Homemade English Muffins

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My baking cravings have continued as we dig deep into the end of summer, so last week I decided to try a new recipe: English Muffins. And this recipe did not disappoint. The muffins didn’t come out exactly like the store bought kind (less holes, not uniform in shape or size), but the flavor and texture were wonderful! We enjoyed them plain with a little butter and as part of an egg/breakfast sandwich. Both ways they definitely had the wow factor. The last muffin was highly sought after to say the least! An added bonus, they are also super easy to make. It was a perfect mid-week breakfast treat.

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Whole-Wheat English Muffins

What You Need:

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 1 packet)

4 tablespoons/60 grams unsalted butter

1/2 cup plain greek yogurtP1070572

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cornmeal, as needed

 

To Make:P1070573

In a small bowl combine the yeast and 1/3 cup warm water. Allow yeast to dissolve, about 5 minutes.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter and pour into a large bowl. Whisk in yogurt, milk, honey, salt and the yeast/water mixture. Add flours and baking soda and mix until well combined.

Cover the bowl and let it rest for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (until dough has doubled).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly dust a small baking sheet with cornmeal (set aside).

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet (medium high heat) and melt 1 tablespoon butter. Using a 1/2 measuring cup, drop batter into skillet to form muffins. It is okay if they aren’t round, but try to make sure they form a nice mound. Repeat until you have 3 muffins for the first batch. Reduce heat to low. Cover skillet with lid orP1070576 baking sheet and cook 3 to 5 minutes,  bottoms should be golden brown. Flip muffins and cook (covered) an additional 2 to 4 minutes or until the other sides are golden brown. Place muffins on prepared baking sheet.

Repeat for the second batch (3 more muffins) using remaining batter and another tablespoon of butter.

Bake muffins for 6 to 9 minutes and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The New York Times.

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Rosemary Soft Pretzels with Cheddar Cheese Dipping Sauce

IMG_0360 I have been on a baking roll the last two weeks (which seems crazy since it is so hot out), but I love the smell and the rising dough sitting in my kitchen, and the fun of trying out new recipes. So this week, I went back to something both my husband and I love- soft pretzels! But I wanted to try something new. After a little searching, I came across a Rosemary and Sea Salt Pretzel Recipe over at two peas & their pod. I was pretty much sold when they also included a cheese dipping sauce.

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Yesterday, I got to work recreating this savory treat. The dough came together perfectly and I loved the fresh rosemary smell drifting out of the kitchen. The recipe is simple and straightforward (especially if you have  a stand mixer) and the dough doubled beautifully and baked off in a crisp, golden brown. The pretzels were light and chewy and looked like puffs of yummy goodness. Right before we scarfed these down as part of our dinner, I made the cheese sauce. It was good, but I would make some alterations (as indicated in my version of the recipe below). Long story short, we wanted the sauce to be much cheesier! Overall, this is a great treat and it will be reappearing in our house again soon.

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Happy Baking!

Rosemary Soft Pretzels with Cheddar Cheese Dipping Sauce

What You Need:

For the pretzels:IMG_0337

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
Canola oil, to grease bowl
3 quarts water
2/3 cups baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt

For the cheese sauce:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

To Make:IMG_0341

For the pretzels, combine the water, sugar, yeast, and melted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Then, add the salt, flour, and chopped rosemary. Mix on low until combined. Once combined, increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. (If the dough is too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Remove the dough, place it on a flat surface and shape into a ball with your hands. Coat a large bowl with canola oil, add the dough ball, and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.

Place the dough on a clean, flat surface and divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope moving from the center out to the edges of the dough with the palm of your hands. Taper the ends of the dough rope. Shape the dough into pretzels by crossing the two ends, twisting once, IMG_0345and then secure each end to the bottom of the pretzel with your thumbs. Shape all pretzels and then slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. (It will boil furiously as added.) Gentle place 2 pretzels into the boiling water using a slotted spatula and boil for 30 seconds. As they boil, splash the tops with warm water using your spatula.  Remove, and place pretzels on a baking sheet, brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with sea salt. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown. Remove pretzels from oven and let cool on a wire baking rack.

For the cheese sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and then whisk in flour. Add milk and whisk until the mixture thickens, 2-5 minutes. Add shredded cheese, stir until cheese is melted and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve cheese sauce with pretzels and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from two peas & their pod.


Croissants with Julia Child

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I have a bit of a foodie crush on Julia Child. Maybe it is the dipping cadence of her voice, or her role as woman in the industry, or her height, or the fact that she loved bread and worked with Raymond Calvel, one of bakings greats. Whatever the reason, I get really excited when I come across something that lets baking and Julia Child collide. And these croissants are it!

I will admit, making croissants had me a little nervous. All the folding and butter, I was afraid I would end up with flat, pathetic blobs. But, I didn’t. They turned out great. Light and flakey…not perfect, but we loved eating every last one. It takes time, the first day is all about letting the dough rest, the second day your rolling-pin becomes your best friend, but it was fun and challenging and rewarding. A perfect way to spend a gray winter weekend. Not exactly, healthy, but everyone deserves a Julia Child inspired treat once in a while. So, treat yourself to a fabulous breakfast for dinner kind of day!

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Croissants

Adapted from From Julia’s Kitchen by Julia Child

What You Need:

1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeastIMG_6045

3 tablespoons tepid water

2 teaspoons sugar

1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2/3 cup tepid milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 to 7 ounces (1 to 1 3/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter

Eggwash

To Make:

Day 1…

In a small bowl mix the yeast, water and sugar. Blend the milk and oil with the yeast mixture.

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture. Mix until well combined, then turn it out onto your floured work surface.

Let it rest for a few minutes, then knead until the dough feels smooth and begins to draw back into shape when pushed out during kneading. You’ll probably need a dusting of flour during kneading, but try not to add too much.

Put the dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Set aside until the dough has tripled in size, about 3 hours.

After the first rise, turn the dough out on a floured surface and fold it over a few times. Then put it back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

After the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a floured plate, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerator overnight.

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Day 2…

Take the butter out of the refrigerator and beat it with a rolling-pin to soften it so you can spread it. (This is a bit messy.) Do this quickly so it doesn’t get warm. Scrape the butter up with a dough scraper, fold it over, and whack it again if needed to get it soft. You can use the palm of your hand.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Roll it into an 14×8 inch rectangle and spread the butter over 2/3 of the dough. Fold the uncovered third over the buttered center, then fold the other side, like folding a brochure.

Lightly flour the dough, and roll it into a 10×16 inch rectangle. Fold it into thirds like you did before (no additional butter). Flour the dough, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it for at least 45 minutes.

Take it out of the refrigerator and roll it into a 10×16 rectangle. Fold in thirds as before. Then roll and fold one last time.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Prepare two baking sheets.

Roll the dough to a rectangle about 20×5 inches. Cut it in half and return half to the refrigerator. Roll the half you’re working with to about 15×5 inches. Cut it into thirds so you have three 5×5 pieces.

Cut your 5×5 piece diagonally into two triangles. Stretch the base with your fingers and roll the triangle toward the tip. Bend the two ends to form the curve of the crescent.

Place the roll on the prepared baking sheet. Continue until all the dough has been cut and rolled (makes 12).

Cover the baking sheets and let the croissants rise until they have tripled in size, about 2 hours. They should feel puffy and light.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Brush the croissants with the egg wash and then bake at 475 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Let them cool on a rack for 10 minutes and serve.

Enjoy!

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Adapted from Cookistry.


Homemade Ciabatta Bread

This week I was in the mood to bake. I also wanted to try something new. I have stacks of recipes waiting to be made in Pinterest, and as I was scrolling, I found a recipe from the blog, The Kitchn, I had pined a few months before for ciabatta bread or rolls. Perfect.

I shied away from this recipe in the past because it requires a biga, or pre-ferment, which I had never used before, but this week I was ready to tackle a new technique. The biga adds to the breads flavor, texture, and crust. Basically, it gives the bread an extra bunch of all the good stuff. There is actually nothing complicated about creating it. You mix basic ingredients, water, flour, yeast, and let it sit overnight before you want to create the actual dough. It wasn’t nearly as scary as I imagined it would be. And it helped create a pretty spectacular result.

I decided to make rolls with my dough, as we had left over lentil “meatballs” (no actual meat) that we wanted to turn into sandwiches (see picture below).

Lucas and I have been munching on the rolls all week, and I can say they are a hit. Because we are in Alaska, and my kitchen equipment is in Pennsylvania, I had to do without my scale and stand mixer, which would have made things a lot easier. But I didn’t mind the adventure of kneading this super wet dough. If you are making the bread by hand, it can not be kneaded in the traditional fashion. Instead, you alternate between “slapping” the dough on a well floured counter and folding it in half. The key is generous amounts of flour for you hands, the dough, and the counter. And a little bit of patience so that the dough fully develops. Needless to say, a stand mixer takes out all the guess work for kneading.

I highly recommend rolling up your sleeves and giving this bread a tried. So tasty!

Ciabatta Bread or Rolls

What You Need:

For best results weigh ingredients.

Biga

4 ounce (1/2 cup) water
1/2 teaspoon active-dry yeast
5 ounce (1 cup) all-purpose flour

Pour water into a medium size bowl and dissolve the yeast. Add the flour and stir to form a thick paste. Continue to stir several more times to build up the gluten. Cover with plastic and let sit at room temperature eight hours or overnight.

The next day, the biga will look soupy with bubbles dotting the surface.

Ciabatta

17 ounces (2 cups + 2 tablespoons) water
1 teaspoon active-dry yeast
Biga
20 ounces (4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt

To Make:

In the bowl of a standing mixer, again add water and allow yeast to dissolve. Scrape the biga into the water using your hands or a spatula. Once in the bowl, break up the biga with your spatula or squeeze with your hands. The biga will not dissolve completely, rather it should be broken up into stringy blobs.

Add flour and salt. Using your spatula, stir to form a thick, wet dough. Then let the dough rest for 10-20 minutes.

Now attach the bowl to your standing mixer that has been fitted with the dough hook. Knead at medium speed for 15-18 minutes (Level 5 or 6 on a KitchnAid). Keep an eye on your mixer as it may move on the counter top at this speed.

At first, the dough will start stick to the bottom and sides of the bowl. Around the 7-minute mark, it will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl, collect around the dough hook, and slap the sides of the bowl. If it doesn’t, nudge your mixer speed up a notch. Also, if the dough starts climbing the dough hook, stop the mixer and scrape it down again. By the end of kneading, the dough will look smooth and creamy with a glossy shine. It will puddle back into the bowl once you turn off the mixer, and this is fine.

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 2-3 hours, until tripled in bulk.

Heavily flour your work surface. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or if you have a pizza stone, lay the parchment paper on the counter. Now carefully scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface. Dust the top of the dough with more flour. Using a pizza wheel, cut the dough in two pieces for loaves or 8 pieces for rolls.

Cover your hands with flour. Gently scoop the loaves (or the rolls) one at a time from the work surface to the parchment. Press your fingertips about halfway into the dough to dimple the surface and slightly flatten. Let the dough rise, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes. When ready to bake, they should look pillowy with bubbles just beneath the surface.

Preheat the oven to 475°F. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven now.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Slip the parchment out from under the loaves and cool completely before eating.

Enjoy!



Food Loves Beer Magazine

Last week a new digital food magazine debuted, and I was lucky enough to have an article published in it. My piece, “Good Bread,” appears on page 73. To view the free issue check out the Food Loves Beer website here.

Have a great Wednesday!


Gray Days = Homemade Soft Pretzels

I miss the sun. For the last four days, I have been watching out the windows by my desk searching for the pale light but so far, nothing. It isn’t just that the days are getting shorter, which they are, but on top of that, our few hours of daylight aren’t really light at all. It’s just gray. Dust pan gray.

The encroaching darkness of an Alaskan winter didn’t really bothered me until the gray set in. Today, December 7th, the sun was supposed to rise at 10:35AM, but it never broke through the clouds. And it will set, behind a wall of clouds I’m sure, at 2:49PM. Our day will only last 4 hours and 13 minutes. This kind of darkness is a little disorienting. You look outside at 3:30PM and think it is 8:30PM, but you haven’t even had dinner yet. Strangely, I can deal with short days as long as day feels like day. Sun. Give me sun.

My answer to gray is bake goods. If I can’t make it cheerful outside, I can at least make our apartment smell warm and yummy. I have always had a special place in my heart for soft pretzels. Who doesn’t? So this seemed the prefect food to lift us out of the haze of gray.

I started making soft pretzels last year when I came across a recipe on the internet. For the life of me I can’t remember where I actually found it, but I’m so glad I did. It is remarkably easy, and Lucas and I love the results. I must admit, we are pretzel people. A trip to Pittsburgh, PA would not be complete without a visit to one of our favorite South Side spots, The Pretzel Shop. But even if you aren’t as pretzel crazed as we are, this is a recipe worth trying. My day feels brighter already.

Soft Pretzels

What You Need:

2 3/4 cups flour

1 envelope instant yeast

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup and 1 tablespoon hot water

1/3 cup baking soda

2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg white

Coarse sea salt, or flaky salt

To Make:

Combine the bread flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in the food processor,* pulse. While the food processor is running, gradually add hot water until elastic dough forms, about 5 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic. Allow dough to double in volume, about 30-60 minutes.

*Normally, I use a food processor, but in Alaska we don’t have one, so I kneaded the dough by hand. This is doable, but I recommend using a food processor if it is available.

Next, punch down the dough on a floured work surface. Divide it into 8 pieces. At this point, you can either make pretzel rolls (less shaping and good for sandwiches) or the traditional pretzel shape. If you want rolls, simply shape a round bun and slash a small ‘X’ on each using a serrated knife. If you want the traditional shape, roll a log with tapered ends. Cross the two ends and twist once to form the middle fork of the pretzel shape. The two tapered ends should be secured to the outside of the pretzel with light pressure, and if needed, a little water. Then cover the shaped dough with a towel and let it rise until it has doubled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a baking sheet. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add sugar and baking soda (the baking soda will make the water bubble, so add it gradually). Boil each roll for 30 seconds, then flip, and cook for another 30 seconds. Place boiled pretzels on prepared baking sheet, brush with egg white, and sprinkle with salt. Bake until brown, about 20 minutes.

Enjoy!


Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

It is no secret that Lucas and I love desserts that feature peanut butter and chocolate, so when I saw a recipe for homemade peanut butter cups I was already drooling. And wow, the finished product did not disappoint.

I get my sweet tooth from both my grandmas and my mom, okay maybe all the women in my family love a good dessert. But the truth is, who doesn’t? Something sweet at the end of a meal puts a smile on your face and these peanut butter cups left Lucas and I chocolate-fingered and happy. After the first bite, Lucas turned to me and said, “These are good” with little bits of chocolate smudge across his lips. And for the next fifteen minutes or so our eating was only interrupted by sideways glances at each other and little words like “wow,” “amazing,” “SO good.” These are a five star treat.

I must warn you that they are rich, and coming from me, a girl who loves rich things, that is saying something. You can only eat one, maybe two, and you are knocked out in a haze of sweet. But what a wonderful haze it is 🙂

The worst (best) part about this recipe is that it is so easy. I could make these everyday, which of course is a terrible idea, but it is simple. The ingredient list is short and the longest part of the process is waiting for the finished product to set in the refrigerator. These could be a dangerous treat in our house. Rules and limits will have to be created and enforced so that we aren’t “treating” ourselves every week.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

yields 12 cups

What You Need:

3 cups chocolate*

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup graham crackers, crushed

1 teaspoon sea salt

*I used dark chocolate chips, but you could use whatever type of chocolate you like — semi-sweet, milk chocolate or bittersweet.

To Make:

Place 12 paper liners in a muffin pan. Set aside.

Melt 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave. Then use the back of a spoon to smooth a layer of melted chocolate onto the bottoms and sides of the paper liners. Be generous. Set the chocolate bowl aside, you will use it again later. Refrigerate the muffin pan for 20 minutes while you make the peanut butter filling.

Meanwhile in a mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, crushed graham crackers, powdered sugar, and salt. Stir until well combined. The peanut butter mixture should be smooth.

Remove the muffin pan from the refrigerator. Place one to two spoonfuls of the peanut butter mixture in each liner. Distribute equally among the 12 cups. Tap the peanut butter mixture down in each cup so it is smooth on top and fills the bottom of the liner completely.

Now melt the remaining 1 1/2 cups of chocolate either in your double boiler or the microwave.  Cover the peanut butter mixture with the warm chocolate. Be generous. The peanut butter should not longer be visible. Smooth the tops of each cup or swirl as desired for aesthetics.

Place the muffin pan back in the refrigerator. In approximately one hour your cups should be set and ready to eat. Enjoy!

I found the recipe on the blog, Design Sponge.