We went to hear Molly O'Neill speak last weekend, up in Camden, Maine. I soaked up her booming voice and sardonic laugh as the sounds echoed off the walls of opera house, and the noise reminded me of my sister.
Even as very small children, we reveled in her New York Cookbook. We paged through Katharine Hepburn's brownies, Sophie Minkoff's spiced pumpkin bread, and Bagel Oasis very good bagel. We dirtied the pages with our sticky fingers, splattering photos and print with brownie batter and butter, and finally pulling our creations from the oven to present with pride to my mother.
The voice, though, was an unexpected addition to the memory. It was as though I could hear her now, speaking to us as we hurried from bowl to mixer, stove to sink, thundering down the words as we cooked. As the applause in the opera house drew to a close, I hurried upstairs to pick up my own copy of the cookbook I'd grown up with. I waited in line at the signing, watched as pen and hands signed the thin white paper, and tucked the book away for the car ride home.
Yesterday morning, I pulled it out again. I opened straight to the bagels, and began to scurry around the kitchen in search of ingredients. There wasn't much to gather—yeast, sugar, salt, and flour—but I could feel my sister helping all the same. We proofed and kneaded, waited and shaped, boiled and baked until finally they were ready. A row of 12 perfect rounds, slightly golden and dusted in cornmeal, they were slightly chewy, and every bit as wonderful as those two little girls had imagined.
BAGEL OASIS VERY GOOD BAGEL
adapted from Molly O'Neill's New York Cookbook
Makes 12 bagels
Proof 2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar and 1 and 1/2 cups warm water. Wait 5 minutes, or until a slight foam forms, and add another 1 and 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar and 1 tablespoon salt. Stir well and gradually add 4 cups flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing the dough until flour is well incorporated. Knead until smooth, about 7 minutes. Cover bowl and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes.
Lightly flour a cutting board and place dough on top. Cut into six thick strips, then cut each in half to make 12 short, thick strips. Shape each strip into a wide circle. Place on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal; let rise uncovered in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Fill a large, wide pot 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, drop bagels in batches into the water. Boil on first side for 2 minutes; flip and boil another 1 and 1/2 minutes. They should firm and puff up. Remove from water and let drain for a few minutes on a rack.
Place the bagels on the baking sheet (dusted again with cornmeal, if needed), and bake 12 minues. Flip bagels an bake until golden brown all over, or about 7 minutes longer. Let cool slightly and eat with butter, jam, or cream cheese.