Thursday, February 16, 2017

Baked English Muffins

Toasted and Buttery!
I wanted to make English muffins, but I didn’t want to do the skillet frying technique. On the other hand, I didn’t want to just cut round circles of dough either. I know that English muffin dough is supposed to be rather wet. More like a batter than a bread dough. If the dough was sturdy enough to roll out and cut into circles, the end result wouldn't have the right texture. Fussy, aren’t I?


I searched through the King Arthur Flour website and came upon a recipe for baked English muffins that did not cut out dough circles. Instead, the loose dough was scooped into traditional English muffins rings lined up on a baking sheet. Then another baking sheet was placed on top of the filled rings and everything baked for a short time. Then the pans were flipped and finished baking in the oven. Sounded like the best of both worlds: the loose batter-like dough of traditional English muffins with the ease of baking.
Baked and Cooling
I pretty much followed the recipe as is except for reducing both the salt and yeast and using a sodium-free baking powder. I mixed the dough and let it rise in my bread machine. However, I cancelled the rest function and went directly to kneading. I only let it knead for about 10 minutes before turning off the machine altogether. Then I left the dough to rise in the machine for about an hour. All in all, the bread machine worked well. The dough was quite loose and needed to be scrapped out of the machine, but I didn’t find it difficult. Using a heavy duty hand mixed or stand mixer might be easier.


I had only 8 rings, so four muffins were free-form. They ended up thinner than the ones baked in the rings. Still tasty, though. Usually, I try to incorporate some whole wheat flour in my yeast breads, but this time I decided to stick with AP flour to make sure I understood both the target texture and the baking/flipping process.

About those nooks and crannies. Cutting the muffins with a knife resulted in a smoother surface that splitting them with a fork. Sometime in the future, I may experiment with another recipe that uses a wetter dough, but I was really happy with this batch of English muffins. It was a happy compromise.

Baked English Muffins
Read the blog to see the 2-pan baking procedure in action:
2 3/4 cups  All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (I use Featherweight)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon yeast
1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm milk (I use reconstituted dry milk.)
2 tablespoons melted NSA butter
2 teaspoons vinegar, white or cider
cornmeal or semolina to coat the muffins I(I use semolina; it’s not as gritty.)
Directions
1.Stir together all the ingredients except the semolina or cornmeal. Beat for 1 minute at high speed of an electric mixer; the dough will become somewhat smooth. (I used my bread machine. I canceled the rest cycle and kneaded for only 10 minutes. Then I turned it off to rise in the machine. The dough is supposed to be quite sticky – very different from regular bread dough.)
2.Scrape the dough into the center of the bowl, cover, and allow it to rise for about 60 minutes, until it's quite puffy.
3.Grease a large (18" x 13") baking sheet; or line with parchment. Grease twelve 3 ¾" English muffin rings, and place them on the baking sheet.
4.Sprinkle semolina or cornmeal into each ring.
5.Turn the dough onto a lightly greased or floured work surface.(I used a Silpat and weighed each piece.) Cut it into 12 equal pieces; each will weigh a scant 2 ounces, or about 54g.
6.Shape the dough into balls. (Because the dough was sticky, I just sort of plopped it around in my oiled hands until it approximated a ball.) Place each ball into a ring, pressing it down to flatten somewhat. Sprinkle with a bit more cornmeal or semolina, and top with a greased baking sheet (or a sheet of parchment, then the baking sheet). The baking sheet should be resting atop the rings.
7.Let the muffins rise for about 60 to 90 minutes, until they've puffed up noticeably. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
8.Bake the risen muffins for 10 minutes. Flip the pans over, and bake for 5 minutes more. Remove the top pan, and bake for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, until they're a light golden brown, and the interior of one registers about 200°F on an instant-read thermometer.
9.Remove the muffins from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool. Remove their rings as soon as you're able. When completely cool, store muffins in a plastic bag.
10. Yield: 12 muffins.



Monday, February 6, 2017

Popovers

Ready to Serve!

I recently made popovers to go with some lentil soup I pulled from my freezer. It'd been several months since I last made them. They're so easy to make, and the end result is so spectacular. I should fix them more often. My husband likes the leftovers the next day heated up a bit in the toaster oven and spread with NSA peanut butter and jam.

I used a recipe from King Arthur Flour. The only changes I made were to use unsalted butter and to omit the salt altogether. The recipe ingredients are flour, milk, eggs, and butter. I'm not sure how coconut milk or other non-dairy milks would work. The sodium mainly comes from the milk and eggs. The sodium content depends on the size of popover made. I used a 6 cup jumbo muffin pan for about 76 mg sodium/popover. A 12 cup muffin pan would result in about 38 mg sodium/popover.

In the KAF "Tips..." section, there is a suggestion for adding dried herbs to boost flavor. I think you could use just about any NSA spice blend in the popover batter. Coarsely ground pepper with a bit of rosemary would be tasty. So would an Italian herb blend.

I used a jumbo muffin pan that makes 6 muffins. It works fine for me, so I'm not tempted to buy a true popover pan. It's also a non-stick pan. My only suggestion is to over-grease the pan. Popovers can stick, so this is one instance where I use Crisco.

I really like this recipe’s simplicity. No preheating of the pans required. No resting of the batter needed. Just mix, pour, and bake. And pretty much foolproof. I haven’t ever had a failure, even though for many years I was intimidated by the thought of making popovers.
Hot from the Oven!


  • 4 large eggs, warmed in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes before cracking
  • 1½ cups milk (skim, low-fat, or full-fat), lukewarm
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450. Position a rack on a lower shelf because the popovers rise quite a bit. Don’t let the rising popovers get too close to the top of the oven’s heating element and burn.

Use a standard 12-cup metal muffin tin (I use a jumbo 6 cup muffin pan). Grease the pan thoroughly, covering the area between the cups as well as the cups themselves. Make sure the oven is up to temperature before you begin to make the popover batter. (I let the oven preheat at least 20 minutes.)

Use a wire whisk (or handheld/electric mixer) to beat together the eggs and milk. Whisk till the eggs and milk are well combined, with no streaks of yolk showing.

Add the flour all at once, and beat until frothy; there shouldn't be any large lumps in the batter, but smaller lumps are OK.
Stir in the melted butter, combining quickly.

Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling them about 2/3 to 3/4 full (I use a soup ladle).

Make absolutely certain your oven is at 450! Place the pan on a lower shelf of the oven .
Bake the popovers for 20 minutes without opening the oven door. Reduce the heat to 350 without opening the door, and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until they're a deep, golden brown. If the popovers seem to be browning too quickly, position an oven rack at the very top of the oven, and put a cookie sheet on it, to shield the popover tops from direct heat.

If you plan on serving the popovers immediately, remove them from the oven, and stick the tip of a knife into the top of each, to release steam and help prevent sogginess. Slip them out of the pan, and serve.

If you want the popovers to hold their shape longer without deflating and settling quite as much, bake them for an additional 5 minutes (for a total of 40 minutes) if you can do so without them becoming too dark. This will make them a bit sturdier, and able to hold their shape a bit longer. (I usually poke a knife into them to release steam before baking the extra 5 minutes. I also leave them in the pan for about 4-5 minutes after taking them out of the oven and before trying to remove them from the pan.)

TIPS:
* For herbed popovers, stir 1½ teaspoons of your favorite dried herbs or NSA herb/spice blend into the batter along with the flour.
* To make the batter in a blender, blend eggs, and milk; add flour, blending till smooth; then add the melted butter at the end, blending till frothy.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Easiest Waffles Ever!



My husband was running low on breakfast stuff. I usually keep a stash of muffins, scones, waffles, etc. in the freezer so he can feed himself in the morning. That’s because he’s usually awake a couple hours before I finally crawl out of bed.

Anyhow, I knew I needed to make some sort of breakfasty thing, but I wasn’t in the mood to fuss. Didn’t want to bother with muffin batter and scoops. Same with rolling out scones and cutting them. Waffles are easy, but I didn’t even want to mess around with my favorite recipe. While I was trying to come up with a solution, I had to get something out of the fridge. I saw something perched on a shelf, and suddenly an answer came! I knew what to do! It would be waffles, but they’d be super easy to make. Why? Because I would use my homemade baking mix (similar to Bisquick). Click HERE for the baking mix recipe.

I grabbed my decades old and terribly stained Bisquick book and found  a recipe for basic waffles. In no time at all, I had  waffle batter ready to go. I ended up making 7 squares along with a weirdo one that used up the last of the batter. My husband and I just had to test it. To my utter delight, it was every bit as good as my regular recipe. But a whole lot easier and quicker.


The homemade baking mix is a real time saver. Not only for waffles. I use it for my favorite summer treat ‒ zucchini fritters. It’s also good for corn fritters, all sorts of “impossible” pies, quick breads, drop biscuits, and more. I just follow Bisquick recipes and use it instead. I love its convenience but also like the fact that I make it with healthful ingredients and can control the salt content. If you haven’t tried making your own, I encourage you to do so. You won’t regret it.

Easy Basic Waffles (Baking Mix)
Adapted from 1967 “So Quick with New Bisquick”

2 tbsp oil
1⅓ cup milk
1 egg

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Pour batter onto waffle iron. Bake until steaming stops. Lift off waffle carefully.