Cute as a Bagel

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Cuteness, on the other hand, has universal standards. According to several scientific studies, these include big eyes, round faces and other infantile features.

Cuteness also seems to have universal appeal. An Atlanta psychology professor found that “men and women showed nearly identical responses to cute stimuli,” although they rate it differently for social reasons.

Some say cuteness is a survival adaptation that triggers nurturing from adults. But that can’t be true, since people also love to eat cute things.

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Still, the effects of cuteness on our brains’ pleasure centers are evident. They give laughing babiessleepy rodents—even Hello Kitty—power over us. And unleashing this power is a great way to infuse bagels with extra charm.

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Polly Wolly

The first recipe I made from my new bread cookbook wasn’t bread.

It was Crispy Rye and Seed Crackers.

This may have disappointed my family (I strongly suspect their motives in giving me the book), but since the author, master baker Peter Reinhart, freely admits his own preference for crackers, I know I have very distinguished company outside the bread box.

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I was fascinated to find crackers—which I had only known as mass-produced snacks—among recipes for ciabatta, croissants and baguettes. I was further intrigued when Reinhart’s recipes introduced me to a kind of dough so completely different from anything I had worked with before.

Before many days passed, I had turned out half a dozen different batches. I fell in love with the process—and the results were incredible too. Who knew that humble crackers could be so classy and delicious?

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Deviation

If I wanted to stir up debate, I’d say this was a traditional Irish scone.

It’s not.

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Proper scones are so traditional to Ireland that they were chosen to represent the country at Cafe Europe in 2006. Scones may even get their name from the Gaelic word “sgonn,” meaning “lump.” But applying the word “traditional” to a particular recipe always sparks controversy among aficionados.

Of course, recipes can be traditional without being uniform. These scones, however, break the mold completely. They don’t come close to “authentic,” but they are delicious. Plus, they highlight the wonderful flavor and texture of oats—one of Ireland’s oldest and greatest crops.

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Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Mocha Bean Brownies

It’s rare to find a recipe that successfully combines beans,  bananas, and oatmeal.

(I use the term “successful” to mean edible, appetizing, and delicious.)

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