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Saturday, December 19, 2020: Snow Ball Cookies
Dec 25th, 2020 by Alex Koster

Hi, welcome to KidsCookDinner.  To read what we’re cooking today, stay right here.  Or, to learn more about this site and how it started, scroll down.  And happy holidays!

This is Alex.  Today, in honor of the official start of winter coming up (December 21) and the huge snowstorm NYC received on Thursday, I decided to make Snow Ball cookies (also known as Russian Teacakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes or Pecan Balls.) Ingredients are straightforward: butter, powdered sugar, pecans, flour, salt, vanilla, and the recipe is surprisingly simple….just several steps.

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After you preheat the oven to 350 degrees, you need to chop the pecans: I decided to chop them finely because I don’t like big chunks of pecans. But that’s a personal choice.  You can also use walnuts if you prefer.

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You need 1 cup of chopped pecans.

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Next step is to cream 1 cup butter with 1/2 cup powdered sugar; once creamed, add the vanilla.

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The next step is to mix the flour and salt and add, along with the chopped pecans, to the butter/sugar mix.  The dough is very stiff and dry.  I used a spoon to do the final mixing.

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Then you shape them into small balls and cook for 15 minutes, or until light gold.  You don’t want to over cook as they are pretty fragile.

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As soon as you remove them from the oven you roll them gently in powdered sugar and let cool.  Do be careful rolling, I pressed a little hard and the cookie exploded.  Once they are cool,  you roll them again in powdered sugar.  The recipe said this would take 1/3 cup powdered sugar but I probably used a cup (I do like sugar).  In any event, the end result was delicious.

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December 5, 2020: Pecan Pie (FINALLY!)
Dec 13th, 2020 by Max Koster

Hey, welcome to kidscookdinner.com.  My sister and I started this website in 2015.  We post about dinners we’ve cooked (or eaten) and also try to encourage kids to cook and be aware of the extent of hunger worldwide and how we can help.  We support an international charity called Action Against Hunger (to learn more about that organization and what we’ve donated to them, scroll down a few posts).  To learn about what we’re cooking now… stay right here.

THE PECAN PIE

So at the last minute, I (Max) told mom I’d like a pecan pie (in addition to pumpkin pie) for Thanksgiving, unfortunately, that meant I told her at noon on Thanksgiving Day that I would like a pecan pie.  She was fine with the idea, but we didn’t have all the ingredients, mainly Karo corn syrup.  Dad and I drove around to see if we could find the Karo corn syrup but none was to be found.  Accordingly, the following weekend, my mom and I dedicated ourselves to baking the perfect pecan pie.

Ingredients are straightforward: Pie crust, pecans, brown sugar, eggs, Karo syrup, vanilla, and salt.

Mom volunteered to make the pie crust (you can definitely buy a premade pie crust, but if your mom volunteers to make you one, that’s definitely better, plus if there’s extra pastry you can make other stuff with it.)

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Ideally, the pie crust should be cooked for about 10 minutes at high heat, but if you are in a hurry you probably don’t need to bake it. If you do bake it, make sure you let it cool before you add the filling.

THE FILLING:

For the filling, I combined 1 cup of Karo Corn Syrup, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of butter (melted), 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1 and 1/2 cups pecans.

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(I included the shot where I added the syrup because of the interesting separation of syrup vs. eggs.) The next step was to combine the brown sugar and the pecans.

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Then, we had to add the pecan mix to the par-baked pie crust. (Thanks Mom)

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Final step was to cook the pie (and eat, of course).

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Really, really delicious. Next Thanksgiving, I will be sure to request Pecan Pie a bit earlier (also, to be honest, better to chop up the pecans a bit). Whole pecans look pretty but are hard to cut with a fork.  Also, since mom made the pie pastry and a bit extra pastry,  I was able to make cinnamon pastries ( where you roll out extra pie dough, sprinkle it with butter and cinnamon sugar and bake…mini cinnamon rolls but even more delicious.  Especially with a bit of milk and a quick check of my phone.

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November 26, 2020: Thanksgiving Dinner (and leftovers the next day)
Dec 7th, 2020 by Max Koster

This year, Thanksgiving was an intimate affair: just the five of us: Mom, Dad, Alex, Koko (dog), and me, Max.  With COVID levels increasing, we decided to stick with the basics (nothing fancy this year) and each of us took responsibility for part of the meal.

I was in charge of the stuffing; Alex was in charge of the pumpkin pie; Mom was in charge of the turkey and vegetables (supposedly Brussel sprouts); Dad was in charge of mashing the potatoes; and Koko was in charge of cleaning up the floor.  Midway through the preparations, Mom realized she had forgotten to buy Brussel sprouts so she made a kale salad instead from the last of the kale in our garden.  Additionally, around noon Dad and I decided we wanted pecan pie as well as pumpkin pie and drove around trying to find the ingredients, but everything was closed.  At least I got to practice driving — but I really wanted pecan pie!

Although I didn’t want to change tradition too much, I decided to make “Stuffin’ Muffins” instead of regular stuffing.   The main difference is how you cook the stuffing (in individual muffin tins, versus one big pot). Because there is more surface area of the stuffing exposed to heat, there is more delicious crispiness.

Stuffin’ Muffins

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Ingredients for stuffin’ muffins are pretty straightforward: Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix (the best); butter, onion, and chicken broth.  I used the whole bag of stuffing.  There was some discussion about adding sausage to the mix, but that was deemed too much of a break from tradition (maybe next Thanksgiving).  Also if you have celery you can chop and add that.  (Mom forgot to buy celery as well as the Brussel sprouts)

The first step is to preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter the muffin tin.  The next step is to chop the onions.

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Then it was time to melt the butter in a saucepan and sautee the onions. (Note that Koko is diligently doing her job in the background, checking for scraps on the floor.)

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Then you add the broth and the stuffing mix to the onions and stir till well combined.

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Fill the muffin tins with the stuffing mix and bake for 35-40 minutes or until brown and crispy on top.  Let cool for 10 minutes before you remove.

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Here is the final version: they tasted great but did fall apart a bit. Next time I will add a bit more chicken broth (AND SAUSAGE!).

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Pumpkin Pie:

(This is Alex):  My job was pumpkin pie.  We always make pumpkin pie using Libby’s Pumpkin Pie mix and follow Libby’s recipe (so long as we have the ingredients). It’s pretty simple.  You need one 15 ounce can of Libby’s pure pumpkin, one 12 ounce can of Evaporated Milk, 2 eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves.   (Of course, we didn’t have cloves, and the ground ginger was about 10 years old, so we didn’t use those; I added an extra 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon instead.)

The first step is to combine the sugar, spices, and salt in a small bowl.  Then in a larger bowl, you add the two eggs and beat them.

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Next step is to stir in the pumpkin mix and gradually add the evaporated milk

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When everything is combined, you pour into a pie shell.  I prefer the graham crust kind.  Also, it’s easier to handle if you place the pie shell on a larger tray before you put it in the oven (because the filling is liquid, it’s easy to spill without that tray)

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You cook at 450 degrees for 15 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees until a knife inserted toward the center of the pie comes out clean. It has to set for at least 2 hours, and since we like it cold, I made it Thanksgiving morning so we could refrigerate before dinner.  We served it with freshly whipped cream.

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Turkey

Here’s the before and after turkey shots (the green stuff is thyme from our garden):

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And here’s the dinner plate.  We didn’t make the cranberry sauce.  It’s weird but we really love the pre-made, canned cranberry sauce; that’s just one of our traditions.

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Leftovers

Everyone loves Thanksgiving leftovers, and everyone raves about turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey chili…etc. But really one of the best use of leftovers is our family’s invention: Turkey Mash! I (Max) personally love making a meat hash out of leftovers. Say for example you cook steak and baked potatoes for dinner.  The next day, steak hash with onions and chopped baked potatoes is awesome, especially if you have some good left over veggies to throw in. So for the day after Thanksgiving, we made Turkey Hash, or more accurately Turkey Mash. The first step was to chop an onion and sautee it in olive oil.  We had a couple of pieces of bacon so we chopped those up and threw them in.  Then we added some frozen corn that needed to be cooked and a bunch of chopped up turkey.  Finally, we added left over mashed potatoes.  Because they are so soft, it didn’t look or have the texture of normal meat hash, but it was still delicious.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2020: GIVING DAY
Dec 1st, 2020 by Alex Koster

Today is Giving Day! Don’t forget to give to a worthy charity today, if you can. We are giving to Action Against Hunger.

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Even loose change helps!

Monday, November 23: Easy Weeknight Dinner? Rack of Lamb
Nov 26th, 2020 by Max Koster

Welcome to kidscookdinner.com, a website I started with my sister in 2015 to document what we were cooking (or trying to cook ), to encourage more kids to cook and to remind people that a lot of people don’t have enough to eat.  For more about the website, scroll down. For what we most recently cooked, stay right here.

Tonight I made a surprisingly quick and easy dinner: rack of lamb.  The only thing you have to remember is to marinate the lamb at least 2 hours before you cook it.  And your marinade can be as simple as olive oil, chopped garlic, and salt and pepper.  We happen to have rosemary and thyme in our garden (which Koko helped find) and that made the marinade even better.

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Here’s the ingredients I used:

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The rack of lamb was frenched, which means the meat and fat were removed from the ends of the ribs. The first step of making the marinade was stripping the rosemary leaves and thyme leaves from their stems.

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Then it was time to chop up the herbs.

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After that, I chopped up the garlic and added olive oil.  I spread the mix over the rack of lamb and put it in a plastic bag for 2 hours.

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After letting the lamb marinate for 2 hours, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees.  I removed the rack from the bag and wrapped each rib bone in aluminum foil to keep them from getting burnt (honestly, this was the trickiest part of the dish).  Then it was into the oven in a foil-lined pan for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, the lamb was nicely browned so I reduced the heat to 300 degrees for 20 minutes. I took it out and let it stand for 5 minutes.  The meat was perfectly medium-rare.

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We ate it with couscous and a spinach salad.

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Delicious!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2020: Coconut-Curry Shrimp and Couscous
Nov 18th, 2020 by Max Koster

Welcome to kidscookdinner.com, a website I started with my sister in 2015 to document our food adventures, encourage kids to cook and highlight the issue of hunger in American and the world.  Scroll down to learn more about the website and hunger relief charities.  For tonight’s menu, stay right here.

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Tonight I wanted to cook something new but also needed it to be something that didn’t take a long time since I have a lot of homework (and college applications).  My mom suggested I try this shrimp curry recipe, which, because it has shrimp and couscous (two quick-cooking ingredients), wouldn’t take too long.  She was right: it was quick and easy. Ingredients are as follows: 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 medium oil, three tablespoons red curry paste, 1 can coconut milk, 1 pound small tomatoes, 1-1/4 cup couscous, 1 cup frozen peas, 1 pound large peeled shrimp, and salt and pepper.

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The first step was to slice the onion thinly and cut the tomatoes in half.

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(I also chopped up some veggies for separate stir fry) but that was easy.

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The next step was to saute the onions in the olive oil with a little salt.

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When the onions were translucent, I added the red curry paste, the coconut milk, and a cup of water.  I brought that to a boil and added the sliced tomatoes.

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After 3 minutes, I reduced the heat to low, added the couscous and frozen peas.

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Finally, I layered the shrimp on top, covered the pan, and cooked for 5 minutes.  All of the liquid was absorbed, but when I tested the couscous, it was a little crunchy, so I added a 1/4 cup of water and let cook for 3 more minutes.  One tip for cooking the shrimp: besides peeling them, take off the tail.  No one wants to bite into the tail.

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Then I plated it. Delicious.  Just needed a little salt and pepper.

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Sunday, October 24, 2020: Braised Lamb Shanks
Nov 3rd, 2020 by Max Koster

Welcome to kidscookdinner.com, a site my sister and I started more than 5 years ago.   As the weather turns colder, I felt like something hearty and comforting for Sunday dinner so I turned to one of our favorite family dishes: Braised Lamb Shanks.  I make this the day before I want to eat it so the flavors really combine (and so it’s easy to skim the solidified fat off the top).  Ingredients are straightforward: lamb shanks, carrots, onions, garlic, chopped tomatoes, red wine, broth, and cannellini beans, and I serve it over couscous.

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The first step is to really salt and pepper the lamb, and then brown it all over in a saucepan with a little olive oil.  Once the lamb shanks were browned, I put them in our slow cooker.

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Meanwhile, the onions, carrots and garlic had to be chopped.

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Then I sauteed the onions and carrots sauteed in the same saucepan in which I had cooked the meat.  Once they were softened and browned I added them to the slow cooker.

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Then I added the wine, broth and tomatoes to the slow cooker and turned it on high for 6 hours.

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This is what it looked like 6 hours later; the lamb was falling off the bone:

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And this is what it looked like the next morning (with the oil and fat solidified).

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I spooned most of the yellow stuff (fat) off, and about an hour before we were going to eat, reheated it on a low temperature.  I usually add the canned white beans at this point but forgot this time.  It still tasted great!

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Final product.

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Saturday October 3, 2020: Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao) on an unSATisfactory day.
Oct 13th, 2020 by Max Koster

Today I (Max) woke up early to take my SAT Subject tests in Chemistry and Math 2.  After studying for weeks, I was eager to get them done and had chosen a test site in New Jersey that seemed certain to stay open.  (All the ones in New York City were closed or closing.) I checked the testing site the night before and again as soon as I woke up, and it was still open.  Unfortunately, when I arrived at the site, the sign below was on the door…no explanation, no human to explain, just a lot of frustrated high school students!

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Once I got home and took a nap, I decided to make the most of the unSATisfactory day by making pork buns.  We still had a lot of leftover pork from the Bo Ssam I made last week, so this seemed a good way to use it up.

The first step was to make the yeast dough for the buns. Ingredients were flour, yeast, neutral oil (canola or grapeseed), sugar, water, and a little salt.

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I proofed the yeast by adding it to water and sugar and then combined it with the flour, adding oil at the end. Then I kneaded it and put the dough in a bowl to rise to double its size (about an hour supposedly).

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The next step was to make the filling.  Ingredients were: pork, scallions, ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce.

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The recipe said to use a pork tenderloin, cook it and then combine with the other ingredients. But since we had all this leftover Bo Ssam pork, I decided to use that instead.  I just needed to chop it up.  The scallions, garlic, and ginger also needed to be chopped and Alex helped out with that.

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When everything was chopped, I combined it all in a big bowl, added in the vinegar, honey, and hoisin sauce, and mixed well.

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Then I let the filling marinate in the fridge until the dough had risen enough.  Once it doubled in size, I punched it down and divided it into 8 pieces.

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Then I shaped each piece into a ball and rolled it out flat to at least a 5-inch diameter (I even used a ruler to make sure!). Each round got a dollop of filling in the center.

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The next step was the hardest: shaping the pork buns by folding the top inward. That took a while, but eventually, I got all 8 done.

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Then I steamed them two at a time in a double boiler (over parchment paper and with a towel on the lid on top to prevent condensation).

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After 15 minutes, I took them out, cut them in half, and devoured!  Tasted great but next time I need to put in double the filling.  Just a little too much dough to meat for me.

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Sunday, September 27, 2020: Bo Ssam!
Oct 5th, 2020 by Max Koster

Today I (Max) wanted to use the Insta-Pot I got mom from Christmas (that she rarely uses) to cook something I’ve never cooked or eaten: Bo Saam (Korean marinated and roasted pork shoulder).  Relying on Melissa Clark’s recipe in Comfort in an Instant (which is based on a dish from Chef David Chang’s restaurant, Momofuko ), I bought the ingredients on Saturday and prepared myself for a big day of cooking on Sunday.  For the pork, only 4 ingredients are needed salt, sugar, 8 pounds of bone-in pork shoulder, and dark brown sugar.  Melissa Clark recommended serving it with a ginger scallion sauce, so for that you need: scallions, fresh ginger, neutral oil, soy sauce, sherry vinegar, and kosher salt (optional…ended up not needing it).

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First step was to make a salt/sugar mix and rub it all over the pork, and then let marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours.  Getting up early Sunday was hard, but ultimately worth it.

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I am glad I had gloves.  The salt and sugar started to soak into the pork immediately.

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After 7 hours, it was time to put in the Insta-Pot.  As you can see below, after all that time, there is no evidence of the salt or sugar: it has all been absorbed.

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I placed the pork shoulder on a rack in the Insta-Pot with 1/2 cup water below.  It needed to pressure-cook for 110 minutes, but the maximum our pot goes is to 99 minutes…so that’s what I used.

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After 99 minutes was up, I set it for another 11 minutes of high-pressure cooking and started making the ginger-scallion sauce.  I chopped scallions and ginger and mixed them with the oil/soy sauce/sherry vinegar combo.  Salt was an option ingredient that I didn’t need: the soy sauce gave it plenty of salt.

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When the 110 total minutes was up, I tested the pork with a fork: it was supposed to be very tender but I thought it wasn’t quite tender enough, so I set it for another 10 minutes of high pressure. When that time was up, I removed the pork and rubbed it all over with brown sugar mixed with salt.

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After that it was under the broiler for about 7 minutes till the sugar carmelized and the skin was crispy.

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Voila!  We ate it with rice, the ginger-scallion sauce and stir fried vegetables.  Delicious.

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Friday, September 18, 2020: Homemade Bagels
Sep 28th, 2020 by Alex Koster

Welcome to KidsCookDinner.com.  To learn more about our website and how my brother Max and I started cooking, scroll down a few posts.  To find out what I (Alex) am cooking, please stay right here.

Today I felt like New York bagels but we are not in NYC so I decided to make my own.  Ingredients are pretty simple: flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar, and luckily we had some good toppings in the cupboard (sesame seeds and Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel mix).

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The process isn’t difficult but there are quite a few steps.  The first one was to proof the yeast by combining it with warm water and sugar.  This usually takes about 5 minutes, so while that was going on, I combined the flour and salt and made a well for the yeast mixture.

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Once the 5 minutes as up and the yeast was activated, I poured it into the dry mix.

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Then I had to mix everything together and knead the dough for 10 minutes.  It was very stiff: I got a good arm workout!

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After that, I let the dough rise till it doubled (about an hour) and then punched it down.  That was satisfying.

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Then I split the dough into 8 pieces, rolled each one into a ball, and then made a hole in the center of each ball to make the bagel shape.

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The next step was weird but apparently essential: I cooked each bagel in boiling water for 1 minute each side.

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After that, it was time to top them (with sesame or everything bagel mix) and put in the oven to bake.

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20 minutes later, I had fresh NYC bagels!

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