It’s winter and my poor friends from LA are all skinny and tan and I’m over here all “Neener, neener, I live in New York and can eat delicious bagels and get chubby whenever I want.” And they’re all “oh shit, we're too skinny and tan and can you please send me some delicious New York bagels?”
And I'm all "well since I’m no monster I'm just gonna share this homemade Bagel recipe in the spirit that everyone world wide can break bread together in the most delicious New York Bagel kind of way, so you're welcome skinny betches."
But first, let me reflect on the spiritual concept of breaking bread for a moment.
The expression has evolved over time, but its origins are, in fact, biblical; Jesus, when eating with His Disciples, would break the bread (which was much harder than typical bread today and required breaking rather than tearing) and pass out pieces to be shared among them as a group. One likely reason the phrase lived on is due to the universal source of nourishment that bread supplies, and therefore with it also carries the implications of friendship and life. If you haven't seen the Netflix Documentary series Cooked, I highly recommend that you do.* There is an entire episode dedicated to the evolution of bread making and how it has been and continues to be an integral part of most societies.
In the words of Julia Child, cooking pioneer:
Excellent point, Ms. Child. Furthermore, quoth the great Milton Berle:
Additionally, in modern times people use the phrase when talking about sharing an emotional experience along with their food. The phrase to break bread with someone is to share a meaningful connection over a meal, often bringing together two people or groups who may have previously had reason to be disconnected.
When I first became an actor 12 years ago, I did it because I wanted to give voice to stories that may not otherwise get told. I was an artist, and to me, storytelling and therefore acting seemed to me the most honorable way one could use their art to propel change in the world. Chris Fisher, a talented writer/director/producer and now dear friend of mine, was the first person to give me a SAG TV job. He likes to remind me that I got the part because of my distinct laugh. He is one of the most passionate and dedicated storytellers I know. And even though it’s twelve years later and I’m no longer acting professionally, we still both share a passion for beautiful things and telling stories by bringing people together to talk about what we’re feeling and experiencing (for him, cinematically and for me, culinarily). Filmmaking has been the most obvious metaphor for my vegan baking, so it's no real surprise that the last two years of vegan baking and now blogging has proven to be a not-so-unlikely new storytelling device for me. How can I share a story with you in order to propel greater change? I can cook you some kind of vegan meal and together we can break bread. For those of you just getting acquainted with my blog, please note: I don't want to change your mind, I just want to cook you dinner.
Like I mentioned, I met Chris at an audition over a decade ago, but our story doesn’t end there. At a point he moved to NYC to work on a very successful TV show called Person of Interest. In the season’s last year I found myself in NYC after a temporary job here made me realize I didn't want to go back to LA for the time being. The job was ending and I remembered Fish (as Chris' friends affectionately call him) had moved here a few years prior. I decided to reach out to him to see if he knew of any employment opportunities, cuz New York was all “Hi, I’m expensive as fuck, so don’t stay unemployed too long or I'll ruin you. K thanks, bye.”
Guess what? His wife Blair was about to give birth to their first child. She needed help and he did too, as he was averaging 16 hour days on set during episodes he both produced and directed simultaneously. Serendipity or just good timing; either way, I was very happy to see where this would lead me. Blair and I became fast friends, and Poppy was a dream babe. She taught me so much while I got to love and care for her.
Blair had similar eating habits as me, even though she wasn’t a strict vegan. We got to cook and nourish this baby together and watch her as she grew to develop her own flavor palette. It was a very special way to love two people, by cooking and meal prepping for them. One thing we enjoyed doing as a “family” was spending time in their East Hampton home which rests beautifully in the middle of the woods. Speaking of storytelling, you should see the nine page welcome letter Fish wrote for guests, which is nothing short of poetic. And as such, these bagels are dedicated to them. They live all the way in Ojai, CA now and I’d bet they haven’t had a decent bagel since they left NYC almost two years ago.
Here’s to you, Fish and Blair and Popsicle and Luv-duv…until we can break bread again soon!
Home Made Bagels* ~
Total Time: Like, forever. At least until you get the hang of bread-making. It's a skill.
Toppings, because plain bagels are just a missed opportunity:
Onion flakes, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, etc...
In .5 cup /120ml of the warm water, add the date sugar and yeast. LET SIT for 5 or so minutes and then stir it all up until it's mostly dissolved and there are no obvious chunks.
- Mix flour and salt in a big bowl. Making a well in the center, pour in the liquid yeast mixture.
- Pour 1/3 cup of the rest of the water into the flour well. Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed. I had to add about 1/4 cup more water. Don't let this concern you, Jill in Wisconsin may need more or less than Jack in Arizona. You want a moist and firm dough after you mix it.
- On a floured countertop, knead the dough for about 10 or 15 minutes until it's got some elasticity. Again, we're looking for stiff and firm, if it's crumbly you need to add more water. If it's a bit chunky you need to continue to knead that shit.
- Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and roll the dough around so it's fully coated. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 20 minutes. Classic dough making practice. Don't be afraid to leave it to rise even longer if you're doing laundry or out living your best life somewhere.
- Break pieces of dough off (larger than a golf ball and smaller than a tennis ball). You can make classic bagel shapes if you're basic (no judgement) OR you can go wild and let your freak flag fly and make all kinds of shapes. I'm somewhere in between, so I made twisted little knots.
- Place each inspired little bagel bread nugget onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet or cast iron skillet if you have one. And then cover with that damp kitchen towel and let rest for another 10 or 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425ºF (some might argue 400. I guess we'll see how well you know your oven?)
- Scared yet? D O N ' T B E. Be aggressive. Be-be aggressive.
- NOW: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Use a slotted spoon or if you don't have one try a handheld grater or metal spatula and lower each bagel into the water. Newsflash, this step is so important. While I don't want you to be intimidated, this is NOT the time to go change the laundry, because timing is everything here. Boil as many as you are comfortable with boiling at a time. The bagels will quickly float to the top once dropped in. Let them sit there for like 20-30 seconds and NO MORE. Any longer and your bagels will be so chewy they'll give you TMJ. I know, because I've had lock-jaw for a week.
- Flip and repeat on the other side (remember 20-30 seconds TOPS, yo). All you need to understand is the longer you leave them in boiled water, the chewier they become. And it is possible for them to become too chewy to chew kind of chewy, ya feel me?
- If you want to top your bagels with stuff, now's the time before they get popped in the oven. Place the lightly boiled bagels back on your cookie sheet. Using a pastry brush, coat the tops of each bagel with your flax egg wash and sprinkle with desired toppings. The flax egg is what allows them to stick.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on the bottoms. (Start checking at 15 minutes if you have a hot oven).
- Cool on a wire rack or burn the roof of your mouth like I did when you face dive the whole batch straight out the oven.
- Top with Vegan Cashew Butter Cream Cheese.
*This documentary depicts cooking meat and other non-vegan foods for those who are opposed to viewing, please take note.
**Inspired by the Sophisticated Gourmet, and veganized by moi.