A Cozy Halloween Baking Rampage (Bagels, Potato Focaccia, and Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder)

HOLY CRAP! It’s snowing! Big fat chunky flakes, just a little bit, just barely, and nowhere near to sticking. But it’s snowing….

Can you see the flakes? No? Well, they’re there. I promise.

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and… now it’s done. A brief blip of winter intruding upon our chilly fall Friday.

Well, it’s still cold as hell, and I’ve got nothing to do today except answer emails and fill our house with warm, tasty smells. So here’s what I’m up to:

Bagels.

I made a half recipe earlier this week to try them out, and they were a hit (read: devoured), so today I’m prepping a full recipe of them for brunch tomorrow morning. 🙂

I used a Food52 recipe, available here.  It’s way simpler than I thought bagel-making would be. Just throw together some basic ingredients, leave them in the fridge for a few hours, shape the bagels, leave them in the fridge overnight, boil them for about a minute and a half, then bake for 8 minutes or so.

Focaccia.

Halfway through starting the bagels, I realized that we had some Russet potatoes that were starting to look a little shabby. So I decided to pull out this Potato Rosemary Focaccia recipe and make some potato rosemary focaccia while I’m at it.

Mise en place. My favorite phrase that I never pronounce correctly. 

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Until very recently, all of my baking was done by hand. 100% by hand. Until last year I didn’t even own a mixing bowl, much less an electric mixer. A whisk was high tech equipment for me.

But this fall when we moved into the new place, I got myself a late birthday present.

It’s a Kitchenaid standing mixer, complete with a dough hook! Sexy.

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So now I look for excuses to play with my new toy. I have previously beaten and kneaded this focaccia recipe by hand, and it came out wonderfully, but today I decided to let my mixer knead it for me. The dough is so smooth! I’m excited to see if there’s any difference in the outcome of the focaccia.

Pork Shoulder.

So now the bagels are rising in the fridge, the focaccia is rising on a stool in the kitchen, but what should I do while I wait for all that rising?

This is an interesting wrinkle with me and baking–  as many of you know, I’m not exactly a patient person. Which means that often, when I’ve set one baked good to rise, I start looking for other things to do (read: cook/bake) while I wait. And THIS is why I have a problem, and THIS is why I’m sending you people baked goods.

Anyway. We’ve been planning on roasting a pork shoulder, but I hadn’t decided on a recipe yet. I turned to my trusty food blog porn in search of a pork shoulder recipe that would just explode with fall and warmth. I’m a little bummed that we’re not doing anything particular for Halloween, so I’m trying to make our kitchen as festive as possible.

I stumbled across this recipe for Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onion and Apple Confit from Food52, and knew it was the one. Except that I wanted to slow cook the pork even slower than the recipe called for.

I started by browning the pork shoulder in my cast iron for about 6 minutes each side.

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While that was going, I prepped the onions and apples

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and the garlic and thyme,

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saving myself dishes by staging the apples, garlic, and thyme all in the same prep bowl, since they would be added at the same time.

By this time the pork was browned and aromatic

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so I removed it from the pan, poured off some of the fat (but not all, because that would be a damn shame) to save for other uses, and added the onions to caramelize

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which took about 18 minutes. The picture is at about 10 minutes in, right before I snuck off for a cigarette break in the freezing cold.

I deglazed the pan with some chicken broth (I don’t have Calvados, and I probably never will think to stock Calvados, until such time as I can afford a home bar– it would have been fine to use apple juice or cider here instead, by the way) and stirred in the apples, thyme, and garlic for about a minute.

Up till this point, I  was following the recipe as written. (Mostly. I’ll talk more about my strange relationship with recipes another day.) But instead of throwing this all into the oven, I opted to use our much-used and much-loved slow cooker

Ping, my cat, wishes you a happy Halloween.

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and that will be simmering slowly on low until, oh, tomorrow afternoon. Maybe I’ll find a way to incorporate it into our late brunch.

By the time I finished this part, the focaccia was done with its rise, and I was back to the baking.

BAKE OR DEATH!

Update: The finished potato rosemary focaccia. I got so excited to try it that I had started cutting into it before I remembered to take a picture.

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