbid it actually, since any native French wouldn’t hesitate to try to bring the place down if it’s the last thing he’ll do just to uphold the integrity of French food. Even the tiny things are pricey (that is not to say that they aren’t worth the price though). When was the last time you bought a croissant? Hmm? Which is probably the reason why everyone just heads for Breadtalk now anyway. 

Ok, so I’m joking about turning homicidal. 

I’ve wanted to try French for the longest time but haven’t because of the hefty price tag that comes with it. 

This, in hindsight, was truly a surprise and certainly didn’t warrant my pouting and whining about how a main starts from $22 onwards. I apologise, Oliver. But it was either French, or the Italian to its left, or the mysterious looking Japanese to the right with no view of the restaurant from the outside and just a door curtained by heavy cloth leading into the darkness… 

Read more of this post

Bakerzin (United Square)

Bread Basket

The first time I went to Bakerzin was about three years ago, perhaps four. 

Now if I had known that they had a bread basket, and that helping yourself to copious amounts of ciabatta, whole grain and rye breads, and slotting them into an adorable roller-toaster of sorts was completely unlimited (provided you order a set meal of $13.80+), I’d have frequented them sooner – and perhaps would have made a huge dent in their revenue. 

Come on. It’s bread. Fresh bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to go with. Now we’re talking carbohydrates. 

I would admit though, that the main reason we ended up consuming about five to six plates of bread could really be blamed on my over-enthusiastic delight of dropping the slices into the toaster, watching them roll across the red-hot grill and waiting on bated breath for them to plonkplonkplonk and slide merrily down the little metal slope to a stop before my eager plate. It’s kind of like a grown-up version of how I used to slot every single coin I could find when I was a little tyke of 3 or 4 years-old into the air-conditioning vents of the family car, to the point where my parents had to practically yank them out and exhume the damn pipes before they could sell the vehicle off. I’ve always been a rascal, except that I’ve grown more practical and responsible over the years (I don’t pee in convenient stores and break toilet bowls anymore) – I made sure to finish every single slice. 

Read more of this post

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 742 other followers