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The quest for the ultimate homemade English muffin

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Written by foodie pam   
Monday, 27 September 2010
List of viewable recipes from "Artisan Breads at Home" by Eric Kastel

ImageFor almost two years now I've been making my own bread for lost of uses including sandwich bread, rolls, loaves, pizza dough and more.   Somehow, even though I love them, English muffins were, until recently, one of the few bread items that I still bought at the store.

Once I decided to make my own English muffins, it didn't take me long to find some recipes since all of my favorite bread making cookbooks have English muffin recipes. I also quickly found some nice recipes for whole wheat English muffins.  It has been a long journey through muffinland and it's still hard to choose a favorite, but I have I learned a few things along the way.

Ultimately, the first recipe I tried was my favorite, but from the start it had a problem. The English muffins came out rectangular.  Call me old fashioned, but that was just a bit too artisan for me; I wanted round English muffins.  

I soon learned that round English muffins require crumpet rings because they're more of a batter consistency than a dough consistency like my square muffins. And that crumpet rings are hard to find.  While some books claimed that tuna cans and/or canning rings could be used this was problematic.  The canned tuna I buy has a round bottom so cutting the bottom off isn't possible and canning rings are not tall enough (in my opinion). 

I searched and searched for crumpet rings.  The first place I checked was the most recent King Arthur Flour catalog that arrived in my mailbox, but they weren't in it.  I tried cooking stores, specialty stores and more.  Oh, of course these stores all had 4 inch rings, but typically at an outrageous price - and I need at least 8. Then one day about 4 months later another King Arthur Flour catalog arrived and lo and behold it had crumpet/English muffin rings.  Bingo - I got them and made the other recipes.  The result? Nice round English muffins that lacked the flavor of English muffins. 

Sigh.  After all that effort I still didn't have round English muffins - or at least ones I liked!  

Desperation is a good motivator though so I went back to the original great tasting recipe that had nice nooks and crannies.  I rolled the dough out like the recipe said but instead of cutting the dough into squares I (gasp) used my damn crumpet rings like cookie cutters and made round pieces of dough!  

Now you may be wondering - why is she sharing this with us?  Well, that's easy. I love these English muffins so much that I want you to be able to make them.  The ultimate English muffin recipe (see below) is from "Artisan Bread at Home" by Eric Kastel and the Culinary Institute of America (more recipes from Artisan Bread at Home). The recipe calls for square muffins, but in this case you really can make a square peg fit into a round whole and you don't even have to spend four months searching for crumpet rings.

Of course being a foodie is about more than just baking - we also eat our creations.  The English muffin recipe makes a dozen English muffins; unless you've got a lot of people in your house this is more than you'll want on any given day.  My solution is to freeze them after I cook them.   This lets me enjoy the whole batch, just not all at once.

One caveat with this solution is toasting them.  I eat English muffins for breakfast on a whim.  That means I need to transform a frozen lump into a tasty treasure fairly quickly.  To do this I split the muffins before I freeze them (I use a fork so the nooks and crannies survive) and put them back together offset so a simple slip of a knife between them opens them up. 

ImageTo toast the frozen lumps, I use the defrost setting on the Magimix Toaster sold by Williams-Sonoma.   Since the Magimix toaster has glass windows on either side I can watch the muffins toast.  Not only is this really cool, but it lets me make sure all my efforts in making my own muffins don't get wasted by over toasting the muffins.  As an aside, if you haven't heard of Magimix yet that's a shame.  A few years ago my husband discovered the brand when we were searching for a food processor.   We bought the Magmix food processor and haven't looked back ever since.  The Magimix toaster and food processor only available at Williams-Sonoma in the United States.

OK, back to the English muffin eating. Once they are nicely toasted, my favorite toppings are butter (recipe in DIY Delicious by Vanessa Barrington) and/or fig jam and peach jam (recipe from Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff) all from my own kitchen. 

While it may sound silly, nothing puts a smile on my face more than starting the day off with something that is entirely my own homemade creation… 

Disclosure: The Magimix toaster was provided for testing purposes at Project Foodie by Williams-Sonoma.
 

English Muffins

From Artisan Breads at Home by Eric Kastel, Wiley 2010.

This recipe brings a classic favorite to the breakfast table. To get the characteristically browned outer crust of the muffins, before baking, the dough is first heated in a skillet for a short time at a low temperature. Slather these muffins with butter and jam, or pile them high with eggs and bacon for a satisfying early-day meal.

Yield: 12 muffins at 3½ oz | FDT: 82°F

Ingredient
OuncesGrams
Volume
Bakers %
Poolish
    
Water, 55°F
6.8 1913/4 cup
 25%
Bread flour
6.8
191
1 1/3 cups + 1 Tbsp
25%
Yeast, instant dry0.010.31/4 tsp
 0.04%
Final Dough
    
Poolish
13.6
383
  50.1%
Water, 95°F 12.5
354
1 1/2 cups
46.4%
Malt syrup
0.2
6
1/8 tsp
0.6%
Butter
1.0
28
2 Tbsp
3.7%
Bread flour
20.2
573
4 1/4 cups
75.0%
Yeast, instant dry.
0.3
9
1 Tbsp
0.9%
Salt
0.6
18
1 Tbsp 2.3%
Sugar
0.3
9
2 tsp
0.9%
Total
48.6
1380
 179.95
Garnish
    
Semolina-flour mixture; ratio 1:1 
 as needed
   

1. PREPARE the poolish the day before you want to serve the muffins. Mix together the water, flour and yeast by hand until homogenous. The poolish will have little lumps and will be wet (unlike a dough). Cover the poolish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for 10 to 12 hours. At this point, the poolish will have fermented and risen with visible bubbles (it should not have collapsed in the center).

2. TO MAKE THE DOUGH, put the poolish in the bowl of a mixer with the water and malt. In a separate bowl, rub the butter into the flour to make a sandy mixture. Add the yeast to the flour and butter, then add to the bowl. Add the salt and sugar and place the bowl on a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix for 4 minutes on low speed, making sure to scrape down and flip the dough over twice during the mixing process. Then mix for another 2 minutes on medium speed, making sure to scrape down and flip the dough. The dough should be wet and tacky with partial gluten development. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl large enough for it to double in size and cover with plastic wrap.

3. PLACE the bowl in a warm place to rest and ferment for 45-60 minutes, until when lightly touched the dough springs back halfway.

4. PLACE the dough on a lightly floured work surface and fold it into thirds. Re-cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for another 15 minutes, until when lightly touched the dough springs back halfway.

5. PREHEAT the oven to 475°F.

6. UNCOVER the dough and lightly flour it on all sides with a mixture of semolina flour and bread flour. Then gently roll the dough out into a rectangle (10 by 11 inches) about ½ inch thick. With a pastry wheel or pizza wheel, cut the dough into 3-inch squares (cut in 1 direction to create 3-inch strips, then cut across each strip to create squares). Place the squares on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest in a warm place for 15 minutes, until when lightly touched the dough springs back halfway.

7. WARM a nonstick skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Place a few dough pieces in the skillet, making sure not to overcrowd the pan, and cook until they are brown on each side (if the skillet becomes too hot, quickly lower the heat). Place the cooked dough pieces on a clean tray lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining dough.

8. TRANSFER the muffins to the oven. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 205°F.

9. REMOVE the tray from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 27 September 2010 )
 

Vintners' Holidays: Combine wine, food and views for a great holiday

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Written by foodie pam   
Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Image

Where can you get enjoy great wine and food while in the middle of one of the most gorgeous spots on earth?  Vintners' Holidays in Yosemite National park.

Last year, I had the pleasure of experiencing Vintners' Holidays first hand.

An opening reception offers a chance to meet other attendees and presenting vintners while sipping their wines and munching on great nibbles.

The late starting program allows for lazy mornings in Yosemite national park so that I could take a hike or simply sit and enjoy the views of Yosemite Valley from the hotel. 

Afternoon wine sessions let me explore wine by some great vintners while learning from them in interactive wine tasting sessions (some paired with food).

And, a grand finale gala with amazing food from Yosemite's Ahwahnee hotels wonderful Chef Percy Whatley.

Image

It was truly a holiday to remember. 

This year's Vintners' Holidays kicks off October 31st with eight different sessions to choose from.    Sessions are 2 or 3 nights with the cost varying depending if you stay at the Yosemite Lodge (starting at  $766) or the more luxurious Ahwahnee (starting at $1,106).  Find out all the details - here.

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 20 September 2010 )
 

What's Tasty August, 2010

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Written by foodie pam   
Thursday, 12 August 2010

Beat the Heat with Ice Cream

ImageWhat better time than the last month of summer to indulge in ice cream?  It should be no surprise that Häagen-Dazs is promoting new ice cream flavors this month, but the twist is that the new flavors are based on a consumer flavor survey focused on American taste preferences. Topics covered in the survey included how people are influenced to try new foods/flavors and how their tastes have changed over time.  One of the survey outcomes was that a flavor boost was needed. Häagen-Dazs took the survey to heart and introduced a variety of new products to help add some extra flavor to your life this summer.   The new ice cream flavors include Dark Chocolate Mint, Amaretto Almond Crunch, Midnight Cookies & Cream, Bananas Foster, and Five Lemon. I'm particularly partial to the Dark Chocolate Mint which reminds me of a frozen chocolate mint cookie and is a great cap to a hot summer day. Or depending on where you're living, a chilly summer's day bundled up in fall clothing!

National Sandwich Month

ImageDo you enjoy sandwiches?  If the answer is yes then you'll love August - it is National Sandwich Month!  To celebrate Mezzetta, who produces imported and domestic peppers, olives and other sandwich fixing goodies is running their Third Annual Mezzetta Make That Sandwich Recipe Contest where home cooks are challenged to enter their best sandwich recipe for a chance to win a Grand Prize of $25,000 and a trip for two to Napa Valley. Last year's winning sandwich was "Open-Faced Wine Braised Fig and Caramelized Onion".  Care to try for the grand prize this year? Details can be found at www.makethatsandwich.com.

Great Sandwich Alternative

ImageBut what about those who are trying to limit carb intake or merely reduce calories? If any meal is ripe for carb reduction it is certainly that sandwich for lunch.  Simply take that carb and calorie-packed bread and replace it with a low-carb and low-fat tortilla. Thing is, many low-carb tortillas are also low in flavor (well, actually, low in flavor is being generous).  Over the past several months I've tried several different brands and variations of low-carb tortillas in a quest for a flavor full one that also didn't fall apart easily.  So far, my favorite is Tumaro's Multi-Grain Tortillas.  The Tumaro's Tortillas are also available in Green Onion, Garden Vegetable and Salsa flavors and only contain 3 to 5 grams of net carbs.  Go to www.tumaros.com to purchase.

Disclosure: Items discussed in the What's Tasty posts may have been provided by vendors, publicists, and/or manufacturers to Project Foodie. 

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 August 2010 )
 

Foodie Treats for Mom

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Written by foodie pam   
Thursday, 06 May 2010
List of viewable recipes from "Baking Kids Love" by Cindy Mushet and Sur La Table

ImageLooking for a special gift for Mom this Mother's Day?  If she's a foodie she'll love something food related.  

For a decadent kid-made treat fresh from the oven the Milk Chocolate Toffee Bars (see recipe below) from Cindy Mushet's Baking Kids Love are perfect as are any of the recipes in this book because the recipes were specifically designed for 8 to 12 year olds.

If you'd rather something a bit more traditional and don't mind cooking first thing in the morning then a family-made breakfast is a great choice.  Keep it simple with something like pancakes (see my favorite pancake recipe below). 

ImageNot up for cooking?  Nudo Adopt-an-Olive-Tree is a fun gift ($109) that sends olive oil from the adopted tree to the foodie of your choice (they get extra virgin olive oil in the spring and infused lemon/chilli in the fall).  I recently tried their extra virgin first cold press olive oil that arrives in the spring shipment.  I enjoyed it so much that I've been specifically seeking out dishes to showcase it in which makes me confident this gift is something any foodie mom would definitely enjoy!

Buttermilk  Pancakes - these pancakes are awesome even without the blueberry compote. Their secret ingredient is sour cream which ensures they come out perfectly moist.


Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry Compote

(Bon Appétit, March, 1999)

Ingredients:
finding recipe...
finding ingredients...
Healthful Info:

This recipe is a little high in fat and sugar however blueberries are loaded with antioxidants. Use them when you can.

My Rating:
1 2 3 4 5
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Comments:

On December 26, 2007, 8:06 pm pam said:

I love pancakes but for some reason they just never taste great when I make them at home. Until now that is. This recipe is simply amazing. The secret ingredient is sour cream - that's right sour cream in pancakes! The result is very fluffy and very tasty pancakes. I didn't make the blueberry topping instead I use some of the pancakes to wrap-up sausage to make pigs-in-a-blanket and the others we ate with Maple syrup. This recipe makes a lot of pancakes so you may want to cut it in half or just freeze any leftovers by layering them in waxed paper so they don't stick together.


Milk Chocolate Toffee Bars

From Baking Kids Love by Cindy Mushet and Sur La Table (Andrews McMeel, 2009)

Makes 36 chewy squares

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (see page 10)
  • 1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup milk chocolate chips
  • ½ cup toffee baking bits

Tools

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • 8-inch square baking pan
  • Aluminum foil
  • 1 large and 1 medium bowl
  • Electric mixer
  • Silicone spatula
  • Whisk
  • Oven mitts
  • Cooling rack
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  • Ruler

1. Before you begin

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Turn the pan upside down and mold a piece of aluminum foil to the outside. You should have about an inch of overhang around the edges. Slide the foil off the pan bottom, and turn the pan right side up. Slip the foil inside the pan. Fold down any foil that extends past the top edges over the outsides. Lightly butter the foil, or use pan spray.

2. Mix the dough

Put the butter and sugar in the large bowl. Using the mixer, beat on low speed for 1 minute. Turn up the speed to medium and beat for another minute. The mixture should be blended and smooth. Turn off the mixer. Using the spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until well blended. Turn off the mixer. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Put the flour, baking powder, and salt in the medium bowl and whisk until blended. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat on low speed just until no patches of flour are visible. Add the chocolate chips and toffee bits and continue to beat on low until they are evenly blended in the mixture.

3. Fill the pan and bake

Using the spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared pan, and smooth the top in an even layer. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Using the oven mitts, transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

4. Unmold and cut

To remove the big bar from the pan, grasp the foil at the top in 2 places opposite each other and gently pull upward. Set the big bar on a cutting board, and gently peel off the foil. Using the chef's knife, and starting at one side, cut the square into 6 equal strips. Then cut 6 equal strips in the opposite direction. You will have 36 bars. Of course, you can cut the cookies larger or smaller, if you like. Store in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag for up to 4 days.

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 06 May 2010 )
 

Going Whole Hog

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Written by Foodie Husband   
Monday, 19 April 2010

 Butcher Block Giveaway! see here

When I heard Williams-Sonoma was presenting an Artisan Butchery Workshop by Chef Taylor Boetticher of Fatted Calf Charcuterie I simply had to attend.  I wasn't disappointed. Within a moment of walking into the demonstration area, I knew the class was going to be special - lying on the work surface was a half hog. 

Image

I shouldn't have been surprised, I did sign-up for a butchering workshop, but having the hog sit there brings the point home. It's decidedly different than looking at the various cuts of meat through the antiseptic glass at your local butcher.

Over the years I've been to quite a few cooking demonstrations. There were two major differences between this Williams-Sonoma class and many of the other demonstrations I've been to. First, the Willams-Sonoma demo kitchen is absolutely gorgeous and perfectly set-up for cooking demonstrations and classes. Second, Chef Boetticher is really into what he does. He wasn't just going through the motions giving yet another class. He truly seemed happy about being there, answering questions, and of course, in his element with hack-saw in hand butchering the hog and showing us the ins and outs (along with ribs, shoulder and butt) of breaking down a hog.

Butcher Block Giveaway! 

ImageBefore I share the experience with you, I want to tell you about an incentive we've got to help with your very own butchering! Project Foodie is giving away a Boos 3" thick 12" square butcher block cutting board (a $120 value) courtesy of Williams-Sonoma.  See below for the contest details, as well as info on the second course in Chef Boetticher's series which is Friday, April 23rd.

ImageOK - now back to the class. After getting seated and munching on some of wonderful Fatted Calf Pâté, Chef Boetticher got down to work. Entertainment was part of the experience, as much as butchering can be made entertaining; Chef Boetticher was certainly up to the task of providing the butchering entertainment. More importantly, there was education to be had. I was there to learn more on how the cuts of pork come to be.

Chef Boetticher started talking about the basic primal cuts: shoulder, belly/loin, and hind. He then got out his hack-saw and knives and began dividing the hog into thirds by counting bones from the front and back to decide where to cut. Chef Boetticher says that butchering is just like carpentry, "measure twice, cut once". Each third is further divided and can be even further divided into smaller and smaller cuts depending on the types of cuts that are desired. Eventually, the dividing stops when you reach sausage makings.

Image

The class was great in clearing up exactly where various cuts come from and how they differ. For example, one of the cuts that confuse many people is Boston Butt. It actually comes from the shoulder, not the hind. Picnic ham also comes from the shoulder area, not to be confused with fresh ham, which comes from the hind. Chef Boetticher also talked about how the animal moves and lives which directly translates into how much fat and connective tissue are in the various cuts. This is why pork belly, pork shoulder, and fresh ham are so different.

After the shoulder and hind were broken down, Chef Boetticher started on the center section. He broke down some of the center section into babyback ribs and a few other smaller cuts, but left the majority of the center for an Italian porchetta (for a few different takes on porchetta, take a look at these in the Project Foodie recipe box). The center was deboned one rib at a time and then rubbed with garlic, rosemary, lemon, pepper, and fennel. Chef Boetticher says that it always takes a little more herb mix than you think you'll need. After the herbs, he rolled up the belly, tied it with string and salted liberally creating one very large serving of porchetta. Unless you're serving 100 people, the center can be cut into 3 to 4 pieces, which is what they do at Fatted Calf.

ImageNot only did we get to watch the butchering and the preparation of the porchetta, we also got to taste one. Although porchetta typically takes 6-8 hours to cook, we had one that had been cooked earlier just for us. Between the incredibly fresh meat, flavorful seasoning, and the all the various cuts all rolled up together, the porchetta was delicious. Normally there's a sauce or other accompaniment to most meats. In this case, there was no need for anything but the pure pork.

Butcher Block Giveaway!

As I mentioned above, to help with your very own butchering Project Foodie is giving away a Boos 3" thick 12" square butcher block cutting board courtesy of Williams-Sonoma. To win, as a registered user (so we know how to notify you if you win), leave a comment at the end of this post on your own experiences with butchering, making porchetta, or something else related to this post. We'll pick the most interesting and/or creative comment as the cutting board winner. Note that to win you must also have a US postal address. We'll announce the winner May 17th.

Next Class

Also, the next class in Willliam Sonoma's special series with Master Chef Taylor Boetticher in on April 23rd at the San Fransisco Williams-Sonoma.  In this class,  Chef Boetticher is back, but without his hacksaw, instead he's focusing on Artisan Sausage Making.  Cost for the class is $100 and it's limited to 30 attendees.  For details call the San Fransisco Williams-Sonoma at (415) 362-9450.

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 21 April 2010 )
 
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