Archives for posts with tag: muffins

As many people know, I’m a HUGE fan of The Great British Bake-off, which is now in it’s fourth season here in the UK.  I understand that one of the judges went to the States to try to replicate the program there (The American Baking Competition – they didn’t really put a lot of time into the name, did they) … no surprise that, with that name, it didn’t really take off.  The whole premise is about home baking and traditional cooking with various themes each week like cakes, pies, bread, etc.

A couple of weeks ago, GBBO did their bread episode and I was positively inspired by their “technical challenge” which was English muffins.  When is the last time you actually even thought about English Muffins?  You pop down to the grocery and mindlessly throw a package of Thomas’s in your basket.  Or you go out for brunch and order eggs Benedict and there it is, the trusty, chewy base.  It adds a little texture, but, let’s be honest, it doesn’t stand up and take center stage.

Consequently, when you think about making bread, English Muffins aren’t really the first thing that come to mind.  In fact, I can honestly say that, until I watched it on that episode, I never even thought about how they were made.  Griddles!  Who knew?  A nice griddle or non-stick pan on medium-low heat is how you get that crispy top and bottom with the nice soft middle.  It was a revelation, I tell ya!

I will tell you this – this is one of those recipes that really benefits from a standing mixer.  Yes, you can mix and knead by hand, but it is an enriched dough, so is a little sticky, making kneading SUCH a hassle when a dough hook does just as well!  If you DO decide to try this by hand, use oil on the work surface rather than flour – you don’t want to toughen the dough.

As with all bread recipes, the dry ingredients are in metric weight rather than volume … if you haven’t bought a digital scale, yet, what are you waiting for!  BUY ONE!!

English Muffins

  • 300 g bread flour
  • 6 g salt
  • 6 g instant yeast
  • 15 g sugar
  • 1 Tbsp butter, soft
  • 2/3 cup whole milk, warmed to body temperature
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • semolina or fine cornmeal for dusting

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the flour, salt, yeast, sugar and butter and start on low.  Slowly add the milk and egg and mix  thoroughly.  Once fully incorporated, speed up the machine a notch or two to really get the gluten working and let it go for about ten minutes.  As stated above, because this is an enriched dough, it’s going to be a bit stickier than your traditional bread dough, so be patient as the machine does the work.  Stop occasionally to make sure everything is being mixed and kneaded.  By the time ten minutes is up, you’ll feel the difference from how it was at the start – the gluten will give it a good body, but it will still be a soft dough.

Oil a large bowl and put the dough in it to rise for an hour or so until it’s doubled in size.  Once it’s finished, tip the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and press or roll out to about 1/2″ thickness.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit and rest for about 10 minutes.  While it’s resting, dust a large tray with the semolina or cornmeal.

Finally, use a 3″ round (not fluted) cutter to cut the dough into nice rounds and place them on the prepared tray by dipping the dough into it on one side and moving around a bit to make sure it’s evenly covered, before flipping over and doing the same on the other side.  When they’ve all been dusted, they need to sit for about 30 minutes for their second proofing.

During their two to three minutes of proving, heat a non-stick skillet or pan over medium-low heat.  No butter.  No oil.  Just dry heat.  Put the muffins in without overcrowding the pan and cook them about five minutes per side.  Then, slice and eat, baby!  Loveliness!

English muffins1 English muffins2 English Muffins3

Good Sunday morning!!

It’s the start of the second full day of the London 2012 Olympics and I’ve got a pot of coffee brewed, ready to settle in for a morning of swimming (go Rebecca Addlington!) and men’s volleyball.  The men’s swimming absolutely blew me away yesterday with Ryan Lochte taking the Men’s 400 IM.  I’m hoping that Michael Phelps has a better day in the pool and a better Games, overall. And the women’s soccer – the first UK women’s Olympic soccer team nailed their match against Cameroon yesterday as did the US team against Columbia – both of them with a score of 3-0.  So, yes, I’m cheering for both the Team USA and Team GB, my adopted home.

To celebrate the opening ceremony on Friday, I baked two Summertime Cakes to take to the office as a treat for my company.  A lot of my colleagues have been working their cotton socks off to get ready for the launch of the Games, so I wanted to make something a little celebratory.  Of course, the result is leftover fruit – in this case, a couple of nectarines and some raspberries.  And, as everyone knows, raspberries can go from being lovely and bright and juicy one day to grey and furry the next, the little bastards.  So, before my fridge started looking like an Alexander Fleming experiment gone wrong, I thought I’d use them up.

I had raspberries and nectarines – if you have blueberries, peaches, or strawberries, feel free to substitute them, instead. That’s the fun thing with this kind of recipe – the base of it is a lovely, light and refreshing flavor that complements pretty much any summer fruit.  This makes two dozen muffins, so if you are just feeding the family, it’s easy to halve (or not!).

Midsummer Madness Muffins

  • 1 1/3  cup granulated sugar
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 4 eggs
  • 8 oz butter, melted
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 nectarines (or peaches or even a few plums), pitted and diced into 1/2″ dice
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups berries

Preheat oven to 400 F and prepare two dozen muffin cups with paper liners.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the sugar with the zest of two lemons until it’s nice and light and lemony.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix until thoroughly combined, then pour into a large, wide bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients – the melted butter, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla extract, using a whisk to blend until smooth.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and give a couple of stirs before adding the fruit.  Mix only until there is still just a trace of dry ingredients left – it is absolutely crucial that you don’t overmix so that your muffins have a large, irregular crumb.  Put a huge, heaping tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup – it should be about 3/4 full – then pop into the oven and bake about 20 minutes until golden on top.

NOTE:  I know that there are some popular TV chefs who say that you can mix everything before you go to bed, then just pour the batter in the cups and bake in the morning.  Now, I realize that they have a TV show and I don’t, but chemistry is chemistry, regardless of who you are – and the baking powder starts reacting the minute it makes contact with the wet ingredients.  So, if you’d like to do as much prep as possible before you go to bed, measure and mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients, but don’t mix them together (hey, you’ll need something to do while the oven is heating, anyway).  Your family will thank you for lighter and fluffier muffins.

Midsummer madness muffins in the early morning light

We have friends coming over tomorrow for a rescheduled Christmas lunch (a couple of inches of snow here in southern England can seriously wreak havoc on one’s social life).  Unfortunately, since we weren’t able to get together when we originally planned, their cookie Christmas basket was … well … a bit past its prime, let’s say, and needed to be replaced. 

Last year, I faffed around with one of Martha’s fabulous cupcake recipes and was rewarded by watching our friends snarf them up one after the other.  Really, more like a muffin than a cake, these little babies have a gorgeous moist crumb and keep well for a few days.  And the honey-cinnamon icing makes the perfect complement without sending it off the charts with sweetness (and, if you have leftover icing, it freezes amazingly well).

So, tomorrow, they’re taking home another batch of these lovelies to start the new year right!

Banana Cupcakes with Honey-Cinnamon Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 oz butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup mashed bananas*
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Icing

  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar sifted with 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 oz butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp honey

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together. In a medium size bowl, mix the bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter and vanilla extract until smooth.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well but don’t overmix, then divide into cupcake cups (this recipe makes between 12-15 cupcakes).  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove and cool in the tin for 5 minutes before pulling them out of the tin to cool on a rack.

To make the icing, use a mixer to cream the butter and honey until light and fluffy before addding the powdered sugar/cinnamon mixture.  This recipe is enough to frost all 15 cupcakes with a little to spare.

* A note about bananas:  If you have bananas that are getting a bit too brown and soft, pop them in the freezer and they’ll be the perfect for whenever you want to make banana bread or banana cake (just be sure to thaw them on a plate because they do get a bit oozy and icky for the counter).

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