26 March 2015

English Muffins

English Muffins / www.delightfulrepast.com

Recipes for what we outside the UK call English muffins appeared in print as early as 1747, called simply muffins. One such recipe was in English cookery writer Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery

What they in the UK at one time called American muffins have become so popular in the UK that they are merely called muffins, leading to some confusion. So much so that some British cookery writers and UK brands have taken to using the term English muffin. 

Some people bake English muffins in the oven, others on a griddle. Some use crumpet/English muffin rings, others do not. Some make a dough and roll it out and cut it like biscuits, others a looser dough, bordering on a batter. My method calls for patting pieces of soft dough into 3.5-inch rounds and placing the rounds in rings. 

Why do I use the rings? Call me fussy, but I like the whole batch of whatever I'm making to look as identical as possible. Dividing the dough equally and using the rings makes that happen. And the rings make the dough rise higher, rather than spreading. 

To make 12 muffins, double all recipe ingredients except the yeast. If you'd like to make 6 one day and 6 another day, double the recipe, divide the dough and refrigerate half. When ready to cook the second half of the dough, bring it to room temperature, about 2 hours, then proceed as before.

I know I probably post (and eat!) too much bread, but I can't help myself! If you like this post, please share it on Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and any other social media you're on. And do leave a comment below; I love hearing from you!

Homemade English Muffins / www.delightfulrepast.com

English Muffins 

(Makes 6) 

1 3/4 dip-and-sweep cups (8.75 ounces/248 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1 3/4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons instant (rapid rise) yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces/177 ml) milk
1 1/2 tablespoons (0.75 ounce/21 grams) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons cornmeal for dusting

1 tablespoon (0.5 ounce/14 grams) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, for greasing rings and pan   

1 In 2-quart bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, sugar, yeast and salt. 

2 Heat milk and butter to 120 to 130 degrees. Stir gradually into flour mixture, making a smooth batter. Beat for 3 minutes. Gradually beat in remaining 3/4 cup flour to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. Sprinkle very lightly with flour and knead gently, right in the bowl, for a minute. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. 

3 Brush with the melted butter six 3.5-inch / 9-cm crumpet rings and (very lightly) the griddle (I use an All-Clad nonstick griddle). 

4 With greased hands, shape dough into an even log and divide into 6 equal portions (about 2.75 ounces or 78 grams). Shape into smooth balls and pat into 3.5-inch rounds. Roll in cornmeal to coat evenly. 

Note: If you like to be quite precise, as I usually do, weigh the finished dough and divide by 6. 

4 Place cornmeal-coated rounds inside rings and press dough to fit rings. Spray a rimless baking sheet with cooking spray, and place upside down over rings. Let rise about 15 to 30 minutes, until puffed and risen nearly to top of rings. Don't let them overproof. 

Note: You can make these without the rings, but the muffins will have a more irregular appearance. Buy the rings; they don't cost much.

5 Set the muffin-filled griddle over very low heat and cook the muffins slowly for about 10 minutes until browned. With tongs, remove the rings. Turn the muffins carefully and cook slowly for about 10 minutes until second side is browned and muffins are cooked through. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the muffin horizontally should register 200 degrees.

English Muffins / www.delightfulrepast.com

6 Cool on wire rack. Then split with a fork, toast and serve. Splitting with a fork, rather than cutting with a knife, will preserve the nooks and crannies, the unique texture of the English muffin.  

19 March 2015

Crumpets - Classic British Teatime Treat

Crumpets and Jam / www.delightfulrepast.com

Hot buttered crumpets ... mmm ... one of my favorite comfort foods! A recent request from Lana at Life at Wildberry Cottage for crumpets (a yeasted griddle cake) had me digging into my recipes. I knew it had been "a while" since I made them, but found out it has been seven years! Now that I've devoured nearly the whole batch, I can't imagine why I waited so long! 

Crumpets are entirely different from English muffins, though they are made very similarly with pretty much the same ingredients. Crumpets have a spongier texture and are never split. 

The first side is cooked about 8 minutes (or even 10, if your heat is as low as it should be) until well browned; the second side is cooked just 2 or 3 minutes until pale golden (which explains the photo with half the crumpets showing their brown first side and half showing their pale golden second side). 

Crumpets may sound like a lot of work, but they really aren't. The yeast batter is very easy to make, and they are cooked on a griddle. They're really no more trouble than making pancakes.

I know there are people who would have you spray the griddle and rings with cooking spray or oil them with vegetable oil, but why? The whole point of crumpets is to enjoy them slathered with butter, so why not get the party started with butter on the griddle and rings?  

They're great with butter alone, but you might want to also top them with honey, golden syrup, jam or marmalade. More adventurous types might even try Marmite, cream cheese or a nut butter. Needless to say, the mandatory beverage is tea!

Crumpets and Jam / www.delightfulrepast.com

This is to show you both sides of the crumpet. The dark ones are the well-cooked first sides, and the pale ones are the lightly-cooked second sides. 

And be sure to put them on the wire rack dark-side down to avoid the wire marks you'll get on the softer lightly-cooked sides.

Crumpets - Classic British Teatime Treat / www.delightfulrepast.com

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(Makes 12 3.5-inch/9-cm crumpets) 

2 dip-and-sweep cups (10 ounces/283 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant (rapid rise) yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 fluid ounces/236 ml) milk
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces/177 ml) and 2 tablespoons (1 fluid ounce/30ml) water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces/43 grams) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, for greasing rings and pan 

1 In bowl of stand mixer fitted with flat paddle, combine flour, yeast, sugar and salt; mix on low speed for 30 seconds to "sift" ingredients.

2 In 2-cup glass measure, heat milk and 3/4 cup water to very warm (120 to 130 degrees). Add to flour mixture. Beat on medium speed for 5 minutes. Cover and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled and very bubbly.

Note: You can do this with a hand mixer, or even by hand, but I'm having a bit of a problem with my beating arm just now.

Crumpet Batter / www.delightfulrepast.com

3 Stir together 2 tablespoons water and baking soda; stir it gently into the batter. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. 

Making Crumpets / www.delightfulrepast.com

4 Brush some of the melted and cooled butter on a griddle, and heat the griddle over quite low heat for 3 minutes. Brush 4 crumpet rings with the butter. Place them on the griddle and heat for 2 minutes. Pour 1/3 cup of batter* into each ring. Cook for about 8 minutes until the tops are set and full of holes. Remove the rings with tongs, turn and cook for 2 or 3 minutes until pale golden.

Cooking Crumpets / www.delightfulrepast.com

* If your crumpet rings are 3.5 inches (9 cm) in diameter, as mine are, a level 1/3 cup of batter fills them halfway. If yours are a different size, you will need to figure out what measure fills them halfway. 

5 Remove to wire rack (putting the well-browned side down). Grease the griddle and crumpet rings again. Repeat as for first batch. To serve, toast crumpets (unsplit) and spread with butter.

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12 March 2015

Irish Soda Bread - Slow Cooker Version

Irish Soda Bread - Irish Brown Bread / www.delightfulrepast.com

Irish soda bread, or brown bread, is something usually baked in the oven. But one day on Twitter, Brooks at Cakewalker (gorgeous cakes and more!) told me he'd like to see a slow cooker version. Of course, that sounded like a great idea to me, so I told him I'd get right on it.

Why might you want to bake your soda bread in a slow cooker? Maybe your oven is otherwise occupied. Or it's a hot day and you don't want to run your oven. Why did I want to do it? Because I just love experimenting in the kitchen! 

Two years ago I posted my regular Irish Brown Bread, which I love. But knowing Brooks likes a sweeter soda bread, I modified my recipe to include a higher proportion of white to whole wheat flour and more brown sugar than my usual one tablespoon. 

I skipped the raisins he likes, since I wasn't sure how well this would even turn out in the slow cooker. But you can add a cup of raisins (plumped in very hot water for several minutes and drained well), if you like.

Another change (in the interests of "authenticity," you might say) was using soured (with vinegar) milk rather than commercial cultured buttermilk. After all, back in the day, the Irish housewives would not have had storebought cultured buttermilk but would have used soured milk.

Do you ever make Irish Soda Bread? Is it part of your heritage? Or something you've adopted, as I have?

Irish Soda Bread - Irish Brown Bread / www.delightfulrepast.com

Slow Cooker Irish Soda Bread 

(Makes one 8-inch round loaf)

1 1/2 cups milk 
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 dip-and-sweep cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 dip-and-sweep cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg 

1 In 2-cup glass measure, stir together milk and vinegar; let stand 5 minutes or so while mixing remaining ingredients. Lightly grease bottom and sides of slow cooker.*

* I have the Cuisinart MSC-600 6-quart multicooker slow cooker with separate nonstick cooking pot (which is oval, but I still made the loaf round because, well, it's just gotta be round!).

2 In large bowl, whisk together flours, brown sugar, salt and baking soda. With fingers, rub butter into flour mixture. Beat egg into the soured milk. 

3 Make a well in center of flour mixture and pour in all but about 1/4 cup of the milk mixture. Slowly bring the flour mixture into the liquid. Stir gently to combine into a slightly sticky dough that can be formed into a rather soft ball, adding more liquid if needed. Knead lightly, right in the bowl, not more than 5 or 6 times, forming into a ball.

4 Place ball of dough in center of slow cooker. Dough should ideally be of a consistency to flatten itself just slightly to a diameter of roughly 6 inches and a height of about 2 1/2 inches. With sharp knife, cut a 1/4-inch deep "+" on top of dough (helps the bread to cook through and not have a doughy middle). 

5 Set slow cooker on High and cook for about 3 1/2* hours, or until it tests done. To test: 1. stick a toothpick in the center and see if it comes out clean and 2. tap it on the bottom and see if it sounds hollow; or 3. see if it registers close to 195 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. To cool, place the loaf on a wire rack and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing, or it may be too crumbly and not hold together well.

* Added 03/15/15: One reader found that 3 1/2 hours was a little too long in her slow cooker and thought she'd check it at 3 hours next time.

05 March 2015

Prune Spice Cake - Just Call It Spice Cake

Prune Spice Cake - Just Call It Spice Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

Prune Spice Cake is a name I avoid using because the word "prune" puts so many people off. Unless you enjoy imploring your picky eater to "Just try it, you'll like it," I'd suggest you call it Spice Cake and skip all that nonsense. 

I first came up with this cake when I was a teenager. Over the years, I tinkered with it until I settled on this formula. If I hadn't needed a frosted cake for a particular reason this week, I would have skipped the frosting and just served it with some barely sweetened whipped cream.

Prune Spice Cake - Just Call It Spice Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

It's a lovely moist and tender cake that keeps well at room temperature for a few days or even freezes well. I needed to cook a week ahead for an upcoming lunch for friends, so sliced half the layer cake into six slices and laid them on a parchment-lined, indispensable 13x9x1-inch quarter sheet pan, covered it with foil and popped it into the freezer. 

What size/shape cake do you make most often? I have all sorts of pans: 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-, 10-, 12- and 14-inch rounds, 8- and 11-inch squares, not to mention the rectangles and loaf pans; but I make a 7-inch round cake most often these days. 

Prune Spice Cake - Just Call It Spice Cake / www.delightfulrepast.com

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Prune Spice Cake 

(Makes one 13x9-inch cake or 2 8-inch round layers) 

1 8-ounce (227 grams) package pitted prunes
1 1/4 cups (10 fluid ounces) water
2 dip-and-sweep cups (10 ounces/283 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces/198 grams) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) extra virgin olive oil or organic* canola oil
3 large eggs
1 cup (4 ounces/113 grams) finely diced walnuts

1 Spray one 13x9x2-inch pan with organic* canola cooking spray, or butter and flour two 8-inch round layer pans.

* Of course, I use organic everything, but I mention it specifically for the canola oil because canola oil that is not organic is sure to be genetically modified (GMO or GE).  

2 In 1-quart saucepan, combine prunes and water. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving 2/3 cup of the liquid (add water if necessary). Chop prunes. They wind up a rough puree. You could use the food processor to make a perfectly smooth puree. Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

3 In 2-cup glass measure, microwave butter until just melted. Stir in oil. 

In bowl of stand mixer, combine all the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for one minute. Add reserved prune liquid and the butter and oil. Mix to blend; at medium speed, beat for 2 minutes. Add eggs. Mix to blend; beat for 1 minute. Stir in prunes and walnuts. 

5 Pour into prepared pan(s). Bake at 350F/180C for about 40 minutes (single) or about 30 minutes (layers). 

6 Serve single cake directly from pan. For layer cake, cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks for an hour or more. When completely cooled, frost with vanilla butter frosting.