Bagel Recipe

This recipe is based off Peter Reinhart’s in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and makes 12 large or 24 mini bagels.

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EQUIPMENT: large mixing bowl, 2 large sheet pans, parchment paper, large wide-mouth pot, slotted spoon or skimmer

SPONGE INGREDIENTS

1 tsp instant yeast

1 tsp sugar

4 cups bread flour

2 1/2 to 3 cups water (around 95-110° degrees)

DOUGH INGREDIENTS

1 tsp instant yeast

3 3/4 cups bread flour

2 3/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp brown sugar 

TO FINISH

1 tbsp baking soda

Spray oil

Cornmeal

TOPPINGS: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, coarse salt, garlic powder, onion powder, SLICES OF CHEESE

SPONGE: In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 2 cups of warm water (ideal temp 95-110°) and add some sugar, about 1 tsp to feed your hungry yeast baby. Whisk and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the flour, and while stirring gradually add 1/2 to 1 cup of water until it’s a smooth, sticky waffle-batter consistency. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 2 hours or until the mixture becomes foamy and bubbly. 

Active time: 10 min. /// Passive time: 2 hours

[ My hubby and I leave the heat at 62° in the winter, so my apartment is way too cold for yeast to get it on. Previously, I’ve paired laundry day with bread day so I could proof bread in the warm laundry closet, but I’m not that good at planning. I have found another way for my sweater donned, fiscally conservative bakers: the MICROWAVE! —DO NOT TURN THE MICROWAVE ON—I just use it as a proofing drawer (à la Great British Bake Off) to great success! ]

DOUGH: Add the remaining yeast, salt, brown sugar and stir. Then add 3 cups of flour, stirring until it forms a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cups of flour to stiffen the dough.

Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes. The dough should be firm and satiny, pliable and smooth, around 77-81°F. All the ingredients should be hydrated and no raw flour present. If the dough feels too dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue to knead. If the dough is too tacky or sticky, add a little flour. I tend to err on the side of a wetter dough because I find it easier to add flour than water.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces for large bagels or 24 for small bagels, cover with a damp towel and let rest for 20 min. 

Line 2 large sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly mist with spray oil. Now it’s time to form the bagels!!! If making large bagels, roll the dough into an 8 inch long rope, if the dough is too elastic and snaps back, cover and let rest for 5 min for the gluten to relax. Once you have your dough snake, wrap it around the palm and back of your hand forming a circle. I like to pinch the seam where the dough meets.

Place your bagels on the pan, 2 inches apart. Lightly mist them with spray oil and cover with plastic. Let the pans sit at room temperature for 30 min. Then put the pans in the fridge overnight or up to 2 days.

Active time: 1 hour /// Passive time: 50 min; then overnight or up to 2 days

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THE NEXT DAY or whenever you’re ready to make them, preheat the oven to 500°F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven (or you could bake the trays separately). Bring a large, wide pot of water to a steady boil and add baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

Remove the bagels from the fridge and gently drop them into the water, be careful not to overcrowd the pot. After 1 minute, flip them over and boil for 1 more minute. If you like chewy bagels, you can boil them up to 2 minutes one each side. Meanwhile, dust the same pan’s parchment paper with cornmeal (I love the crunchy bottom) before returning the boiled bagels to the pan. Now is the time to top your bagels with the dry ingredients of your choosing. I suggest making your own everything blend with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Play around and have fun with it. 

When all the bagels have been boiled and bedazzled, place the pans on the middle shelves in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, rotate and switch the pans, then turn the temp down to 450°. Bake for 5-10 more minutes until bagels are light-medium browned. 

If topping the bagels with slices of cheddar cheese, which I highly recommend, top the bagels a minute or two before removing them from the oven. Let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes before serving. When bagels have cooled completely, slice in half and store in plastic bags in your freezer. These freeze super well and once you taste the difference, you’ll never buy steamed factory bagels again.

Active time: 30 min. /// Passive time: 25 min.

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Excerpts from "The Corrections"

Jonathan Franzen has a mellifluous way of describing Alfred's struggle with dementia, as he searches to grasp anything to ground himself in reality. 

"He turned to the doorway where she’d appeared. He began a sentence: “I am—“ but then he was taken by surprise, every sentence became an adventure in the woods; as soon as he could no longer see the light of the clearing from which he’d entered, he would realize that the crumbs he’d dropped for bearings had been eaten by birds, silent deft darting things which he couldn’t quite see in the darkness but which were so numerous and swarming in their hunger that it seems as if they were the darkness, as if the darkness weren’t uniform, weren’t an absence of light but a teeming and corpuscular thing, and indeed when as a studious teenager he’d encountered the word “crepuscular” in McKay’s Treasury of English Verse, the corpuscles of biology had bled into his understanding of the word, so that for his entire adult lie he’d seen in twilight a corpuscularity, as of the graininess of the high-speed film necessary for photography under conditions of low ambient light, as of a kind of sinister decay; and hence the panic of a man betrayed deep in the woods whose darkness was the darkness of starlings blotting out the sunset or black ants storming a dead opossum, a darkness that didn’t just exist but actively consumed the bearings that he’d sensibly established for himself, lest he be lost; but in the instant realizing he was lost, time became marvelously slow and he discovered hitherto unguessed eternities in the space between one word and the next, or rather he became trapped in the space between words and could only stand and watch as time sped on without him, the thoughtless boyish part of him crashing out of sight blindly through the woods while he, trapped, the grownup Al, watched in oddly impersonal suspense to see if the panic-stricken little boy might, despite no longer knowing where he was or at what point he’d entered the woods of this sentence, still manage to blunder into the clearing where Enid was waiting for him, unaware of any woods—“packing my suitcase,” he heard himself say. This sounded right. Verb, possessive, noun. Here was a suitcase in front of him, an important confirmation. He’d betrayed nothing.” (Franzen 11-12)

 

“But Denise left the kitchen and took the plate to Alfred, for whom the problem of existence was this: that, in the manner of a wheat seedling thrusting itself up out of the earth, the world moved forward in time by adding cell after cell to it’s leading edge, piling moment on moment, and that to grasp the world even in its freshest, youngest moment provided no guarantee that you’d be able to grasp it again a moment later. By the time he’d established that his daughter, Denise, was handing him a plate of snacks in his son Chip’s living room, the next moment in time was already budding itself into a pristinely ungrasped existence in which he couldn’t absolutely rule out the possibility, for example, that his wife, Enid, was handing him a plate of feces in the parlor of a brothel; and no sooner had he reconfirmed Denise and the snacks and Chip’s living room than the leading edge of time added yet another layer of new cells, so that he again faced a new and ungrasped world; which was why rather than exhaust himself playing catch-up, he preferred more and more to spend his days down among the unchanging historical roots of things.” (Franzen 66)

I also encountered a wonderful assortment of words I'd never heard before: gerontocratic, remunerated, effulgent, jismic, diurnality, quasi-bicamerality, senesce, anathema. Some of which I'm pretty sure were made up.

This is also a pretty amusing list of quotes from the book, most of which are sexual in nature and especially shocking out of context. 

For example: "The jismic grunting butt-oink. The jiggling frantic nut-swing." (Franzen 58) 

Source: Franzen, Jonathan. The Corrections. Picador, 2001.

Neil Gaiman - Commencement Speech 2012

Well worth watching. And if you haven't, read or listen to one of his books. I recommend starting with The Graveyard Book or Stardust.

"The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right."

Long distance

Luke’s at work and texted me, “busted out my Falstaff score to see what info there is about the opera and found this” (from spring 2013 when we were both in Falstaff at different schools) and coincidentally, a few weeks ago I received a message from my friend, Claire, who’s currently studying at Colorado Boulder, informing me she found this note in her office desk (dated 2014). 

Falstaff
Note from Boulder

I remember visiting Luke when he was at Utah Festival Opera and one afternoon while he was in rehearsal, I hid 20 little notes around his room- in his laundry detergent, rolled up in socks, in between pages of books, between t-shirts in his closet, under his computer keyboard, all over the place so that when I left, he’d find little treats from me. We were in a distance relationship at the time and continued for three long years, while I was at IU and then MN Opera and he was in Colorado getting his doctorate. When I visited every 4 or 6 months, I would usually pepper his apartment with notes or post its, something of the sort.

This past year in Missouri has been the second time we’ve lived together for any consistent chunk of time. We were really good at being apart. Sunday was our date day/night as it was usually my day off from the opera. We would Skype and prepare the same meal for dinner, step by step through the recipe. It helped that Luke enjoyed cooking and is great at it so we would have a couple of hours cooking and joking around. Then we’d eat dinner together and video chat while watching a show or movie together. We’d count down “Three, two, one, go” (You click play on the “go”) and watch our programs. We watched very single season of Big Brother together. It is one of our favorite shows and since there are 545 episodes, it’s probably what has kept our relationship going because we are only allowed to watch it together. We still enjoy the show today; just finished the most recent season of Big Brother Canada. We started on Big Brother United Kingdom, but as the show format is pretty different, we are slow to adjust. I’m also kind of terrible at understanding accents and they don’t supply subtitles. 

Enough about Big Brother… back to what I was pondering this morning. Married two years. Together five and half. Distance sucked, but it kept things fresh and interesting when briefly in one another’s company and while apart, we had to work to feel close and connected- by making Sunday dates a priority, sleep FaceTiming so we could wake up together, budgeting for flights to visit every month or two. Being together, I’ve found that Luke and I are good with the day to day balances of life. Both of us are very conscious of the other and equally take on the household responsibilities. Most importantly, we express appreciation when someone does something like clean the cat litter or empty the dishwasher. What I’ve gotten bad at is the thoughtful, sweet things I used to do to feel close to Luke. Of course I feel close to him now, we live together, but I think it's easy to equate physical closeness with connection. The past couple months I’ve done a better job of bringing him back little surprises from my audition trips. My usual rule is that if I’m gone more than a week, I try to bring him something. My dad used to bring my sister’s and I gifts from his business trips and though it was rare for my mother to travel without us girls, she did the same. I always loved that- the knowledge that they thought of me while away and took the time to get something they thought I would like.  I want to do the same with Luke. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I saw a shop selling “I heart SF” paraphernalia and with SF being my initials, I bought him a t-shirt (further marking him as mine). I also brought him back a bagel from a Jewish bakery in Manhattan. It’s usually nothing big, but I know it makes him feel appreciated. I know that when I’m out of town, he’s taking care of everything around the house, making sure I come home to a clean apartment and usually a homemade meal. 

As of late, I haven’t done much of that. I think a lot of it comes from an outward mindset and actively asking yourself, “What can I do to make Luke’s day/life better?” and I tend to ask that question more when we're apart and the distance forces me to be creative expressing my love. Recently, I’ve been very self-focused. (I feel a need to defend myself because our society frowns upon “selfishness,” but the truth is that there are times when we need to take care of ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with it, in fact it’s healthy. So here’s a reminder to take time for you.) There are a lot of valid reasons for me needing some time to deal with personal stuff and in a relationship the tides of giving and taking change. Change is the only constant in life. But I’m thankful for awareness. Now I’m aware that there is an aspect of my relationship that I miss and I’ve got an idea of what I’m going to do for Luke.

Morozov and "the Internet"

“In his 2013 book, To Save Everything, Click Here, Morozov attempts to pull back the curtains on our technophobic obsession with “the Internet” (a term he purposefully places in scare quotes to emphasize the role as an ideology), saying: “It’s this propensity to view ‘the Internet’ as a source of wisdom and police advice that transforms it from a fairly uninteresting set of cables and network routers into a seductive and exciting ideology-perhaps today’s uber-ideology.”
In Morozov’s critique, we’ve made “the Internet” synonymous with the revolutionary future of business and government. To make your company more like “the Internet” is to be with the times, and to ignore these trends is to be the proverbial buggy-whip maker in an automotive age. We no longer see Internet tools as products released by for-profit companies, founded by investors hoping to make a return, and run by twenty somethings who are often making things up as they go along. We’re instead quick to idolize these digital doodads as a signifier of progress and a harbinger of a (dare I say, brave) new world.” (LOC 743-751)

Source: Newport, Cal. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. [Kindle DX Version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Walt Whitman, Opera, Leaves of Grass

“Whitman said that two things served as a catalyst for Leaves.

The first was hearing and reading Emerson - Whitman was present in Manhattan for the essayist and poet’s debut -  and the second was Italian opera. Whitman instructed his biographer John Burroughs to be certain to include these words: 'It has already been told how, during the gestation of the poems, the author was saturated for years with the rendering, by the best vocalists and performers, of the best operas and oratorios.' The difference between Whitman as a mere maker of verses and a true performer is dramatically apparent if we look at an early poem like Our Future Lot and the opening few lines of Song to Myself. Everything about Our Future Lot is thoroughly predictable, from the shape and content of the poem’s argument, to its hymn meter and rhyme scheme. The language is so traditional that it is hard to identify the century in which it was written.

         Mortal! And can thy swelling soul

               Live with the thought that all its life

        Is centered in this earthy cage 

               Of care, and tears, and strife?

         Not so; that sorrowing heart of thine

               Ere long will find a house of rest; Thy form, re-purified, shall rise,

           In robes of beauty drest.

In his 1855 Leaves Whitman does more than abandon rhyme and conventional verse forms. We hear immediately a confident voice speaking to us as an equal, not a preacher:

         I celebrate myself,

         And what I assume you shall assume,

         For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

         I loafe and invite my soul,

         I lean and loafe at my ease… observing a spear of summer grass. 

The mark of true genius in the arts is an immediately recognizable style. No one could mistake these lines for any poet other than Whitman. This is a poetry which takes its pleasure in sentence shapes, in balance and repetition rather than repeated metrical units. It is a music at once new and very old, familiar to us from the Psalms.” (Location number 403-431).

Source: Whitman, Walt, and Francis Murphy. The complete poems. [Kindle DX Version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

"I have no obligation to be who I used to be."

"What I’m trying to get at here is that people change. But, not fundamentally. Who are you are your core (i.e. your values) don’t change much (unless you have a transformational, once-in-a-lifetime experience). If you’re a selfish jerk when you’re broke, you’re probably going to be a selfish jerk when you’re rich.

What does change is your exterior identity, the thing that the outside world sees most.

Maybe that’s why its hard to let go of past identities and the stuff that goes along with it. We spend months, years, even decades carefully cultivating exterior facades to shape how we perceive ourselves and how we want others to perceive us.

So, when we no longer have that same facade we’ve spent so long developing (because of a career change, family shift etc), it can be incredibly painful. In these instances, we are literally losing a piece of ourselves. And that’s obviously going to hurt.

But, it also creates an opportunity for growth. I know it sounds terribly cliche, but you can’t fully enjoy the present moment if you’re living a past that may never be a reality again.

While painful in the moment, once you are able to let go of an identity that isn’t actually who you are anymore, you may find it’s easier to deal with that loss because you are no longer trapped by it.

Remember, you don’t owe anything to old parts of your life. And, you don’t have to be who were you yesterday."

Read the full post by Tiny Ambitions.

Does Luck Matter More Than Skill?

"Objectively, the best strategy for success... is to combine a commitment to increase your project potential as much as possible (by sharpening your rare and valuable skills), with a commitment to keep launching a steady stream of such projects and seeing them through to completion, increasing your chances of encountering high serendipity."

                         - Cal Newport

LISTEN Below Or read it here.

Renée Fleming

Fleming on acting...

“While born with a vivid imagination that enables me to put myself in a particular character’s situation, I had to work to learn how to realize that identification physically, When I sang Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah at the Met, I was still struggling with the last vestiges of stage fright and the end of my divorce proceedings, and the tears were streaming down my face during the first act. Under the circumstances, my emotions were easier to access than they’ve ever been. Charles Nelson Reilly had been the first person I called when the heart of the crisis began a year earlier, and he reassured me, “The stage is where everyone lives out his sorrow, but it’s safe. It’s a refuge for those who suffer in their real lives.” He loves to quote Emily Dickinson: “My business is to sing.” “Make this your mantra,” he said. That night I was making singing my business, giving it my heart and soul, yet a trusted friend said to me afterward, “You know, you really have to work on your acting.” She didn’t realize I was 100 percent involved with and connected to the heartbreak and isolation Susannah was feeling. That’s when it clicked for me: It wasn’t enough for me to feel a character’s emotions; I had to be able to express them in such a way that the audience could feel them, too, especially in a big house, where no one can see my face past the tenth row without a pair of binoculars. Emotion has to be conveyed through every facet of body language, gestures and movement. This was an important breakthrough for me, an aspect of performing that I am continuing to explore in every performance. Being innately inhibited, not to mention awkward, I have devoted a great deal of attention to this subject in recent years, once I began to get my voice under control” (Fleming 166).

Fleming on bel canto opera... 

"The greatest challenge I have faced vocally is without a doubt the bel canto repertoire, the roles composed for virtuosic singers in the nineteenth century by Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini. When choosing arias for my Bel Canto recording, I was surprised to realize that I had already performed so many of these roles, most of them early in my career, and each of them was an education in vocalism and dramatization: all of the requisite perfection of tone and style of Mozart with a greater range, real coloratura fireworks, trills, and expressive bravura. Add to that the spare plots and my least favorite conceit--the heroine as victim--and only true dramatic commitment will sell these works. However, what attracts me most about this repertoire is the freedom of the cantabile line, which really does harken back to jazz in my taste, and back to William Christie's maxim that nothing but the entire expressive gamut will do. One can veer away from the often minimal contribution of the orchestra and stretch and pull the melody to one's heart's content, as long as it doesn't stray too long and the underlying pulse remains. The composers themselves indicated few expressive markings, so what is left? Imagination! How would Amina sound if she was asleep, or awake, in my favorite scene from La Sonnambula? What does heartbreak sound like in a voice? Despair? How can tears be expressed vocally? Can the voice speak directly from the heart, without the slightest intermediary? This is the freedom of bel canto, and this is why the recitative of "Ah! non credea" on my Bel Canto recording is the work I'm proudest of to date. The late, great producer Erik Smith and I spent hours in the studio finding the most expressive takes, so that we could most artfully flesh out those scenes" (189-190).

As of 2005, Renée Fleming writes that her "Ah, non credea mirarti" on Bel Canto was her favorite recording to date. "Ah, non credea mirarti... Ah! non guinge!" is one of my favorite arias and personally, I do not like Fleming's. Especially when juxtaposed with Anna Moffo. Moffo's messa di voce (ability to grow a note in volume and bring it back down again), pitch accuracy, agility and even tone throughout her vocal registers are all beyond perfection. Not to mention, I think Fleming is TOTALLY CHEATING in her cabaletta (the second part of the aria-"Ah! non giunge"-when Amina wakes up from sleep walking with a fast tempo and a florid melody that gets repeated and ornamented). You can hear yourself how Moffo easily navigates the massive range of the piece whereas Fleming completely rewrites Bellini's music to avoid the difficult passage. Unforgivable. 

Source: Fleming, Renée. The Inner Voice: The Making of a Singer. Penguin Books, 2005.