Sunday, December 31, 2017

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Ending the Year


This has not been my favorite year.

Too many people I care about dying, having terrible illnesses, the October wildfires here and all of the other fires and floods and hurricanes in other parts of the state and nation, and don't get me started on our national scene with the wholesale devolvement of government; removing funding and regulations for the things that help people, making it harder for those who already have it hard, and enriching and empowering those who are already blessed with wealth and power, without a commensurate requirement that they do anything useful with that additional power and riches. The amount of increased alienation is powerful as is the answering renewal of interest in making a difference at a political level amount the less powerful, including women and minorities. It will probably all work out in the end, but it has been disheartening to see so much hatred and finger pointing and scary to see how far we, as a nation, are from working with other nations to solve mutual problems. Well, I guess I got started anyway. Sorry.

On a personal level, there were a number of positives this year, including finishing up my tenure as chairperson of the California State P.E.O. Ethel O. Gardner Scholarship Committee after having awarded over 60 scholarships, finishing up my year as the Recording Secretary for the regional P.E.O. group, and beginning my year as President of my local P.E.O. chapter where we awarded seven scholarships. Made a new friend through the regional group, too. I also purchased two items that I have been wanting for quite a while; a new couch for the living room and an expanded toaster oven for the kitchen. Both have been getting plenty of use the last couple of months!  My garden flowers this year were a joy for such a long time, beginning with wildflowers in the spring and continuing on until now, although there are only a few primroses at the moment. The most abundant were the morning glories and I collected seeds, so there will be more in 2018! I've done some painting in my newly refurbished art studio and am currently working on a large piece for K, although it has taken a back seat since Beth died in late November.

Bread baking has slowed down at Sweetie's request. He has no willpower to resist warm freshly baked bread and our waistlines don't actually need any bread, so about once a month I bake bread...seems a reasonable compromise to me. My sourdough starter gets fed in between and when I bake and that seems to be working out, too.

Sweetie continues to be the most important person in my life and I feel very blessed that we can share each day with one another, still find plenty to talk about, still enjoy our walks together with Pi dog, and still enjoy watching the news together at dinner time, although lately we have watched local stuff for half the time, then switch to PBS. We are both slowing down a bit, but keep up our gym habit so the slowdown is slowed, too. Ha!

I find that at the Christmas holidays that I miss those who have died more than I do the rest of the year. My Dad was a kid at heart and he just loved Christmas, so I think of him when I decorate the tree and hang the stockings. My Mom made the best Christmas cookies, so I think of her while I'm baking cookies and making the special meals of the holidays. That is often when I think of Max, too, because he enjoyed decorating the cookies...and eating them too! Beth came to mind often this Christmas since she has been gone for such a short time. As I write this tears come to my eyes because she should still be with us. My dear friend Jean (the middle photo in the three at the top) is missed, too. I always took her a cookie plate and she gave me an amaryllis plant. Today I'll be visiting her daughter to meet the new puppy, so I'll take her the cookies. Not the same, but heartening nonetheless.

Wishing all of us a better, brighter New Year. More caring for first ourselves, then others. More good food and drink, more baking and painting, and all kinds of creativity. More gardens and birds and bees and walks. More time with friends and family and fewer funerals. Maybe even a train ride or two.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Turkey A La King and Memories

Christmas is past, and so is our Boxing Day party. Tonight I had some left over turkey a la king over two pieces of toasted Irish wholemeal flour sourdough with sunflower seeds that I made today. First time I've baked fresh bread in weeks! It was nice. I want to thank my daughter for the Christmas gift of the King Arthur Flour Irish Wholemeal flour. It is such a pleasure to work with and imparts a great texture and nutty flavor to the bread.

The turkey recipe sure does bring back memories. It was one of my Mom's favorites for using up leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. She usually served it over toast, but sometimes we had it over waffles, which I loved. Rarely it was served over steamed rice, which my Dad loved, but then he loved rice and would have eaten it at every meal. Another favorite was to serve it over buttermilk biscuits. She also made something called Turkey Tetrazzini which had turkey and pasta, but I never cared for it (and it uses a lot of Parmesan cheese), turkey soup, and lots of grilled turkey sandwiches. Once I learned how to cook, I learned how to make all of them. I do miss my Mom at this time of year, and my Dad, too, so I guess making this dish is comfort food in a very real way.

I love turkey. Anyone who knows me knows that. So, of course, when I didn't get to make a full, roasted, big turkey for Thanksgiving since we purchased a pre-cooked one when we were in LA, I had to make one in December. Because Sweetie and K are not nearly as fond of turkey as I am, we didn't have it for Christmas dinner. A few days before K came I roasted it and then enjoyed grilled turkey sandwiches for a few days at lunchtime. Still, there was some cubed turkey left after we cleaned up the leftovers. I decided to make a variation of one of my Mom's Turkey a la King. This recipe is a kind of gravy and turkey sauce which can be served over rice, toast, or biscuits. I decided to make biscuits to serve it over and we had some hot peas on the side.

You start with peppers. Mom used green peppers, but I really don't like green pepper, so I used red. There are also mushrooms. I found some nice whole small criminis and sliced them. The mustard and capers I added were my own variation and I think they really added some zest to the dish. I had leftover turkey stock, so I used that in the gravy, which really added a full on turkey flavor to the dish. Great if you love turkey like I do! You could also make this with cooked cubed chicken and chicken stock and it would still be delicious. It is the kind of dish that improves with a little age, so it was even tastier tonight.

Turkey a la Elle
serves 4

1/3 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup green or red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon mustard
1 cup chicken or turkey broth
1 cup cream, evaporated skim milk, or soy creamer
1 cup cooked turkey, diced
1 tablespoon capers (or fewer if you are not a big fan of capers)

Saute' mushrooms and bell pepper in margarine. Removed from heat and add flour, salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the mustard, broth, and cream or milk or creamer. Slowly stir the broth mixture into the mushroom mixture. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Add cooked turkey and capers and continue cooking at same heat until poultry is heated through. Serve over toast, rice, biscuits, or waffles.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas Y'all!

Hope that your Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were as delightful as mine was. On Christmas Eve a dear friend of our daughters, R, came and joined us for tree decorations, warm spiced apple cider with Irish whiskey, Christmas carols, snuggles with Pi dog, Christmas Eve dinner of ham, roasted butternut squash, delicata squash and lentils, kale salad, and fougasse. Somewhere in there we had Christmas cookies and tea, some Sees candy was sampled, stockings were hung and stories told.

On Christmas morning we lounged around and talked, read the paper, sipped coffee and tea and eventually had eggs, bacon, kringle, and fruit salad. After all that lounging we needed a walk, so we went into town and checked out the cows and the geese and the birds at the Laguna. Once home there were naps, phone calls and texts, and in time gift exchanging with more laughter and stories and good times.

All that gifting helped us work up an appetite so I had grilled turkey sandwich and some soup and many had pizza and leftover squash and lentils. R heard some of Sweetie's Micronesia stories, too.

After R left we geared up for the movies where we went to see the latest Star Wars epic. Very fun and visually stunning. Max would have loved it! Now we are home again and ready to call it a day.

Hope that you got what you wished for and felt the love that is in the air all around us. Tomorrow we will host 30 to 60 never know how many will show up for Boxing Day...and more fun will ensue. Better get some rest now. Goodnight!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

December Fun with the Cake Slice Bakers

We have finished baking with our chosen book for the year, so December is an opportunity to bake from any of the past cookbooks used by the Cake Slice Bakers. Next month we will start a new one and it will be unlike any others we've used in the past, so check back here in a month, too.

After paging through three of the cookbooks used in the past (since I haven't been active for all the years that this wonderful group has been together), I decided that I needed to bake something chocolate and something Bundt since I was going to bring it to a group dinner an hour away and Bundt cakes usually travel well. Since it was a December gathering, I used by Circle of Trees pan. A light dusting of powdered sugar looked somewhat like snow on evergreens...and the fellow guests were enchanted by that. I think that I got the pan at a yard sale and I've not seen one like it. It even has a tiny train going around the rim, although that detail is usually lost. This time the cake overflowed the pan, so we did get most of the train, too. No photos showing has been to hectic. Even the photos I have are not top quality. Will see if I can do better in January.

Happy Holidays to each of you and to all the Cake Slice Bakers. It really is a delightful group!

Edit on December 22...I completely forgot to tell you what cake in what book and what I you know if you have been reading this blog for long, I almost always change something!

I baked Big Daddy's Cake in the Maidia Heatter Cake Book. I left out the pecans so the outside didn't have a pecan coating. I exchanged margarine for butter. I think that is all.

XO, Elle

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Baba For Christmas

Days seem to pass so swiftly in December. Hard to believe that there is only a week until the tree will be lit and decorated, with brightly wrapped packages under it and stockings hung by the fireplace.

The Bread Baking Babes were invited by our Kitchen of the Month Lien of Notitie van Lien to bake an elegant festive dessert, a Champagne Baba. Yes, it does have yeast. No, you don't knead it or even shape it because the dough is like a batter. Yes, it goes together fairly quickly and easily compared to some of our past December breads, like this Snowflake Bread, the Lardy Cake made with real lard (fresh rendered pork fat...not easy to find), or a tray bake Kuchen with apricots, or a traditional German Stollen, or the snackable but time consuming Taralli Pugliesi to name a few. 

Yes, this Baba does rise both in the pan and in the oven. Yes, you do need to cover the top with foil if it seems to be browning quickly as mine did. Yes, it is delicious. Yes, I encourage you to make it for Christmas...or even before...and be a Buddy by emailing Lien with a photo and a short bit on how it was making it and a URL if you blogged about December 29th, so you have time after Christmas to actually do the email.

So, as usual, I did make a few changes. Because of my dairy allergy, I used melted margarine. Because I was tired after a full day of baking things like Christmas cookies, as well as this delightful dessert, I didn't top it with anything other than the syrup. It didn't really need anything else, being like a nice combination of a pound cake and bread with some moisture from the syrup and a faint champagne flavor.

In case you have been following the Babes all these years, you would know that Lien has baked every single bread. That's 12 months times 10 years (minus January the first year since our anniversary is the month of February)...a lot of bread and a lot of dedication. Not sure that anyone else can make that claim.  She has certainly been a guiding light for our group and she creates those gorgeous badges each month, too (except for this month). The sad news is that she will be going on hiatus now and will join a wonderful group of women who have been active Babes and are now busy with other things in their lives, but still Bread Baking Babes in our Hall of Fame! When you send that Buddy email, consider thanking her for all that she has done to make our group a shining one.

Don't forget to visit the other Babes to see how they handled this challenge. I think you'll be inspired!

Happy Holidays dear reader. I know some of you are in the background, but I also know how loyal you are and it gives me great pleasure and joy to know that you sometimes find a recipe to try while keeping up with my enthusiasms. There will be a few more posts in 2017, but those of you who know what a year I have had will join me in being anxious for 2018 to start. It has to be an improvement on this year!

Champagne Baba
Makes on large or 12 small babas

100 g water
1 tsp instant dry yeast
1 TBsp sugar
100 g bread flour

180 g bread flour
½ tsp fine salt
¼ tsp instant dry yeast
1,5 tsp vanilla sugar
3 large eggs
90 g melted butter (I used margarine, melted and cooled)

soaking syrup:
150 g sugar
150 g water
120 g champagne (or Asti Spumante or fruitjuice)

200 g apricot jam (or use a sugar glaze) (I skipped this step)

Mix all the ingredients for the sponge together in a large bowl (the one you’ll be kneading the dough in). Now sprinkle 180 g bread flour over the sponge, so it is covered and leave to rest for about 1 hour.

Now add the salt, ¼ tsp dry yeast, vanilla sugar and eggs. Start to mix this. If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment. When it comes together after a few minutes, add the melted (and slightly cooled) butter and keep working it. The dough is a bit batterlike, but be sure to get some gluten developed.

For one large Baba:
Place it in the moulds. You can use a loaf tin or a round baking form (Lien used a paper Panettone mould  - and I used a 6-inch diameter springform pan), filled about half way up. Cover with plastic and leave to rise until 2-3 cm under the rim of the mould.

In the meantime don’t forget to preheat the oven to 180ºC (350-360ºF).

Bake for about 45-55 minutes, until golden brown on top. If the bread gets too dark too soon, protect the top with a sheet of tin foil. Check the temperature in the bread with a thermometer, it should be about 93ºC (200 degrees F).

Take out of the oven and the tin and place on a deep dish. Poke the bread with a long wooden skewer from top to bottom. Brush the syrup all over it, and get as much as possible inside the bread, so take your time. Collect the syrup from the plate and keep pouring and brushing it, until all in absorbed in the bread.

For 12 small baba’s:
Grease a tray with 12 little moulds (containing about 75 ml each) and divide the dough in them. The dough shouldn’t be filling more than half of the shapes. Cover with plastic and let rise until almost to the rim.
In the meantime don’t forget to preheat the oven to 180ºC (350-360ºF).

Place in the oven and bake for about 18 minutes, The Baba’s should be golden on top. Check the temperature in the bread with a thermometer, it should be about 93ºC. Take them out of the oven and out of the mould. Place them in a wide shallow dish in one layer. Pour the champagne syrup over the baba’s. Now keep turning the baba’s one by one on all sides, including top and bottom, until all the syrup is absorbed.

Topping and serving:
Now heat the apricot jam in a small pan and let it boil, add a little water if it is too thick. Brush or pour it over the top. You can also opt for a simple sugar glaze. This topping keeps the moisture in. If you eat the baba’s on the baking day, you can also skip the topping
For an extra festive feel, serve with whipped cream and fresh fruit or jam.
The baba is best eaten on the day that it’s baked. But if not, keep in the fridge.

For the syrup
In a small pot combine the water, sugar, and champagne. Bring to a simmer and simmer until syrup thickens a bit, about 5 minutes. Let cool before brushing on the baba.

(inspired by a Beth Hensperger recipe)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Proper Pouring Custard

My friend Anne Marie has been binge watching the Great British Baking Show on Netflix. I didn't even know this until we went to dinner at her house and found that we were on the same wavelength. I had brought baked apples, but also a pouring custard using a recipe of Mary Berry, one of the hosts of the show. It was called a Proper Pouring Custard, which in British-speak means it's the one to make and use to embellish the 'pudding' course, also know as dessert time. Since it was a Mary Berry recipe it was surely authentic.

A little over a year ago we were dining with our Irish cousins. The pudding was a lovely plum tart and it was served with an amazing custard sauce. Barbara said that it was a mixture of a pouring custard and whipped up heavy cream. Since the Irish have some of the best dairy products to be had, you can imagine how delicious that sauce was. I have to imagine, too, since I can no longer tolerate dairy. I'm going by the exclamations of delight, especially by Sweetie, as the sauce was devoured.

This time I made four baked apples using the recipe HERE. I used Jonagold apples because they have enough tartness to stand up to the filling and the sauce, but also because they hold their shape after being cooked. For the sauce to go with the baked apples, I used non-dairy soy creamer instead of whole milk and cream. I suspect that it meant a thinner sauce, but it was still delicious. Of course the thinner sauce might have been created by whisking in about 3 tablespoons of good bourbon. Hard to say.

I had wanted to add whipped cream for the sauce for the other diners, but I made the sauce too late in the day and it was still pretty hot when we left the house. Any whipped cream I added then would have just melted. Might try it again some other day to see if it in any way comes close to the Irish standard. Even without the whipped cream, it was smooth, delicious and took the baked apples to another level...a higher one. There will likely be leftover sauce, but it is fine over brownies, pound cake, gingerbread, fruit get the idea. Would probably also be a great sauce over pancakes or waffles, especially if you included some fruit in or over the baked breakfast goodies.

Proper Pouring Custard
Mary Berry's with some substitutions of mine
makes about 2 1/2 cups

1 pint (2 cups, 570 ml) milk (I used plain soy creamer) 
2 oz heavy cream ( 55 ml) (I just used more of the soy creamer) 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cornstarch / cornflour
1 oz (30 grams) granulated sugar / caster sugar
4 egg yolks

In a small pot, over very low heat, heat the milk, cream and vanilla until it just starts to simmer.

While the milk is heating, whisk the sugar and the cornstarch together in a small bowl. Add the egg yolks and whisk until well blended.

When milk has just started to simmer, scoop about a half cup of it out of the pot and whisk it into the egg mixture, then pour the egg mixture into the hot milk, whisking all the while. Once the two mixtures are thoroughly blended, stir with a wooden spoon, constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 5-8 minutes. Don't let the mixture boil.

Once thickened, pour into a bowl or serving jug and cover the top surface with plastic wrap / clingfilm to keep a skin from forming as the sauce cools.

Optional: after sauce has cooled a bit, remove the plastic wrap and whisk in 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup bourbon or Irish whiskey until blended. Replace the plastic wrap and continue to let the sauce cool.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

December Tea Party

It's already December 6th. I'm glad that 2017 is almost at an end. It has been a difficult year with too many wonderful people lost to death or saddled with illnesses, along with the October fires which have changed things so much in our community.

The good news is that I was able to have a nice Tea Party yesterday with Natashya, my Sacramento area sister. Sweetie spent some time with us and enjoyed one of the Pecan Tarts with a little whipped cream. He made a cute face when we told him that he had cream on his mustache.

We started with savories, including a store bought quiche for N and hummus and carrots for me. All three of us enjoyed the Avocado Toasts with Smoked Salmon and the fruit mixture of strawberries and kiwi fruit.

Next there were Currant Scones, accompanied by raspberry jam and whipped cream. Lots of Earl Gray tea was poured during all of this and the conversation ranged over many areas as good conversation does.

Then we got to the really sweet part with Pecan Tarts. More whipped cream was available to top them if you chose to do that. More tea was poured. More conversation.

Last we had the birthday cake...Natashya's birthday was in late November, so we only had to move the feast a short ways. It was a purchased Chocolate Rum loaf. Since that had butter, I had a couple of tiny vegan chocolate tarts instead...more tea...more conversation.

It really was a lovely afternoon. Happy Birthday Natashya!

We'll start with the recipe for the Avocado Toasts with Smoked Salmon:
Makes six toasts

Six slices baguette, between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick, toasted
1 avocado, ripe
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste (I only used pepper since the salmon is salty)
enough thinly sliced smoked salmon to cover the slices (not sure of the weight)
Optional- a few Italian parsley leaves.

Place the toasted baguette slices on a clean work surface.

Cut the avocado in half. Peel and remove the seed. Mash both halves in a small bowl. Add the lemon juice and mash it into the avocados. I used a fork, which worked well. Make it as chunky or smooth as you prefer.

Spoon the avocado mixture evenly dividing it between the toast slices. Spread out to cover the slices. Sprinkle with salt and/or pepper. Top each slice with one layer of smoked salmon.

If desired, garnish with a single Italian parsley leaf

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Home Again and Baking Multigrain Pecan Bread

It is quite a shock to suddenly lose the youngest sibling, so it's not surprising that the time following it is a bit surreal. Sweetie and I flew to be with her husband and stayed with him for a while to help by listening (which is really the best thing you can do for someone after a shocking loss like this), helping with getting him to professional health folks, helping with the funeral arrangements and obituary, and with day to day stuff like grocery shopping. Being in shock myself I found I had no appetite to speak of and no desire to cook (which is really strange for me) but there were dogs to love on and cats to scritch and a lot of love going around. Beautiful Taos scenery, too.

Ron went to Denver for Thanksgiving to be with his family and Sweetie and I flew to LA to be with ours. We had a fine morning at Manhattan Beach with Sweetie's extended family, then six for dinner on Thanksgiving at our place. A meal from Whole Foods made it all easy. Good times with our daughter and nephew and friends.

Rented the 'Beach House' in Redondo Beach/Torrance on VRBO and I highly recommend it, especially for nice weather. The backyard has a big grassy area, two seating areas, one of those gas elements that heat one of the seating areas, and the furniture is comfy. We spent a lot of time out there! If you have dogs, there is also a dog door in the kitchen and the yard is fully fenced with a pretty high fence. There are three bedrooms and comfy beds. Only one bathroom, but I grew up with a large family and one bathroom, so no problem. Nice kitchen with lots and lots of amenities. Big washer and dryer. Dining table for six. Lots of games under the big TV in the livingroom. It's about 4 miles from any beach, but truly a delightful place.

Once we were back home, my sourdough starter really needed feeding, so I did that and made bread with the 'toss off' after feeding it, too. It was the perfect way to ease back into cooking and baking. I created the recipe as I went along. Using my new 'toaster' oven meant that the crust was browned.

Truly delicious bread with multi-grains, sourdough, pecans and love. I made a braid loaf and then eight rolls, but you can shape this any way that pleases you.

Multigrain Sourdough Pecan Bread

1 cup sourdough starter, fed with a mixture of 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup water
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup mixed rolled grains and flax seed (Bob's Red Mill is the brand I used)
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon dry yeast (I used RapidRise)
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup graham flour
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Let the sourdough starter and the feeding mixture, mixed, sit on the counter for 2 hours to ripen.

In a medium to large microwave safe bowl or measuring cup, place the mixed rolled grains and the water. Cook on high one minute. Stir, cook on high another minute. Stir, cook on high another minute, then let cook to lukewarm, stirring occasionally to even the cooling. Water will be completely absorbed by the cooked grain.

In a large mixing bowl for a stand mixer, place the ripe sourdough mixture, 1/2 cup flour, cooled grain mixture, mashed potatoes and 1/2 cup graham flour. Stir well to combine. Add the molasses and salt and stir again.

Mix the rest of the graham flour, the rest of the all purpose flour, and the dry yeast in a bowl or measuring cup. Put the dough hook onto the mixer, then mix, gradually adding the rest of the flour and graham flour mixture until dough is soft and dough starts cleaning the sides of the bowl, about 8 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Push the dough down to create roughly a rectangle about 10" by 12". Scatter half the pecans over the dough, then roll up like a jelly roll and fold the ends in. Again push the dough down to create roughly a rectangle about 10" by 12". Scatter the remaining pecans over the dough and roll up as before. Knead for a few minutes to distribute the nuts evenly through the dough.

Place the dough in a greased rising container, turning the dough over to coat with the grease/oil. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in bulk.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Divide dough in half. Shape as desired. I made one braided loaf and eight rolls, but you can make two loaves in loaf pans, two boules, a mixture, etc.

Lightly cover shaped bread and let rise while preheating the oven. Brush lightly with oil or egg or milk wash if desired, then bake until crust is browned and loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 45 minutes for a loaf and 25 minutes for rolls.

Try to let bread cool a bit before devouring.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Have had a sudden, unexpected death in the family; my youngest sibling. No posts for a while. Life is tenuous at best.
Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Cherish those who are with you this holiday season.

English Muffins with Nooks and Crannies with the Bread Baking Babes

The Bread Baking Babes have been baking close to ten years now, so it has gotten tricky to find breads that we haven't baked. This month I'm Kitchen of the Month, so finding a good recipe was a necessity. 

I was surprised to look at the list and not see English Muffins. I'm quite fond of English Muffins, but I grew up with Thomas's version and they always have 'nooks and crannies', the irregular air bubbles inside that, when split, make great places for the butter to collect after the muffin halves are toasted. My earlier attempts at making my own English Muffins were not successful in that department. The texture was like regular nooks and crannies to speak of, hence unacceptable.

Recently I discovered a recipe that seemed like it would solve that problem. It was found on the Serious Eats site and the blogger is Stella Parks. She combines bread flour and whole wheat flour, uses instant dry yeast (not rapid-rise), doesn't knead the dough, and lets the dough rise slowly, then puts dough blobs onto a bed of corn meal, sprinkles more on top, and lets that sit in the fridge at least 12 hours. Who knew that these steps would lead to excellent English Muffins?

After trying the recipe as written, I also tried to make a sourdough version with my sourdough starter. With a few variations of the recipe, that worked, too. The original version has a distinct honey flavor and you can taste the whole wheat. The sourdough version allows the sour flavor to shine so the honey and wheat are muted flavors. Both are delicious and worth your time. There are plenty of nooks and crannies!

To become a Buddy, and I hope you do, just bake these (well, actually you griddle them) and email me a photo and a short description of your experience making them, plus a link to your post if you posted about them. I'll send you a Buddy badge for your post at the end of the month. You have until November 29th to email me. My email is elle dot lachman at gmail dot com. I'll do a round-up post in early December and put something up on our Bread Baking Babes Facebook page, too. Come bake with us!

Be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes sites and see what they have done with this recipe. There are sure to be variations!

Judy's Gross Eats - Judy
My Diverse Kitchen - Aparna

Bake My Day - Karen

English Muffins - from Serious Eats, Stella Parks,

Makes about twelve 3 1/2-inch muffins
ACTIVE TIME:20 minutes - TOTAL TIME:16 to 30 hours


·         10 ounces bread flour (2 cups; 285g)
·         5 ounces whole wheat flour (1 cup; 140g) (makes a more tender interior)
·         2 3/4 teaspoons (11g) kosher salt; for table salt, use the same weight or half as  much by volume
·         1 1/4 teaspoons (4g) instant dry yeast (not rapid-rise)
·         12 ounces cold milk (1 1/2 cups; 340g), any percentage will do (helps create nooks and crannies)
·         3 1/2 ounces honey (1/4 cup; 100g)
·         1 large egg white, cold
·         5 ounces fine cornmeal (1 cup; 145g)(I used twice as much and put muffins on two sheet pans with space around them - Elle), and more for dusting - don't skip this
·         Roughly 1 ounce bacon fat, unsalted butter, non-dairy margarine, or oil (2 tablespoons; 30g), for griddling

1. Make the Dough and Let Rise: In a large bowl, mix bread flour, whole wheat flour, kosher salt, and yeast together until well combined. Add milk, honey, and egg white, stirring with a flexible spatula until smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic and set aside until spongy, light, and more than doubled, 4 to 5 hours at 70°F. (The timing is flexible depending on your schedule.)

 For the Second Rise: Thickly cover a rimmed aluminum baking sheet with an even layer of cornmeal. With a large spoon, dollop out twelve 2 2/3-ounce (75g) portions of dough; it's perfectly fine to do this by eye. If you'd like, pinch the irregular blobs here and there to tidy their shape. Sprinkle with additional cornmeal, cover with plastic, and refrigerate at least 12 and up to 42 hours.

3. To Griddle and Serve: Preheat an electric griddle to 325°F or warm a 12-inch cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. When sizzling-hot, add half the butter and melt; griddle muffins until their bottoms are golden brown, about 8 minutes. Flip with a square-end spatula and griddle as before. Transfer to a wire rack until cool enough to handle, then split the muffins by working your thumbs around the edges to pull them open a little at a time. Toast before serving and store leftovers in an airtight container up to 1 week at room temperature (or 1 month in the fridge).

Sourdough Version:
1 cup active starter fed with a mixture of 1 cup flour and 1 cup water...and allow it to sit at least 1 hour to activate the yeast. Add to flour mixture when you add liquid.

Same amount of whole wheat flour and salt as original recipe

1 teaspoon dry yeast, not larger amount of original recipe

1/2 cup milk, slightly warm, not 
larger amount of original recipe - I mixed the barely warm milk, the honey, and the egg white together before adding to the starter mixture, stirred, then added the flour.

The rest of the recipe is just the same, including the rest of the ingredients (honey, egg white, cornmeal, butter) and the directions.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Air Frying and Family Reunion

The air frying is from tonight, the family reunion happened at the end of October. Funny how some things get posted quickly and some not.

Since it's older news, I'll tell you first about the gathering. It was on a Sunday morning two weeks ago tomorrow. Sweetie's ex-wife, Chris, has always been a friend. They were one of the smart couples and figured out how to stay in each others' lives in a positive way. She babysat our kids and we babysat her son. Now she lives in St. Mary's county in Maryland, just as my brother does. They have never met, but we thought they might enjoy each other's company since there is a mutual love of sailing. Same for Chris's sister. Just to make it extra special, we also included Sweetie's niece from Baltimore and her daughter. Olivia is a freshman at St. Mary's, so she was already in the area. On a cloudy Sunday morning we all gathered at Chris's sisters home and had a true feast, mimosas, and lots of great conversation. The gathering included Sweetie and me, my brother, his wife and their two adult sons, Chris, her partner Patrick, Chris's son, his wife, and their toddler son, Chris's sister and her husband, Sweetie's niece and her daughter. Fifteen folks who are sort of family and who made some new contacts. Great fun and great food!

While we were in St. Mary's we also visited Old St. Mary's City, which is a combination of archeological dig and collection of buildings to invoke the spirit and substance of on of the first settlements in Maryland. One of my nephews works there and he not only showed us around, but managed to bring us there when there was a wonderful choral performance in the chapel for us to enjoy. Such beautiful music. It made us think of Sweetie's sister in Lexington and her sweetie, both music lovers. The chapel is built like the original chapel, with brick walls and a grand front, plus a barrel ceiling that provides great acoustics. (See photos above.)

We also met a fellow worker who tans hides and did a demo that day. It is a magical place and I wish we had had more time there. Maybe next time...

So air frying...I recently bought a new toaster oven that had air fryer capabilities, so I decided to dip my toe in the water and air fry frozen french fries before I got fancy. I chose sweet potato fries because Sweetie was going to be eating them and he loves sweet potato fries.

I set the temperature to 360 degrees F and once the oven had preheated, shook a serving of frozen fries into the basket. I cooked them for 14 minutes, with a good shake and some moving around of the fried happening at 5 minutes.

These were as good as oven baked french fries and maybe a bit better...crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Sweetie was very happy.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Multi-Grain Cowboy Cookies

I've had the same toaster oven for a long, long time. It has finally gotten to the point where it doesn't work very well, so I started looking for a replacement. Recently the one I most wanted became available on sale online. It takes up some counter space, so I had been holding off for about 6 months, but seeing it at such a good sale price finally convinced me to buy it. It arrived day before yesterday in the evening, and yesterday I toasted some buns in it, just to try it at its most basic, but today I finally had time to bake some cookies in it. They were just beautiful and the browning is so much better than my big oven.

It's hard to know if the cowboys of old would have had a mixture of rolled grains to use in cookies, or even, frankly, if they had baked cookies while out on the trail herding cattle. Still, I recently purchased a bag of mixed-grain rolled grains, similar to oatmeal but with other grains like barley and rye, too. The brand is Bob's Red Mill and if you haven't tried any of their numerous grains, especially for gluten free baking, do think about buying some. They are always top quality and there seem to be a huge variety of offerings. Their barley flour is the first one I bought, for bread baking, but I like their corn meal, dark rye flour, almond flour, and others. This mixed rolled grain produce is also great for use in bread baking...just cook them in half as much water, and cool, then use as part of the water and part of the grain for a hearty bread.

For the cowboy cookies, I used the rolled grain mixture instead of the rolled oats. It made the cookies a bit chewier, and added flavor, too.

Multi-Grain Cowboy Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled multi-grains
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature (or margarine)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped toasted pecans

On a sheet of waxed paper, combine the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugars, white and brown, until well mixed. Add the eggs and vanilla. Mix until light and well mixed. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips, cranberries and walnuts.
Cover dough and chill 1 hour.

Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Form dough into balls, using a melon scoop of dough for each. Place on greased baking sheets, spacing cookies 1 inch apart. These will make appetizer size cookies. (For larger cookies, make balls from teaspoons of batter up to 1/4 cup of dough for super sized ones.) Bake 8-10 minutes for small cookies or until cookies are golden brown around the edges. transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. (For larger sized cookies, cook longer, up to 15 minutes.)