English Muffins: easier to make than you think

English Muffins 22

I have a recipe for real, old-fashioned English muffins in my Peter Reinhart.  And some day, I totally plan to make them the way he says to (because he’s a genius).  Until then, I’m too darned lazy.  But I found this version by the Foodess (also a genius) that seems to be more up my alley in terms of ability and time.  It’s nice to finally have a decent English muffin in the morning, full of all those wee holes designed simply to hold melted butter and honey.  The Newfoundland version of the English muffin is just … WRONG.  It’s more like a hamburger bun or something.  It’s not right.

English Muffins 23

Anyway.  Start with 1 1/2 cups milk, and plop that in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, and microwave for 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 minutes, until the milk begins to simmer around the edges.

English Muffins 1

While that’s on the go, cube up 1/4 cup cold butter.  The coldness of the butter will help to cool your milk down.

English Muffins 2

Stir the butter into the milk and swirl it around until it’s all melted.  Leave the milk aside for a bit to cool down.

English Muffins 4

Beat up 1 large egg and add to it 1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used Balkan style).

English Muffins 3

When the milk mixture has cooled to just warm, you can mix the egg/yogurt in.

English Muffins 6

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 4 cups flour to 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt, and 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast.

English Muffins 5

Put that sucker on low (use a shield around the top if you’ve got one), and slowly pour in your dairy mixture.  Keep going until it’s all in there, and then beat (again, on low) for another full minute.

English Muffins 7

English Muffins 8

You can see that although the dough is still really sticky it’s starting to become stringy as well.  Gluten in action, folks.  SCIENCE.

English Muffins 9

Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, cover the top with plastic wrap, and put it in a warm place for an hour to rise.

English Muffins 10

When it’s ready to go, lightly flour a clean work surface.  Find yourself a 3″ biscuit cutter or use the opening to a large drinking glass (mine was about 2 1/2″).

English Muffins 11

Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface and sprinkle the top of it with flour as well.  Use your floured hands to pat the dough down until it’s about 1/2″ thick.

English Muffins 12

Using your cutter or glass, get busy cutting out little disks of dough.  Fold all your scraps together and repeat the process until you’ve used all your dough.  I ended up with 19 muffins in my batch.

English Muffins 13

Use a floured spatula to transfer them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and set those somewhere warm to rise for another 20 minutes.

English Muffins 14

Now, preheat your oven to 400°F and plop a large cast iron skillet (or two) on your elements.  Heat those up to medium heat and dust them lightly with corn flour.  Do not use a non-stick pan for this; it will not work.  If you don’t have an iron skillet, use a steel, non-non-stick pan instead.

English Muffins 15

Plop some of your dough disks into the dusted, heated pan and let them cook on one side for about 3-4 minutes, or until the bottoms start to brown.

English Muffins 16

Flip them over and do it again to the other side.  Keep dusting the pan with more flour as needed, and keep in mind that the flour may start to smoke after a while.  As your pan heats up you will find it takes a shorter amount of time for your muffins to brown so keep an eye on them.

English Muffins 17

You can see how they are starting to rise up with the cooking and look more like real English muffins.  The reason you cook the tops and the bottoms is so that when the muffins are baking in the oven they don’t get all round and puffy like a dinner roll.

English Muffins 18

Transfer the browned muffins back to the parchment-lined baking sheets.

English Muffins 19

When you’re all ready to go and they’re all browned, pop them in the oven for 7-10 minutes, until the muffins sound hollow when you tap on them.

English Muffins 20

When you are ready to eat them, pierce the middle with a fork several times to break the muffin open.  If you cut them with a knife you won’t get the benefit of all the perfect little bubbles.

English Muffins 21

Look at those perfect little bubbles.

English Muffins 24

Then you can do whatever you’re going to do with them.  Toast them, use them as sandwich material (the Pie loves making his own version of the Egg McMuffin), eat them as a base for Eggs Benedict … whatever floats your boat.  They freeze well, too — just make sure to wrap them up really tightly.

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Driving “Up Island” in a Smart Car

Michell's

This is my last post about our west coast trip, I promise.

While we were staying in Victoria, the Pie and I took two days out and drove up to Courtenay to visit Tim, one of the Pie’s childhood friends from Ottawa who had made the move west.  Tim was best man at our wedding.  There’s pretty much only one highway that goes the length of Vancouver Island, and if you go anywhere north of Victoria you are going “up island”.  Courtenay-Comox, while situated pretty much in the middle of the length of the island, is considered to be the farthest you want to go up island.  When I was a child, I actually thought it WAS at the northern tip of the island.  It turns out instead that nobody really wants to go that much farther than Courtenay-Comox, and the best way to go further is to take a boat.

So we rented a car.  My firm gets me a corporate discount at Enterprise rentals, and they’ve always treated me well.  Since it was just the two of us and we were only traveling for two days we rented an economy-sized car.  I joked as we were waiting in line that I’d love to take the little Smart Car in the parking lot on our trip, and the Pie rolled his eyes.  Little did we know that it was the only “economy” sized car left in the lot!  Have I mentioned that the Pie is 6’4″?  This was going to be interesting.

Courtenay-Comox

Neither of us had ever driven a Smart Car before so we took it on as a challenge. Here is the super-awesomely small rear view mirror. There are no blind spots in this car, so it’s not a huge deal.

Courtenay-Comox

And the nonexistent leg room.  And the lack of gadgets. And our pasty, pasty legs.

Courtenay-Comox

But the whole roof was glass, which was neat when you are driving through the mountains.

Courtenay-Comox

Though because the car is energy-efficient, it seemed to always want to be in the highest gear possible, which meant it rumbled along like it had a diesel engine.  An engine that never wanted to accelerate, and that shifted violently, like a newbie on a standard transmission.  And it was an automatic!

Courtenay-Comox

We booked it up to Courtenay, sliding through Chemainus and its famous murals and Nanaimo, where we got a coffee.

Courtenay-Comox

We hit Tim’s place in the mid-afternoon, and he took us out to Stotan Falls to cool off, as it was about 33°C and sunny.

Courtenay-Comox

This series of short falls is a very popular place to come and sit in the sun and the water.  While much of it is very shallow, the limestone has worn away in spots to form these potholes, which can catch you unawares.

Courtenay-Comox

Some of them are large enough to tuck yourself into, as Tim demonstrates here.

Courtenay-Comox

And you can swim in the deeper, cool water just after the falls.  Floater that I am, I nearly got swept away because I couldn’t get my feet under me, but Tim hauled me out safe.

Courtenay-Comox

In trekking around, we also got to see some neat fossils. That’s my foot, for scale.

Courtenay-Comox

As well as the sheer neatness of the geology of this area.

Courtenay-Comox

Courtenay-Comox

That night we drove to Comox and had dinner on the sandy beach near CFB Comox.  While planes took off behind us, the sun set to our left.

Courtenay-Comox

The water was so warm that even the Pie went into the ocean and swam.  This is a history-making moment, people.

Courtenay-Comox
This dog never left the water!

On the way home we got a brief tour of the organic spa that Tim owns with his partner Lisa.  If you’re ever in Courtenay and you need a massage, Ziva is the place to visit.  After my ordeal in the rapids I could have used a massage myself, but it was late.

Courtenay-Comox

Courtenay-Comox

Courtenay-Comox

The next morning, after saying our goodbyes, the Pie and I began our trek south, though in a more leisurely manner.  We stopped at a farmer’s market in Qualicum Beach, which happens every Saturday.

Courtenay-Comox

Our breakfast consisted of some locally roasted organic coffee, local tay berries, and home-made cinnamon sticky buns.

Courtenay-Comox

The tay berries taste like a combination between raspberries and blackberries, and look like logan berries (what’s the difference, anyway?).

Courtenay-Comox

The cinnamon buns were so sticky and delicious we may have died a little.

Courtenay-Comox

These were my sticky and stained hands at the beginning of breakfast.  By the end I was a total mess. The camera was going to get sticky if we took a picture of that so we refrained.

Courtenay-Comox

Then back to our Smart Car, which we had dubbed Blinky.

Courtenay-Comox

To give you a sense of scale …

Courtenay-Comox

We paused at the Little Qualicum River Falls, which were stunning.  I took way too many pictures, but you can see some below.

Little Qualicum River Falls

Little Qualicum River Falls

Little Qualicum River Falls

Little Qualicum River Falls

And had a brief stop in Cathedral Grove, home to some of the oldest and tallest trees on the island. We didn’t stick around too long, because the Falls hike and the Falls themselves had made us very thirsty.

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Then we had lunch in Coombs, which has to be one of the weirdest towns I have ever seen.  This exporter seemed to own the whole place, and had these strange (and not for sale) sculptures all over the open space.  The wooden and marble sculptures inside were even more fantastical, and many of them were pornographic.  We weren’t allowed to photograph any of them, though, and I’m not even going to get started on some of the strange chairs they had there.

Coombs

In the same place was Goats on Roof, a market place specializing in imported foods.  And all sorts of kitschy Asian paraphernalia, like these lanterns, which hung everywhere in the store.

Coombs

Let’s not forget that there were actual goats on the roof.

Coombs

It was a long drive both ways, but in the Smart Car we only went through one tank of gas, even with all our perambulations.  It was a nice change of pace to be on our own schedule and under our own steam, and we quite enjoyed the trip.  I was very sad when we had to return Blinky.  Not a good car for highway driving, but a fun challenge nonetheless.  And backing up was AWESOME. What a fun trip!

Michell's

Quick-Fry Breakfast Sausage (Gluten-Free)

I’m trying out some of the neat settings on my new wee camera. This is one of the shots where I ventured out of Easy Auto Mode.  This is a big step for me, people.

Signal Hill at Night

And did you know my wee camera has a FOOD setting? No longer do I have to frantically compensate in post-production for the lack of light on this ocean-bound rock: I can do it all before I even take the picture! Awesome. And these shots don’t look half-bad, considering it was a cloudy morning.

Breakfast Patties

This recipe comes from Lexie’s Kitchen and I totally LOVE it.  Well actually, I didn’t end up using her recipe at all, but the idea was fantastic.  You know when you’re looking for a little something extra in the morning but you want something easy, and for once, you (gasp!) don’t want any bacon?

Breakfast Patties

Why not try a breakfast sausage patty?  These ones are made with lean ground pork, but you can make them with any ground meat (bonus points if you grind it yourself).  When Jul and Cait were here I made some with ground chicken, and added a bit of almond meal to improve the consistency.  I bet moose patties would be worthwhile trying. Some day I am going to figure out a nice gluten-free veggie patty. But today is not that day.

Breakfast Patties

So you take your pork and you plop it in a bowl.  Add some spices.  Or whatever.  I used some paprikaground garlicdried chives, and then some Worcestershire sauce and some sweet and spicy Tabasco.  Then I added a pinch of sea salt and a lot of black pepper.  Isn’t this grinder awesome?  Cait brought it for me.  You press its nose and it poos out pepper.  Moai pepper anyone?

Breakfast Patties

Stir all that goodness together.

Breakfast Patties

Then make yourself a bunch of wee patties.  Any size you like, really.  Just remember that the thinner they are the faster they cook up, and the harder they are to move around when raw.  I suggest spraying a sheet of waxed paper with cooking spray to hold your patties until you’re ready to cook.

Breakfast Patties

You can save yourself some time in the morning and make them the night before — just cover them with an additional sheet of sprayed waxed paper and chuck ’em in the fridge.

Breakfast Patties

The rest is really quite simple.  Plop the patties in a heated frying pan (non-stick works best) and cook for a few minutes, flipping once or twice, until they are done all the way through.

Breakfast Patties

My non-stick pan is so good that when I was flipping the patties, one of them *may* have accidentally taken a flying leap out of the pan and smashed itself to a million pieces on the floor. So Gren *may* have gotten a bit of extra breakfast this morning.

Breakfast Patties

We served ours with a bit of barbecue sauce, some eggs, and a big ol’ croissant.  But I’m sure what you have planned is also good.  Enjoy!

Breakfast Patties

Fluffy Gluten-Free Waffles

Gluten-Free Waffles

This recipe is a modified version of the one that Iris over at the Daily Dietribe came up with.  I am indebted to her extensive experimentation.  Jul, who eats only gluten-free foods, is also indebted.  And the Pie and Cait are just full.

Iris has experimented enough that she knows which flours will do what, so I followed her advice and used a combination of almond flour and brown rice flour.

Gluten-Free Waffles

Take 1 1/4 cups of the flour and whisk it together with 1/2 cup starch (potato works best but I used corn starch because I can’t find it here), 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.

Gluten-Free Waffles

In another, larger bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and between 1/2 and 1 3/4 cups buttermilk (the amount will depend on what kind of flour you are using.  Here I used about 3/4 cup).

Gluten-Free Waffles

For a dairy-free version (and this is already egg-free), you can use 2 tablespoons vegetable oil instead of butter, and instead of the buttermilk you could go for coconut milk.

Gluten-Free Waffles

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined.  Add more liquid, if necessary, a little bit at a time.  If you are making waffles, you’ll want your batter to be a little thicker, while with pancakes you’ll want it a bit runnier.

Gluten-Free Waffles

Then you just pour the batter into a pan or smooth it into a waffle iron and you’re all set. I loved how this was just as simple as making regular buttermilk waffles and took no time at all.

Gluten-Free Waffles

These came out a little darker than I was expecting but they were lovely and crisp, even after I left them to warm in the oven.   Just make sure to spray your waffle iron or your pan frequently or they will stick.

Gluten-Free Waffles

Life-Changing Burritos

Life-Changing Burritos

I know.  We just had a burrito post recently.  But when we were in Portland, and I was busy doing wedding related things with Doodle and the other bridesmaids, the Pie was often left to his own devices.  Luckily, Portland is a very walkable city, and there was a good Street Fighter tournament on the web for him to watch when he got bored with walking about.  One afternoon, he happened upon a place called the Burrito Bar.  The burrito he had there, according to him, changed his life forever.  So last week, he recreated what he had eaten there and I got to enjoy it as well. Plus, we had to do something about our raging onion population.

Life-Changing Burritos

First, he started by making up a batch of his famous Mexican rice.

Life-Changing Burritos

While he was doing that he gently poached 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then he put me to work as his sous-chef.  I had to make the “salad” component.  First, I opened up an avocado.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then I cubed it.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then I found a tomato.

Life-Changing Burritos

And cubed that as well.

Life-Changing Burritos

Chopped up a handful of cilantro and added that in, as well as some salt and pepper and lime juice.

Life-Changing Burritos

Toss that and set it aside.

Life-Changing Burritos

Open up a can of black beans and drain and rinse them well.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then he had me finely chop a jalapeno pepper, to go in his cheese sauce.

Life-Changing Burritos

Life-Changing Burritos

The cheese sauce is made by melting a tablespoon butter with a tablespoon flour to form a paste, then adding a half cup of milk.  When that is well-mixed you can add your grated cheese, about 1 1/2 cups.  The Pie used a mixture of old cheddar and spicy Monterey jack.

Life-Changing Burritos

Once the cheese was melted he dropped in the jalapenos and let that sit for a bit.

Life-Changing Burritos

At this point the chicken was ready to be shredded. Just pull it apart with some forks. It’s pretty fun.

Life-Changing Burritos

We added a few tablespoons salsa to the chicken.

Life-Changing Burritos

So now we are ready to make these burritos, baby.  We have Mexican rice, salad, salsa-y chicken, black beans, cheese sauce, and some sour cream as well.

Life-Changing Burritos

You’re going to need the biggest flour tortillas you can find.  These ones are ten inches, though the Pie says the one he had in Portland was THIRTEEN inches.  Set your tortillas on a sheet of aluminum foil.

Life-Changing Burritos

Start piling on your ingredients in the centre of your tortilla.  Be generous.

Life-Changing Burritos

To properly fold a burrito, we looked to the internet.  If you’re not sure, try YouTube.

Life-Changing Burritos

Take the opposite side of your tortilla and bring it towards you, so the ingredients get all jumbled together and pushed to one side. This also leaves a bit of food sauce on the empty side of the tortilla, which provides a bit of friction to keep things stuck together.

Life-Changing Burritos

Unfold the tortilla and lift up the sides, to sort of hold everything in. Take the side of the tortilla closest to you, with all the ingredients, and flip it up and over on itself.

Life-Changing Burritos

Then, tucking in the top of the tortilla, start rolling towards the end.  Try to get it as tight as possible.

Life-Changing Burritos

Make sure your ends are tucked in and slide the rolled tortilla to one side of your aluminum foil.

Life-Changing Burritos

Tightly roll the burrito up in the foil, and twist off the ends when you are finished, to hold everything together.  That is your burrito, all wrapped up.  We had enough ingredients to make seven of these puppies, and we tossed a few in the fridge for a later meal, and a few in the oven for about ten minutes to heat up a bit.

Life-Changing Burritos

To eat, just peel off some of the foil and you are all set. Take a bite.

Life-Changing Burritos

This is one of the burritos the next day, cut in half.  Look at that lovely combination of ingredients!

Life-Changing Burritos

Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb Crumble

I feel like this would have turned out better if I hadn’t followed the instructions, but it was pretty good as it was.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and chop up 3 cups young rhubarb.  I like to make it into cubes.

Rhubarb Crumble

Toss the rhubarb with 1 tablespoon flour1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Rhubarb Crumble

I also added in some frozen strawberries, chopped, so I didn’t add in the 1 tablespoon water the recipe called for.  I figured the ice from the strawberries was enough.

Rhubarb Crumble

Chuck those in the bottom of a baking dish.

Rhubarb Crumble

In a small bowl, cream together 6 tablespoons butter6 tablespoons flour, and 1/2 cup packed brown sugar.  Now, if I’d had my druthers, there would have been no creaming.  I would have simply cut them all together until crumbly, like I do with the apple crumble.  You know, so it’s crumbly.  But whatevs.

Rhubarb Crumble

Then stir in 1/2 cup oats.  So now you have this nice buttery dough.  If you’d just cut it in you’d be able to sprinkle it over the whole thing.  But what’s done is done.

Rhubarb Crumble

Smooth that dough over the top of the rhubarb.

Rhubarb Crumble

Chuck the whole thing in the oven for 40 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the top is crispy.

Rhubarb Crumble
Bubbling fruit …
Rhubarb Crumble
… crispy top.

Allow to cool slightly before serving with ice cream.  SOOOOO GOOD.

Rhubarb Crumble

Candy Bar Pancakes

Candybar Pancakes

Gren: “Are you guys making pancakes?”

Candybar Pancakes

Me: “No.”

Gren: “Really?  I don’t believe you. I’m pretty sure you’re making pancakes …”

Candybar Pancakes

The Pie and I rarely use our dining room (for eating at least) when it’s just the two of us.  But pretty much every Saturday morning since we moved into Elizabeth has been spent making “special breakfast”, where we do something a little more elaborate than the regular cereal or toast, and we eat it together in our dining room, which offers a charming view of our next-door neighbour’s shed.

In addition, we like to try to recreate things that we’ve eaten in restaurants, just to see if we can’t make them a little better.  Monday’s green curry was one example of that.  This is another, and it comes from one of our favourite restaurants.  They call them “candy bar” pancakes, which is a little odd, because most Canadians call things like Mars Bars and Snickerschocolate bars” (because they’re made from chocolate, not candy).  Maybe the creators just thought “candy bar pancakes” sounded better than “chocolate bar pancakes”, or maybe it’s because the high number of American soldiers stationed in Newfoundland at various points in history have left a lasting remnant of their dialect.  Who knows …

Candybar Pancakes

You can use any pancake recipe you’d like for this, though I would recommend a fluffy pancake rather than a flat one.  If you don’t have a favourite recipe, I’ll give you mine, which comes from the Joy of Cooking, and we usually cut it in half because it’s just the two of us.

Take a chocolate bar or two.  The “dry” kind work best, like Kit Kat or Coffee Crisp — anything without caramel or gooey things inside. We prefer the Coffee Crisp because of the different flavours inside. If you live in the US, see if you can get someone to bring one across the border for you — they are excellent.

Candybar Pancakes

Break it up into pieces and put it in the food processor.

Candybar Pancakes

Pulse until you have small crumbs.  Set that aside.

Candybar Pancakes

In one medium-sized bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 3/4 tablespoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. If you are making this recipe with milk instead of buttermilk, then leave out the baking soda.

In another bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, 3 tablespoons melted butter, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Candybar Pancakes

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and you’re ready to go.

Use a cast iron skillet to get the best crust on your pancakes.  Preheat the skillet at medium for a few minutes while you’re mixing up your ingredients.  And before you pour in the batter, melt a bit of butter in the pan first.  Then scoop in some batter and let it sit for a while.

Candybar Pancakes

Don’t touch it.  Wait until it starts to bubble and get pitted.  The trick with these pancakes is  in cooking them for as long as possible on the first side, so that when you add the chocolate bar pieces to the other side you don’t have to cook it as long and they won’t burn.

Candybar Pancakes

While you wait for it to get pitted, you can play fetch with your dog.

Candybar Pancakes

This squeaky carrot is from IKEA.  I’m never sure if their stuffed toys are for dogs or for children, but they work great either way.

Candybar Pancakes

Take a spoon and sprinkle some of your chocolate crumbs onto the pitted top of the pancake.  Let them sink into the batter a little bit.

Candybar Pancakes

THEN you can flip it, quickly.  Don’t cook it too long on the second side or the chocolate will burn.

Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.

Candybar Pancakes

Or blueberry syrup.  Or whatever floats your boat on a Saturday morning.

Candybar Pancakes