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Friday, May 17, 2013
I had a ball of leftover pie crust dough last week. It had been in the refrigerator for a bit and I knew I needed to do something with it or I'd end up having to throw it away. I wanted to be able to use all of the dough and not have any scraps to mess with. I was also looking for quick and simple... hmmmm. What to do? I opened the freezer, as I am wont to do these days, trying to find things I can clean out of there in preparation for our impending move at the end of this month (yes, I know, we just moved here, right?). I saw a bag of frozen blueberries and knew that my crust was gonna marry those blueberries.
I decided on a free-form tart. I rolled the dough out into a roughly circular shape. In a bowl, I mixed the frozen berries (about 2 cups) with 2 TBS of cornstarch, a 1/4 cup of sugar, a teaspoon of lemon zest, and a few shavings of fresh nutmeg. I stirred that all together and plopped it in middle of the crust.
I folded up the edges and made an egg wash. I brushed all exposed crust surfaces so that they might develop a beautiful golden luster in the oven. Lastly, I sprinkled toasted sliced almonds and sanding sugar on the top of the crust. I baked it at 400 F until the crust was nice and golden (I think it took about 35 minutes). It was delicious! So quick and easy!
Thursday, May 16, 2013
I know what you must be thinking... two posts in two days! Stop the presses! It is somewhat exciting. My little boy is starting to go to bed earlier and earlier. Tonight, he was in bed asleep by 7:30. To top it all off, my husband is out of town on business. My time is my own this evening. It doesn't happen that often these days, so I figured I'd make the most of it.
I celebrated by making another of those sandwiches I've been so fond of lately and then made a big old pot of this delicious dish. It may not be much to look at, but, boy, does it have some flavor! Majadra is of Lebanese origin and has rice, lentils, and caramelized onions. It also has a hint of spice and is absolutely delightful. You can serve it as a side dish or a main dish. I like to fill a bowl full to the brim and eat it with a spoon. It's very tasty. The best part is that it makes a decent amount and it tastes just as good reheated the rest of the week. It makes a perfect leftover lunch.
The other nice thing about it is that it's pretty simple to make. While it's not fast, it takes about an hour to complete it, the actual prep work is minimal and involves slicing an onion. That's it! Really! Okay, you also have to slice open a lemon for a little bit of juice, but, who's keeping track?
You start by putting the lentils on to simmer and caramelizing the onions. These two tasks take about the same amount of time, about half an hour. When the onions are starting to develop some really nice color, throw in a small stick of cinnamon. If you don't have a stick, you can also add just a dash of ground, but the stick adds more of an aromatic component to the dish rather than a flavor you taste with your tongue.
Once the lentils are tender and the onions are caramelized, you add the Batsmati rice to the onions to toast slightly. Then you add the drained lentils, boiling water, and cumin; cover it; and cook for twenty more minutes. After twenty minutes, you open the pot and fluff the rice. Spritz a couple teaspoons of fresh lemon juice over and add salt to taste (I think I added between 1/2 and 1 teaspoons).
Yield: 6-8 servings
1 large onion, halved and sliced thinly
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup green lentils
water to cover lentils by 1-2 inches
1 2" cinnamon stick
1 1/4 cup Batsmati rice
2 cups hot water
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt to taste
Heat a large pot and the oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very golden, about 30 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to keep them from burning. At the same time, put the lentils in a sauce pan and cover with water so that it is one to two inches above the top of the lentils. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer to cook for 25-30 minutes. The lentils should be tender about the time the onions are done. If the lentils are done before the onions, simply turn off the heat and let them sit. Drain the lentils once the onions are done.
When the onions are about 5 minutes away from being done, add the cinnamon stick and stir. Once the onions are nicely golden, add the rice and toast, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes. Add the lentils, the cumin, and the water. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce to a very gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. After twenty minutes, turn off the heat. Let sit 5 minutes. Remove the cover, add the lemon juice and salt and fluff gently with a fork.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The first step was to realize that it had my favorite cheese spread on it. Boursin cheese is one of those products that I dream about. I look for reasons to have company over so that I might justify having the stuff in my refrigerator. It's not figure friendly, and, when it's in my refrigerator, I feel compelled to eat half a baguette at a time slathered in the stuff. The good news? For a sandwich application, the Boursin Light tastes great! Hallelujah!
The next step is to choose the correct bread. This requires a high quality ciabatta bread. I often make my own, but certain little babies have been keeping from spending much time in the kitchen lately. I've recently found a brand of ciabatta that I really like called New French Bakery "Take and Bake." It's only in limited stores, but if it's in yours, grab it!
Cut yourself a nice sized sandwich and then slice the bread in half to open it up. Slather one side with the Boursin cheese. On the other side, I spread my cranberry-orange marmalade. You could probably approximate the flavor by mixing cranberry sauce and orange marmalade. Then pile on a nice bit of fresh spinach. The last item is the chicken or turkey. There are a number of ways you can fulfill the meat quota on this sandwich. You can use some leftover meat from a roast chicken or turkey dinner. You could slice chicken from a grocery store rotisserie bird. You could also pan saute a chicken breast (or tenderloin) with a little salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika and then slice it to put on the sandwich. That's the route I took the last two times I made this sandwich.
After putting the sandwich together, get your panini "press" set up. I don't have a real one, so I just used a saute pan with a cast iron skillet pressing it down. Pre-heat the pan and lightly brush the outside of the sandwich with olive oil before toasting over medium heat. Grill until lightly golden on each side.
The combination of flavors in this sandwich is divine! It's such a nice change of pace from your standard grilled cheese sandwich. Who needs Panera, anyway?
Friday, April 19, 2013
I assumed going into this motherhood thing that, since I had a fair amount of childcare experience, I had it all figured out. What I hadn't realized, having always taken care of children six months and older, is that infants are quite a bit more time consuming than I had anticipated. I guess it's hard to entertain yourself when you can't sit up on your own, let alone reach out and hold something. On top of it all, my little boy is opposed to sleep. Oh, he sleeps great at night. In fact, last night, I got over six hours in a row and then a few more to boot! The problem is that my boy, who is almost ten weeks old now, doesn't like to nap much during the day. I looked up online how much infants should be napping at his age and it says around five hours a day. I'm lucky to get two out of him most days. The good news is that he isn't crabby with that little sleep. He's wide eyed and bushy tailed and ready to face the world... if only he could interact with it more!
As you might guess, between this sleep issue and keeping him fed, there isn't a huge amount of time for playing in the kitchen, but I've been making a concerted effort lately. I miss that tasty, creative outlet! So, in the last week, I've developed three new recipes. Of course, now the trick is to have the time to post them!
The first recipe I put together is for a homemade instant oatmeal. Once you've made the mix and put it in the pantry, you can prepare a serving in less than a minute and it is very, very tasty. It took me a few tries to get the flavor right, but I definitely think I've got it now. It's a brown sugar and maple flavored oatmeal with just a hint of cinnamon and vanilla. Very satisfying.
As I've mentioned before, muffins are usually my go to breakfast; it's my husband that's been consuming all the instant oatmeal up to this point (although that may change now!). As you might imagine, it galled me just a bit every time I put that box in the grocery cart. I just knew I could do better and cheaper. This recipe makes six servings for less than a buck. It looks very similar to what comes out of the box, doesn't it? But it doesn't have all those fillers in it! Just oats, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and real maple syrup.
You start by mixing a portion of the oats with all the flavorings and then baking to dry it out and make it shelf stable. You then grind up that mix in a food processor (I suppose a blender might work too) until it is fairly finely ground. Finally, mix in the remaining oats and put it in a jar in the pantry. That's it!
Obviously, you can make the servings as large or as small as you want and add the water to your taste, but as a general guide, five tablespoons of dry mix makes a serving. That's approximately 40 grams. A Quaker Instant Oatmeal serving is 34 grams and has 120 calories. Based on the nutritional information and measurements for my recipe, it comes to about 170 calories a serving. If it was a similar serving size as the Quaker, it would be 145 calories. Why the difference? It's not that my version is sweeter. I think it has to do with the fillers they have in there. 34 grams of oats have 128 calories. Oats are less calorie dense than sugar, so to be able to have only 120 calories per serving, there must be a bunch of other, very low calorie stuff in there... perhaps the guar gum, sucralose, or calcium carbonate.
Homemade Instant Oatmeal
Yield: 6 servings
1/2 tsp table salt
5 TBS packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
2 TBS real maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup quick oats, divided
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. In a small bowl mix the salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add 1/2 cup of the oats. Stir to completely mix. Sprinkle out on a sheet pan lined with parchment. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring once, until the mixture is dry looking. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Once cool, place the mixture in a food processor and process until the mix is fairly finely ground. Pour into a glass jar. Add the remaining cup of oats and shake to mix. Store tightly capped for maximum freshness. This recipe can be multiplied as many times as necessary to obtain the desired amount of mix.
To prepare the oatmeal, spoon 5 tablespoons of the instant oatmeal in a bowl. Add between 1/3 and 1/2 cup very hot water and stir. Let sit 30 seconds, stir again, and enjoy. The amount of water you use will be a matter of personal preference. Using 1/3 cup of water will lead to a thicker, more pasty oatmeal while 1/2 cup will be somewhat watery. Personally, I think halfway between is the perfect balance.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
My in-laws showed up yesterday to come meet their newest grandson. I feel fortunate to have such a great relationship with my in-laws such that I am excited for their visit. It helps that my mother-in-law is great with babies and this has allowed me to get a few things done around here. To celebrate the first morning of their visit, I decided to make a pan of cinnamon rolls.
Now, I posted my recipe for cinnamon rolls a long time ago. You can see that post here. However, while the basic recipe has remained the same, there have been a number of changes that have turned these rolls from good to super-freaking fantastic. I used to have a hard time passing by a Cinnabon when out and about, but now it's not a problem. I like these rolls better! It's amazing what a difference a few subtle changes can make. You may want to read through my last post first if you are not familiar with the general gist of how cinnamon rolls are made. In this posting, I will focus on the changes to the recipe and then will re-post the recipe in full at the end in case you want to print it out.
The first major change was in the filling. I'm not sure why it makes such a big difference, but changing from regular sugar to brown sugar completely changes the way the filling melts. If you mix the butter and sugar together first into a paste, along with the cinnamon, it melts even better and makes a nice gooey filling. Here you can see the dough rolled out with the filling spread out on it.
The nest major change was the way that I rolled the dough. If you look at my pictures in my original post, you'll notice just how thick the dough was when I rolled it up. That resulted in rolls that were very bread-y without a lot of that delicious filling. I now roll the dough almost as thin as I can manage. I shoot for no thicker than one quarter of an inch now. In my experience, it is imperative to have the dough cold to manage this. That's why I put the dough in the refrigerator for a second proofing. Roll the dough up and then use a serrated blade to cut perfect rolls.
Compare this photo with the similar one in the previous cinnamon roll post and you can see just how many more rolls you get in the dough when it is rolled thinly. It leads to a much better balance of dough and cinnamon/sugar filling.
You can see here how that filling melts so much better than in my previous recipe. The last change that I made to the recipe was in the icing. Adding a little cream cheese to the icing, with that little bit of tang it imparts, is absolutely divine and really puts these rolls over the top. My goodness, these things are delicious! Be sure to have a plan for all twelve rolls or you may find them all in your own tummy!
Cinnamon Rolls - Mastered!
Yield: 12 rolls
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 cup warm milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 tsp table salt
3 whole eggs
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 TBS cinnamon
4 ounces softened cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 TBS milk
Mix the first 6 ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer (through the eggs). Add two cups of the flour. Mix on medium with a paddle for 3 minutes. Add the remaining 2 to 2 1/2 cups flour. The amount of flour can vary depending on the humidity of your kitchen. You are looking for a dough that is still somewhat soft and sticky. It will become more workable after it rises and is chilled.
Place the dough in a grease bowl, covered with plastic wrap, until it is doubled. Knock down the dough and refrigerate for 2 hours (and up to 24 hours). Turn the cold dough out onto a floured counter. Roll out into a rectangle as thin as the dough will reasonably allow; shoot for less than 1/4 of an inch. The rectangle will be approximately 20 inches by 12 inches. Beat together the softened butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Heat gently in the microwave if it is not soft enough to spread on the dough. Spread the mixture evenly on the dough. Roll up tightly and slice, using a serrated blade, into twelve rolls. I trim off the ends before slicing so each roll has a nice look to it.
Place the rolls in a greased 9x13 inch pan. They also fit nicely four to a pan in 8" disposable aluminum pans if you want tot gift them. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to rise for 30 minutes or until slightly puffy. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and bake rolls for 25 minutes or until baked through and gently golden. Remove rolls from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before icing.
Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and milk together until it forms a smooth icing. It will be too thick to pour. Spread the icing over the rolls. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container and reheat in the microwave before serving.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
We are blessed though. Very blessed. Not only did we welcome a healthy baby into the world, but we also apparently welcomed a happy one too! While it's not all peaches and cream all the time, overall, we've got it made. He not a big crier and I'm getting decent amounts of sleep. I'm beginning to get back into some of my regular routine. I've even started cooking again... well, I mean like cooking stuff other than the super easy standbys that I can cook with my eyes closed (and already posted three years ago). I'm looking forward to new recipes and new posts! Thanks for your patience while I took some time to figure out this whole motherhood thing. So far, I'm a big fan.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Well, I guess I've been a little MIA lately, which is a little funny since all I've been doing is a lot of sitting around waiting for this baby to decide to come into the world. Granted, that means I haven't been doing a huge amount of experimental cooking since my feet balloon up to gargantuan proportions when I'm on them too long these days. I've been mostly sticking with the quick and easy "sure-things" when we aren't doing take-out or delivery. My due date has come and gone and we're just waiting for the little guy to decide to make an appearance. I'm not sure if its been a "nesting" thing or what, but the last two days, I've been very energetic and productive. Maybe that's a good sign? Please be a good sign. I'm ready to have my body back!
Last night, I had some pork tenderloin thawed out and was looking for a quick and tasty way to prepare it. I often butterfly my tenderloins and stuff them, but I just couldn't get up the gumption for that. My husband was dreaming of a pork tenderloin sandwich, but I was also wanting to forego any pounding and frying. I thought a nice crunchy crust might be found another way. Perusing through the pantry, I found what I was looking for... Panko (the perfect breading standby) and French fried onions (you know, the ones you put on top of green bean casserole). At that point I was on my way to a fabulously flavorful and easy dinner.
The breading goes on easy and stays on well through the cooking process. It comes out golden and crispy and very flavorful. I highly recommend it!
Golden Crusted Pork Loin
Yield: serves 4-6
1 package pork tenderloin (usually contains two loins)
2-4 TBS all purpose flour
1 cup French fried onions
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 TBS dried parsley
1/4 tsp salt
spray cooking oil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. If the loin looks excessively marbled, consider using a roasting rack to keep the loins from sitting in the excess fat as it cooks. Remove the loins from their packaging, rinse and pat dry. Prepare the egg wash by cracking the two eggs into a large, shallow container and beat gently. Then prepare the crunchy coating. In a food processor, pulse the French fried onions until they are similar in texture to the Panko. Mix the fried onions, Panko, Parmesan, parsley, and salt together on a shallow dish or tray.
Sprinkle the loins with the flour until all surfaces are lightly covered. Gently tap off any excess. Then dip each loin into the egg wash and roll around in the crunchy coating until they are evenly coated. Place on the baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking oil spray. Place in the top third of the preheated oven and roast until a thermometer placed in the thickest part of the loin reads 150F. Remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes before slicing and serving.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
I find it amazing how sometimes the dishes with the most flavor are the quickest to prepare. Take this dish, for instance. In less than ten minutes, you end up with a super flavorful broth and perfectly tender mussels. I had never prepared mussels before last night. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and delicious they were to prepare.
They're especially easy if you purchase fresh cultured blue mussels. These mussels are "farmed" up in Canada off Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, but really they're not so much farmed as managed. The mussels grow in waters in which they are native, they are simply "encouraged" to grow in specific places. They eat their natural food (i.e. the "farmer" does not feed them in any way). They are then allowed to grow naturally. Lastly, they are harvested year round to end up perfectly fresh at your supermarket's fish counter. Why are these cultured mussels easier to cook with? Because they've already cleaned them for you! No need to soak or remove those pesky beards. I can appreciate that!
Being a mussel buying newbie yesterday was, I'll admit, a bit embarrassing. I asked for three pounds of mussels; it is recommended that you plan for a pound per person. Since we're big eaters, I figured I'd get an extra pound. They were surprisingly cheap, even at Whole Foods. I got them on sale for $1.99 a pound here in the D.C. area, but even their regular price is less than $4.00 per pound. So the fish monger weighed them out for me into a plastic bag, placed the price tag on it, and proceeded to attempt to hand me the bag... with it hanging open. I looked at him like he was crazy and asked, "Are you really trying to hand me this bag of messy shellfish without any further packaging?" He rolled his eyes (very politely, I might add) and told me that they needed to breathe and that if I closed the packaging up, I'd kill them. Oh. Duh. Okay.
I did manage to get the little buggers home without killing or spilling them everywhere. When it came time to prepare dinner, I simply rinsed them off and picked through them to be sure there weren't any damaged or dead ones. If you come across a mussel with a broken shell or one who is open and won't close with a little tap, discard it. Let the mussels hang out while you prepare the broth: garlic, onion, tomato, white wine, and water is all that's in there, but once the mussels add their juices and it all cooks together a bit? Divine!!
Steam the mussels over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, until the vast majority of them open. The amount of time it will take to cook them depends on the heat, obviously, but also how many mussels you've got in the pot. Although I've read conflicting reports, the prevailing wisdom states that you should also discard any mussels that don't open during the cooking process. It seemed best to me to be safe rather than sorry, so I followed that suggestion. Be careful not to overcook the mussels or they can become rubbery and unappealing. They're ready when they've opened so keep and eye on them. Once the mussels are done steaming, stir the pot and ladle them up. Be sure to serve them with some rustic bread to sop up those perfect juices!
Wine Steamed Mussels
Yield: 3 servings
2 TBS butter
1 TBS minced garlic
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup white wine (such as Pinot Grigio)
1/2 cup water
3 pounds of mussels, cleaned and debearded
salt and pepper to taste
In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute until they are slightly softened. Add the tomato, wine, and water and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and cover the pot. Let steam for 5-10 minutes, until most of the mussels have opened. It is recommended that you discard the mussels that do not open during the cooking process. Remove from the heat and give the pot a stir. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper to taste. Be cautious about salting the broth before cooking and tasting as the mussels give off a salty brine when cooking. Serve immediately with crust bread for dipping.
Monday, January 7, 2013
Curiosity about new foods is a key aspect of how I operate in the kitchen. Sometimes it takes a bit longer to get around to trying something than I might like to admit, but I'll get there eventually. Sometimes I get a little prompt by being presented a food while eating out elsewhere, and that's usually never a bad thing. Take this grain, for instance. I first had it about three months ago at a catered event and immediately fell in love. What a wonderfully flavorful, easy to cook, chewy, tasty delight!
Farro is a grain within the wheat family, but is botanically different enough that some people who are allergic to the modern wheat variety found most commonly in the grocery can tolerate farro. Farro is also known as emmer wheat, and while it appears to have been cultivated in antiquity (i.e. thousands of years ago), its modern resurgence is fairly recent (as in the early 1900s). Most farro available for purchase today in the United States is grown in Italy.
While farro berries look very much like wheat berries, they cook very differently because most farro you'll find has been pearled (had the outer husk and much of the bran removed). Removing this bran casing allows the grain to cook much more quickly. You can visually judge how much of the bran has been removed by looking at the color of the grain; the more bran that has been removed, the lighter in color the grain will be.
So, how do you cook farro? Easily! I usually cook about one cup of the grain at a time. This will leave you with between 2 and 2 1/2 cups of cooked farro. You can round out the taste of the farro by dry toasting the grain in the pot first before adding the water. Simply turn the heat to medium, add the grain, and stir periodically until the grain gives off a nice toasty aroma. At that point, add water to cover, about 2 cups if you are cooking 1 cup of farro. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. I have had equal success with cooking my farro covered or uncovered. Simmer until the grain is tender, about 30 minutes. It will still be chewy, but pleasantly so. Drain off any excess water and let sit for a few minutes to absorb any remaining moisture after draining.
You can then use the farro in any number of ways. I like it very much as is and there are plenty of recipes for farro salads that are really excellent. My favorite way to serve it, however, is as a side dish with a slight flavor boost. After draining, I add salt and pepper to taste. I then drizzle a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil and a tiny drizzle of fresh squeezed orange juice into the grain and stir. Be cautious not to overdo it with the oil and juice; you want to highlight the natural flavor of the grain, not mask it. Stir and serve! Farro is another great way to include more whole grains into your diet!
Thursday, December 27, 2012
I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Since I'm in my last month before our new arrival arrives, I've been on restricted travel... I wasn't allowed to drive fourteen hours to spend Christmas with the family this year! It's the first time in the almost ten years that we've been married that my husband and I spent the day at home alone. It was relaxing, but I think I prefer the wonderful chaos of our normal routine better.
Being stuck at home, we decided we could celebrate our time together by splurging on our meals. I prepared some items I've never prepared before and enjoyed some other special meals that I only get to make rarely. Christmas eve we enjoyed a small prime rib. For Christmas day dinner, I made a roasted duck. This is the second time I've roasted a whole duck, and while it was darn tasty, it sure did make a mess of the oven! Last night was the finale of our gluttonous extravaganza. I made a roasted rabbit with mashed potatoes and gravy; boy was it tasty!
Surprisingly, probably the most challenging meal I made was breakfast on Christmas morning. I've been playing with an English muffin recipe and I know how much my hubby loves a good eggs Benedict, so I figured I'd give it a go. There were two components in this dish that I had never made before: poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce. I'll talk more about eggs Benedict in a future post, but let it suffice to say for now that these English muffins played a wonderful supporting roll.
Now, while we're on the subject of English muffins, lets talk about nooks and crannies. Those round holes you see in so many brands of commercial English muffins? Yeah, that's not traditionally an English muffin feature. You find those holes in crumpets, which also are also an English bread and are also cooked on a griddle, but are made from a looser batter and require rings to make. The traditional English muffin looks more like regular bread inside when split. It still holds the butter nicely when toasted though, so don't you worry!
The first step is to mix the dough. Mix the dough at least the night before you plan on making the muffins. For a more robust flavor, you can actually make the dough 2-4 days in advance. This extra fermentation time in the refrigerator helps to develop a very nice flavor, but they're still good when made after only twelve hours. The dough mixes together nicely and does not need to be kneaded for an exceptionally long time. When ready, dump the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stash in the refrigerator. It will swell up nicely and do some lovely yeasty things.
When ready to make the muffins, lightly flour the counter and dump out the dough. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour too and roll it out until about one-quarter of an inch thick. Make sure you roll it thin enough. One time I didn't and I ended up with English muffins that looked like the Sears tower! They were crazy! Cut out using a 3 1/2 inch round cutter (or something similar). A nice sharp cutter is preferred because you don't want the dough on the edges to get sealed together as this can inhibit the muffins from puffing properly. If you only roll once, you should get about 8 muffins out of the dough; if you re-roll the scraps, you can get up to 14 muffins. Please note, however, that once you try to re-roll the dough, you'll be waging an uphill battle against gluten.
Place the muffins on a sheet tray sprinkled with cornmeal or farina (Malt-O-Meal or Cream of Wheat cereal). I prefer the look and taste of the farina, personally. In this picture, you're looking at cornmeal. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins as well and then loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until they have doubled in volume. Be sure to let them rise fully. If you try to cut this step short, most likely you will end up with dense, doughy English muffins.
When they are done rising, preheat your electric griddle to 325F. You can do this step on the stove, but I find being able to easily manage the temperature is a real plus here. Cook the muffins for two minutes on one side.
Give them a flip and let them cook another 5-7 minutes on the other side. If they do not have a nice golden color on them when you complete this first flip, you may want to hold off a bit longer and evaluate your griddle temperature.
This photo shows the second side once it has finished cooking as well. You see how it is not as flat as the first side? The first side cooking time is short for a reason. If you let the first side go too long, the top of the muffin gets too rounded and you end up with a smaller and smaller flat spot on the top of this second side, leading to a domed muffin instead of a nice flat muffin. In my experience, two minutes is a nice compromise between color development and maintaining as flat a second side as possible.
Let muffins cool slightly before slicing and toasting. While you can fork split these muffins, I almost prefer them cut open. Give it a try both ways and see which one appeals most to you. These muffins are great by themselves (as shown at the beginning of this post) or as part of a smashing eggs Benedict. Freeze the leftovers (I slice mine apart first), and you can enjoy homemade English muffins whenever the mood hits!
Yield: 8 - 14 3-1/2 inch muffins (depending on whether you re-roll the scraps)
3 cups bread flour
1 tsp table salt
1 1/4 cup milk
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp instant yeast
2 TBS vegetable oil
Mix all ingredients together and knead by hand or in a stand mixer for 5-7 minutes. Dough should come together but still be somewhat sticky. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator at least overnight, but up to four days. The ideal time from a flavor/yeast development standpoint is probably on day three (let sit two nights in refrigerator).
When ready to make the muffins, pull the dough from the refrigerator and dump out onto a lightly floured counter. Sprinkle the dough with a little more flour and roll immediately until the dough is 1/4 inch thick. You should be able to cut eight 3 1/2 inch rounds without having to re-roll the dough. If you want to use all of the dough now, re-roll to obtain up to 14 rounds. The gluten will start to fight you as soon as you start re-rolling. Let the dough sit a few minutes to allow the gluten to relax a bit if it gets too frustrating.
Place rounds on a sheet pan generously sprinkled with farina (Malt-O-Meal or Cream of Wheat cereal) or cornmeal. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins as well. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until double. Be sure to let them rise fully or you may end up with muffins that are dense and doughy.
When they have doubled, heat a dry electric griddle to 325F. Once preheated, place the rounds on the griddle and cook two minutes on the first side. Check to be sure the bottom is nicely golden and give the muffin a flip. If you wait too long to flip, the muffin will be dome shaped instead of flat. Cook another 5-7 minutes on the other side. Let cool briefly before splitting and toasting. Muffins can be frozen for up to six months.