Friday, September 29, 2017

Apple Fritters

It's my favorite season - Apple season! Apples are my favorite food in the world and I love how many different varieties are available this time of year - Jonagold, Empire, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Mutsu, Ginger Gold, Zestar, Rome, Cortland, Macintosh, and many, many more! The local apples as well as all the varieties filling the store shelves from New York are taking over my countertop since I can't stop buying them! Thankfully, the kids are just as crazy about apples as I am and are gladly eating 2-3 apiece each day.

In honor of apple season, I am about to bombard you, dear reader, with some pretty tempting apple-themed desserts. Let's start with Apple Fritters.

Did you know you can make delicious apple fritters that taste better than ones you can buy at any donut shop in under 30 minutes? I certainly didn't until I spied this recipe in a past issue of Cook's Country and was surprised to see how simple the process really is. I just thought it would be more complicated, for some reason. I really, REALLY hate frying food but some foods are worth all that extra effort and these were probably the easiest fried delicacies to ever come out of my kitchen.

The kids were fascinated with the process. When I told them what we were making, their eyes got really big and they whispered among themselves in disbelief, "Mom is going to make donuts? Can she really make donuts if she doesn't work at Krispy Kreme?" Seeing their faces as I went about making the fritters, you would have thought they were watching a magician at work. They watched eagerly as I mixed up the batter, heated up the oil, and dropped portion after portion of the sweet apple and cinnamon mixture into the hot oil where it bubbled and simmered until golden brown. Wen I pulled the first finished fritter (wow, alliteration?) out of the pot, they cheered, "Wow! Look what Mom made!" They were mesmerized as I whipped up the glaze and poured a generous amount on each warm fritter and practically drooled as they watched it pool over the sides and drip onto the baking sheet. Emma, Lucy and Peyton were given the arduous task of eating the leftover glaze that had spilled onto the drip tray.

In the end, these were some of the best fritters I have ever tasted. Eating one warm and fresh was an almost transcendental experience. I have never been the biggest fan of donuts, but I found these pretty near irresistible. I'm already thinking that we are going to have to make these again as an easy Sunday morning treat after Mass. I still can't get over how easy they are to make.

Apple Fritters
adapted from Cook's Country

For the Fritters:
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I used Ginger Golds)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup apple cider
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups vegetable or peanut oil, for frying

For the Glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup apple cider
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Spread prepared apples in a single layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. This is important to ensure that the residual moisture on the apple pieces not make the fritters soggy.

Combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Whisk the cider, eggs, melted butter and vanilla in a medium bowl until combined. Stir the apples into the flour mixture. Stir in the cider mixture until incorporated.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Using a 1/3 cup measurement or a large spoon, transfer heaping portion of the batter to the oil. Press the batter lightly with the back of a spoon to flatten. Fry, adjusting the burner as necessary to maintain the oil temperature between 325 and 350 degrees, until deep golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the fritters to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Bring oil back to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining batter. Let fritters cool 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the powdered sugar, cider, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl until smooth. Top each fritter with a heaping tablespoon of glaze. Let glaze set 10 minutes. Serve!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Trip Back Home Under the Dome

Our entire family was presented with an amazing opportunity to spend a few days on campus at the University of Notre Dame. Longtime followers of this blog know that me and Paul both graduated from Notre Dame and basically fell in love during our time on campus. We became engaged while taking one of our daily strolls around Saint Mary's Lake, in full view of the glowing dome and the magnificent cross atop the steeple of the Sacred Heart Basilica. We honestly believe in our hearts that it is the greatest school on earth but may be a bit biased since we had such a fantastic experience growing, maturing, and discovering our vocations there. We always tell the kids, "If it hadn't been for Notre Dame, you might not be here!"

Definitely true.

Anyway, we jumped at the opportunity to come back on campus as guests of the University so Paul could participate in the ABET accreditation discussions for the Engineering Department. They graciously provided us with a spacious suite in the Morris Inn, the hotel right on campus off of Main Circle, and were more than accommodating towards our young family. The kids, especially Matthew, were looking forward to the trip for weeks ahead of time. Matthew was to miss two full days but his teacher was more than gracious about it and provided me with a list of all his work to catch up on while he was away. Matthew's ultimate goal is to be a student at Notre Dame one day and we constantly remind him whenever he starts to groan about his homework that it takes a lot of hard work and persistence to be admitted into his dream school. He loves everything about the school and was so psyched to tour it again. On the drive to South Bend, he kept listing all the sights on campus he wanted to see, especially adamant that he had to see inside of the Golden Dome this visit since we didn't get to do that last time we visited.

Thankfully, the weather was beautiful the entire time despite the thunderstorm predictions I had been stressing about during our drive. I must learn how to chill about things I can't control. They usually work out for the best anyway! We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful time.

Matthew was so happy to be on campus. He loves everything about it. The girls were happy to be out touring too, as long as they were pushed in their carriage stroller. They lead rough lives. Emma was the truly lazy one - never once did she walk further than 10 feet without being pushed. Lucy, however, did step out every now and then to run after Matthew.

She also attempted to pick every flower on campus...

One of our favorite spots on campus is the beautiful, quiet grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. The kids are also huge fans of the grotto because they have an obsession with fire. They love choosing a candle and then, with careful guidance, lighting and placing it in the holders. In fact, we had a tough time getting Lucy to leave the "happy birthdays" and come say a prayer with the rest of us. We all lit candles for Grandpa Nistler to be healed of his recent sufferings.

Then, we showed Matthew the inside of the dome as promised. He was impressed, but Lucy was especially mesmerized. Then she decided to start rolling on the floor, so it was time to leave before we disturbed the peace!

I also took the kiddos through some of the science buildings and showed them all the preserved and stuffed animals on display in the Biodiversity Museum/Laboratory. I explained to Matthew that I did a lot of studying in that lab when I was studying vertebrate biology and, since he wants to be a paleontologist one day, that he will probably have to take that course too! I'm not sure he was listening because around that time he spotted the gigantic T-Rex skull they had on display all the way from Montana. He was such a happy kid.

Next, we paid a visit to Touchdown Jesus and then held hands with Fr. Hesburgh and Father Joyce.

Later, I took the kids on a tour of the Holy Cross Cemetery to find the graves of some Notre Dame greats, like Father Lyons, Father Zahm, and Father Hesburgh. I tried to tell them the story of each priest as we found their grave, like how Father Zahm was a science professor at the University who adamantly professed his belief that the theory of evolution was not at odds with Catholic teaching, a wildly unpopular idea at the time. I also told the kids about going to visit Father Hesburgh in his office on the top of the library while I was an undergraduate. Since he was blind, he loved having students come to read to him or discuss their studies with him. I showed Matthew the famous photograph of Father Hesburgh linking hands with Martin Luther King Jr. at a civil rights rally at Soldier Field in Chicago. Matthew, a huge admirer of Dr. King, found this especially impressive.

Perhaps another reason Notre Dame feels like home is that I have so many siblings living around the University. My brother Raymond and his wife Mary live and work in the local area, as does my younger sister Sophie. My sister Jane is also a freshman this year at Saint Mary's College, the all-girls school right across the street from Notre Dame. I was looking forward to seeing how Jane was settling into college life, so the kids and I made the short walk across campus into Saint Mary's territory. Saint Mary's has a very small but quite beautiful campus, with plenty of trees, open spaces, and impressive architecture. It's very quiet compared to Notre Dame, but the tranquility is rather charming and intimate. Jane showed us her favorite study spot, a remote location on a small island in the middle of a pond where stands a large statue of Our Lady nearby.

The kids of course had to all get a picture with Mother Mary.

After that, we headed to Jane's dorm to check out the her digs and get the kids loaded up on sugar. Not the best of ideas because then they went crazy and we had to leave before they destroyed the very cute, but very small room. On the way back, we stopped to feed the ducks at Saint Mary's Lake and then headed back to our hotel to pick up Paul and head out for a Mexican dinner to celebrate Aunt Jane's 19th birthday! We made her wear a sombrero as the staff sang to her and then she got to try her very first Chaco Taco!  Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera to record the shenanigans, which Jane was quite grateful for, but everyone enjoyed sharing the Chaco Taco.

Then, Jane gave Paul and me the greatest gift every by offering to watch the children for us as they went to bed and allowing us to take a walk together - alone! - around campus just as we used to do almost a decade ago! We wandered around the lake, revisited our engagement spot, lit another candle at the grotto, attended the 10 pm Mass at Alumni Hall, drooled over the candy bins at the Huddle, and strolled around the gigantic new monstrosity stadium addition. So many sweet, sweet memories made together here!

It's always so hard to leave a place you hold so dear. We are so grateful to the University for providing us with the opportunity to enjoy such a relaxing visit. Until next time, our hearts forever love thee Notre Dame.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Creamy Tomato Bisque

If I had to list my top three most hated foods, canned tomato soup would definitely be named, keeping company with Limburger cheese and sardines. I have such disdain for canned tomato soup - everything about it evokes feelings of pure disgust and loathing - the nauseating smell, the tinny taste, and the sight of grilled cheese being dipped into it. It's just gross. I know many people will disagree with me, my husband included. It is one of his favorite soups and he cannot understand why I can't even be in the same room as him while he eats it. I probably threw it up once a million years ago and that might be the origin of my extreme dislike although I have no memory of a specific incident.

So, why would such a tomato soup hater suddenly feature a recipe for tomato bisque on her blog?

Once while out on a dinner date with Paul, we ordered an entree that came with both salad and the soup of the day. Soup sounded good, so I had no qualms with that nor did I happen to inquire what the "soup of the day" happened to me. To my horror, our waiter brought back two steaming bowls of creamy tomato soup. I already had made up my mind that I was going to hate it, so Paul agreed to eat my soup if I would eat his salad. When he took a bite and declared it "life changing", my curiosity was peaked, so I ventured a taste of my own. To my immense surprise, not only was the soup palatable, it was downright delicious. I could not stop eating spoonful after spoonful of the warm, creamy, savory puree. It was heaven! I finished my entire bowl that day and made plans to make my own version at home.

After a few tries, I believe this recipe comes the closest to replicating that transcendental tomato soup experience I had in the restaurant. The genius of this recipe comes from starting the soup with a just a touch of bacon to add a bit of savory element to the soup without being overpowering. A liberal amount of vegetables and a generous portion of broth is added to this base of combined fat, allowing the  tomatoes to be featured while not overwhelming the final product with their acidity. The vegetable mixture simmers gently with a fresh herb bouquet before being pureed to silky-smooth perfection and combined with just enough cream to give a smooth richness. The soup may be garnished with chopped parsley, freshly grated Parmesan, crumbled gorgonzola (my favorite), or the reserved cooked and crumbled bacon from the first step of the soup making process - if it wasn't consumed already as a pre-dinner snack!

I am still not a fan of canned tomato soup and never will be, but fresh tomato soup made with love is in a completely different category. This is a wonderful, comforting soup that you are sure to love. Be sure to serve with plenty of cheese toasts, for dipping. Although I'm still not on board with the dipping craze, my husband thinks it's a crime to serve soup without some kind of bread for this exact purpose. So, we always serve ours with bread or grilled cheese. Perfect for these cozy fall nights coming up!

Creamy Tomato Bisque

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced bacon (about 1/2 ounce)
1 Spanish onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes (with liquid), roughly chopped
3 parsley sprigs
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream (half/half may be used with great results!)
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until crisp and most of the fat has rendered, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Lower the heat to medium, add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Pour in the broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Tie the parsley sprigs, thyme, and bay leaf together with a piece of kitchen twine and add to the pot. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

When the soup base is cool, remove and discard the herb bundle. Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Using a sieve over a large bowl, strain the tomato puree. Return the puree to the pot and reheat over medium heat.

Whisk the heavy cream and salt into the soup and season with pepper to taste. Divide among warm soup bowls, garnish with the crispy bacon, and serve immediately.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Famous New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

My sister Jane headed off to college as a freshman last month to study Spanish and Marketing. Before her departure, she went on a bit of a "farewell tour" and came to spend a few days with me and the kids. I was so grateful for her visit because Paul was out of town on business and it was just going to be all by myself for the week and usually when that happens I lose my mind from the lack of adult conversation. There are only so many questions about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that a Mom can field in a day. At any rate, we enjoyed a fun week visiting with Jane and completely exhausting her before she began a new chapter in her life.

Jane loves to cook and is an aspiring baker so she arrived with a whole list of things she wanted to make with me. I had my work cut out for me! Unfortunately for Jane, I got sick while she was here and she was an absolute Godsend to me. She helped with the kids, allowed me to rest, and even cleaned my bathrooms, which is not a fun task considering how often my little boy tends to "miss the mark" when using the toilet. How great of a sister IS she!?

One of the recipes Jane wanted to make during our time together was the recipe for chocolate chip cookies that the New York Times hailed as absolute perfection. I had seen this recipe made and shared many, many times on various cooking blogs throughout the years and they had always garnered rave reviews. However, I had never really had the impetus to make them since I was perfectly happy with my current favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Jane was curious to find out if the recipe was worth the extra steps, ingredients, and general fussiness. She already has a pretty amazing chocolate chip cookie recipe in her arsenal and was curious if these few extra steps would really make a big difference in the quality of the final product. She found it amusing that a lot of the comments on the recipe complained that the method was overly complicating what should be quite an easy little treat to prepare. For example, the recipe requires an equal weight of two flours, both bread and cake. Jane's question was why not use all-purpose flour with a gluten content in between that of cake and bread flour? Her point was valid, but I told her to proceed with the recipe as written first. Jane was also shocked by the amount of chocolate called for in the recipe - over double of that called for in her go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe. I did not find this troublesome at all since I'm of the mindset that you can never have too much chocolate, especially dark chocolate in this case.

Jane made the cookies almost entirely by herself while I lazed on the couch and complained about nausea. I did have to go rescue her at some points because she was being outsmarted by my stand mixer. It can be a bit finicky at times, but not for the reasons she was complaining about (how to remove the bowl from the base). But soon enough, the dough was made and the children were excited to ball it up and stick it in the oven. To their chagrin, Jane had to break the news that it required a 24 hour refrigeration period before the cookies could be baked. Matthew declared that any cookie recipe that made him wait that long to eat was "a bad recipe." He's a born cynic.

About 24 hours later, Jane sent Paul and me out on a date and baked the cookies while we were gone. When we arrive, we were greeted with the glorious smells of butter and chocolate and a mountain of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I asked Jane if she had tried one and if so how did she think they turned out. She confessed that she had and was completely underwhelmed by them. I was disappointed for her and then decided to try one for myself. After one bite, I determined that Jane has no taste buds. Those cookies were magnificent. Magnificent, I tell you. Crispy on the outside, chewy and soft in the middle, loaded with chocolate flavor, and finished with just a hint of salt, I was in love immediately. I found them to be a much more sophisticated tasting chocolate chip cookies - there was more depth of flavor, aided in no small part by all that dark chocolate. Paul was in complete agreement with me. These are the cookies of which dreams are made.

The more Jane ate her creations, the more she liked them. By the next day, she thought they tasted even better. When it was time to go home, she asked if she could take some back with her. They didn't even survive the trip back.

Thank you, Jane, for suggesting that we make this recipe! I absolutely loved them and the rest of you will too. Especially all melty in the sun while picnicking in the park. Heavenly!

The Famous New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies
from the New York Times

Note: Weighing the ingredients is a must of this recipe.

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8½ ounces) cake flour
1 & 2/3 cups (8½ ounces) bread flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1¼ cups (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 & 1/3 cups (20 ounces) dark chocolate chips, at least 60% cacao content
Sea salt or fleur de sel, for sprinkling

Sift together the cake flour, bread flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed until very light, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low, gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.

Press plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, up to 72 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Scoop 3 1/2-ounces of dough, roll into a rough ball (it should be the size of a large golf ball) and place on the baking sheet. Repeat until you have six mounds of dough on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer the parchment or silicone sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies onto another cooling rack to cool a bit more, until just warm or at room temperature. Repeat with remaining dough (or keep some of the dough refrigerated for up to 3 days, and bake cookies at a later time). Store leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Quick and Easy New York Style Bagels

It's no secret that my kids love bagels. They inherited their carbohydrate-loving nature from their Mother and will gladly enjoy a lunch consisting of just bread and water and think it's the greatest thing in the world. They would probably enjoy prison food. One of their favorite "quick lunches" when we are in a rush is to go through the Panera drive-through and grab a bag of Asiago Cheese Bagels. The kids will just chow down on those bagels - no slicing, toasting, buttering necessary.

I'm also a huge lover of bagels, especially if they come with lox and cream cheese. Oh my word! One of the things I looked forward to the most when we planned our trip to New York City was grabbing an authentic New York Bagel with fresh lox from a Jewish deli. Thankfully, the experience totally lived up to my expectations and I have been craving another one like mad ever since!

I have made bagels many, many times before and the recipe I use is absolute perfection, albeit a bit complicated and time-consuming. The ingredients are precisely weighed and measured and then go through several risings, including an overnight rise after forming into the familiar bagel shape, before being boiled, topped, and baked. The result is a deliciously chewy, incredibly flavorful bagel that rivals the best bagels in NYC. And I say that only after trying the best bagels in NYC and my husband said he actually liked mine better. What a compliment. That recipe can be found here, deep in the archives of the blog when I only had one child, a cheap point-and-shoot camera, and a bit more time.

Nowadays, it really isn't always feasible to start a multi-day baking project because my days are filled with activity that often leaves me spinning. I wouldn't change our busy days for the world as I enjoy being on the move and having a slew of activity. But, I really want to be able to linger with my kids a bit longer at the library, at the park, or while out with friends and not be needing to keep a constant eye on my watch because I need to get home before my dough over-rises!

So, I decided to test a few bagel recipes that require less proofing and may be made start to finish in an afternoon while my youngest takes her nap. I tried a couple recipes and found one that made not only an acceptable bagel, but a very, very good bagel! In two hours flat, my kids were enjoying warm, freshly baked cheese bagels that were chewy with a well formed crust on the outside and a moist, soft interior. I also made a batch of plain, cinnamon sugar, and poppy seed bagels but of course the cheese ones were the hit.

This is a great first-time recipe if you have never made bagels at home before. They are so, so much better than anything you can buy in the store. They are not as heavy and taste completely different. Toasted, they are heavenly, but they are also great enjoyed just the way my kids prefer them - plain!

The only difficult part of this recipe is getting the dough to the right consistency. You add the water gradually because you want a dough that is moist but stiff. It is not going to be super soft and pillowy like a cinnamon roll dough, yet you want it to be completely hydrated or else you will have difficulty forming the bagels later in the process. If you have to much liquid in the dough, they might misshapen a bit during the boiling process. If you have ever made a good, homemade pizza dough, you want the dough to feel about as stiff as that, if not a little bit more stiff (if that makes any sense!). But do not fret! Whatever the results, the taste will be spot-on. The more you make bagels, the more familiar you will become with the consistency you want.

Now that I've completely freaked you out, here is the recipe. I promise you it is easy! Give them a try and I promise you will love the results. If you want a more complicated but even tastier recipe, check out my first post on bagels. That recipe still has my heart.

Quick and Easy New York Style Bagels
as seen on The Sophisticated Gourmet

Notes: You can use this base recipe and make a number of variations from it. After the boiling step, the bagels may be topped with anything you desire - dried onion, poppyseed, garlic, and salt for the "everything bagel" topping, cinnamon sugar, sesame seeds, swiss cheese and banana peppers, or jalapenos and cheddar. You can also add small, cubed pieces of cheese to the dough during the kneading step to make a more indulgent cheese bagel and then simply top the bagel with the cheese of your choice before baking. The rising times are all approximate and will vary depending on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen. For the final, quick rise after shaping, just make sure that your bagels appear "puffy" before you boil. This will ensure that they are ready for the final steps where they will hopefully bloom and rise even more in the water bath and the oven.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 ½ tablespoons (4 ½ teaspoons) granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups / 300ml warm water (you may need up to 1/4 cup more - I definitely did)
3 ½ cups (500g) bread flour or high gluten flour (bread flour is important for this recipe!)
1 ½ teaspoons salt

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. Without stirring, let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, then gently whisk to dissolve in the water.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flour and salt together. Add the yeast mixture and, using the dough hook attachment on the mixer, begin to knead together until a very scraggly dough appears. Pour in an additional 1/3 cup of warm water into the dough and continue to knead, adding additional water about a tablespoon at a time until the dough is moist, yet still firm. There should be no dry pockets of flour and the dough should be in a cohesive mass that feels moist but not at all sticky when squeezed with your hand.

Continue to the knead the dough in the mixer for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Remove from the mixing bowl, and knead it by hand on the countertop a few times. Form into a tight ball.

Lightly coat a large bowl with oil. Add the dough ball to the bowl and gently turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about one hour.

After one hour, gently punch the dough down and let it sit for about 10 minutes. While the dough rests, get a large stockpot of water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat once boiling vigorously to a gently boil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Carefully divide the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round. Now, take a dough ball, and press it gently against the countertop moving your hand and the ball in a circular motion pulling the dough into itself while reducing the pressure on top of the dough slightly until a perfect dough ball forms. Repeat with 7 other dough rounds.

Coat a finger in flour, and gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the ring to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Repeat the same step with the remaining dough.

After shaping the dough rounds, cover them with a damp kitchen towel and allow them to rest for about 10 minutes, or until they begin to puff in shape. This might take a bit longer - so be patient and give it a little extra time if need be.

Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to lower the bagels into the water - you may do multiple bagels at a time depending on the size of your pot. Let them boil on one side for 1 minute, and them flip them over to boil for another minute. Extend the boiling times to 2 minutes per side if you prefer a chewier bagel. Remove the boiled bagels from the water with a slotted spoon and place them back on the baking sheet. Top with any desired toppings. Repeat with all your bagels.

Once all the bagels have boiled and topped, bake them in the 425 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. They should sound hollow when lightly tapped with your finger.

Remove them from the baking sheet and allow to cool on a wire rack or eat them warm.