Sunday, December 14, 2014

Knead to stop by...

I mentioned in my last post that I had tried a bagel from Knead but, needed to visit again to write my review.  I had stayed in the car last time and wanted to get the full experience of entering the bakery before I wrote my review. 
Fresh sausage was a plus, wish there was a little more seeds though.
 I say bakery, which wasn't quite my first impression when walking into the place.  I was looking forward to it being a warm and cozy shop, and smelling of freshly baked bagels.  It wasn't quite what I was expecting, it was busy and took me a minute to realize where the bagels were displayed.  They were up front and center, but just kind of lost behind the tables and guests garnishing their coffees.
Bacon, egg, and cheese.
The selection of non-traditional bagel flavors and spreads were pretty interesting like Moroccan Spiced Apricot and Pastrami Spiced.  But, I decided to go with the Black Sesame seed sandwich with sausage, egg, and cheese.  The egg sandwiches are made with their signature aioli sauce.  Which was very tasty!
Here are some notes on my review of Knead Bagels:

1- The look... I have to say, when I first pulled the bagels out of the bag, they sort of reminded me of mass produced bagels.  But, they did have a nice sheen.  I guess they were missing a deeper caramel color that I was expecting.  I would give the look a 2.5 out of 5 poppy seeds.
2- The crust... was quite firm and did have a bit of a crunch.  There was no need for us to toast the bagels the first time we had them and took them home.  The second experience was consistent with the first; the crust had a pleasant bite.  The crust gets a 5 out of 5 poppy seeds.

3- Inside Texture and Taste... I have to say the interior texture was pretty on par with what I would call a great bagel.  It was not overly doughy and certainly not dry.  The flavor was pretty balanced; I didn't get a sense of salty or sweet.  I'll rate this a 4.5 out of 5.  

So, the overall rating for Knead is: 4.0 out of 5 Poppy Seeds = Very Good.  I will definitely go back, I'm tempted to try some of their non-traditional flavors.  Lemon Goat Cheese, yes please.

Till next time, 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Just one more Pumpkin recipe...

Yes, stuffed with Nutella!?!

Another rainy day is upon us... I guess its better than snow.  Although, snow would make such a more beautiful sight.  My last post was about pumpkin and pumpkin flavored treats; well, here is one more recipe worth mentioning. 

 brown butter Nutella-stuffed pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (I know, its quite the mouth-full)
These are the Nutella rounds after coming out of the freezer.

This recipe calls to brown the butter before adding it into the batter.  I've been baking for years, let's just say the gift I wanted most as a young girl was an Easy Bake Oven.  Which incidentally is still available; check out the video, it will make you want one, too. 
Anyway, I can't believe that I never came across a recipe to brown the butter before using it.  (Or I may have, but decided not to choose that recipe because it sounded too complicated.)  This was not the case, it just took a little longer, but well worth it!  It gives a rich, deep, almost nutty flavor to the cookie.

Let butter melt slowly.

Stir frequently.

Continue stirring until the butter literally starts turning a caramel color.
Again, these cookies take a little longer than normal because there are a few extra steps to create them.  You have to prep the Nutella, just line a cookie tray with parchment paper and freeze small spoonfuls while you prepare the batter.  Then brown the butter, which can take a few minutes.
 Of course, another step is to "fill" the cookie.  So, you need to flatten the dough top with the frozen chocolate, and roll into a ball.

I only wish that I hadn't pressed down the tops of the cookies like the recipe said.

 These cookies turned out very good!  The pumpkin flavor/spices were not overwhelming.  If anything they got a little lost with all the chocolate.  I plan on using an interpretation of The Ambitious Kitchen's recipe for chocolate chip cookies from now on, because the brown butter is that good.  So, next time you make a chocolate chip cookie consider browning your butter first.

Oh, in case you were wondering, yes, I eventually did get the Easy Bake Oven.  But, truth-be-told, I got it after I had already been using the real kitchen oven.  So it was fun, but the real oven was way better.  The last pumpkin treat I will probably be making is a Mini Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cheesecake for Christmas Day.  Its been a few years since I've made it, but I'll post how it comes out for y'all.
Also, a quick note on bagels.  My husband and I did visit Knead Bagels last weekend.  I still haven't written about it because I wanted to visit one more time.  So, hopefully in the next week I will let you know my official review on that.  For now, let's just say they were quite good.

Take Care,


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Is it still Pumpkin season?

I know November is almost over and probably so is Pumpkin season, but maybe it doesn't have to be.  Once October hits and everything pumpkin flavor comes out, you usually get a mixed opinion from people- either they love it or they could care less and think its overkill.  Well, I'm on team pumpkin- but, of course I usually go for the homemade pumpkin goodies.  So, I've been meaning to post my recent baking successes with pumpkin.

Here is one recipe that came out really well, thanks to (what seems like) countless hours of searching pinterest for ideas.
Pumpkin Coffee Cake- This turned out to be probably the moistest cake I've ever made.

The recipe called for dark brown sugar for the inside and for the crumb topping, which gives a strong molasses taste.  So, I decided to use light brown sugar for the cake and dark brown for the topping.  Another note: I used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.

 This cake is great for breakfast, a mid-morning snack, or a late night snack.  Perfect if your having guests over and of course to bring with you to your next holiday party.

A trick I learned a while back, is to cut sweet cakes, brownies, and bars with a plastic knife to prevent the cake from sticking to your baked treat.  It makes things much neater.

Till next time,


Thursday, October 23, 2014

New York vs. Montreal

When I had the idea to find the best bagels in Philadelphia I figured that I would be looking for the best New York style bagels.  I really didn't think there were other styles of bagels other than the N.Y. kind; except when I was researching bagel bakeries in Philadelphia and I found Spread Bagelry.
Intrigued, I wanted to take some time to distinguish the differences between probably the only two style of bagels out there.  I found this short article, at that will explain it in a little more detail.  But, basically New York Style bagels are boiled prior to baking and have a shiny crisp exterior with a chewy interior.  Montreal Style bagels are also boiled; however, in water sweetened with honey, then baked in a brick oven to make them extra crispy.  After visiting Spread, who offer the Montreal Style, I was able to first-hand compare them to the N.Y. style I am more familiar with.

Today, despite it being a chilly, rainy and down right miserable day, I decided I would drive my son and myself to try-out these new kind of freshly baked bagels.  Before I even left for my outing I said to myself, "I'm going to actually get a sandwich made there this time."
After finally finding a parking spot, I walk through the rain with umbrella in one hand and toddler in the other and make my way into Spread.  It felt so nice to walk into the warm and cozy bakery.  I was first impressed with the beautiful marble counter top, and as I scan the place I notice the fire burning in the brick oven.  Just below the oven are a pair of baskets full of bagels.
I try to pick out a sandwich from the handwritten chalk menu above; however, after seeing the prices, I decide to just stick with some un-garnished bagels.  Just to give you an idea, the bagels are $2.00 each and the sandwiches start at $6.50 up to $13.00 each.  

Here are some pictures of the bagels I took home:

Wheat Bagel
Poppy Seed
I was a little surprised with the amount of extra flour that was on the bottom of the bagel.  Also, they didn't seem to have a nice sheen that I'm used to with the N.Y. style.
Underside of wheat bagel.
I seem to not be able to pass up a whole-wheat everything bagel.  So, that was my choice for my sandwich today.

I decided to make myself a sandwich with some ingredients I had at home.  I had made some fresh hummus the other day; I love bagels with hummus.  A couple of our tomato plants are still producing, so I had an heirloom tomato on hand.  I also added cucumber and parsley.
A little salt and pepper on any sandwich can make all the difference.

Homemade hummus, heirloom tomato, cucumber, and parsley sandwich on whole-wheat everything bagel.
 Here is how I would rate these bagels:

The Look - {3.5} I didn't rate the look any higher than a three because they didn't have the sheen that I normally look for in a good bagel.  I think the extra flour around the bagel may have affected the shine.

The Crust - {3} I was pretty surprised that the crust didn't have a real crisp to it, especially coming out of a brick oven.  It appeared like it would crack when you broke into it; however, that was not the case with the plain whole-wheat.  The poppy seed did have more of a crunch to the outer layer though.

Inside Texture and Taste - {4} The texture of the center was soft and doughy.  A little more bread-like than a typical N.Y. bagel.  The best part of these bagels was the taste; they were flavorful and sweet.  Definitely much more sweet than other bagels I've had.

Overall, I would rate these bagels a {3.5} out of 5 poppy seeds.  I did enjoy my sandwich.  If only the crust was crispier.  The drive, hassle of parking in center city, and the cost of the bagels kind of put a damper on the already damp day. 

Until next time,


Sunday, October 19, 2014

My hiatus is ending...

Why has it been a couple of weeks since my last post?  Well, I unintentionally had somewhat abandoned my bagel mission because I was trying to eat clean over the last couple of weeks; including cutting out bread.  How did I do...?  Well, let's just say there were good days and bad.  I can say with certainty that my discipline is not what it was when I was in my twenties.  Of course, my priorities were not the same as they are now.  And even though I'm now "a stay at home mom" I had a good routine to my life, it seems like, more than I do now.  What am I getting at?  Well, when I first started this blog it was to focus on bagels and where to get a good one and maybe write about some of my highlights, challenges, and fun in baking and cooking.  I had received some [unsolicited] advise from some friends and family to write a blog about being a new mom and talking about some of my everyday life challenges as well as my crafting and cooking.  However, I decided to stream line the focus of this blog and stick to one main topic.  I might add a couple of pages on some other topics down the road, but for now I need to finish my mission.
As a reminder, my mission is to seek out all the bagels Philadelphia (and perhaps a few surrounding towns) has to offer and write reviews on them.  I still have a bunch more places to make it to and a few more places yet to find.  
I'll also put it out there, that I intend on going on a "bagel crawl" with a trip to New York City, hopefully before the year ends.  I'll be putting together a list of can't miss go-to places.  If anyone has any bagel shops in mind that I should try please feel free to leave a comment and let me know.
Also, I was thinking it might be fun to get a group to come with me.  So, if anyone is interested in spending a day in NYC to do some bagel eating, let me know!  We could all meet in Chinatown and take the super cheap bus into the City.

To quote the late-great Eric the Actor, "Bye for now".


Monday, September 22, 2014

Pop-Up more please...

So yeah, I haven't created many official reviews on my blog yet; but, I have tried many bagels in this city.  With that said, there are not very many places to get a freshly baked bagel; there are probably around 5 bakeries that exist in this city where you can purchase a fresh bagel on a daily basis.  All this is the reason I started this blog.  With that said, I must say, with confidence, that Philly Style Bagels are the best bagels I have tasted to-date in Philadelphia.

I bought 6, but we shared one in the car on the way home.

I decided to go for my classic egg sandwich.

Finished bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on an everything bagel.

Finished bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich.
 Just to put it simply, "Philly Style Bagels are crunchy on the outside, yet soft on the inside with an unparalleled malty sweetness. " A quote taken directly from their website.
Here is how I would rate the Philly Style Bagels.

The Look - { 4 } They definitely had the golden brown color, obviously hand rolled, and no mistaking that these were going to be good.

The Crust -  { 5 }
The crispy crust just confirmed the fact that these bagels were properly boiled.  They use a mix of water and beer to give the crust the special color, texture, and flavor.

Inside Texture and Taste - { 5 }
Nice and chewy.  These bagels have a nice subtly sweet flavor.

So, their overall rating would be a 4.67 = very good (very close to doesn't get much better).  The only negative feedback would be that you can only get these bagels during one of their special pop-up events.

Till next time,


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

So many recipes, so little flour

There are so many NY Style bagel recipes out there; its hard to know which one to follow.  Of course they all rave about being the most authentic tasting, bla, bla, bla.  I decided to try and follow the Peter Reinhart recipe.  Early into making the dough I wasn't feeling confident in how it was taking shape.  It was soft and supple, yet seemed to tear easily.  I did need to add a little over a tablespoon of extra water.  And, because it didn't seem to be smooth enough, I decided I should kneed the dough longer than the recommended 3 minutes after it sat for 5 minutes.  Another note on using this recipe would be that I didn't want to shape the bagels before putting them in the refrigerator; so, I decided to let the dough sit overnight in an oiled bowl covered in plastic wrap and then covered with a dish towel.  I then formed the bagels the next day, around an hour before boiling them.  I also had the oven heat up the entire hour the bagels sat, a note I've read in several recipes. 

Dough right after I added the liquid ingredients to the flour.

I shaped the dough into a ball before letting it rest for 5 min.

Final dough placed in an oiled bowl.

I evenly distributed the dough and formed them into balls.

I used the thumb method to shape the dough into bagels.
 At this point I was confident the bagels were not going to come out right.  The dough was soft and pliable; yet I couldn't get the dough to evenly distribute and take proper shape.  If anyone knows why the dough wouldn't meld into itself- please let me know.
Final product.

I have to admit that I'm embarrased at how deflated and too doughy these turned out.

I definitely will be trying another recipe; this one found on is an adaptation of Peter Reinhart's.  From the pictures she posted the bagels look like they have an awesome crunch to them .  So again, once I try out this recipe I'll let you all know how they turned out.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Life happens...

Just in case anyone actually came back to my blog to see how my last batch of bagels turned out... I did not get a chance to make them yet.  With that said, as soon as I do, I will be sure to post pictures and details of my experience.
I did happen to make a beautiful wreath for the fall; which I had planned to do with a close friend of mine.
Here's how it came out and what it looks like on my front door.  But, because I live in Port Richmond and I am afraid that it will be either stolen or vandalized, I will be keeping it on the inside of my door.

Outside View
Inside View

Till next time,


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What's the secret ingredient?

I've been looking into bagel recipes to help me create a great tasting bagel.  It seems like malt syrup is an ingredient that shouldn't be substituted.  But, what exactly is the difference between malt syrup, malted barley, malt powder?  And, why is it so important in the recipe?  The second secret ingredient; time.

Barley Malt Syrup is the result of malting barley, usually kiln roasted so the water is extracted, then slowly reduced to a thick, rich syrup. It's an ancient process that uses only the grain's enzymes created in the spouting process, and the knowledge and care of artisan maltsters. The end result is that it has half the sweetness of refined sugar.  

Why is Malt so important?  After much reading, it's pretty simple.  It gives the bagels the warm honey color on the outside and the subtly sweet and unique taste that is a bagel.

Besides using the malt, I think the next most important part of producing the perfect bagel, is the length of time used for fermentation/proofing/rising or allowing the dough to rest.  This may be the ultimate reason why the common bagel from the corner deli or grocery store just doesn't quite taste right.  My guess would be that the bakeries producing the heavy, doughy, tasteless bagels today are not allowing their dough to mature long enough.
Bagels originated in the U.S. by Jewish Polish immigrants in New York.  It was thought that the bagel possibly became popular in the Jewish community because traditionally the dough rests for 12 hours before baking, making it a popular choice for Jews observing the Sabbath -- they could let it rise during the time that work was forbidden, and then quickly prepare the bread once the Sabbath was over.

It seems like every recipe I've found does vary when it comes to making a sponge, and/or letting the dough rise.  Some recipes say to let the sponge sit for 2 hours, then shape the dough into bagels and have them rest overnight in the fridge.  My first attempt was to have the sponge rest overnight in the fridge.  So, I might try the opposite this time.  I will probably follow this recipe by Peter Reinhart; or an adaptation of it.  I will have another test run of bagel making starting tonight and post tomorrow (since it is a two day process) how things worked out.   

Till then.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Are bagels a weekend thing?

Sorry, for this overdue post.  My excuses are that I picked up a few extra shifts at work and being at home with a 16 month old sometimes makes it close to impossible to concentrate long enough, let alone type with out interruptions every other minute.  Not, to say that I haven't been busy cooking and baking the last week and 1/2.  I caught a cooking bug this past Sunday and cooked and baked lots!  The Cinnamon Raisin French Toast,  Whiskey Lemon Bars and the two Potato Pizza's with a homemade rosemary oil were probably the stand-out items.  Of course, unlike a every other blogger, I took no pictures.  But, if you go to the links from where I found the recipes, my stuff came out pretty close looking. 

Back to the subject of Bagels:  The 2200 block of Washington Ave. would not be the first place I would think of to find fresh baked goodies.  If you go down that far on Washington you'll pass lots of construction supply stores and lots of industrial type buildings.  But, low and behold, Kermit's Bake Shoppe popped up in 2013.  We (my husband and I) decided to make the trek to Kermit's last Saturday morning to check out their bagels (which are only available on weekends).

Side note: While searching for bagel joints, it seems like a few of them, including those who made the Zagat list [which I talked about in a past post] are only available on weekends.  Well, I guess to clarify, the restaurants/places to get a high quality bagel are only serving them on weekends.  I found this to be a little disappointing especially because bagels, in my opinion, are not necessarily something I wait to have on the weekend.  I guess for those who are watching their carbs, it is a treat not to be consumed on the regular.  But, bagels are such a convenient food to prepare [of course after they are baked] that it seems more likely to consume during the week for a quick breakfast.  I guess this lends itself to the reason why I started this blog; to find places to go for a great bagel.  And hopefully, I will have a pretty good running list, that if I were to get a bagel craving anytime of day, week, etc.  I'll have a place to go to.

Back to my adventure to Kermit's... As I enter with Toddler in hand, I find myself scanning the beautiful cases to take in the assortment of delicious looking treats.  I know I'm there for bagels, but I have to try something else.  I decided on this Key-Lime Tart:
Key-Lime Tart

The tart was quite good; the gooey meringue topping was a nice compliment to the filling and crust.  The center was a little more on the tart side, but still overall a refreshing treat.

The bagels were displayed in a basket on the top of one of the cases.  There weren't very many left, especially for how early we were there.  I believe they open at 8 and we were there probably around 9:30.  I picked out a couple plain, a poppy sead, and an onion.  I saw the cream cheese containers next to them, so I decided to go with the scallion and plain.  It was hard having to wait to get home to try out the product.
Everything was packaged so nicely.

One of the fun parts of eating bagels is that there are so many ways to eat them.  Mixing your favorite type of bagel with different toppings let's even the most unskillful cook feel like they are creating something unique.  From the bagel selection, to toasted or not toasted, to cream cheese or jelly, etc.  The possibilities are endless.  Which gives me an idea for another post.  I'll have to bookmark the idea of fun combination experiments.
Anyway, I actually can't remember the last time I had an onion bagel.  But, I was delightfully surprised when I cut open this one to find little pieces of onion inside the bagel as well as sprinkled on the outside.

My choice du jour was to go with the onion bagel and the scallion cream cheese.  I was also surprised at the green color of the scallion cream cheese.  I tried getting a picture of my finished product, but was having camera problems.  I was also going to just use my phone to take a photo, but I had cream cheese all over my fingers, low blood sugar, no caffine yet and was growing increasingly irritated.  I just wanted to get the picture so I could eat the bagel!  I decided to sacrifice the picture to consume the baked good.  I have to say, the onion on onion, was probably not the best combination choice.  A little overwhelming, however, still tasty.

Here is my Poppy Seed Rating on Kermit's Bagels:

1- The Look- { 3 } The plain bagels had the loveliest sheen and correct color out of the group. 
2- The Crust- { 4 } It was certainly firm and created a nice bite. 
3- Inside Texture and Taste- { 5 }  The interior was airy and not dry.  Again, the onion bits inside the bagel were a special surprise. 

Overall Rating: 4 = Above average

Here is my scale as a reminder:
1 = poor
2 = average
3 = above average
4 = very good
5 = doesn't get much better

So, was it worth the trip on an early Saturday morning to drive out to Kermit's.  Overall, I'd say yes.  But, maybe just stop for coffee on the way.

Till next time,


Saturday, August 23, 2014

A true Jewish Bakery

One would think if any place is going to have a great bagel, its got to be a traditional, authentic Jewish Bakery.  So, I decided to make my first official destination [on my mission to find the best bagels in Philly] to Kaplan's Bakery in Northern Liberties.

A couple of notes on the bakery:
1- It is certainly unpretentious for being located in Northern Liberties.
2- They had a large range of baked goods to choose from besides their breads and bagels.
3- Their prices were pretty reasonable.

It doesn't seem like they have a website, but here is the link to their facebook page: Kaplan's New Model Bakery.

Back to the bagels; they were not really displayed so you couldn't see the different flavors or really them at all.  They were in plastic bags tied with twist ties in the case behind the counter.  So, it was sort of hard to tell how fresh they were.  Well, I decided to go for a poppy seed.  I take it to-go of course since this is a true bakery.

Here is how I would rate it, using my 1 - 5 poppy seed rating:

The Look - { 5 } It definitely had a deep honey color and beautiful sheen.  From my first look I could tell that it was a boiled bagel.

The Crust -  { 2 } Although it looked like it would have had a nice crunch, the crust was lacking the crisp I expected.  From personal experience with baking my own bagels, if they weren't kept in a plastic bag, it may have had a better crust.  Also, the fresher the better, I'm not quite sure if they were baked that day.

Inside Texture and Taste - { 3 } The inside was not too doughy, if anything a little on the dry side.  It did have nice crumb and the taste had a pleasant hint of salt.  However, this fell a little short on overall texture.  Again, it may have been best right out of the oven.

I made an egg and cheese sandwich with my poppy seed bagel.  In short, I would rate this bagel a 3.3 = above average.  So, the bagels were not "Out of this World", but they beat most grocery or convenience stores'.  And, if you're in the area and in the mood for a sweet treat, it would be worth the stop at Kaplan's.  I did pick up a yummy almond pastry, which was delicious.

Till next time...