A Stand Innovation

The star of this year’s spring-forward brunch made an encore appearance a week ago Sunday, 15 years after its debut at the same event. Transparent, simple, and requiring a bit of coaxing to stand on center stage, it’s one of my most prized possessions because I designed it: a seven-tier tart stand to accommodate and vertically display quiches or tarts ranging from smallest (4 3/4-inch) to largest (12 1/2-inch), enough to serve 36 people.

The 18 1/4-inch  stand assembles from the bottom up and disassembles for storage, an essential feature for any kitchen where real estate is in short supply. Six identical clear plastic washers evenly separate seven precisely laser-cut disks twisted down a skeletal rod, a process accomplished with some finesse. But considering its modest origin as a series of doodles, dimensions, and measurements, it’s still a functional and practical vessel to serve delicately portioned, pre-sliced savories and sweets at room temperature. And thanks to the proximity and speedy turnaround of a now-defunct plastic store on Canal Street, bringing the doodles to life was a piece of cake.

disassembled translucent seven-tier tart stand

disassembled translucent seven-tier tart stand

The assembled stand vertically displays 7 tarts from smallest (4 3/4-inch) to largest (12 1/2-inch)

The assembled stand vertically displays 7 tarts from smallest (4 3/4-inch) to largest (12 1/2-inch)

For spring-forward, I served two kinds of quiche, alternating a display of the classic Quiche Lorraine, rich and bacony, with a vegetarian option, Roasted Red Pepper and Poblano. I based my shallow tart versions on Ruth Levy Beranbaum’s inspirational The Pie and Pastry Bible, an indispensable recipe collection and resource on the science of baking pastries.

Seven tiers of two different quiches served at spring-forward brunch 2013

Seven tiers of two different quiches served at spring-forward brunch 2013

Beranbaum’s recipes call for 9 1/2-inch prebaked crusts, but I easily converted recipes for smaller and larger tart pans, listed below, by multiply the ingredient quantities (in grams and milliliters) for both crust and fillings by the factor indicated in parentheses below (a simple calculation of relative volume). Frequent bakers will find that it’s well worth investing in a digital scale such as the one I happen to own.

I recommend these nonstick fluted tart pans (one-inch deep)  to make quiche in the following sizes:

4 3/4-inch (.25)
5 1/2-inch (.34)
7 3/4-inch (.67)
9 1/2-inch (1)
10-inch (1.11)
11-inch (1.34)
12-inch (1.73)

Anniversary Rings Without the Bling

Authentic bagels, characterized by a thick, chewy crust and dense crumb, are a rare commodity outside of New York, and they’re surprisingly difficult to come by even in New York City. As with many things in life, looks can be awfully deceiving, but when it comes to bagels it only takes one bite to discern an imposter from the real deal: All too often, I’ve bitten into unmemorable donut-shaped dinner rolls in disguise.

Named for their ring shape (“beygal” in Yiddish, derived from a German root meaning “ring”), bagels have not been part of my baking repertoire until last weekend, while I was visiting my parents in Woodstock, Vermont, for one last stretch of outdoor summer recreation, leisure and rejuvenation before jumping on the fall treadmill of city life.

Faced with the perfect storm of spare time, easy access to King Arthur Flour (home of every baking supply imaginable), and a commemorative occasion for a ceremony symbolized by rings–my parents’ anniversary–I set out to make some celebratory whole wheat bagels that would exceed my expectations, expecting to be humbled in the process.

It turns out that the process really isn’t as cumbersome or as nuanced as I’d expected, but nevertheless, I’ve gained a newfound respect for bagel making; for a first effort, mine turned out pretty well but could stand improvement. It’s safer to squelch any improvisational instincts the first time, stick to the recipe, and don’t take any shortcuts. The two-minute water bath serves two purposes: it creates a chewy, thick crust and it allows the interior of the bagel to develop.

My ten-pound investment in flour, which I hauled with me back to the city, means I’ve made a commitment to the homemade variety. Next time, I’ll experiment with the ratio of bread flour to white whole wheat flour and other techniques I’ve read about. Will adding a tablespoon of brown sugar (or, the harder-to-come-by bread baker’s secret weapon: diastatic malt powder) to the bagel bath create an even chewier, browner crust that defies scooping? After all, a love of crust is the main reason to eat bagels.

whole wheat bagels, shaped and allowed to rise 12 hours