Homemade Bagels Vs. Store Bought – A Cost Comparison

bagel cost

Sitting down to write this post actually required a lot of math first.  I majored in Creative Writing, so I hope you appreciate my sacrifice.

Once in awhile I get the urge to figure out just how thrifty it is (or if it is) for me to bake things at home instead of buying them.  I especially got this urge lately because to make bagels I bought a jar of barley malt syrup that seemed terribly expensive.  When you break it down to cost per batch of bagels, though, it isn’t so bad.

To do these calculations, I looked at the price for Sarah Lee bagels at the grocery store I usually shop at, and broke it down both by cost per bagel and cost per ounce, to account for the difference in size between my bagels and storebought bagels.

The recipe I used was Bruce Ezzell’s bagel recipe, which is my current favorite.

Some of the ingredient prices reflect what I actually paid on a recent shopping trip, and some of them I looked up on Wal-Mart’s website for a general estimate (and in the case of the barley malt syrup, Amazon).

Sarah Lee bagels: 6 count package, 20 oz, $ 4.39

This breaks down to: 73 cents per bagel and 22 cents per oz.

Homemade bagels:

1 tablespoon honey: $ 0.13

1 tablespoon barley malt syrup: $ 0.18

3 g yeast: $ 0.15 (I buy it in a jar, which is much cheaper than packets)

baking soda: $ 0.02 (hardly worth counting)

kosher salt: $ 0.07 (also hardly worth counting)

bread flour: $ 1.05

whole wheat flour: $ 0.28

Grand total: $1.88

This yields 16 bagels that weigh about 43 oz, which is 12 cents per bagel, and 4 cents per oz.

Which means that making bagels is over 5 times cheaper than buying them at the store, although making them takes awhile, and the savings wouldn’t make a very good hourly wage.  There is no comparison in the taste department, though.  Homemade bagels definitely  win there.

Bagels: Sourdough Edition

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20150303_075846My poor sourdough starter has been sadly neglected.  I bet I use it less than once a month.  It’s a good thing that starters aren’t as high maintenance as I was afraid they would be.

I am still fixated on bagels, and I figured I’d give sourdough bagels a shot.  I used the 100% Sourdough Bagels recipe from Wild Yeast.

I have been mixing my bagel dough by hand.  My mixer starts making ominous noises with the stiff bagel dough, and I just don’t want to risk it.  No matter how much cheaper it is to make bagels at home than to buy them (never mind how much better they taste) it is not cheaper if you blow out a mixer that cost hundreds of dollars while making them.

This is a smaller recipe, making approximately half as many bagels, though, and I thought I’d try it in the mixer again.  I can’t get as much of the flour worked in by hand, no matter how hard I try.  So I used my mixer to get all of the flour incorporated, but again it started with the whining, so I took the dough out and finished kneading it by hand.

I did not follow the directions well when making these.  First, I shaped them not the old-fashioned way, by making a rope of dough and sticking the ends together, but the way I always do, by sticking my thumb through the ball of dough.

But really, that’s just a matter of aesthetics.

The part I really didn’t follow was the rest periods.  My house was cold yesterday, and it took my dough all afternoon to rise enough to “look and feel a bit puffy”.  So when it came time to refrigerate them 4 to 8 hours, I refrigerated them one hour and figured that would be fine.  I don’t want to be making bagels at midnight.

The extra refrigeration time is really to add to the flavor, not a matter of structural integrity or anything.  Although I do also think some bagel recipes require the refrigeration period so that you are putting a cold bagel into the water.  That way it doesn’t rise as much, giving a denser final product.

I also didn’t monitor boiling time closely.  This recipe calls for a 20 second boil, and I am used to more like a minute, so some got boiled longer than others because I forgot to watch.

Through sheer laziness I didn’t read the instructions at the end of the recipe closely, so I didn’t turn my oven down 25 degrees after the bagels were in, which meant they baked for only 15 minutes or so before being well-browned.  If I’d put them in the oven for 26 minute and gone off to do other things, I would have had bagel briquettes, and only myself to blame.  Learn from my mistakes, blog readers, because I probably won’t.

But, all’s well that ends well.  The sourdough taste was subtle, which my dearest husband prefers.  I’ll save this recipe for the next time I look into the back of the fridge and think “Oh yeah, I have a sourdough starter”.

Just a note – if you like to use sesame seeds, they adhere better to the bagels if you brush the tops with egg whites before sprinkling the seeds on between boiling and baking the bagels.  They do stick if you don’t use egg whites, but not nearly as firmly, and they come off in the bag, in the toaster, and all over the table.

More Bagels, With Strawberry Cream Cheese

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20150219_083412This is actually a bagel I made last week.  I like to procrastinate like that.  Anyway, it’s the third time I’ve used Bruce Ezzell’s Bagel Recipe, and it has turned out great every time.

I hunted up the barley malt syrup that the recipe calls for at a health food store.  I won’t say how much it costs, but it wasn’t cheap.  However, a jar should last quite a while using a tablespoon at a time.

I have to say though, I don’t think it makes much difference.  I actually liked the bagels made with molasses a teeny bit better.  So, if the price of barley malt syrup puts you off, just use molasses and don’t worry about it.  Unless you’re from New York.  Apparently these things are very important to some New Yorkers.

Strawberries were on sale, so instead of buying the strawberry cream cheese spread that the dearest husband and the kids like, I decided to try making homemade strawberry cream cheese with part of the plain cream cheese I was buying anyway.

I have to confess, I had never actually tried the strawberry cream cheese spread.  I don’t like sweet stuff on my bagels, and the pink color just put me off.  But since I made this, I had to try it, and I loved it.  It wasn’t as sweet as I was afraid it would be, and had a deliciously fresh strawberry flavor.  Plus, it’s super easy to make.

I still have no plans to try the pink stuff from the store.

The first time I made the bagels, they stuck to the parchment paper.  The second time I made them I drained them on a rack and then put them on parchment paper, and they still stuck.  This time, I drained them on a rack and then put them on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray and sprinkled with cornmeal (which I think is how the Saveur bagel recipe went) and it worked great.  No sticking at all.  So that’s how I’ll do things next time.

I also splurged and bought lox to try lox and cream cheese on bagels.  I have no traditional vices (books, are books a vice?), so I figure occasionally buying expensive ingredients won’t hurt anything.  But this bagel experimenting is adding up.

The lox was good, but not so good that I plan to buy it again.  However, it was worth it to me to have my curiosity satisfied.  I planned to take a picture of the lox bagel, but didn’t remember until I was halfway through eating.  Oh well, it wasn’t pretty anyway.

Bagel Success

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, before I had a blog, I tried to make bagels.  I think it was with the recipe from Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day.  They were not a dismal failure, but neither was I inspired to ever make bagels again.  So I didn’t.

Until last week.  I ran across a recipe for homemade bagels in the Saveur cookbook I had borrowed from the library, and decided to make them.  That recipe requires an overnight rest of the dough.  I have not been good at remembering to put stuff out the night before lately.  I haven’t baked much  anything with sourdough in months as a consequence.

I forgot to make the bagel dough the night before I wanted bagels.

So the next day I was trawling the internet for a similar recipe that didn’t require an overnight rest, and ran across Bruce Ezzell’s bagel recipe (which has a 4 to 12 hour rest).  It also won points for suggesting the substitution of molasses (which I have plenty of) for barley malt syrup (which I did not have).

The bagels were good.  Even without the barley malt syrup, which is supposed to  give them the authentic bagel flavor, they were really good.  The four hours of fermentation really did their job.

Boiling and then baking anything is a bit of a pain.  It’s an extra step, and messy.  My previous batch of bagels didn’t turn out well enough to merit the extra fuss.  These, however, I plan to make again.

Besides the substitution of molasses for barley malt syrup, the only change I made was to make the bagels from 3 oz. balls of dough, not 4 oz.  I don’t know how many the recipe made at that size, I didn’t count, but I’d guess around 17 or 18.  They’re all gone now, however many there were.

I did have one problem.  I remove20150128_210534d the bagels from the boiling water and put them on half-sheet pans lined with parchment paper, as the recipe author recommended.  They stuck to the paper, and I had a very hard time getting them off without leaving the bottom crust behind on the paper, or paper bits stuck to the bottom of the bagel.  It might be because I used the parchment paper from Dollar Tree, I don’t know.  Next time I will drain them on racks before baking, though, as the Saveur recipe recommends.

I also still intend to try the Saveur recipe, eventually, when I can actually remember to do the overnight part.

Easy Pancake Recipe

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I recently bought self-rising flour so that my daughter could use it in baking recipes that call for it.  It streamlines things, with less measuring.  This is the girl who takes an hour, plus cooking time, to make muffins.

Then I tried it in my favorite pancake recipe, which claims to taste like IHOP pancakes.  I don’t know, I thought they were better.   To me, IHOP pancakes have a slight whang to them, like pancakes from mix.

Using self-rising flour worked great.  I have also made a couple of other changes over time to make the recipe taste better/work better for me.

Easy Pancakes (click for PDF)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 1/3 cups milk*
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1.Mix the milk and vinegar together and let sit for 5 minutes.
2.Stir together the self-rising flour and sugar in a medium mixing bowl.
3.Mix egg with the sour milk, melted butter, and vanilla.
4.Add to flour mixture and stir until just until smooth.
5.Heat a greased griddle on medium heat. You can tell the griddle is hot enough when a drop of water flicked onto the griddle dances around.
6.Reduce heat slightly.
7.Using a measuring cup as a scoop, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle. Cook until bubbles rise to the surface of the batter and pop, leaving holes.
8.Flip the pancake and cook until the other side is golden brown.
9.Place the pancakes on a plate in a warm oven to keep them warm while the rest of the pancakes are cooking.

Serves 4, or maybe 6, or maybe 2. Depends on if you are feeding toddlers or lumberjacks.

* Note: The original recipe calls for buttermilk, and you may substitute buttermilk for the vinegar and milk. However, buttermilk is thicker than sour milk, and you may also have to add a few tablespoons of water if the batter is too thick.

Two Winter Bulletin Boards

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I recently decided to put up new bulletin boards at the church building.  The spring bulletin boards were still up in November, and I thought it was about time for a change.  I originally found both of these on Pinterest, but I added my own twists that I thought might be useful to others.


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The original snowman board is here.  Our snowman bulletin board doubles as an attendance chart for the children’s class, with the children adding a different feature to the snowmen each time they come to class.  I traced three different sizes of paper plates onto construction paper to make the snowmen, though using the paper plates themselves would have been easier if we’d had enough of each size.  I drew one hat freehand and then traced it onto different colors of construction paper.  The final touch was a cotton ball stapled to the end of the hat for a pom-pom.

To streamline the process of adding pieces to the snowmen each week, I made a plastic baggie for each child containing the buttons (for eyes and buttons), twigs (for arms), and a construction paper carrot (nose).  We use glue dots to attach the pieces, except for the twigs which I thought might work better with strips of regular tape. The kids really enjoy adding to their snowman each week.


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The original for the “God’s Love” board is here (second down).  It’s hard to tell, but it seems like the original has names on each of the mugs.  I decided to print a scripture out and put on each mug.  This was the fourth and final bulletin board I did, and my enthusiasm was flagging, but finding the scriptures about God’s love was exciting and made this a really meaningful project for me.

To make the mugs, I found a mug template online that I liked and enlarged it to a good size, then printed it directly on sheets of construction paper to be cut out.  The background is a snowman wrapping paper I found at Dollar Tree.  Wrapping paper is much cheaper than the paper sold specifically for bulletin board backgrounds.  Actually, Dollar Tree is also where I got the letters and the shiny border. These are the scriptures I used:

  • Romans 5:8
  • Psalm 103:11
  • Hebrews 13:5
  • 1 John 3:1a
  • Psalm 86:15
  • John 15:13
  • Isaiah 49:15
  • 1 John 4:9
  • Romans 8:38,39
  • Isaiah 41:13

I really encourage you to look them up even if you aren’t going to do the bulletin board, they’re amazing. Doing all of these bulletin boards, when I’d done a lifetime total of maybe two before, gave me a real appreciation for all of the Bible class teachers and other ladies out there who do new bulletin boards on a regular basis.

Prayer Journaling – some thoughts and links

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Prayer is one of our primary resources as Christians, and yet I often feel that my prayer life is a disorganized shambles.  It is extremely rare that I go an entire day without praying (Thanks Mom, for instilling the bedtime prayer habit!) but so many of my prayers are quickie prayers, the mental equivalent of a jotted post-it note, and I often forget important things that I should be praying for.  If I pray at bedtime, I have a bad habit of falling asleep halfway through.

Enter the prayer journal, which I’ve kept with varying levels of success over the years.  I recently started trying to keep a prayer journal again, though I sort of dropped it in all the busyness of Christmas.  I felt the difference, though.

I have a hard time keeping my thoughts reined in while I pray.  I forget I’m supposed to be talking to God, and start worrying about things that need done or the movie I watched last night.  Then I get back to prayer, but before I know it, my mind is wandering around again.  Prayer journals really help me both keep focused and remember all of the prayer requests from church and things that I have to be thankful for (and did you know gratitude has health benefits?).

I also find that praise is one of the most sorely lacking aspects in my prayers.  Neal Pollard has an article entitled Praise Ideas for Prayer that really gave me some good ideas on that.

If I list too many things, I tend to get into a “going down the list” mentality, though, instead of taking the time to truly pray about each item.  For this reason, I try to limit my daily list.  There are always a few things that don’t get written down that I pray about anyway as they occur to me, but limiting myself in this way helps me pray more thoroughly and meaningfully.  I recently read an article that suggested giving each day a topic (family, the lost, the church, etc.) to focus on, and I think I will be trying that in the coming year, too.

And now that I’m out of things to say about prayer journals, I’ll leave you with two more links.

Come Fill Your Cup had an article and challenge on prayer journaling that really has some good ideas: Prayer Journal – Let It Overflow

For Christmas I made several small notebooks to give to people, intended for use as prayer journals, like the one pictured above, which I kept for myself.  I used the tutorial here at Damask Love.  As far as bookbinding goes, it is easy and fast, involves very little glue, and yet still has enough pages to be worthwhile. I used some patterned card stock and chalkboard-style stickers from Hobby Lobby, and I thought they turned out really cute.

Review – The Children’s Baking Book, by Denise Smart

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20141023_094555I recently realized my daughter is about the age I was when I started baking muffins all by myself for 4-H.  She’s not in 4-H, but I thought she might be able to do some more independent baking, so I started looking up recipes online and looking at children’s cookbooks.

The Children’s Baking Book is one I saw on Amazon and fell in love with just because it has such pretty photographs.  But like anything, it got mixed reviews, so I didn’t order it right then.  Especially with cookbooks, I’ve found that I would rather borrow the book from a library or a friend before forking over the money for a book I may not end up liking or using.  I’m very glad my library had this book.

The pictures are beautiful, and each recipe has both a list of ingredients and a list of tools/equipment used at the beginning of each recipe.  Photos illustrate many of the steps, which is especially helpful for beginners.

But, and this is a major but, the book seems to have been published in the UK first (DK Publishing is based in the UK, but is also part of the Penguin Group, which publishes internationally), and the measurements were originally, I think, all by weight.  When it was changed over to volume measurements for the United States, you end up with some odd amounts and artifacts of the process, and some measurements are still by weight.

For example, one muffin recipe called for 1/4 oz. of brown sugar.  I have a scale, so I could have weighed it out, but my daughter isn’t used to measuring by weight. She just saw the 1/4 and put in 1/4 cup.  It didn’t hurt the final product, but out of curiosity I weighed out 1/4 oz. brown sugar, and it was about a teaspoon.

There are also some odd measurements (like 7/8 cup) that are difficult for someone without a firm grasp of fractions other than quarters and halves.  One recipe called for 5 oz. of water, which is an odd number that isn’t marked on either of my liquid measuring cups.  Since the mL measurement was given in parenthesis, I had her use that instead, as one of my measuring cups is marked in mL as well.

I also found that some recipes weren’t well laid out.  The orange poppy-seed muffins recipe had zesting the oranges in the first step, but not how much to zest.  Orange zest was only listed as an ingredient in the glaze, so I had my daughter zest that amount.  Then, in a fit of cleaning zeal, I threw the orange rinds in the trash.  Halfway through the recipe, it mentions that we need to stir 1 tbsp. of zest into the batter, as well.  Yes, I should have read the recipe better, but in my opinion, the recipe should have listed the 1 tbsp. zest in the ingredients list for the muffins.

Another thing was self-rising flour.  Several recipes called for it, so I bought some.  It turns out that self-raising flour (as they call it) in the UK has a lower percentage of added salt than self-rising flour in the U.S.  So the muffins were saltier than I like.

Overall, if this were a cookbook for myself, I would have probably gone ahead and bought it.  I can deal with odd measurements and hybrid weight-volume issues.  All of my cookbooks end up with scribbled notes and adjustments anyway.  However, for my eight-year old, I want something that she can follow step by step without help, and obtain an edible result.  When she has mastered the basics of volume measurement, the most commonly used type of recipe for this country, then she can worry about weight measurements and hybrids of the two.

I think we made three of the recipes – pizza dough and two kinds of muffins.  The pizza dough and the first muffin recipe, which didn’t use self-rising flour, turned out good, but the orange-poppyseed muffins were too salty, as I mentioned.

Lemon Zucchini Bread: Thank you, Internets!

20140730_113457Awhile back, I had a huge zucchini that my mom gave me and I didn’t want it to go bad.  I looked in every cookbook I own, and all I found for zucchini bread was something that used boxed spice cake mix.  Not what I was looking for.

Then I went on Facebook and serendipitously one of my friends had posted a link to this Glazed Lemon Zucchini bread at Lil’ Luna.  The dearest husband loves lemon breads, so I thought it looked like a great candidate.  Then I read the recipe and realized I had no lemon zest, no buttermilk, and no cake flour.

I have a standard substitution for buttermilk that I use all the time, since I hardly ever keep it on hand.  1 tablespoon vinegar per cup of milk, let it set five minutes or so.  It isn’t as thick as buttermilk, but it thickens up a little and has the acid that baking soda recipes need.

Awhile back I needed cake flour for an actual cake, so I knew that all-purpose flour sifted together with some cornstarch would work, and a quick google search refreshed my memory of exactly how much cornstarch.  Another google search also revealed that 1/2 tsp. lemon extract would substitute for the lemon zest called for in the recipe.

Then I was in business.  The bread turned out really good.  Sometimes I think about how the Internet has changed how I cook, and what I cook, and it is pretty amazing.  I have quite a few cookbooks (and there are more all the time) but I rely heavily on the Internet for “quick, what can I make with ______” questions, and substitutions, and the mouthwatering descriptions and pictures of food on blogs are often the impetus for me to cook foods I haven’t tried before, especially foods from other countries, much more so than simply reading through recipes in a cookbook.

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