Corn Bread Rolls

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There’s cornbread — spongy, sweet, and efficiently leavened with baking powder — and there’s Corn Bread: hearty and crusty, with the hard-won flavor than can only be achieved with yeast and time. And then there are these Corn Bread Rolls, which are fun to shape, if not precise replicas of the ears of maize that represent a bountiful harvest. Or little lopsided footballs, depending on your preferred meaning of Thanksgiving. Or maybe both, like when my dad took me to the thrilling Nebraska Cornhuskers game in Lincoln on Thanksgiving in 1965.

May your holiday be filled with what gives you sustenance, people you love, a little bit of excitement, and appreciation of blessings and hard-won victories, whatever yours may be.

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Pumpkin Anise Sourdough Bagels

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Here’s a nod to pumpkin season, but not the ubiquitous “pumpkin spice.” The large proportion of pumpkin yields a bagel that is compact and chewy, but not hard or dry. If you’re not an anise fan, or prefer something more savory, caraway or cumin seeds could be interesting.

I think most people believe bagels are difficult to make, but they’re not. They do require a lot of mixing to achieve a high degree of gluten development, though, so a stand mixer is helpful. That’s even more true with these particular bagels, because the pumpkin should be evenly incorporated in the dough, and that will be challenging if you’re mixing by hand. But it’s not impossible; just plan to spend at least 30 minutes giving your arms a workout!

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Semolina Sourdough with Plums, Walnuts, and Fennel

I am notoriously bad at planning. I’ll be in the market when I’m hit with the overwhelming urge to bake with, say, pumpkin seeds. So I buy some up, oblivious to the fact that I might have three or four small remnant bags of same lurking in the recesses of my freezer. And now my freezer is starting to complain about the buildup.

So I made a deal with myself: I am not to buy any new dried fruits, nuts, or seeds, but I can buy as many flours as I like so I can bake away until my odd lots are used up. (I tried to negotiate different terms — something involving a new sports car in exchange for ingredient restraint — but I couldn’t manage to sell it to myself. Clearly I need a better agent.)

Fortunately, I have some workhorse recipes that work wonderfully with the “one from Column A, one from Column B” approach. This semolina-fennel sourdough recipe, originally conceived with currants and pine nuts, baked beautifully with dried plums (commonly, but less charmingly, known as prunes) standing in for both currants and caramelized fennel, and walnuts for the pine nuts.

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Sesame Sourdough Bagels

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If you think these don’t look like the sesame bagels you’re used to seeing, you’re right. We love sesame bagels, but seed loss was putting us at risk for sprouting a sesame plantation right on the dining room rug.

Sesame Field 20020400 2 Although it is a unique and lovely look, we decided this wasn’t quite the decorating direction we wanted to be taking. The solution turned out to be simple: sesame seeds in the dough rather than on top of it. If you want to make a generic dough for several different toppings, this isn’t the way to go (try these bagels instead). But if you’re willing to commit to your sesame seeds, it works well.

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For maximally chewy bagels, remember to use high-gluten flour (or add extra gluten to your regular bread flour) and mix the dough until it’s very strong! Add the toasted, cooled sesame seeds to the dough once it’s fully mixed.

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Cinnamon-Raisin Sourdough Bagels

There’s been a lot of bagel-making going on around here. More about that in a later post. These cinnamon-raisin bagels are a lot like the blueberry bagels, only with raisins. And cinnamon. Go figure.

And speaking of figures — at 85 grams, these bagels a little smaller than the 100-gram ones I’ve been doing recently. The missing 15 grams doesn’t seem to make the bagel appreciably smaller, but if I’m eating one every day (and I might be), those eliminated grams should eliminate more than three pounds from my waistline over the course of a year.

I guessed at how much cinnamon to add to the dough. It wasn’t a bad guess, but if you like your bagels really cinnamon-y, I think you could double the amount and still be in the ballpark. The bagelpark? Whatever.

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Open Sesame

The inspiration for this seeded bread came from Pain de Beaucaire, which uses a unique shaping technique to create a rustic, bran-speckled fissure in the loaf with no slashing required. Here, the bran is replaced with black sesame seeds, for a nutty flavor and dramatic presentation. Sandwiched between two slurry-slathered layers of dough, the seeds cause the loaf to open down the middle.

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