Saturday, January 9, 2010

English Muffin Attempt

My success at bagel-making the other day received great praise and are officially eaten! With my wife at a Christmas party, and the kids fast asleep, I tried another of my favorites tonight -- the English Muffin.

I used my bread machine's "dough" setting and the recipe from Beth Hensperger's book, "The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook".

I rolled the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness over plenty of cornmeal. And not being able to locate a round biscuit cutter, I flipped one of our glass drinking cups over and used the top to make perfect 3" circles of dough. I was doing great...

The recipe suggested using a cast iron pan. I used one square and one round one from our options. The recipe said to let the formed dough set in the pan on medium heat for ten minutes on each side. I set mine on low heat for the full ten minutes and was unpleasantly surprised to find them more black than brown when I flipped them! Needless to say, the flipped side was watched more carefully and I ended their heat exposure at 5 minutes with a nice brown top (the only tops I will show in the picture -- smile).

Things of value I learned from my first attempt:

1. Cast iron rocks and the square pan was easier to arrange than the round.
2. I will only lightly spray the pans with butter/oil ahead of the first side browning.
3. I will spread the dough thinner than 1/2 inch (I like my English muffins thinner than how these finished).
4. Every gas oven range burner cranks out a different level of BTU's. My english muffins will not require the entire 10 minutes. I will watch closely until nicely browned on each side.
5. I will not be afraid of using too much cornmeal.

The recipe, from pg. 90 (*The batch below will make about one dozen English muffins):
1. 1/2 cups fat free milk
2. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3. 1 large egg (I use organic, free-range chicken eggs)
4. 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I use a whole wheat blend)
5. 2 teaspoons sea salt
6. 2 1/4 teaspoons SAF yeast
7. 2/3 cup yellow corn meal for rolling out and covering when cutting and baking

I had one of my English muffins, toasted, with unsalted sweet cream butter and homemade strawberry jam while I wrote this post. I have to say, both sides, brown and black, were delicious!

I hope these posts encourage/inspire you to try making something from scratch. It's better for you and a lot of fun. As long as you try, I've succeeded!

P.S. One of our friends has started making her own breads for their family. I mentioned my success at bagels the other day and she made fresh homemade cinnamon bagels for her family this morning! How cool is that!? Be inspired and create in your kitchen!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Banana Ketchup

Every once in a while, I am reminded of certain comments mentioned to me in my past that I have held onto for any number of reasons. These comments return to me by "triggers" in my life.

Today, the trigger was seeing my bottle of Banana Ketchup I acquired on the island of St. Lucia when I visited several years ago with my wife. Bananas are one of the largest sources of exports (income) for the island residents.

On a tour of the stunningly beautiful island, the tour guide stopped at a banana farm and spoke about the importance of the industry to the people. I asked the question, "Are any of these bananas exported to the United States?" The response, "No. Our bananas are exported to various parts of Europe. Americans will only eat perfect bananas that have no imperfections, requiring the use of pesticides and fertilizers that we won't use."

I've discovered in my preparation of homemade foods that it just isn't going to look like a perfect store-purchased (fill in the blank) -- and why should it? After all, I made it, not a nameless faceless machine. But, the finished product will have great wholesome ingredients, often taste better, and be finished with a whole lot of love.

As often as possible, I will be looking for things a little messier, cared for (or prepared by) those who tended the earth and respected it, and with a bit more character (flaws). I will be looking for what is authentic and real.

Perfect has many hidden problems -- not to mention it's just boring.