These probably aren’t going to be the prettiest muffins you will see in the run up to Christmas. If you want pretty – and I’m sure extremely tasty – festive baking, have a look at the world of wonder and fantasy that is Pinterest. I’m crushing on this page in particular. I practically weep at the skill and creativity contained within those rolling pixels of perfection. Maybe I have even wailed and gnashed my teeth over your dainty treats. To restore sanity and a sense of perspective I have recently adopted a habit of going over to Damn You Autocorrect. I find it is just the thing to cheer myself up after going on my increasingly regular Pinterest benders. True. Continue reading
The word English is in quote marks as we here in the UK don’t call this style of muffins English muffins, just muffins. It is somewhat confusing, however, because US muffins – sweet and spilling over their paper cups – are much more prevalent here than the former. But you can’t spread Marmite over American-style muffins, which is the whole point of muffins in my opinion. American muffins = sugary afternoon indulgence; English muffins = tasty vehicle for Marmite and butter. You can happily have one or two of these savoury ones for a light supper with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, or perhaps top with ripe sliced avocadoes and chopped tomatoes, plus obligatory sriracha sauce. Then you can impatiently wait until the morning to split, toast and butter the leftovers, smearing with Marmite or jam as desired. And I desire. Muchly.
This recipe is a reworking of one found in Dan Lepard’s fantastic baking book, Short and Sweet: The Best of Homebaking (UK link). Loads of his recipes have caught my eye but I made this one on the actual day I bought the book. From a real live shop! I have simplified Dan’s method, ditched his vinegar and water, and added baking powder and wholemeal flour for additional oomph. Oh, and the cheese and pepper. His original recipe is not difficult if you want to give it a go. But he wants you to leave the muffins overnight – or longer! – before you actually cook them. I’ve done the waiting thing as well as this quicker way without any real difference. You may think differently though. There are still a few rises to wait out, so this is probably a weekend bake. You could also start this the night before and do the first rise in the refrigerator, as Dan suggests. They are worth the wait, regardless of approach.
There are a few other, somewhat similar, recipes I fancy trying, including this one from Alton Brown. It sounds more like the thin, holey English muffins of my childhood. But the looser, almost pancake-like batter made to achieve this type of muffin is perhaps not so amenable to titivation. And we know how I like to titivate! Otherwise known as mess with/screw up.
Dan’s recipe is a stiffer, cuttable dough – suitable for add-ins like cheese, and more like the kind we get in our UK grocery stores, but obviously better (or at least my family thought so). I like the reassurance of cutting the dough rather than the scarier thought of wrangling a loose and wayward batter into baking rings. But I will tackle that at some point. For now the more methodical, contemplative approach suits me. Either way, pass the Marmite!
Belatedly I am popping this over to April’s One Ingredient Challenge (Cheese) hosted by Nazima of Franglais Kitchen and Laura of How To Cook Good Food. Please go over and see the other cheesey offerings, and maybe even send over one of your own. They will have a roundup with images later in the month.
Recipe adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet: The Best of Homebaking (US link)
This Week in 2011: Tuna and Crème Fraiche Pizza
This Week in 2012: Forager’s Fritters
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Tom Odell, Supposed To Be. A word: stunning
These light but sturdy savoury muffins beg to be buttered and eaten right away. But any leftovers are delicious the next day, split and toasted as per bought muffins. They may look a faff to make, but they are not in the least bit difficult to prepare. You just need a bit of time and patience. You could even make a double batch to bake and freeze for eating in the future.
Polenta/cornmeal for dusting
Put the butter, sugar and milk in a large pan and heat gently just until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add in the yogurt, salt and egg. Mix until smooth. Add in the flours, baking powder, and yeast to the buttery mix and stir well. Decant the dough onto a floured surface and stretch to a rough rectangle. Sprinkle over the cheese and pepper; fold in half. Press all over with your hands and fold again from the opposite direction, pressing well. Do this another time or until you feel the cheese is distributed evenly. Surround the dough with your hands flat out and draw your hands together underneath the dough. This will help make it a rounded shape. Pop the dough into the cleaned pan, or into a large bowl.
Cover the bowl and leave in a warm, draught-free place for one hour. It probably won’t rise very much, so don’t worry. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead it for one minute, then shape it into a rectangle about the size of a sheet of notebook paper (A4). Draw up the bottom third to the middle, then bring down the top third over the whole. It will be a third of its original size now. Cover it with a tea towel and leave for another hour to gently rise.
After the second rise sprinkle polenta or cornmeal onto a tea towel covered baking tray, and very gently roll the dough out to about 1 ½ cm, keeping a rectangular shape if you can. Cut the dough into even squares, flip each onto the polenta so that both sides are dusted, then cover again for about 2 hours. The soon-to-be muffins will rise by about half.
When the dough has risen for the final time, heat the oven to 180C/350F. (Although you will start the muffins off in a hot pan, they will be completed in the oven.) Now get a heavy skillet – preferably cast iron – and heat over a medium flame. Carefully place up to four muffins in the hot pan and cover. This allows the moisture in the muffins to create steam, which will help the muffins puff up. Check the bottoms after 2-3 minutes and flip when a good dark gold, with the polenta browned. Do the same on the other side.
Put the bottom-warmed muffins on a baking tray and place in the oven for about 10 minutes – maybe a minute or so more, if needed. Carry on with the remaining muffins in the same way. Eat fresh from the oven, with next days’ leftovers split and toasted under the grill/broiler until browned.
The past week has seen a lot of spring related posts and articles popping into my inbox: recipes flaunting tender young vegetables, some pastel-tastic decorating ideas. Even a white (!) tarmac-scraping trouser suit stared back at my disbelieving face. But I really shook my fake fur hat-wearing head at this one, allegedly taken in Stockholm – a city not really known for its floaty miniskirt-friendly weather. Yes, I am wearing a hat indoors.
I think you will have surmised by now that it is snowing here in Edinburgh. March ruddy 19th and we have horizontal snow and sleet. Continue reading
As an ex-pat American living in Scotland, peanut butter and jelly is something I occasionally have a hankering for. It must be in my DNA. I can’t say I give into that craving very often, but when I do I have to say that it is not on nice seeded whole meal bread, or using posh jam. If for whatever reason I need to buy white bread – for Christmas stuffing, or bread and butter pudding – I always nick a piece. I then proceed to smear it with a good quarter inch of peanut butter, top with a crimson dod of Lidl morello cherry jam, and fold in half. Then I proceed to shove it in my gob with two hands, like a ravenous toddler. Again, a childhood/DNA thing. With today’s recipe I think I may have grown up. A bit. Continue reading
Last post’s long and winding road to broth was probably a step too far for some of you. Although extremely gorgeous with the toasted Asian aromatics and the lightly seared vegetables, I have inserted into the post a welcome sentence, in bold: If you want to take a shortcut you may skip the first two steps and just pop everything in the pot as per a ‘normal’ stock. So, if you looked at the Really Useful Asian Broth recipe and thought “stuff this,” maybe I can persuade you to reconsider. Or at least read down to the tamarind meatball bit. Continue reading
Here in the UK we are coming up for the effigy-burning, firework-displaying extravaganza that is Guy Fawkes Night. Also known as Bonfire Night, November 5 commemorates the evening in 1605 that 13 young men had planned to use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
Poor old Guy Fawkes should have stayed in the ye olde tavern because not only was he caught, tortured and executed, we now have a rather gruesome tradition of making effigies of him to burn. Or rather they do in England. Up in Scotland it’s just fireworks and hard cider (any excuse really).
Never let it be said that I don’t like to try and please everybody. Well, you could say it, but for today at least, it isn’t true. My family would vehemently disagree with this statement: I am still experimenting on them with tempeh recipes when they would really rather I experiment with how to get the lightest pastries, or the most delicious sausage stew. But what are families for if not to bother them with food some find disagreeable in the hopes that you’ve made it agreeable? That’s certainly my schtick. Poor things. I am sure they long for a mother/wife who doesn’t feel an overwhelming desire to convert everyone to the joys of a plant-based diet, and one that includes tempeh at that. But they are stuck with me. And with tempeh. Continue reading
As some of you might have noticed, if you have the same addiction, I like a bit of Anthropologie. For those of you who don’t know Anthropologie you might be thinking, my goodness, doesn’t she know how to spell by now? Or, what does the study of comparative cultures have to do with flatbread?
For the uninitiated Anthropologie, with an ‘ie’, is a fantastic clothing and home wares store full of well-crafted, unique items of lust. Yes, lust. These must-have, cleverly detailed and designed bits and bobs are displayed in such as way as to make you think ‘to hell with the budget, I’ll take it all’. A real credit card in flames kind of place. For me at least, but perhaps you as well. Continue reading
What do you hope to get this Valentine’s Day? A box of exquisitely-packaged chocolates, the kind with epicurean flavours (definitely not procured from the petrol station)? Or, how about red rose petals, strewn in your filled bath, with a flute of pink champagne delicately balanced within stretching distance? I’ll take a bit of that, thank you very much!
Like a lot of you, the past few weeks have been quite busy for me. During the summer months projects, commitments and even ideas are somehow allowed to drift along on a warm breeze of school holiday-enforced hiatus. But come September the metaphorical whip is well and truly cracked. Many of you are by now up to your eyes with summer-interrupted deadlines and the daily scurry between work, family and after-school activities – and all points in-between. Maybe like me you are also vowing to shoehorn in a little extra exercise, or add in a ‘self-improving’ evening class. Time is not elastic, but we do our best to strain at the laws of physics nonetheless. I participate, therefore I am.
My additional soupcon of activity this week was giving several nutrition workshops at the 22nd annual Scottish Conference of Cancer Support Groups (SCCSG). To be completely honest with you I was not wholeheartedly looking forward to it. I am used to my cosy number with the Maggies Centres: making food and discussing nutrition and cancer in the comfort of small groups. And my ‘target’ audience is clear: for the most part those going through treatment and their carers. The SCCSG audience was going to be hugely mixed and much larger and less intimate than my usual 6-8 person groups. And in a hotel conference space, not among the architectural nuances, squashy sofas and natural light of the Maggies’ Centres. You are right, I am spoiled.
But, as is often the case with my fears, they were completely misplaced. This truly amazing conference sees delegates from all over Scotland gathering annually to update their research knowledge, share ideas, discuss common concerns and generally share and discuss ideas for helping those affected by cancer. All of the groups provide a vital service that just isn’t possible within the confines of the NHS. Every single person I met volunteers their time and skills to help others. In other words, good people. Inspiring people. Selfless people. And they wanted to listen to me. Wow. Continue reading