Monday, June 29, 2009


Bagels have been on my "To Bake" list for some time now. Ever since I realized this was something you COULD do at home, it's been hanging out in the back of my mind as something to try. But I kept putting it off. There are a lot of steps involved in bagel-making, which made it somewhat intimidating. Not to mention the fact that you really need two days from start to finish. Time is always an issue with me an bread-baking, so I was always thinking "maybe next weekend..."

Enter Father's day weekend. My dad is a diabetic with a pretty terrible sweet tooth. He's constantly trying to sneak sugar and other things he can’t eat when no one's paying attention. White bread products are an issue. He refuses to eat whole wheat bread and loves cinnamon raisin bagels even though the store-bought variety is chock-full of sugar.

Anyway, I figured that I'd be in Ancaster for two days with no real plans. Why not make my own bagels with (some) whole wheat flour and less sugar so that my dad could enjoy them without guilt?

I started these on Saturday evening and finished them Sunday morning. I followed mostly the Smitten Kitchen version of Peter Reinhart's bagel recipe.

Let me just say, I was SO excited about finally making my own bagel during the entire process. So excited in fact, that I may have deliriously made some adjustments to the recipe that probably weren’t a great idea. Like substittuing the malt syrup with molasses. The recipe specified malt power OR syrup OR brown sugar. I didn’t have the first two, but I had just bought some molasses and I figured...brown sugar is sugar WITH molasses...why not? This didn’t turn out terribly but the molasses definitely added their own flavour that wasn’t exactly bagel-y. And deciding that lining my pans with flour instead of cornmeal was okay (I only did this for the proofing and refrigeration, on Sunday morning I realized that my parents DID have cornmeal and used that for the baking step). The flour stuck to the dough and made white clumps form on some of the bagels during the boiling step. But anyway, overall the bagels did turn out quite well. They were a bit flatter than I would have liked, and I probably won’t use molasses next time. But the flavour was still quite nice and the bagels were so nicely chewy and soft. Plus, the cinnamon raisin ones tasted great. And I finally made BAGELS!


1 ½ tsp active dry yeast
4 cups bread flour
2 ½ cups room temperature water

½ tsp active dry yeast
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 ¾ cups bread flour
2 ¾ tsp salt
2 tsp malt powder OR 1 tbsp dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar (I used molasses...)

I split the dough in half and added also:
1 cup california raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar
a bit more molasses for that "swirl" look
Cornmeal or semolina for dusting

1. Make the sponge: combine yeast and water, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and whisk until you have a thick pancake-batter like consistency. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until it has at least doubled in size and is bubbly.

2. Stir in the remaining yeast, then 3 cups of the remaining flour. Stir until the ingredients form a ball. I will say that if you’re doing this by hand (as I was) this is pretty hard. You’re going to have to put some muscle into it to really get a ball going. I gave up pretty quickly and just started mixing witih my hands until I pretty much had a ball.

3. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for at least 10 minutes (I ended up kneading for about 15). Knead in the remaining ¾ cup of flour to stiffen as you go. The dough should be smooth and not too tacky by the time you’re done, and feel fairly stiff. A few minutes into the kneading I also split my dough and added the ingredients for cinnamon raison bagels to half of the dough.

4. Divide the dough into 4 ½ ounce pieces, or smaller if desired (I did 3 ounces)

5. Cover the dough balls with a damp cloth and let rest about 20 minutes

6. Lightly grease a few cookie sheets with oil, and sprinkle with cornmeal (this is where i made that flour error: do not repeat my mistake)

7. Shape bagels: Just take the balls, poke a hole through with your thumb and widen gently untli they look like bagels. I didn’t measure mine so I’m not exactly sure how large they were.

8. Place bagels on the cookie sheets, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20-30 minutes at room temperature

9. At this point, you’re supposed to do the “float test” to make sure that they float. Take a bagel and drop into warm/room temperature water and see if it floats within 10 seconds. Though I’ve read at a few places that they didn’t do this (or let the dough rest at all before refrigerating) and the bagels floated fine, so I’m not sure just HOW necessary this step is.

10. Refrigerate bagels for 12-24 hours

11. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. You’re going to want to use your widest pot for this so that you can fit in as many bagels as possible at a time. I ended up using a deep wok because it was wider than any pot that my mom had, and it seemed easier than using a deep pot. I had no issues.

12. Add 1 tsbp of baking powder to boiling water

13. Boil bagels for 1-2 minutes per side, in batches. I think I ended up boiling for about a minute and a half per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and place back on baking sheets lined with cornmeal. If you’re adding any more toppings at this point, do it immediately after removing from the water so that the toppings stick.

14. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees farenheit for 5 minutes, rotate 180 degrees and continue baking for another 5 minutes. I think I baked for about another 5 minutes because they weren’t so dark by the end of this.

15. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mmm Barbeque

My dad hates going out to restaurants. He just doesn't understand why someone would WANT to spend two hours in a restaurant and hates that the food doesn't come out faster. He also just prefers home-cooked (ideally Korean) meals and doesn't see why we would ever eat out when the food is better, and cheaper at home. Of course my mom is the complete opposite and really enjoys going out to eat so we do usually end up at restaurants for special occasions, but on Father's day of course dad gets what he wants.

This year we had his favourite shish kebabs as part of a barbeque feast. (I'm not exaggerating here. We had WAY too much food for four people) These kebabs are sweet, tangy and the roasted vegetables are a perfect compliment to the beef. I also tried out a new recipe for grilled shrimp from Bon Appetit that was really yummy as well. Easy and delicious, and very little waiting involved!

Beef Shish Kebabs

1-2lbs beef tenderloin or striploin
2 white onions, cut into eighths (cut in half and quarter each half)
a few stalks of green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
a couple of red, yellow or orange peppers cut into 1-inch pieces
1 zucchini, cut into small chunks
cherry tomatoes
kebab skewers (you might want to soak these beforehand - I never have but this always seems to be the instruction in kebab recipes so I'm not sure...)

*please keep in mind that these measurements are estimates - I always just adjust this to taste as I go, and my dad prefers these on the sweet side so you may want to cut down the honey or brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1/8 cup honey
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Place beef in a shallow-ish tupperware container. Ideally you want the beef in one layer so that it can soak up the marinade, but you can use a smaller, deeper one and just rotate the meat once in awhile.
2. Whisk together marinade ingredients and adjust to taste. Pour over beef and refrigerate for a few hours (you can do this overnight if you want as well).
3. Cut up beef into 1-inch cubes (you could also do this pre-marinade if you'd like)
4. Skewer beef and vegetables onto kebab skewers, alternating between onions, beef, peppers, zucchini. Leave about an inch open at the top for the cherry tomatoes (you'll add these later)
5. Grill for about 5-10 minutes, then flip and add a cherry tomato to the end of each skewer
6. Grill for an additional 5-10 minutes, to preferred doneness (I would generally cook these for about 5 minutes a side but my dad likes his meat well done)

Grilled Shrimp with Molasses-Guava Glaze (adapted from Bon Appetit)
*I actually did adjust the glaze quite a bit. I only had dark molasses on hand, so I had to adjust the jam:molasses ratio to make it work

4 tbsp cooking molasses
5 tbsp guava or apricot jam (I used guava-peach-mango jam because we already had some)
1 1/2 tbsp butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
finely grated peel of 2 limes
juice of 1 lime
32 uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined
salt and pepper
Kebab skewers (same note about soaking as above)

1. Combine molasses, jam and butter in microwave-safe container. Microwave in 30 second increments until butter is melted and ingredients are well combined. Add lime peel and lime juice. (you can do this in advance in refrigerate until ready to use)
2. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and thread 4 shrimp on each skewer.
3. Brush shrimp skewers with glaze on both sides.
4. Barbeque on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes per side. (The recipe says to continue glazing and drizzle with some reserved glaze at the end but I found this unecessary so skipped these steps)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Worst. Idea. Ever.

So...remember when I said that this was my breakfast 60% of the time? Well, conveniently JUST as I wrote about it, in the last week it's really started to feel like summer around here and well, oatmeal isn't really the type of thing you want to eat on a hot day. Well, yesterday I read this article and thought to myself "what a brilliant idea! I can still have my daily oatmeal, in granola form!" So last night when I got home from work I whipped up a batch of granola with my basic oatmeal ingredients - rolled oats, almonds and walnuts (I had some kicking around as well) and dried cranberries. And man, was I patting myself on the back once it was finished. It looked, smelled and tasted SO good. Genius, right?

Well, this moring I decided to have a bowl of this awesome granola with some milk and what happened? I CHIPPED A TOOTH.

Okay, so I should really mention that I had a moment of slight panic during the granola-making where I realized my granola wasn't really "clumping" and whipped up a quick crumble-esque mix to add to the mixture. (I did read a few comments about this around the web that this doesn't happen so much with homemade granola anyway but would I have that? noooo) These ended up being quite crunchy and probably what led to the aforementioned tooth incident.

Anyway, needless to say I was quite disgusted with myself and am no longer so impressed with said granola. Though really, that shouldn't stop you from making it. It really IS delicious. And easy! Just don't freak out about the lack of clumps. Your teeth will thank you later.

Cranberry-Almond (and Walnut) Granola

Granola, like oatmeal, is incredibly versatile in that you can really add whatever you want to it. Overall you're looking for about 1/2 cup of wet mix to 4 cups of dry mix.

Dry Mix
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking scottish oats (you can use any variation of oats here, I just ran out of rolled oats)
1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup walnuts

Wet Mix
1/8 cup canola oil (you can use any type of oil here)
1/3 cup honey
1 tbsp molasses
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Farenheit

1. Combine dry mix together and spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet (I used the Silpat)
2. Mix wet mix together until combined, and drizzle over dry mix; stir gently to combine
3. Bake in preheated oven for about 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes
4. Remove from oven and stir in dried cranberries while mix is still warm.
5. Once cool, store in an airtight container.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Don't Mess with a Good Thing

I've had a lingering scone craving for a couple of weeks now. First, I saw this recipe for Strawberry Sour Cream scones with brown sugar crumble. I'm not going to looked good, but not necessarily like something I was going to run out and make right away. I have a pretty amazing standby scone recipe which has been giving the thumbs up by BRITISH foodies. The new recipe was also SO different from the old one - slightly more liquid with HALF the flour. How does that even make sense? Let's just say it made me nervous. But then a friend tried out these strawberry scones and raved, which made me wonder if maybe there was room for improvement.

Anyway, I also I saw this a few days later, which then led to a craving for clotted cream. And obviously a scone is the best vehicle for that.

And THEN...(oh god I know you're thinking "where the hell is this story going?? I swear there's a light a the end of the tunnel) I went to a Wine and Spirit festival in the Distillery where I had a DELICIOUS strawberry daquiri and it was brought to my attention that strawberry season in Ontario has officially started, as of this week. And all of a sudden, this recipe that I wasn't so enthusiastic about at first turned into something I HAD to have NOW.

So. I went running around to acquire the ingredients for this recipe. The clotted cream was surprisingly easy to find. Loblaws sells "Devon Cream" in most of its stores, and according to that article above Devon cream is just clotted cream from Devon. Now, I've heard some other whispers about Devon cream not being the same thing outside of London, but this stuff was apparently imported from London so I was willing to give it a shot. But on an equally surprising note, the strawberries were NOT so easy to find. I'm almost embarassed to say, but after visiting two grocery stores and a strawberry farm which had sadly sold out of strawberries for the day, I was reduced to buying imported strawberries from California. Ugh. But by this point I NEEDED to try these scones, so this would have to do.

And....well, I'm sad to say my instinct was right. The author does point out that this makes an "extremely light and flaky scone" with an extremely wet batter. It was light...but too light. And way too moist. Not like a real scone at all. And not enough butter to really make them flaky versus just fluffy. They were definitely good in their own right, but overall I was disappointed.

What I WASN'T disappointed with, though were the Devon cream (I haven't had real clotted cream in about a year, but this seemed like the stuff I remembered...mmm) and the brown sugar crumble. Though I might not appreciate this topping on a "real" scone, it definitely added to the moist and fluffy pastry that this recipe produced.

Anyway...the moral of this story for me is...sometimes it's just not worth trying to completely reinvent the wheel. Just tweak the already great one that you're already using.

Strawberry Sour-cream Scones with Brown Sugar Crumble (adapted from theKitchn)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
4 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter (generally recipes say to use unsalted butter. I do keep separate butter for baking but as I was at my parents' place for the weekend I used salted)
1 cup strawberries, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
1/4 milk (I was supposed to use whole milk or cream. I do understand this adds to the richness of a recipe but I NEVER have either of these around. I used 2%. Maybe this was the problem, but I really doubt it would have completely changed my opinion)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Brown sugar crumble
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit (about 200 degrees Celsius)

1. Combine dry ingredients (the first four items) in a large bowl. Cut in butter*. Toss in strawberries and coat in flour mixture.
2. Whisk liquid ingredients (everything else) together. Add to the dry mixture and stir until a wet dough forms (it's going to be REALLY wet).
3. Pat the dough into two circles if you can, and cut into six wedges each. Or you can just drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet if it's too wet to handle.
4. To make crumble, combine brown sugar, flour and butter in a small bowl and mush with your fingers until a crumble forms. Sprinkle onto the scones**
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until scones are golden in spots. Let cool for five minutes on the pan.

*Cutting in butter: I've always had issues with this step because I don't own a pastry blender or stand mixer, which are the standard tools you would use here. You can either use two knives (run them in opposite directions to "cut" the butter into the flour mixture) or freeze the fat for about 20 minutes and grate into the flour mixture, and toss to coat. I saw Anna Olsen do this once on Sugar and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. I always do this now.

**The original recipe says to only do this if you're planning on eating the scones on the same day, as the crumble topping will otherwise get soggy. So if you're planning on having leftovers, don't use the topping and just swipe on some butter and sprinkle with brown sugar when eating.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Breakfast of Champions

Oatmeal is kind of an anomaly for me. There are few dishes out there that sit in my "comfort foods" category that does not require an obscene amount of butter, cream, cheese or sugar. But oatmeal...oatmeal! It's good for you*, AND delicious. So delicious, in fact that almost every time I take my first bite I think "oh god, I forgot how good this is!".

I know. You think I'm crazy, because oatmeal is that gross, gruel-like slop that you ate as a kid with too much sugar and no texture at all. But that's not oatmeal. It doesn't even come close. Real oatmeal is creamy and full of texture and yummy. Plus it's oh-so versatile because you can add whatever you like to it. And you can still make it in the microwave (I usually make it at work).

*I do realize that the whole "good for you" thing can depend on what you put IN your oatmeal. I could probably not use the half-and-half, and maybe do with less sugar. But you know what? It's probably still better for me than a bagel loaded with cream cheese so I'm not gonna worry about it.

Jess' Breakfast like, 60% of the time
1/3 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup water
1 heaping tsp brown sugar
splash of vanilla
pinch of salt
dried cranberries
almond slices

1. Combine all ingredients together (unless you're taking it to work..then put everything except the water in a container or ziploc bag and continue when you get to the office) in a large-ish, microwave-save bowl. You want to make sure it's big enough so that you don't have to keep stopping it so that the oatmeal doesn't spill over (I use the IKEA 365 bowls)

2. Microwave on high for 3 or 4 minutes, depending on how strong your microwave is and how you like your oatmeal. You can stop and check at some point along the way and check.

3. Let sit for a couple of minutes (it's going to be way too hot for you to eat right away anyway)

4. Add a splash of milk, cream or half-and-half (my preference) if you'd like and enjoy!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cookie Monster

My boyfriend has a pretty insatiable sweet tooth. Throughout our relationship every birthday, anniversary, Valentine's day and Christmas present has generally included some sweets and desserts, with cookies topping the list. Hershey's kiss cookies, homemade fortune cookies, shortbread, sandwich cookies...the list goes on and on. But as I continue to look for new and improved cookie recipes that are better than the last, Adam's favourite continues to be the boring-but-dependable chocolate chip oatmeal cookie.

This is a really simple, basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. Gooey and chocolatey, with just a bit of cakeiness so that they stay soft for days (though I don't necessarily remember the last time they lasted so long). I can't make these fast enough. It's a feat if a batch manages to last for two days. I usually make a double batch and freeze half the dough so that we have some homemade dough readily on hand for a cookie emergengy, be it a last minute get-together, birthday or just a cookie craving.

I'll continue to try new recipes for future birthdays and anniversaries. But I doubt that the requests for these cookies will ever stop coming.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit

1. Cream sugars and butter together in a large bowl (to "cream" basically just means to beat together until the mixture gets light and fluffy, and the butter looks lighter than it was before. You can beat the butter first for a bit and then add the sugar. I usually use a wooden spoon for this)
2. Add eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated
3. Add vanilla
4. In another bowl, combine flour, oats, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add to liquid mixture and stir to combine.
5. Add in chocolate chips

At this point, you can chill for 15-10 minutes to firm up the dough a bit but if you're in a rush (as I usually am) just skip to the next step. Also you can take some dough and freeze it in a log at this point for future "emergencies"

6. Drop by spoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet and serve.

Note: You can also substitute half or all of the butter with peanut butter for an equally yummy peanut butter chocolate chip cookie.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Korean Comfort Food

Last night I was home alone, cooking for one and didn't really feel like putting a lot of time into cooking a huge dinner. I wanted something quick and easy, but I'd also been craving some Korean food since I haven't been to my parents' place in a few weeks. Then I realized that I STILL hadn't gotten around to actually trying Sujaebi by myself at home. Perfect!

Growing up, comfort food didn't mean chicken pot pie, mac 'n' cheese or any of the other things that might immediately come to mind. It meant sujaebi, a ridiculously easy potato broth soup with hand-pulled dumplings. The broth makes it seem like a light dish but really it's full of starchy, salty dumplings and yummy potato chunks.

There are a number of variations of this dish, with different combinations of vegetables, kimchi, spicy sauce and seafood. But I didn't like any of those things as a kid, so my mom made my sujaebi with the most basic ingredients. And it's still the way I eat it. So simple but delicious.

Note: Though I tend to follow very specific recipes and instructions when I cook, the Korean dishes in my mental recipe file are the exception. My mom has never used a recipe as far as I know so I've also never tried to write them down. But even if I had, this dish is so easy that it really doesn't matter. The only thing is that the scale of the recipe can really vary. The measurements below make about two bowls of sujaebi.

Mom's Sujaebi

Dumpling dough
1 cup flour
1 egg

1. Measure out the flour into a small mixing bowl. Add some salt and a bit of oil (really you can use as little or as much as you want - I'm not really even sure what it's for).
2. Make a well and add the egg and some water. This is where the measurement is really sketchy. I usually just add a small amount and add as I stir...
3. Stir with a wooden spoon or your fingers until a sticky dough forms. Knead in the bowl for a couple of minutes, adding more water or flour as necessary until you have a fairly tacky but firm dough. Wrap with saran wrap and put in the fridge while you make the broth.

Anchovy Powder*
1/2 a Potato (I used Yukon Gold)

*I think you can find Anchovy powder at Asian supermarkets. To me, this is an essential ingredient that defines the flavour of the dish, but I'm sure you could use your own flavourings and spices to your preference

1. Put some water in a pot. I think I used about 3 cups. Salt and turn on the heat to high.
2. Cut up the potatoes into 1/4 inch-ish slices, cutting up the larger chunks into halves or quarters. It doesn't really matter as long as the slices are somewhat even. Add to the water in the pot.
3. Boil until potatoes are still just a bit firm, but starting to soften.
4. Add Sujaebi dumplings. This is probably the hardest part. I always had issues with pulling the dough, and it's only over time I've gotten better at creating the flat, thin dumplings that are ideal for Sujaebi.
  • Take the dough ball out of the fridge - divide in half (it's usually easier to work with a smaller ball)
  • Holding the ball in one hand, pull out a bit and flatten so it's pretty thin
  • Pull the flattened bit off the ball, and use your other hand to stretch it out some more so that it's kind of like a thick potato chip in shape - drop into the boiling broth
  • Repeat until both dough balls are in the broth

5. Give the Sujaebi a stir so that all the dumplings are wet. Add more salt and anchovy powder to taste. Continue lightly boiling for about 2 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Egg Yolk Makes Everything Better

Last night I made breakfast pizza. It's something I've been meaning to try since seeing this awhile back. Pizza...eggs...cheese...what's not to love?

I can't believe I waited so long to try it. Eggy yolk oozing over everything, perfect for dipping pizza crust* into. It was so good with the asparagus, tomato and spinach on the pizza, topped with mozzarella and a sprinkling of fresh parmesan. De-lish.

My only issue was that the egg made my pizza a lot more filling, which meant I could eat less. And this clearly isn't a problem at all. Yum.

*I do seem to have an issue with my pizza crusts. I think I need to either try NOT using whole wheat flour, get a pizza stone or knead a lot more. They're just too bready. I'll work on it.

Breakfast pizza with Asparagus, Tomato and Spinach

Pizza dough
3/4 cup warm water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees Farenheit, or the hottest setting your oven has. Apparently you're supposed to do this about an hour before you bake the pizza. I don't generally have this much patience - maybe that's the problem with my crust.

2. Combine warm water and yeast; mix until yeast is dissolved. Set aside for a few minutes until foamy.

3. Mix dry ingredients. Make a well, and add water/yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until it's too hard to stir. Knead in the bowl until a dough forms, then turn onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth and kind of tacky by the time you're done. Leave on the counter and cover with the bowl while you prepare the pizza toppings and sauce.

Pizza sauce (I already had some from a previous batch in the freezer)
Asparagus stalks, ends snapped off (I heard you can thinly slice the tough bottoms and saute for frittatas, omelettes and whatnot. I did this and threw them in the freezer for future use)
Baby Spinach leaves
Tomato (diced)

1. Roll out pizza dough as thin as you want. If you're making thin crust pizza, roll it out as thin as you can without ripping when you pick it up. Move to a parchment-lined cookie sheet

2. Spread pizza sauce on dough, leaving about a half inch for the crust (unless you don't like a lot of crust)

3. Sprinkle lightly with mozzarella; top with asparagus stalks, baby spinach, tomatoes and more mozzarella.

4. Place in pre-heated oven for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven, crack an egg or two on top, sprinkle with salt, pepper and parmesan and put back into the oven for 5-10 more minutes, until the egg is set and the crust is browned.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Better (not perfect) English Muffin

My first attempt at making english muffins wasn't the result of a sudden burst of creative energy, or the need to challenge my somewhat monotonous bread-baking repetoire. To tell you the truth, making my own english
muffins was never something that even crossed my mind until I read this. Even then, after I'd starred the article in my Google Reader feed for future reference it still seemed like one of those things that weren't reaaaally worth doing at home.

That was until Victoria day weekend. We were planning on making Eggs Benedict at home on the Monday morning and as sad as this sounds, it was probably the thing I was most looking forward to all weekend. We had plans to visit a friend's new condo on Sunday, so the plan was to stop at our 24-hour Sobeys on the way home to pick up the necessary english muffins. But of course, I hadn't factored in the fact that after midnight it was technically MONDAY and therefore a holiday, and Sobeys was closed. Damn.

So....I was faced with the choice of either making my own english muffins, or postponing the much-anticipated eggs benedict. And of course the latter wasn't really an option. So I decided to go for it. And they were good! The texture was all there - fluffy, holey and they easily split open with a fork. Amazing. But, the flavour was somewhat lacking. They definitely didn't have that sour tang I'm used to from store-bought muffins. I decided that next time (and there would be a next time) I would look for a recipe that addressed my issue.

Enter The Bread Bible. One of the things that Berenbaum specifies in her book is the use of a sponge, starter, or biga in her breads. This helps to add a natural flavour, or tang to the bread. After a short-lived attempt at making my own sourdough starter (which was a complete failure) this seemed to be a better and easier way.

And...these english muffins were delicious. The flavour was perfect - buttery with that slight sourness I missed in the first bath. But the texture was all wrong. I'm not sure if I did something wrong in the instructions or overworked the dough but these muffins were flat and had almost no nooks and crannies. So I guess I'm halfway time I'm going to have to try and combine the two recipes and see what happens. The search continues.

Hearth Bread

I don't buy a lot of cookbooks. For the most part, I find the majority of the recipes I use from various foodie blogs and communities. Even when using cookbook recipes, I often combine advice from online sites and recipes as convenient.

However, recently I've been trying to expand my bread-baking experiences outside of just sandwich loaves and dinner rolls. I wanted to try something more challenging, or maybe just more impressive to my friends when I tell them what I've been doing in the evenings. But anyway, I decided to buy a bread-related cookbook. I had a few possibilites in mind, but when I saw The Bread Bible was selling at only $35 CAD, I knew it was a sign. It was the SAME as the US PRICE. So anyway, I bought it. And I decided to try following the recipes as printed, no substitutions or adjustments from other sources.

I chose the Basic Hearth Bread, which I think is the same as Artisan-style bread. Berenbaum's recipes are very detailed with specific instructions, and I missed a few steps. I didn't have instant yeast so I used the active dry form that I normally use (you need to combine this kind with water before using). I also didn't have dry milk so I used scalded milk as she suggested. Aaand I might have used slightly more whole wheat flour than suggested (not on purpose, I read the measurement wrong). But even with my screwups, it was pretty good. It had the chewy, crisp crust that my other loaves don't have and some of the large-ish holes that characterize artisan breads. And as long as it took, I felt pretty proud of myself in the end. There's something about a "rustic" freeform loaf that is so much more pleasing than sandwich bread. I'll definitely be making this again!