English Muffins

I’m not sure what causes these urges. Whether it’s cold wintry cabin fever infested days or a complete lack of sun and warmth, but these urges usually involve my experimenting with new recipes.

This urge – as it does on most ‘we’re snowed in’ day – involved English Muffins from scratch. No eye rolling, please. I know I can buy them in the supermarket, but I just couldn’t help myself!

For all things unknown, I turn to the Joy of Cooking. Not sure why, but Mrs. Joy (to steal a line from Julie & Julia) has never let me down.

I had tried this once before. Another snow storm, unable to really leave the house, I just HAD to. Sadly this experiment ended with the dog eating the english muffins during their second rising, my having a complete melt down and everything going into the bin.

I WILL NOT BE DETERRED – so off we go!

  • 1 C water
  • 1/2 C scalded milk
  • 2 t sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 T 105-115 degree water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4 C all purpose flour
  • 3 T softened butter

NOTE: Sift the flour before measuring.

In a mixing bowl, combine the 1 cup of water, milk, sugar and salt. Dissolve yeast in the 2 T of 105-115 degree water for 3 – 5 minutes. After the yeast dissolves, combine the 2 bowls into one.

Beat 2 cups of the flour into the milk mixture. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours or until it collapses back into the bowl.

NOTE: The dough is very shaggy and gooey. I just let it rise a little over 1 1/2 hours. I really wasn’t sure what collapsing back in the bowl meant!

Beat the softened butter into the dough. Beat in or knead in the remaining 2 cups of flour.

NOTE: At this point there are 2 different methods for the last rise. You can either cut the dough into rounds or fill 3″ rings with the dough to rise. I chose to cut them out – seriously, who has 20 3″ rings or empty tuna cans in their homes! – but I’ll include the ring method at the end.

Place the dough on a lightly floured board – or sprinkle with cornmeal. Pat or press the dough to a thickness of 1/2″. Cut the dough into 3″ circles and let rise on a lightly greased cookie sheet until they almost double in size.

NOTE: I used the cover to a peanut butter jar. It was 3 ” in diameter inside the cover. I think they were a little small. I would find a different kitchen object for the next go round.

Once they have double, transfer them to a fairly hot, well buttered griddle. Cook until light brown on each side.

NOTE: No griddle – sigh. I used my incredible 15″ Lodge cast iron skillet. I love this skillet to pieces. I just wish it wasn’t so freakin’ heavy!

Cool slightly on a rack. Once cool, fork split to toast. You know, poke around the sides with the fork and split them open so you have all those wonderful nooks and crannies!

NOTE: INCREDIBLE! YUMMMMMY! So good. Not as difficult as I first thought it would be. Much better than store bought. I forked the ones left over and put them in the freezer.

For the ring method: Grease the rings and place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Fill the rings to no more than 1/2″. Let raise until doubled. Slip a spatula under the rings and dough and place on griddle. Remove the rings. Continue as above.

Jam Doughnut Muffins

There has been nobody home for months. It has been too UNBEARABLY hot to even look at the oven, much less light it up. How happy was I to wake up chilly one morning and have the jones to get baking. Question was, what to bake, what to bake. 

I must admit here and now, that I a total sucker for jelly doughnuts, but the thought of piping jelly into the center was not doing it for me. Then I remembered in one of Nigella Lawson’s books – How To Be A Domestic Goddess – there was a simple recipe for a jam fille doughnut. Problem solved.

These were so simple and quick to put together.

  • 200 g self-rising flour
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 125 ml milk
  • 85 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • jam (just your favorite here!)

NOTE: The original recipe said strawberry. Not too  many strawberry jam fans in our house, so I just used a favorite. I sure it doesn’t matter much what you use here.

For topping

  • 125 g unsalted butter
  • sugar and cinnamon for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

With a fork, beat together the milk, oil, egg and vanilla extract. Stir this into the flour and sugar to combine.

NOTE: Don’t overbeat the muffins or they will be tough. Don’t worry about the lumps, they won’t be there at the end (neither will the muffins!).

Butter a mini muffin tin and spoon the mixture into each muffin cup, about 1/3 full.  With a teaspoon place a dollop of jam on top of batter. Top with more butter so cups are just about full.

NOTE: Nigella’s actual recipe says a dollop of jam about the size of a broad bean. It really needs more than that, and probably more than I used this time.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tops feel springy and resistant and the muffins have puffed up.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and pour into a shallow howl. In another shallow bowl add the sugar.  As soon as the muffins are ready, remove them from their cups, dip them in the butter, and roll them in the sugar. Eat warm.

NOTE: I added cinnamon to the sugar. Yum! But this part needs to be worked on a little. I rolled the doughnut in the butter and then in the sugar, The sugar was VERY wet.

Trust me, this little glitch is purely an esthetic problem. I took two doughnuts off the plate for the husband and the rest were INSTANTLY devoured!

Breakfast Bars

My son is not a breakfast eater so I am constantly in search of a grab and go, but healthy, alternative for him.  While re-aquainting myself with Nigella Express, I came across a recipe for Breakfast Bars. This looked like it could be the answer to my problem.

Reading the recipe, it really looks simple. I gathered up the ingredients and set to work.

  • 1 14 oz. can condensed milk
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup mixed seeds
  • 1 cup unsalted peanuts

NOTE: I used pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower and I toasted them first. I also used roasted, unsalted peanuts.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. You need a 9×13 pan.

In a large bowl add all the dry ingredients.

Warm the condensed milk in a pot, being careful not to burn. Pour the warmed milk over the dry ingredients.

With a wooden spoon or spatula mix and fold to evenly coat and incorporate all ingredients.

Press into baking pan.  The mixture is very sticky, so either wet your hands with cold water or use an off set spatula to evenly press mixture into pan. Bake for 1 hour.

Let cool for at least 15 minutes, cut 4 across and 4 down for 16 bars.

Bars are still sticky after cutting and removing from pan. The taste is good. I am sure that toasting the nuts, vanilla and cinnamon helped. Not too sweet. Really filling and substantial.

NOTES FOR NEXT TIME:

  • I added 1 tsp. of vanilla to the condensed milk while warming. I think a little more would add a little extra flavor.
  • I added 1 tsp. of cinnamon to the mixture. Again, a little more would give it that warmth only cinnamon can bring.
  • Make sure the bars are completely cooled or they are seriously difficult to cut.

Country French Omelet

The recipe for the French Country Omelet is from  Ina Garten’s Back to Basics cookbook.

I was looking for something simple, homey and would not heat up my kitchen too  much – and I get to use my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. I love being able to use her things. In a silly way it reminds me of being in the kitchen with her.

I had spied this recipe while participating in a cook-along on one of my favorite food boards – Contessa’s Kitchen and thought I would give it a try on a hot summer night when I was cooking for just myself. I knew I had all the other ingredients at home, so I bought some beautiful slab bacon at Whole Foods. Arrived home, opened the book, and realized – not so cool! It has to bake in the oven for 8 minutes!

Now this is one of my worst habits – I inherited it from my mother – I see a recipe. Glance through the ingredients, and don’t read the directions all the way through. Hopefully this writing experiment will break me of this habit.

I love slab bacon. I hope I have more recipes that use slab bacon. There is nothing better than the smell of bacon cooking!

bacon

While the bacon is browning and crisping in the cast iron skillet, I cube the potatoes. Once the bacon is removed from the pan I realize that these wonderful yukon gold potatoes are going to cook in the bacon fat. Yummy! Into the pan they go with a little salt and pepper.

Potatoes

Crack some eggs, mix in milk, salt and pepper, whisk away. SInce I also didn’t see the word chives in the ingredient I add some fresh tarragon instead. Remove the potatoes from the pan, add to a bowl holding the bacon I have already cooked and am desperately trying not to nibble on.   Empty the bacon grease from the pan.

A tablespoon of butter sizzles in the pan, in go the eggs, the potatoes and bacon – don’t eat it, don’t eat it, don’t  eat it – get sprinkled on top, and into the oven we go!

butter

Timer goes off, eight minutes are up, open the oven door and there is this HUGE, fluffy omlet staring back at me! I cannot imagine, looking at this omlet, that only two people are to eat this!

Omlet

 But it looks yummy!

I cut it in four and, yes, I can now imagine that 2 people can eat this. It deflates a bit once out of the oven. I ate half, and wrapped up the other half for breakfast t his morning.

Cut omlet

This was terrific and simple – and very basic. It is a quick I-don’t-want-to-cook-alot meal. It does, however, need something. Some heat. Some onion – maybe leeks – sauteed after the bacon, but before the potatoes. Maybe some sharp cheddar cheese.

That will be for next time!

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