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.
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 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
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 or 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.
This year, for the first summer in I don’t know how long, we didn’t move. We stayed put. And this seemed like something worth celebrating, so I planted.
I have been dreaming about a garden for years and the stars finally lined up this summer. We would be in one place long enough to plant and enjoy the harvest. I have such wonderful memories of gardening (or at least eating out of the garden) as a kid. Summer snack time was grabbing snow peas off the vine as we ran past in the back yard. And I have longed for this feeling of stepping out your door and finding fresh food ready to eat.
This spring, after we cemented our plans to stay put, I started planning for a garden, with only one major obstacle left- space. We are renters, which means, we don’t really have a yard of our own, but we have a porch that gets full sun and this is where I set my sights. Container gardening. I seem to have picked a popular moment to catch hold of this trend as magazines and websites are touting this small scale type of gardening so finding information, suggestions, and advice was easy. It is all pretty basic. Gather some large containers or pots that drain well, fill them with high quality soil, and plant crops that do well in a confined space. Most types of veggies seemed to fit into this category, and after some debate, we decided on snow peas, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.
To fill our containers, we attended the May Market and National Public Gardens Day hosted at Phipps Conservatory in the city (Pittsburgh, PA). It was fun to stroll through the vendors, chat with farmers, and select the plants we would be growing this summer. We picked out three types of tomatoes (a small red for sauces, zebra striped green, and purple), a sweet red pepper plant, two types of basil (curly purple and baby leaf), and oregano. We also planted cilantro and snow peas from seeds.
The porch is right off our living room and I have found that I love watching the progress of the plants as much as I like the harvest we have gotten so far. I gravitate towards the french doors that open out onto the porch several times a day, and I have noticed that my husband does the same thing. We have become garden watchers.
I loved the excitement of spring and early summer as the fern like stems of the cilantro broke through the soil and as our tomatoes plants began reaching up and over the railing on the porch towards the sun in wild, lanky branches. The basil soon filled and overflowed from the pot and oregano stretched out leafy tentacles as we reached deeper into summer. Our giant cone shaped peppers have been teasing us with deep green for a month and it felt like we such a victory when last week when they finally started shifting into a rusty and then bright red. We will eat pepper soon!
When my cousin’s daughter came to stay with us for a few days, I saw this excitement and wonder at how our food grows spread through her. She loved “harvesting” basil and oregano. Snipping off pieces with scissors and them pulling the leaves off to scatter on her personalized, homemade pizza. There is so much wonder in watching things grow.
For the most part, our garden, so far, has been a success (knock on wood), if for no other reason than the joy we get from watching it grow and the handful of things we have eaten already- basil, cilantro, oregano, tomatoes. But we did have some failures: the snow peas burned up and one of our tomato plants looks like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, a shriveled stick with one lonely tomato. Lessons learned for next time.
But for now, I am truly enjoying the green out my window and the fresh tomato I have sitting on my counter for tonight!
Happy Summer 🙂
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.
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.
Rosemary Soft Pretzels with Cheddar Cheese Dipping Sauce
What You Need:
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
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, and 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.
Cold weather always makes me gravitate towards the kitchen. Something about the heat of the oven and the deep smells drifting through the house pairs perfectly with a heavy gray sky and dipping temperatures. So lately, I have been enjoying the camaraderie of being in the kitchen with my husband.
We made one of my favorite things this month: homemade noodles. We started making noodles a few years ago when we were living in the upper peninsula of Michigan, and then took a break during all our travels, so pulling out our pasta maker felt a little like coming home.
Noodles are actually relatively simple in terms of ingredients, and with a Kitchen Aid mixer, the kneading process is hands free. Mostly, noodle making takes patience, and it definitely helps to have two people on the job. It makes things more fun and helps when feeding the dough through the pasta maker to thin and cut it. And of course, the product is amazing. Light and eggy. So good you hardly need sauce.
This time we made fettuccine. We made a double batch, so we could eat some fresh and dry the rest for later. It was our first time drying pasta and it went relatively smoothly although it did break in half on the drying rack, but that actually worked out well for storage. Overall, a wonderful Sunday afternoon activity that resulted in a spectacular dinner (and future dinners!).
We have an Imperia manual pasta machine, but the recipe will work with the kitchen aid attachment or other pasta machines as well.
The dough is simple:
2 cups all purpose flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten
water as needed (added 1Tbs at a time))
Yields about 1 lb.
You can mix the dough manually (which we have done), but it is much easier with a stand mixer. Simply use the paddle attachment for normal batches or the dough hook for large batches. Add the flour and eggs to the bowl and mix on low until the dough comes together adding water as needed until a ball is formed.
Once the ball has formed, knead the dough by hand on a well floured surface until it is smooth (about 2 minutes). Then wrap in plastic and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Then follow the directions for your pasta maker to roll out and cut the dough.
Finally, eat fresh with a quick boil, refrigerate for up to three days, dry, or freeze and enjoy!
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!
Adapted from From Julia’s Kitchen by Julia Child
What You Need:
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
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.
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.
Adapted from Cookistry.
It is a perfect week for soup: gray, rainy, and the kind of wet-cold that makes you want to stay in bed all day long. So last night we tried a new soup that has been sitting on my pinterest board for months, and it is a total winner! I must admit, I love pretty much any soup that involves cheese, and Lucas and I have been on a cauliflower kick, so this seemed like a good match. What I loved about this soup, beyond the way it made our house smell, was the depth of flavor even with so few ingredients. I think roasting the cauliflower helps make the flavors so robust and, of course, I added a little extra cheese, which never hurts. Overall, it was a perfect, warm, cozy soup for a cold, rainy night. How I wish it had been snow instead! Still keeping my fingers crossed for a white Christmas.
Happy Apocalypse Day! And enjoy the soup 🙂
Roasted Cauliflower and White Cheddar Soup
Adapted from Closet Cooking
Today the second issue (May+June) of Food Loves Beer Magazine was released. I may be a little bias, but I think this is a great new digital food/beer magazine. And it’s free! To check it out click here. My article, The Rise of Olive Oil, starts on page 69 and includes one of my all-time favorite recipes, Spicy Bread-Dipping Sauce. Enjoy!