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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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!



Pumpkin Muffins with a Sweet Cream Cheese Filling

My obsession with pumpkin continues. As a kid the only way I wanted pumpkin was in a pie. But for some reason, now, I can’t get enough. I have been looking for ways to spice up my baking world with pumpkin as the star. And I have to say, I found a keeper. I have seen several variations of the pumpkin muffin circulating the internet, but I snagged my recipe from the blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything. This muffin has a major wow factor. The muffin itself is moist and the pumpkin really pops, while the cream cheese filling adds just the right amount of sweet. And of course I can’t forget the crumble on top; it gives the muffin a nice crunch. There is so much taste packed into each little muffin. Bonus: It made our apartment smell like pumpkin for two days. There is nothing better than coming in from the cold (think Alaskan snow and ice) to the smell of baked goods, especially pumpkin baked goods!

The recipe requires several different components, batter, filling, crumble, but each step is pretty easy and straight forward. The assembly is probably the most intensive, but it is really just about figuring our how much filling and crumble to add to each muffin. The benefit is that people think you are a genius baker when they bite into the muffin and find the filling! Smiles all around.

Pumpkin Muffins with a Sweet Cream Cheese Filling

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar

*The filling must cool in the freezer for 2 hours so make this in advance.

Muffins:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1¼ cups vegetable oil

Crumble:
½ cup sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

*The crumble made way more than I needed. I would recommend cutting this amount in half.

Filling:

Blend the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Place the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap. Gentle shape it into a log, about 1½-inches wide.  Tightly wrap the plastic around the log. Place the log in the freezer for approximately 2 hours.  The log will be firmer but should not be hard.
Muffins:

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Prepare the muffin pan. Combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking soda. Mix the dry ingredients until they are blended. In a separate bowl (or using an electric mixer), combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree, and oil. Blend well. Then slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix well.

Crumble:

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add the cut butter pieces. Mix with a pastry blender, two forks, or your hands. The crumble will be course. Chill mixture until ready to use.

Assemble:

Fill each muffin well with enough batter to cover the bottom. Cut the cream cheese log into 24 pieces. Place one piece into each muffin well. Cover the filling with batter. Finally, sprinkle a small amount of crumble over each muffin.

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool and enjoy!


Oatmeal Muffins

I have been pretty excited to try out a new muffin recipe all week. The recipe is from Heidi Swanson’s blog 101 Cookbooks (again!). The oatmeal muffins have a crumble that looks so good in her pictures. This morning I set out to bake them for our weekend road trip to Girdwood, AK. I love treats on a long drive.

The crumble was very easy to make and leftovers can be frozen for another time. And the muffins themselves were not hard to put together, but I had trouble with the bake. I burned the first six (I only have one baby muffin pan), but the inside was still really tasty. And the second batch came out a little crisper than I would have liked even with a shorter bake time and me hoovering by the oven. So I am not sure if it is the oven or me, but the results are still very taste!

I like that the recipe is sweet but still contains a good nutritious start to the day or snack.The recipe is below or see her blog here.

Oatmeal Muffins

Crumble:
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, melted

Muffin Batter:
1 cup  rolled oats
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 oz butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
2 large eggs, whisked

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter muffin pans generously. Place oven racks in top third of oven.

Crumble: Combine the flour, oats, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter. Press mixer together and make three patties. Place the patties in the freezer for about ten minutes.

Muffin batter: In a bowl combine the oats, flours, baking soda, and salt.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Whisk in the yogurt, and then the eggs. Combine with the dry ingredients. Do not over mixing.

Fill muffins 3/4 full. Break crumble up and sprinkle on each muffin.

Here is where I had trouble. She recommends baking for 30 – 35 minutes or until tops are golden and a toothpick comes out clean. But I ended up lowering the oven temperature and taking them out early. I will have to make them again and play with this to see what the problem is. But overall, I like the taste!


Making Baguettes at Home

As I mentioned before, I am trying to bake at least once a week since we arrived in Alaska. I not only love the way it makes our apartment smell and having fresh good bread to eat, but I also like the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment that baking provides. It is one more way Alaska is reminding me how people used to live. I love the stories my Gram and my Mom tell about my great-grandmother in the kitchen. She had eight children and was one of those people that cooked without recipes. I wish I could sneak into her kitchen now and absorb her knowledge. It amazes me when people can cook by feel, and I hope someday I am that comfortable and confident in my own abilities. But I do feel lucky that I get to bake because I like it, rather than because I have to.

My baking education is a mix of my time eating good bread while working for The Bread Bakers Guild of America, reading, and watching videos online. This is by no means a full education, but I feel like I get better each time I bake. This week I wanted to make baguettes. I have made baguettes once before. Our kitchen here is small. The oven is not as large as a normal home oven, and I am limited in equipment to one large bowl, one small baking sheet, and one loaf pan. No mixer. I have for the last several years been playing around with the no knead baking method made popular in 2006 by Jim Lahey in a New York Times Article. I have been working from the recipe found on  Breadtopia, a website dedicated to home baking. Over the course of time my version has changed a little from what is presented on this site; it was a great jumping off point though. But for baguettes, I needed more than a recipe. I needed to know how to best shape and bake as well. I found what I was looking for in a you tube clip of Julia Child and Raymond Calvel, both culinary/baking rock stars. The clip also provides a recipe which I did not use, instead I stuck with my no knead version. I did use the methods for shaping, resting, and baking that begin about 12 minutes into the clip. If you can picture someone, hands covered in flour, hunched over a laptop watching this video then bouncing back to the counter to pat and shape dough, then back to the laptop, you can get an idea of what my Tuesday looked like. Overall, the bread was yummy and didn’t look to bad. At the end of the day seeing the two demi baguettes sitting on my counter felt pretty great. Below you will find the recipe and video if you want to give it a whirl!

No Knead Bread

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur Flour)

* You can also use whole wheat flour but you will need to add a little more water.

1 packet active dry yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 3/4 cups warm water

First, mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, I usually use a wooden spoon but any utensil will work. Then add the water. Mix with the spoon until ingredients start to clump, lightly knead the dough in the bowl until it sticks together as a unit. The dough should be smooth but not sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic (I use a plastic grocery sack and tie it.) Let the dough sit at room temperature for 18 hours (longer if it is cool in your house).

After it has proofed for 18 hours, the dough will have expanded, the surface will be sticky and have small holes (this is good). Use your hand (well floured) to scoop the dough onto the well floured counter.  Once on the counter, sprinkle the dough with flour and gentle pat. Then fold the dough in thirds, like a brochure. Finally fold it in half, like a hotdog bun. Let the dough rest on the counter for 15 minutes. Use a new bowl, or clean the same large bowl, and lightly flour the inside using your hand to spread it up the sides of the bowl. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

After two hours, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. This is when you will want to reference the you tube video clip. I will also provide a brief overview, but it is definitely worth watching the video.

Place the dough on a well floured counter. Cut the dough in half (this is different than the video, she cuts hers in thirds, but I recommend half). Take one of the dough pieces and pat it down. Then fold the bottom and the top in, again like a brochure, patting after each fold. Seal the seam by pressing along the edge of the dough with the palm of your hand. Then, down the center create a small trough using the side of your hand (almost like a karate chop). Finally fold the dough in half (along the trough) and seal the seam again with the palm  of your hand. Now it is time to roll it out. Start with your hands in the middle of the dough and roll towards the outside. Make sure you don’t make it too big to fit on your baking sheet or pizza stone. Lay the dough on a floured canvas or towel for the final rest, until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.

After the rest, roll the dough onto a baking sheet so the bottom side is now facing up. You are ready for the final steps, to score and bake the bread. To score use a straight razor to make 3 or 4 (depending on the size of the baguette) horizontal cuts on the bread. You want to make quick cuts. After it has been scored, spray or coat the bread with water. Then place it in the bottom of the oven. If you have a spray bottle, spray the bread at minute 2, 4, and 6. At minute 6, you will also want to move the bread to the middle oven rack where it will remain for the rest of the bake. Bake the bread for a total of 25 minutes. I usually leave the bread in for an additional 5 minutes with with oven turned off. When the bread comes out tap the bottom, it should sound hollow, this means it is done. And enjoy!