Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Love English Muffins

My adventures in baking English muffins haven't been entirely successful. The first batch had great texture but not enough of that sourdough flavour. The next tasted much better but almost no nooks and crannies (not to mention they were a lot more work than the first batch). So this time, I decided to do some research to figure out what exactly leads to that hole-y texture in a perfect english muffin.

In my reading around various food blogs and english muffin recipes, I found that it seems a wetter dough will lead to holier bread. For example, the infamous No-Knead Bread that made its rounds a few years ago is characterized by an extremely wet dough which you couldn't knead if you wanted to, which results in lots and lots of big holes! (I know, the level of detail in my "research" is astounding) In fact, a few recipes recommended using more of a batter than a dough along with some egg rings to shape the english muffins while cooking. This seemed a little too complicated for me, especially since I don't have egg rings and I wasn't exactly keen on the idea of making my own using cans of tuna as some people recommended.

Also, while I enjoyed the flavour that came from the sponge, or biga in Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe I realized that for the most part I'm just not willing to wait four hours waiting for a sponge to develop. I needed a faster way. The recipe that I used seemed to be a good compromise. It results in a stickier dough with buttermilk rather than a starter to get some tangy flavour into the english muffins. Compromise!

And the results? Pretty freaking good. The sourdough was a great way to add flavour without waiting hours or using a sourdough starter. The texture wasn't quiiiite perfect, but definitely enough nooks and crannies for my satisfaction. I'll probably experiment a bit with the moisture level in the dough next time, but this is a great base recipe that will definitely be used again.

Buttermilk English Muffins
Adapted from The Merlin Menu

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour*
1/2 tsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter (room temperature)
1 cup buttermilk** (slightly heated)
cornmeal for sprinkling

*I used about a cup of whole wheat flour because I was running out of white and it turned out pretty well, but for comparison purposes I'd probably make them using all white flour next time

**If you don't have buttermilk, you can combine 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and enough milk to make a cup, Leave at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before using.

1. In a bowl, add heated buttermilk, butter, sugar and yeast. Stir and let sit for 20 minutes or until the mixture puffs up.

2. Add flour and mix a wooden spoon until well incorporated and a sticky ball of dough is formed. Add more flour in 1/4 cup increments if necessary, but you want a pretty sticky dough.

3. Scrape dough out onto a floured board or surface. Sprinkle with flour and knead BRIEFLY. Apparently the more you knead, the finer the "crumb" will be which means less nooks and crannies!

4. Drop dough into a greased bowl, turn over, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm area for at least one hour (you can use a slightly warmed oven if you can't find a warm spot in your house - just turn it to maybe 250-300 degrees Farenheit for about 30 seconds and turn off)

5. After it's risen, scrape out onto the same floured surface, do NOT punch down. Knead once or twice and shape or roll into rectangle about one inch thick.

6. Using a biscuit cutter or cup, shape into rounds.

7. Spread cornmeal over parchment paper or a silpat. Place the cut and shaped circles of dough onto the cornmeal. Dust the tops liberally with cornmeal also. Top with plastic wrap, and let rise for another hour.

8. Heat a dry griddle or skillet to medium heat, carefully place a few dough rounds onto the skillet and brown on each side, about 5 - 9 minutes per side.

9. Remove from the skillet and let cool for about 20 minutes before devouring.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

O Canada

I just wanted to announce that mmm-minji has been added to Beer and Butter Tarts - A Canadian Food & Drink Blog Aggregator. The site compiles RSS feeds from various Canadian food and drink blogs so that they can be viewed in one, readily available location - how convenient!

Beer and Butter Tarts is a great resource for someone like me who loves reading about food but doesn't necessarily take the time to seek out all the great undiscovered and specifically Canadian food blogs out there. Especially since "seasonal" recipes from California aren't always practical (though often tempting) for a Canada cook.

Anyway, check it out at!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Giddy With Anticipation

So, I went on a Caribbean cruise a few weeks ago and it was gloriously hot and sunny and wonderful. I love Love LOVE hot weather; so maybe living in Canada isn't exactly the best choice climate-wise. It's now the middle of May and I've spent the last two weeks cursing our building for shutting the heat off the weekend we came back as it during a warm spell, but then the temperature plummeted immediately afterward. I've been sleeping in fleece pajamas ever since. FLEECE.

Anyway, the weather seems to (finally) be creeping back into the twenties and I'm getting so excited for summer. Not only for the warm weather but also for the produce that will soon be available at the farmer's market. CORN. PEACHES. And TOMATOES!

You can obviously buy tomatoes year round, but they're so depressingly flavourless in the winter that sometimes I wonder why we even bother. They're nothing like the summer tomatoes that are so plump, juicy and delicious you can just eat them plain with a little sprinkling of salt and be in heaven. Or with some buffalo mozzarella for a nice Caprese salad. Drool.

Laura and I helped her mom make some delicious oven-roasted tomatoes at the end of last summer with the multiple bushels they had gotten from a local farm. They were sooo good and froze very well. The combination of garlic, basil and the oven created a delicious concentrated and caramelized flavour that was amazing in sauces, pizzas and whatever else you might use tomatoes for. I think that this summer we'll have to make some more so that I can have delicious tomatoes for recipes all winter long. Brilliant!

Note: If you are wondering why the photos in this post are not the usual level of pathetic photography that I tend to put out, it's because these were taken by Laura with her much, much better camera and photography skills in general. Thanks Laura!

Another Note: This is a sketchy recipe. We DID use a recipe from a book, but lost it so I'm really just guessing here. But oven roasting tomatoes isn't exactly rocket science. See conversation below re: the lost recipe...

Laura: my mom says she doesnt remember the tomato recipe
but its just like cut up tomatoes, deseed, cover in olive oil, basil and garlic

20 minutes
3:02 PM me: damn
yea, i know the basics but i like to have a recipe
3:03 PM does she know what temp/time?

36 minutes
3:39 PM Laura: roasted... i imagine hot
for twenty minutes
till they are roasty

So yea. I'm pretty sure we actually baked them for longer than 20 minutes. There are also many recipes for slow roasting tomatoes in the oven. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what the main differences are. I imagine slow roasting would build up more caramelized flavour and intensity but I had absolutely no complaints on these ones either.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Tomatoes (we used Plum tomatoes)
Fresh Basil
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit

1. Cut off tops of tomatoes and cut in half lengthwise. Use a paring knife to remove seeds.

2. Mince garlic and chop up basil.

3. Lay tomato halves on a baking sheet, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on garlic, basil and salt and pepper. I'm sorry I can't tell you how much, just don't use too much salt and pepper as the other ingredients will release plenty of flavour during baking.

4. Bake for 40 (or possibly 20) minutes until tomatoes start to look wrinkled, or "roasty".

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I've Been Misled

Last summer, Laura and I made a really delicious peach and crème fraiche pie. It was sooo good, but also the crème fraiche that we bought was really expensive, and we didn't even end up USING all of it. I'm pretty sure the rest went bad in my fridge which was really unfortunate. This memory has clearly stayed with me because when Laura suggested that I try out this pasta recipe my immediate response was "no way - do you REMEMBER how much crème fraiche costs in Canada?" I did recall reading somewhere that you can make your own, but this requires planning your meals out in advance which I rarely do during the week, being a cook entirely driven by cravings. (honestly, I have no idea how Adam is going to deal with me one day when I'm pregnant and having actual LEGITIMATE and ridiculous cravings)

Fortunately, there came a night when I was feeling too lazy to cook a long complicated meal and this seemed easy enough. I decided to go to the grocery store on my way home and consider it depending on how much the crème fraiche cost. Low and behold, I came to the realization that apparently Fortinos is unique in their selection of insanely expensive variety because the crème fraiche at Sobeys wasn't any more than a tub of sour cream. Damn you, Galen Weston!

Anyway, I'm glad I tried it because this meal is pretty quick and easy considering how good it is. The crème fraiche provides just the right amount of richness and makes the dish creamy but still somehow light. I would say it resembles a carbonara but won't sit as heavy in your stomach later that evening and it re-heats well too. I added some lemon juice as well since I had a lemon lying around and I have a tendency to put it in everything. It was a nice contrast to the creaminess so I would do it again, but if you don't like lemon so much feel free to leave it out. I assume it will be just as delicious!

Quick Pasta with Peas, Pork and Crème Fraîche
Adapted from Serious Eats

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for salting the pasta water
8 oz pasta*
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup crème fraîche
6 slices bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces
Juice of 1/2 a lemon (optional)
Some basil leaves, roughly torn

*The recipe used oriecchiette which appear to be a fancy way to say large shells...I used some other pasta that I've never heard of called Malfada Corta....looks kind of like the noodles they use for Lasagna Hamburger Helper

1. Bring a large pot of salty water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occassionally to prevent sticking.

2. While the pasta is cooking, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until almost (but not quite) crispy - you want it slightly undercooked to how you actually like it as you will continue cooking for a few minutes. Add garlic. Cook for a couple minutes until fragrant but not browned, then reduce the heat to medium and add the peas, cooking for a few seconds, then add the crème fraîche, lemon juice and kosher salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until warmed through.

3. Reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and add it while still wet to the skillet. Toss well with the sauce and add the pasta water to create a loose sauce. Turn the heat to high and cook for 2 minutes as the sauce melds with the pasta.

4.Transfer to bowls and top with any sauce left in the skillet. Lay the basil leaves on top. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Yes, I'm Lazy it's been awhile. Amazingly enough, a couple people seem to have been checking and have made requests for a new post so here goes.

It's not that I've stopped cooking entirely and turned into someone that eats Kraft Dinner every night (though some nights...). Or that I haven't made anything post-worthy in the last few months. There was the mind-blowingly amazing Momofuku Compost cookies that were so good I made two double batches in the span of two weeks. And the experimental S'mores pizza that turned out to be the perfect emergency dessert. And a few other yummy meals that I'll attempt to post about in the next couple of weeks. Mostly things got pretty busy at work and I got lazy. Not lazy enough to stop cooking good food, but enough that I stopped taking pictures of my meals or documenting the recipes. A pretty sorry excuse, I know, but that's all I have.

Anyway, my mom had requested no presents for Mother's day this year but simply some good food. It seemed like a nice opportunity to try out some new recipes and ah! post about them.

I've been craving some sort of a brunch "roll" since the Mother's day recipes starting creeping in to the blogosphere a couple of weeks ago. I've never actually attempted my own cinnamon rolls mostly out of (again) laziness - who really has time to get up three hours early to make a real yeasted dough that needs to rise twice*? But since my mom actuallys works until 2 on Sundays I figured I had the time to whip up some rolls in time for an afternoon snack before dinner. My original intention was to make some traditional cinnamon rolls, but then these lemon rolls floated back into my memory. Lemons just seem to scream "Spring" and "Mom", don't they?? Nevermind the fact that winter just doesn't want to go AWAY and it was maybe 10 degrees at the warmest part of this weekend.

These rolls were verrrry good - soft, sticky and not too sweet. They would be a fantastic addition to any brunch spread, or as a treat to go with some afternoon tea. I actually used less lemon than the original recipe called for (they had used zest in the dough as well) and still found it quite lemon-y so I think it was a good call. And the texture of the dough was also perfect. I will definitely be using it again and experimenting with different filling options. YUM.

*Sure, I've done it for english muffins but those occasions also tend to stem from a different kind of laziness: I choose to stay at home and make my own versus the option of going (god forbid) outside to buy them on Sunday mornings.

Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
Adapted from theKitchn
Makes 12 large breakfast rolls...or 15 large-ish rolls

Lemon Roll Dough
2 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
3/4 cup milk, warm but not hot on your wrist
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Sticky Lemon Filling
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
1 lemon, zested

1. In a small measuring cup, sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a couple minutes.

2. Stir in the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour. Stir in the salt and nutmeg. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough. (I only ended up using about 3 1/2 cups of flour in total, with additional for dusting while kneading)

3. Turn the soft dough onto a lightly floured countertop and knead for about 5-7 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable. Drizzle the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled - about an hour.

4. In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the lemon zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles wet, soft sand. Stir in the juice of 1 lemon. The mixture should now be more of a sludge. Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking dish.

5. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10x15 inches. Spread evenly with the softened butter, then pour and spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Be'll have plenty of the lemon-sugar sludge leak out. At least I did (see picture). Cut the long dough roll into 12-15 even rolls, and place them, cut side up, in the prepared baking dish. I do think that 12 rolls would have fit in the pan better, but I clearly was not measuring out my rolls properly while I was cutting and it's pretty hard to go back on this one. Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour.)

6. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit, 180 degrees Celsius. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes, until rolls are a golden brown.

7. While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small food processor (or with a mixer, or a sturdy whisk), whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and zest and blend until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy. When the rolls are done, drizzle them with the cream cheese glaze. Serve while warm.