Bread #36 English Muffins

“The best part of waking up…”, my mantra after another not so blissful nights sleep.  While YES, it is without a doubt the coffee that gets me up and going that I love and cherish so very much, but this morning, a little nook and little cranny had me wiggling my toes with excitement as I pulled back my sleepy warm covers to attend to a little one waking far too early for the bedtime he chose the previous evening.

That’s right.  You heard it.  English Muffins.  Oh me, oh my.  These little balls of dough happened to be the pertiest of doughs I had made in say…. at least six weeks!  Oh how I love me a satiny-soft white dough.  They are surely some of the most glorious substances on this planet.

Making the english muffin isn’t as difficult as old Mr. Thomas would have you believe.  And here is a secret:  you can do it better than him too.  I promise.

Start off with your fancy sifter and load it up with 2.25 cups of unbleached bread flour, 1/2 tablespoon of sugar, 3/4 tsp of salt and 1 1/4 tsp of instant yeast.  In another bowl mix up one tablespoon of butter and 3/4 cup of milk.  Oh, this looks weird!  The butter is all waterproof but soggy at the same time.  I don’t understand it either.  Start mixing the two together until you have a ball of dough.  If you need to you can add up to 1.4 cup more of milk.

Now on a floured surface beat it up good and proper.  Knock it around a bit.  

This should take a while if you are not practiced at it.  It needs to pass the window pane test.

Pop her in an oiled bowl, turn it once and let it rise for about 90 minutes or so.

Wipe the counter down and slice into 6 equal pieces.  Form each into a little ball.  Then, taking one piece at a time, pull back the dough over and over on the top until it forms a very tight ball.  Tuck the bottoms under nice and neat and place on a sheet tray lined with parchment.

Spray them all with olive oil or water and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Cover with a towel and let rise for another 90 minutes.

Heat up a big old skillet with a brush of olive oil (which surprisingly enough fixes squeaky doors! Who knew?) to a medium temperature and cook them biscuits on each side for about 5 minutes.  While you are sizzling the first batch, cover the remaining ones back up so they don’t get all hard.  Place all the golden brown muffins in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes.  Let them rest for a good thirty minutes before you dive in.  This is a must, for they are still finishing their cook time.

Oh yes, the simple things in life are what keep this here mama going.  A warm, soft, buttered, english muffin on a crispy eye monday morning is just the thing to keep me grinning for many hours to come.  And of course a slightly bottomless mug of joe.  That doesn’t hurt either.

OOh yes, and these taste divine with a spread of marscapone.  Like most things tend to do.

Hope the start of your week is a little bit tasty too.

bread #26 italian feather loaf

A few friends and their two sweet little twin boys joined us out in the country for supper this past weekend.  Knowing that I needed to keep the meal light, easy, dairy free, egg free, and of course good, I decided on a this loaf.

I brushed only one with the egg wash because of the allergy.  You will notice there is some butter in this bread, I was informed that dairy is ok in tiny amounts.  This was a nice light loaf, just like the name!  Perfect for toasting. Perfect for the poppy-seed and goat cheese spread to be layered with a lima bean gratin I had prepared.  For the gratin I just made a lemon vinaigrette and tossed in a sliced bell pepper, a sliced red onion that had been soaked in cold water for 20 minutes, and some boiled and cooled lima beans.  The goat cheese spread was just goat cheese a touch of water (or milk) to make it easier to spread mixed with a few scoops of poppy seeds.  I served it alongside a cold honey dew and basil soup with these cute little skewers of melon balls and mozzarella wrapped procsuitto.  Minus the cheese for those allergic of course.  Skewering is a perfect way for an almost three year old to help in the kitchen.  It is worth their satisfaction despite the obvious danger.  I promise, they really aren’t that sharp.

From Beard on Bread

Italian Feather loaf

Dissolve 4.5 tsp. of dry active yeast in one cup of warm water with 1 tbsp. of sugar.  I have been using organic cane sugar.  It has an extra crunch in your crumbles and buckles and you can feel a teeny bit better about sugar in general.  Minus the cost of course.  Meanwhile melt 1/3 cup of butter in 3/4 cup of hot water.  Add the salt then combine with the yeast mixture.  It will fizz and bubble.  Cool.  Begin stirring in the flour one cup at a time.  Up to 6 cups apparently but to be honest I couldn’t get it to go past 4.5 before the dough was ready to be kneaded.  So I did what I do, and I folded and smashed that dough for about four minutes.  Let it rest for five then, slice into two equal parts, and form a loaf with each one.  Folding a loaf, if I have not mentioned before is like folding a rectangle into thirds and sealing each part.  Then roll in into the complete log sealing the edges.  Place on a greased sheet tray, cover with a towel and wait about an hour or until doubled in size.  Brush with egg wash (if you want to, it does give it a nice shine) and bake at 425 for 40 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow.

Here I have a confession.  For about 20 of these breads I had a thermometer to see when the bread was done.  190 is a good temp.  But then, I lost it.  So, since then I really have been thump thumping on those loaves with my head leaned down hoping for a good hollow sound.  Well, this one is easy to tell.  Try it!  It’s fun and you feel all professional and what not.

All of the sudden, 27 breads later, baking bread has become a part of life.  It was exciting at the beginning, then it started to feel like a chore, and now it just is.  And I like that.

Try it toasted with marscapone and jam.