Assorted Bagels and Vegetable Cream Cheese

I eat bagels probably more often than I should.  I try to be responsible about it: whole wheat bagels with lowfat veggie cream cheese, sesame bagel sandwiches with that cream cheese and generic salad fixings (lettuce, tomato, red onion, cucumber, you know), or one of the aforementioned varieties of bagel with lowfat plain cream cheese.  I can devour a bagel sandwich for lunch with one hand and hold/drink my coffee with the other as I walk between classes, so it's very convenient, and keeps me satisfied for a couple hours.  But they're Einstein bagels, which aren't the best... I'm not trying to be a hater, notsayin'justsayin', it's just that they don't approach the ultimate tastiness potential of the ideal bagel (thanks John, for letting me steal your tastiness potential phrase - it's a thing now).  

Homemade bagels, however, do approach this tastiness potential.  You should know that making bagels is a two-day process... Which is both really nice and kind of annoying.  Daddy, I want a golden egg nowwww.  Yeah, immediate gratifacation and homemade bagels don't go together (if you didn't get that Willy Wonka reference... I'm sorry, you didn't have a childhood).  But if you say to yourself hmmm, wouldn't it be lovely to have bagels for brunch tomorrow, then good-golly-oh-boy you're in luck, since most of the work is done the day before.  You bring the initial dough together and let it rise, then form the bagels and let them rise again, overnight.  The next day, get up ~90 minutes before you want to actually get up, take them out of the fridge to come to room temperature, and go back to sleep.  Then, finally, gloriously, you boil and bake all the bagels your heart desires, with your favorite toppings.  My lovely friend Tor made these with me - her favorite are salt bagels, and mine sesame, so we were sure to include those.  We also made poppy seed bagels and cinnamon sugar ones, which smell amazing when you toast them.  A couple words of advice on toppings?  Sprinkle them on immediately after boiling and right before baking, so they'll stick to the surface.  Also, regarding cinnamon sugar, don't add that until after baking.  Simply melt a little butter, brush it on right when the bagels come out of the oven, and top with the cinnamon sugar.  It'll make a crunchy, cinnamony crust as it cools.

I found the recipe for these bagels on Luisa Weiss' wonderful blog The Wednesday Chef, which I read pretty religiously.  There are a few blogs I check regularly, and I'm a huge fan of Luisa, and especially a fan of her posts about her son, Hugo.  I will sigh and exclaim what a precious baby, oh my goodness look how absolutely cute (s)he is, that is the most beautiful baby I've ever seen at most babies.  It's not that I'm indiscriminate, it's that I genuinely think most babies and toddlers are profoundly adorable.  So yes, I relish Luisa's posts about Hugo and what he's been eating and all the cute things he's been doing.  

Anyway, I feel like a bit of a cheater, since this is Peter Reinhart's recipe which was published by the Los Angeles Times that I found on Luisa's site.  So this recipe has already circulated in the food blogosphere, but really, it's that good.  I followed the recipe to the letter, which is something I don't usually do.  I almost always adapt recipes in some way, but really, this recipe is the way to go.  I mean, if it's good enough for Luisa Weiss, it's good enough for me.  I won't post the recipe below, since either of the above links will bring you to the same recipe.  Below is my recipe for vegetable cream cheese, which is less of a recipe and more of a technique (and it's great with the sesame bagels).  Tomorrow, I'm making mole with my wonderful friend Pam, so get excited about that (I know I am).

Vegetable Cream Cheese

8 ounces Neufchatel cheese (or full fat cream cheese, whatever you like)
7.5 ounces frozen spinach (3/4 of a package)
1 rib celery (or several ribs from the very center, with the leafy greens - that's what I used, and I encourage you to cook with these, especially with the leaves)
1 small carrot, peeled
4 chives
1 small handful parsley
~1 teaspoon salt

Let the cheese come to room temperature so that it mixes easily with the veggies.  Defrost the frozen spinach, either at room temperature for a couple hours or in the microwave.  Take small handfuls and ring out as much water as possible, then add to the cheese.  Chop the celery, chives, and parsley finely, and add those in as well.  Grate the carrot with a box grater or microplane (with the box grater, use one of the smaller sizes - I used the one that's second smallest, on the skinnier side of the grater) and add in as well.  Mix, then add salt to taste, and slather onto your favorite bagel.

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