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Brunch Party: Bagels with kids
Step-by-step instructions for making bagels with kids and still getting brunch served to everyone
It’s going to be a Big Brunch. Your cousins are coming in from Seattle with their little kids and your other cousins and aunt and uncle and parents will all be there. You want to make a meal that can easily feed 12 people and also involve the kids in making some of it.
One of my favorite things to make with kids is bagels, because there are so many opportunities for creativity (think beyond everything and cinnamon-raisin…you could make jalapeño cheddar, “trail mix”, turmeric cardamom golden raisin…). It’s a great project for really young kids, who may just want to knead the dough and roll it into snakes, or older kids, who can design their own bagel flavors and cream cheese and help with the boiling, topping, and baking.
The way I make bagels is a two-day project, in which you mix the dough and shape the bagels on Day One (45 minutes active time, 2.5 hours total time), proof them in the fridge overnight, and boil and bake them on Day Two (45 minutes active time). Two-day projects can seem intimidating, but it means there’s never too much work at once, and also that if it’s easier, you can just involve the kids in the final steps right before eating. I’ve laid out all the steps here so that you can do them along with kids if you want. The recipe is basically this one, but with some streamlining and modifications I’ve made through teaching this to kids of various ages in my cooking classes.
I’ve written out amounts to comfortably feed about 10-12 people (some of them kids) but it’s very easy just to make more of everything.
Green eggs (& optional ham)
A green mess of spinach, asparagus, and basil is the base for these eggs poached in sauce, similar to shakshuka. You could add ham or mushrooms if you want. Full recipe in my paid subscriber newsletter.
Custom bagels and cream cheese
Fresh chewy bagels with personalized cream cheese. Designing these flavors is where most of the fun and creativity of the meal come in to play. Some ideas for bagels:
Toppings before baking
Everything seasoning (equal parts poppy, black sesame, white sesame, granulated garlic, granulated onion, a little crunchy salt)
Everything seasoning plus the contents of an instant ramen spice package
Cinnamon-sugar (¼ cup sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon — after the bagels are boiled, brush them with melted butter before dipping them in the cinnamon sugar mixture)
Jalapeño cheddar or asiago olive (before baking the bagels, top them with grated cheddar or asiago cheese and sliced jalapeños or olives)
Cheese and pesto (before baking the bagels, top them with a few spoons of pesto and grated cheddar)
Mixed in to the dough
Cinnamon raisin (add 1 tablespoon cinnamon and ¼ cup sugar to the dough, then 2 cups raisins kneaded in right before you shape the bagels)
Turmeric, cardamom & golden raisin (add 1 tablespoon cardamom, 1 teaspoon turmeric and ¼ cup sugar to the dough, then 2 cups golden raisins kneaded in right before you shape the bagels)
Trail mix (knead in 2 cups mixed chopped nuts and dried fruit to the dough right before you shape the bagels)
Ideas for cream cheese (these amounts are for 1 8-oz package — I recommend 2 8-oz packages for 10-12 people, but you probably want to leave half of it plain):
Scallion or chive — Chop 2 scallions or a similar amount of chives and mix or food process them into the whipped cream cheese.
Ramps — Blanch and shock 1 bunch of ramps, then chop into bite-sized pieces and mix or food process them into the whipped cream cheese.
Roasted garlic — Squeeze out the cloves from 1 head of roasted garlic and mix or food process them into the whipped cream cheese.
Roasted red pepper — Drain and chop ½ jar of roasted red pepper, and mix or food process them into the whipped cream cheese.
Strawberry or blueberry — Mash up ½ cup strawberries or blueberries. Add to the whipped cream cheese with 1 tablespoon sugar.
Honey and figs — Add 1 tablespoon honey and 5-6 chopped fresh or dried figs to the whipped cream cheese.
Pink funfetti — Blitz ½ cup freeze-dried raspberries in the food processor. Mix in the powder with 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons rainbow Jimmies-type sprinkles (the long thin kind).
Fruit with honey yogurt
I never much liked fruit salad, where the pieces of individual fruit start to soften and blend, but a beautiful platter of freshly cut fruit with a bowl of greek yogurt drizzled with olive oil, honey, and sea salt is as appealing to me as it is to most kids. If you want another activity for young kids, you can offer skewers for them to create rainbow fruit skewers with different-colored pieces of fruit. (Teach them to skewer with the sharp end pointing down.)
This list doesn’t include whatever mix-ins you’ll use for the custom bagels and cream cheese, or any bagel sandwich toppings (capers, red onion, beefsteak tomato, and avocado would all be good).
For the fruit salad and dipping sauce:
Fruit for serving: cantelope or honeydew, pineapple, oranges, bananas, grapes (or berries, peaches/nectarines, when they’re in season)
1 cup greek yogurt
crunchy salt, like Maldon
For the green eggs:
1 large yellow onion
1 small leek
3 cloves garlic
2 - 2½ lbs spinach (or a mix of spinach and arugula)
1 bunch asparagus
1 bunch basil
1 lb cremini mushrooms or a few pieces of thick-cut ham
8-12 eggs (1 egg per person)
8 oz goat cheese or 12 oz feta
1 cup toasted pistachios or pine nuts
1 cup stock
For the bagels:
2 ½ lbs bread flour (½ of a regular sized bag)
1 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
Malt syrup, brown rice syrup, corn syrup or honey
One egg if making any plain bagels (for the egg wash)
1 tablespoon butter (if making cinnamon sugar bagels)
2 8-oz packages cream cheese
1 tablespoon milk (to whip into the cream cheese)
Optional: butter to spread on bagels
Must be done in advance (the night before)
Bagel ingredients (yields 16 bagels):
Sponge (make this a couple hours in advance!)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups (480 grams) bread flour
2 ½ cups water
½ teaspoon instant yeast
3 ¾ cups (450 grams) bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon malt syrup, brown rice syrup, corn syrup or honey
For boiling the bagels
A couple shakes (about 1 tablespoon) baking soda
1 tablespoon malt syrup, brown rice syrup, corn syrup or honey
Make the sponge: In a large non-reactive (like glass) bowl, mix together the sponge ingredients (1 teaspoon yeast with 4 cups flour and 2 ½ cups water). Cover with plastic and leave at room temperature for 1 hour and up to several hours.
Add the rest of the yeast and flour, the salt and the syrup/honey to the bowl. Mix together.
If you’re working with kids, let them knead the dough a bit on a floured countertop. If not (and you have a stand mixer), just do all the kneading in the mixer with the hook attachment (around level 2 on a Kitchen Aid). You want the dough to pass the “windowpane test” — when you can stretch it so thin you can see light coming through it, without it breaking. This can take a lot of kneading, something like 10-15 minutes. You want the dough to be satiny, so if it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.
If you want to add mix-ins, add them to the dough now and knead just a little more to get them well-distributed.
Divide the dough into roughly 16 equal pieces (by cutting it in half, then the halves in half, etc — or measuring ~3oz pieces on a scale). Form each piece into a long snake, then make it into a loop with about an inch of overlap. Use two small hands on top of each other (or a few of your fingers) to roll the ends together until they are very well combined. (Explain to your bakers that if the ends aren’t pressed together well enough, the bagel will open during the boiling or baking.)
Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper (note: if you use these for baking tomorrow, the parchment could stick to any bagels not covered in seeds). Arrange the bagels evenly across the sheets and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
Use the “float test” to check if it’s time to put the bagels in the fridge. Fill a small bowl with water, and place a bagel into it and check whether it floats or sinks. If it sinks, let the bagels sit for another 10 minutes. Wipe the tester bagel dry with a paper towel.
Wrap the sheet trays with plastic wrap and leave them in the fridge for up to a day.
Can be done in advance (the day before)
Make the green eggs mixture. You’ll reheat it and add the eggs and cheese in the last half hour before eating.
Make the custom cream cheese: Take out the cream cheese and let it come to room temperature. Put it into a food processor or stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Add 1 teaspoon milk. Whip for a few minutes until fluffy. Meanwhile, prepare the mix-ins according to the directions above, and mix or food process them in. Keep covered in the fridge overnight.
The last hour and a half
Remove the cream cheese from the fridge to let it come to room temperature. If anyone just wants butter on their bagels, you can take that out too.
Cut the fruit into bite-size pieces or long slices. Chop the basil and toast and chop nuts to top the green eggs.
Make the fruit dipping sauce: Put the greek yogurt into a bowl. Drizzle it with honey and olive oil. Finish with a little crunchy salt.
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Fill a large, wide pot (like a Dutch oven) ¾ full of water, set it on the stove, and bring the water to boil. Place a sheet tray with a wire cooling rack next to it. Get out tongs and a spider or slotted spoon. Get out another sheet tray to bake the bagels — you might want to line it with a Silpat, especially if you have cheese bagels. Beware that parchment can stick to any bagels not covered with seeds.
While the oven and water are heating, prepare your toppings:
Fill small bowls with the toppings like everything mix or sesame seeds
For cinnamon sugar bagels, melt 2 tablespoons butter to brush onto the bagels
For cheese-topped bagels, grate the cheese and slice the jalapeños or olives
For plain bagels, whisk an egg for an egg wash
Once the water has come to a rolling boil, mix in a spoonful of malt syrup, brown rice syrup, or honey. Shake in a little baking soda and let it foam up.
Remove 3-4 bagels directly from the fridge and slide them into the pot (tell kids to slide the bagels in near the surface of the water, so that it doesn’t splash). Cook for 90 seconds, then use the tongs to flip them over and cook for another 90 seconds. Remove each bagel to the cooling rack using the spider or slotted spoon.
As soon as the bagels are cool enough to handle, place them into the bowl of seeds/toppings and get them well covered.
For cinnamon sugar bagels, brush them with melted butter before putting them in the cinnamon sugar mix
For plain bagels, brush the exposed top with the egg wash
For cheese bagels, put them onto the sheet tray before sprinkling cheese on top
Put the bagels back onto the sheet trays and bake for 10 minutes. Let the bagels cool completely before slicing. (Note: for the cinnamon raisin bagels, turn the oven down to 450 so that the raisins don’t burn.)
Once all the bagels are baked or in the oven, you can finish your green eggs dish: Put the greens in a wide saucepan (one that has a matching lid) on the stove over medium heat. Make 10-12 little indentations as “nests” for the eggs and carefully crack an egg into each nest. (If you’re working with kids, have them crack each egg into a small bowl and then gently slide the egg into the nest.) Sprinkle the cheese around the top. Cover the saucepan and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the eggs are set. Sprinkle the chopped basil and pistachios or pine nuts over the mixture.
While the eggs are finishing, arrange the cut fruit on a platter with the yogurt sauce. Slice the bagels in half and set them out with the cream cheese and any other toppings, like capers, sliced red onion, tomato or avocado.