Challah French Toast Sunday Part IV


In the Fine Family, we all call challah chall-ee. We haven’t got a friggin’ clue why we say that. Here you can listen to Gertrude Cooper Klemens (our Great-Nana) talking baking and saying chall-ee. When we were young and still called challah chall-ee, Nana Fine used to get pan loaves of chall-ee sliced thin at the bakery and, if we were good, which we always were, she’d spread them thick with spicy brown mustard and fold the slice in half for a sandwich.  We’d peel off the shiny brown top crust because that was the bad part. (see: Fine Family Aquired Tastes)

When we got older, we had a boyfriend who made fun of us for saying chall-ee instead of challah. We felt stupid and since he went to M.I.T. and was in AEPi (just imagine), we figured he was right. So we changed our ways and years later, saying chall-ee instead of challah feels unnatural. And we’re a little sad about that. 

We guess all we’re trying to get at is that Holla! Challah French Toast Sunday Part IV is up again. Sunday, February 27th 9:00-15:00.frenchtoast


Customer Style: Pepper

At Fine Bagels, we’re morning people. Rather, we have to be morning people. Comes with the territory. We understand that in Berlin, people go out. A girl once asked us if we “go out.” We asked what she meant. “Like, really go out.” We still weren’t sure what she meant but making an educated guess from the snippets of morning after recounts on which we eavesdrop from the coffee station, we’re pretty sure she meant something involving leather, techno, 6am, Crisco, and shouting. So we guess we don’t really go out. On Sunday mornings though, we get a lot of people in the store who really went out. They usually look a lot better than we do after 8 full hours and a shower. Case in point: Pepper.DSC_0905 (1)Pepper’s background is in theater but now her focus is on photography and filmmaking. She’s making a film about queer nightlife and club kids in New York. While Pepper was living in New York to work on the film, she stayed up all night going from one club to another. Poor Pepper was so busy pursuing her nocturnal work that she didn’t eat a single bagel in New York. A shanda, Pepper, a shanda.DSC_0897 (1)One of the things we like about Pepper is she’s polite.DSC_0900 (1)And has a terrific coat. DSC_0910 (1)You can check out Pepper’s website and instagram @pepperlevain. It’s worth your time.

Baking: Babka

At Fine Bagels, we like to impress ourselves by making store-bought things. See: Hydrox Cookies and Rainbow Cookies. Since we suffer from something called “imposter syndrome,” we are pretty sure that we aren’t a real bakery despite evidence to the contrary. Still, everything has an upside, and because of this whole imposter syndrome, we delight in surprising ourselves with things that can pass themselves off as coming from real bakeries. And therefor tricking people. And therefor keeping up our bakery ruse for just a little bit longer. This is how we came to spend our Saturday night making babka.DSC_0827 (1)Babka is the best thing in the world. We can also now verify that it is effective for eating away pain, standing-in for human contact, and keeping you company better than a house cat but worse than a puppy.

Because our Georgia was pastry-neglected in childhood, she asked us what’s a babka. We told her it’s what happens when a rugelach (explitive)s a challah. Since she’s well-trained in that she can tell a rugelach from a challah, she knew this mule of the Jewish baking world was a good thing and showed appropriate enthusiasm.

We used the Smitten Kitchen via Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem recipe everyone is going on about. If no one else is afraid of this sticking to their hips for seven years, we’ll keep those feelings to ourselves. Here it is and here is it again. If you’re making this in Germany like us, use 405 Weizenmehl and cut down a bit on the instant yeast as ours behaved a bit more enthusiastically than the recipe indicated. Should we make this again, we’ll roll it a little thinner and twist it a little more to have even more chocolate ripples. The Smitten Kitchen suggestions to add cinnamon to the filling and to then chill the rolled logs in the freezer briefly before slicing were killer. Do it.

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Customer Style: Kyla and Isaac

The most interesting looking people are generally the most unapproachable people for the socially anxious us of Fine Bagels. This was definitely the case with Kyla and Isaac. Look at those pants. And that fanny pack. Who wears a fanny pack slung around their chest? Cool and unapproachable people, that’s who. Fortunately, we’re terrible judges of character. DSC_0632Kyla is from Bali which is probably a lot nicer than Berlin. Isaac is from Vancouver which we could really take or leave. Kyla had never had a bagel before and Isaac was showing her the ropes, starting her off on a rosemary seasalt and a classic poppyseed. We asked the question we ask of every non-Quebecois Canadian: Do you have Montreal bagels where you live or New York bagels? Isaac said Montreal. He then, unsolicited, said that he likes Montreal bagels better. Fine. Whatever. If big-holed, fast-rising, wood-fired, delicious little séparatistes are your thing, Isaac, that’s none of our business. Literally. Our business is New York style bagels.

Isaac had amazing hand-sewn pants that we’re pretty sure are airbrushed. We are fascinated by the airbrushing on these pants as we are by all the things forbidden us as youths (cable television, 10:00pm, non-generic foodstuffs, a pony, Fluff, airbrushed clothing). Airbrushed clothing meant unsavory places like the carnival and unsavory places like the carnival meant stranger danger. Isaac is a pleasant and open person and combined with those airbrushed trousers, he is at definite risk for stranger danger.DSC_0647To try her first bagel ever, Kyla had an excellent outfit of layered velvety prints and rough mattes. For our first bagel, we were almost certainly wearing a soiled diaper and ragefully mourning the loss of the breast, so she’s got one up on us. To our defense, it was the early eighties and everyone looked terrible.DSC_0655Isaac


DSC_0643 (1)All this Montreal vs NYC talk got us planning to make Montreal Style bagels. Stay posted. Thanks for the inspiration, Kyla and Isaac.

Baking: Black and White Cookies

Funny thing. We always thought Black and White Cookies were the same thing as Half-Moons. We’re from Boston. Have we mentioned that? Yes. And in New England, there are Half-Moons, not Black and White cookies. Since there are about a million other cookies with which we’d rather jump into a disordered-eating relationship, distinguishing between the two never bothered us. In fact, the last time we had a Half-Moon was five years back at a dairy house on the edge of a cow pasture in a Massachusetts town far beyond the familiarity of Rt. 95 and therefor forgettable. While  the town was forgettable, the cookie was not. See, the sole purpose of getting the cookie was to buy our way into the rest room. We’re familiar with this purchasing strategy and estimate that up to 40% of our sales at Fine Bagels are based on toilet-guilt. Whatever works. So there we are, buying a cookie we don’t really want, only to find out that the bathroom is out of order. In the end, we’re stuck sitting on an overturned milk-crate chewing a stale Half-Moon cookie while we mull over how it would go to have our first outdoor pee in a decade in a waste-deep hay field peopled entirely by Lyme-disease ridden ticks. That cookie sucked. But we remember it.DSC_0881

But back to that funny thing. Turns out that Half-Moons aren’t the same as Black and White Cookies. They’re only mostly the same. From what the internet tells us, the New York City variety, the true Black and White Cookie, differs from the Half-Moon in the maturing process. While the New England Half-Moon becomes intolerably stale after 48 hours and has a typical shelf life of 2 weeks, the New York City Black and White Cookie becomes intolerably stale after 48 hours and has a typical shelf life of 3 weeks. We’ll let the New York Times take it from here:

The black-and-white cookie, that frumpy and oversize mainstay of New York City bakeries and delis, has not endured by dint of its taste. Unlike other edible icons, like New York cheesecake or bagels, there is no such thing as a delicious black-and-white cookie. They are either edible or inedible. Fresh-baked and home-baked are the best.

That’s from an article where they published the Zabar’s recipe for a black and white cookie. Here it is. And here’s what happens when you follow it:DSC_0702DSC_0713DSC_0729 (1)DSC_0768DSC_0782DSC_0834 (1)

Customer Style: Ludwig

DSC_0451Until last week, we of Fine Bagels had never seen a real, live, Great Dane. Like the Right Whale, the Giant Panda, and the Woolly Mammoth, the only time we’d ever seen one before this was the time we found one thawing in the ice near a Barents Sea fish-packing plant. We don’t need to tell you how that ended. So when Ludwig showed up for bagels, it hit us that, in fact, we’d never really seen one of these things before. We thought we had, but we were just confusing them with Weimaramers.DSC_0428What we liked about Ludwig is that he is more or less a pony. The pony we never had. The pony we resent never having had.DSC_0424 (1)We talked to Tim, Fine Bagels baker and manservant to Ludwig:

Fine Bagels: Do you ever ride Ludwig?

Tim: No.

Fine Bagels: But your girlfriend is a lot smaller than you. Has she ever ridden Ludwig?

Tim: Only for a little while.

Fine Bagels: Have you ever done dressage?

Tim: What?

Fine Bagels: Does Ludwig ever try to sleep in your bed or sit on your lap? We once had a beagle who did that.

Tim: No, but he tries. He has his own bed but since he’s so big, it takes him about five minutes to get comfortable.

Fine Bagels: So what you’re saying is that the two of you have never spooned?

Tim: No. I’m not saying that. We spoon. On the floor.

Fine Bagels: So who…

Tim: Ludwig is the big spoon.

Fine Bagels: Unbelievable.

Fine Bagels: So you take him out on walks and stuff, huh? Do you bring Hefty bags?

Tim: What?

Fine Bagels: (In best John Inman) Massive bin-liners.

Tim: Oh, it’s a double bag job for sure.

Fine Bagels: Guess you guys have some kind of gentleman’s understanding about that one?

Tim: I suppose we do.DSC_0435Lifestyle-choice Ludwig taking up a hell of a lot of space while he man-spreads on the floor.DSC_0475 (1)Ludwig got a treat and left.