English Muffins

When I woke up Tuesday morning, before I knew that there was a disappointing amount of snow on the ground, all I could think about was making eggs benedict with smoked salmon. My day had been cleared in prep for the snow storm and it felt like a weekend, which made me think of brunch, which naturally led to daydreaming about foods covered in hollandaise.

On Monday morning, in the middle of the first blizzard panic of the season, the supermarket lines were out the door. I found myself in the crowd at a Citarella picking up fresh fish for my client’s dinner. As the checkout line slowly wound its way to the registers, I got pulled in by all the delicious foods we were passing. At the last second I grabbed a package of smoked salmon. (As you might know, from the title of this blog, I have a thing for smoked and cured fish.) So, as I lay in bed on Tuesday, I was all ready to pull together my Salmon Eggs Benedict.

The plan was to use regular bread, but now that I had an empty day, I decided to spend the morning baking English Muffins and enjoy my eggs benedict for a late brunch. Thankfully, the ingredients are all household staples for us, so I didn’t have to venture out into the, uh, couple inches of snow and um, cleared sidewalks. Is it cool if I just pretend we were completely snowed in? Survival English Muffins!

After reading a dozen different recipes for English muffins, I learned that there are two common issues. 1. The dough can be super sticky and a mess to work with and 2. Cooking methods and times vary greatly, and it’s hard to tell when the muffin is done baking.

I pulled from different recipes and made the adjustments that I thought would help with the stickiness. It totally worked! The dough definitely pulled and stretched much more easily than other bread doughs, but it wasn’t a mess to transfer or handle.

For the cooking times, I found a recipe that combined both the stovetop and the oven, and the results were great! I will say that I had a minor panic attack when I opened a muffin and the inside was still kind of soft and doughy. The nooks and crannies were there, but it felt a little raw.

As I stood there trying to figure out what I’d done wrong, a memory from childhood surfaced. I haven’t bought English Muffins in a very long time, but as a kid I remember trying to eat a Thomas English Muffin right from the package and hating the mushy texture and sour taste. I had completely forgotten about the step where you toast the muffin! I popped my freshly baked muffin it into the toaster for a few minutes, and there it was! The taste and texture of spot-on English Muffin. Winning!

This recipe made SO many muffins, which are now mostly in my freezer. And that’s awesome because homemade English Muffins are ridiculously good. Now I can have them when the mood strikes.

The next time the snow comes down outside, make it rain flour inside. Or just block off a morning and get to work on these!

Oh you were wondering what happened to the Salmon Eggs Benedict on my homemade English Muffins?

Right about when I was going to make my late afternoon brunch, I planned a date with a friend who lives a couple blocks away and we ended up making beautiful Benedict’s for dinner. Here’s a photo I took on my phone before we inhaled them. They were so totally worth waiting all day for. Brunch: The good-for-all hours-of-the-day meal.

English Muffins

Serves: Makes 16-18

  • 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • 1¾ cup whole milk, warmed (to take the chill off - I warmed it in a saucepan until it wasn't cold and I could put my finger in without it being hot)
  • 4 Tbsp butter, softened but not melted
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 4½ cups of all purpose flour
  • Cornmeal, semolina, or farina
  1. I made this in a stand mixer. You can make it in a bowl by beating all the ingredients together and kneading it at the end but I don't have the exact specifications.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warmed milk for a couple minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the cornmeal, semolina, or farina) to the bowl and mix, with the flat beater, on medium-high for 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth. I had to take breaks in the mixing to scrape down the dough as it creeped up to the gears at the top of the attachment. Keep an eye on it as it will move around. If the dough isn't where you want it, you can use the dough hook at the end for a couple minutes to finish the kneading, or knead it by hand just until it's smooth.
  3. Take the dough out and form it into a ball, or as close as you can get it, and place it into a lightly greased (canola or vegetable oil work great) bowl that has room for it to rise. Cover it with plastic wrap or a towel and let it sit in a warm place for 1-1.5 hours until it's at least doubled in size.
  4. Prepare 2 baking sheets. Cover one with parchment paper or a baking mat and set aside. On the other one, generously cover the surface in cornmeal, semolina, or farina.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl, gently pushing the air out and place it on a work surface. (Use a little flour if it's too sticky.) You can divide the dough into 16 pieces or weigh out the dough to about 60g per servings. Roll each serving into a ball shape and place it onto the grain-covered baking sheet. Gently press it into the grain and then lift it up and press the other side into the grain. This will help keep your muffins from sticking in the next steps. As you dip each muffin, line them up on the grain-tray so they are resting on top of the grains. Let the muffins rest, covered, for 20 more minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 300°F
  7. Warm a cast iron pan or griddle on the stove on medium-low heat. If you know your pan runs hot, lower the temperature even more. This should be done low and slow.
  8. Working in small batches, place your muffins in the pan or griddle and let them cook for about 4 minutes on each side. You don't want too dark a brown on them but you don't want them too light either. They will puff up a little as you go. When each side is complete transfer them to your second baking tray.
  9. Place the muffins in the oven for another 10-12 minutes to finish cooking the insides.
  10. Let cool slightly before diving in and remember to toast them! For optimal nooks and crannies make sure to split them with a fork and/or your hands - a knife cut won't give you the same result!

These keep 2-3 days before they start to harden or you can freeze the remainder for on-demand English Muffin eating!

Apple, Fig Jam, and Goat Cheese Galette

I’m really glad that you don’t get to hear me try to pronounce ‘galette‘ with my “French” accent. To date I have at least three ways of saying it and none of them are correct.You know that “new kitchen appliance” I mentioned last week? It was a new food processor! The first thing I wanted to whip up in it was dough since I couldn’t do that in our old one. I’ve made loads of pies crusts by hand over the years using shortening and following this recipe. But a pie crust made with butter and cut into the flour by hand? Completely unsuccessful…until now.

For the past two years I’ve had a recipe for a breakfast galette pinned to my food board on Pinterest but because of a few completely failed pie crusts I never attempted a butter crust by hand again. Does that happen to anyone else? You mess up a recipe a few times and then just throw in the towel. Maybe stomp your foot angrily in the process? After a few gluey crusts and a couple crumbled messes I gave up. But the second I had this food processor in went the flour, sugar, salt, and butter without fear. The result was magical beautiful dough.Making a galette got stuck in my head after I saw figs beginning to crop up and I couldn’t get the idea of making a breakfast galette out of my head. In the interest of being honest, the original recipe I pulled together was for a fig/pear/brie galette. The result while not terrible was way less than perfect. The brie wasn’t melting right, the pears had too much liquid in them, and the figs dried out very quickly in the oven. After days of racking my head and reading everything I could about galette’s I edited slightly and started again.

The biggest change were the figs needed to be used differently than just in slices. Many recipes for galette’s talked about a layer of preserves underneath the main components so I took those beautiful figs, apologized for what I was about to do to them, and turned them into jam.
In the time that had gone by since I started playing around with this, real local apples started cropping up so I snagged a few gala apples to replace the pears. And because the brie wasn’t right I swapped it out for some goat cheese. A new combination was born.
Making the galette was awesome because it’s so rustic and homey. To me rustic is another word for: doesn’t haven’t to be perfectly put into place. It wasn’t a perfect circle, but who cares! It’s rustic.Even though this wasn’t straight up breakfast (maybe more dessert?), I still couldn’t help myself and I put an egg on it. Putting an egg on foods is my culinary equivalent to “put a bird on it”. Eggs make everything even more fantastic.

This made the perfect crossover dish for summer to fall and such a delicious breakfast to boot! Sometimes It’s nice being an adult and not having your mom point out that your eating what’s basically pie, first thing in the morning. Sorry mom, just can’t help myself!

Apple, Fig Jam, and Goat Cheese Galette
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold but just softened, cut in ½-inch pieces
  • 3½ Tbsp ice water
Fig Jam
  • 1 pint of figs, stems removed and halved
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 medium apples (your favorite ones for baking - I used Gala and Granny Smith would have been good too) sliced, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • Lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • Goat cheese, softened at room temperature and  crumbled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • Cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on top
  1. In a food processor, or by hand, pulse together the dry ingredients. Once combined, add the butter in and process till it's pea sized and coarse. While the processor is on, add the water in slowly by the tablespoon until the dough comes together. Take it out and flatten it to a disc and wrap it in plastic wrap. Place dough in the fridge for at least 45 minutes- 1 hour.
  2. For the jam you can definitely use store-bought preserves or make your own - it's really very easy! Toss the figs, lemon juice and honey together in a bowl and let sit for 15 minutes until the figs begin to break down a bit. Over medium heat in a small saucepan, empty the contents of the bowl and add the thyme and a ½ cup of water. Allow the liquid to come to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the figs are broken down. If the liquid fully boils off, add a little water to keep the figs from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The figs I used, black mission figs, never fully broke down so I blended them up (after removed the thyme stems) at the very end and it was perfect.
  3. Prepare the apples by tossing the slices with lemon juice and sugar.
  4. Preheat oven to 400°F
  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (let it soften a little if it's been in over an hour) and, on a well floured surface, roll it out to about an ⅛ inch thickness and 12-14 inches in diameter.
  6. Gently transfer the rolled out dough to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  7. Assemble the galette by spreading the jam first leaving about 2 inches from the edge empty (for the crust). Sprinkle goat cheese on next. Finally add the apples. You can layer them in a pattern or not but make sure not to pile them high or they won't cook through.
  8. Pull up the crust. My favorite way is to work my way around gently pinching together and then layering pieces of dough on top of each other. I recommend going for a flat design  because if it's sticking up, it will most likely open up in the oven and everything will spill out.
  9. Next beat the egg and milk together and lightly brush the whole crust. Sprinkle a mix of brown sugar and cinnamon over the top focusing on the crust but on top of the apples is great too!
  10. Bake for about 45 minutes (or until very golden brown but not burnt!) on a center rack in the oven, and every 15 minutes rotate the tray to get an even bake.
  11. Slice it up and enjoy while it's warm. Egg yolks are optional but highly encouraged! To egg-ify your slice take a yolk and super gently (you can see in my photo above that I was only half gentle) place it on top and slide it back in the oven for about 2 minutes or until the yolk is set but still runny.

Dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen 

Plum Butter

Yo stone fruit, I’m really happy for you, and Imma let you finish out this season, but the fruit butter version of yourself is just so ridiculously good that I can’t wait. I don’t go back to school anymore and my jobs aren’t seasonal so I’ve found new ways to mark the end of summer… in the kitchen. I’m already daydreaming about roast meats, root vegetables, and hearty breads yet at the same time I’m hoarding all the fresh fruit I can get my hands on. It’s cool, I’m just playing the food field.

Recently a friend asked if I wanted to participate in a canning exchange that she organizes. Everyone who joins in (8-10 people) cans or pickles 8-10 jars of something delicious. They mail it to the canning master and she repackages so we all get one of everything and then she mails them back out. Edible (or drinkable) mail is my favorite kind of mail.I’ve had tons of ideas for this exchange but haven’t yet decided what I’ll make. Also, I’ve never really canned food, the proper stay-on-the-shelf forever kind of way, and I’m totally afraid of poisoning someone. I think I’ve read every “how to not give people botulism” article out there.

While I was thinking long and hard about what to contribute to the exchange, and at the same time buying up way too many nectarines and plums, I decided to test out a method for making fruit butter. This was inspired by not only the pounds of fruit laying around my kitchen but also this article I read awhile back claiming you can make fruit butters in your slow cooker.A no stove time, set it and forget it, easy way to make delicious plum butter?! Amazing.

Not only was it a great time to test a recipe (and method), but plum butter fit my book club’s theme for snacking this month at our meeting* so I got to try out the final product on a group of willing and gracious friends.*We try to theme the snacks at our meet-ups so that they’re somehow tied to the book. This month we read Gone Girl so the theme was “food that isn’t what you think it is”. I have some pretty genius friends, right? So plum butter isn’t really butter! Trust me, when I realized that it was the perfect fit, I was just as excited as you must be right now.

I’m so excited to share this recipe. It’s close to the easiest recipe I now know and the final product is delicious and versatile. It’s also the perfect thing to make right now when you realize there is, indeed, a limit to the amount of fresh fruit an adult can consume in one day even though it’s all sitting in your fridge…or in two months from now when you forget that and start hoarding gorgeous fall apples.
Plum Butter

Serves: Makes about 12oz

  • 2 lbs plums halved and the pit taken out (I read you can leave the pit and just take them out easily when done cooking)
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ¼-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
  1. Place plums in slow cooker and toss them in the sugar (no need to add any extra liquid!). Cover and set your cooker to low for 12-13 hours.
  2. After 12-13 hours take cover off and test the plums with a fork. They will look stewed (much darker) and should fall apart when the fork hits them. If there's a lot of liquid inside keep the cover off and let it cook for another 1-2 hours. Shut the heat.
  3. To blend it up I used an immersion blender right in the slow cooker. You can also transfer the plums to another dish or into a food processor or blender. Blend till smooth. Add in the cinnamon and vanilla to taste and blend one final time.
  4. Let it cool. Eat it straight away or keep it in the fridge for a week or two. You can also can it and enjoy it later (like in the middle of the winter with those roasts and hearty breads).

Blueberry and Cream Scones

Weekends are my favorite time for fresh baked goods. Not that I’ve ever said no to a perfectly buttery flakey croissant on, let’s say, a Wednesday, but there’s just something special about warm pastry to welcome long lazy weekend days. So it really doesn’t make much sense that I baked a batch of these blueberry cream scones as we were (literally) running out the door to drive 4 hours up to the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, NY for the annual Belgium Comes To Cooperstown beer/food/music/and general awesomeness festival. Delicious car food? Yes. Logical? Eh..

The thing was that we hadn’t had a “long lazy weekend day” in a while and I wanted to do something to help me pretend like we weren’t about to hop in a car for hours and race to snag a good camping spot for the night. Enter the scones. They give the illusion of hard work when in reality they’re truly easy to pull together. I still fool myself every time.

Earlier in the week I’d spotted some gorgeous blueberries at a great price and picked up a few pints. I have a knack for eating whole pints of blueberries very quickly. Practicing a little self-restraint, I had the perfect pint sitting in the fridge waiting to be tossed into some scone dough.
Blueberries are so spectacularly summery but growing up, I didn’t always associate them with their proper season. My mom used to buy up pints of blueberries in the summer (and then cranberries in the fall) and freeze them. You could open up the freezer in mid December and she’d have at least 8 pints of fresh Jersey blues waiting to be tossed into pancakes or muffins. I’m making it my mission to do a little stocking up  of my own this year. The season is just too short for the best local berries and I want to see how far into winter we can be eating warm sweet blueberry treats.
Back to the scones – that morning the smell of the baking blueberries was enough to draw my man into the kitchen but somehow not enough for him to pounce on the freshly baked goods immediately.I have the uncanny ability to be ready to eat butter all the time whereas my beloved does not. In fact he sprints from the room the second he smells butter cooking. But in the spirit of a peaceful marriage I will say that I “understand” the 6:30am aversion to stuffing his face with buttery scones.
Because I cannot pass you a scone through this screen I will tell you they were delicious and I encourage you to try your hand at making some on a weekend or any other old day because, let’s be real, it’s always a good time for a blueberry scone.P.S. They also make a delicious car snack.
Blueberry and Cream Scones

Serves: Makes 8-12 scones depending on size

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 pint of fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Cut the butter into individual tablespoons and use a pastry blender (or two knives, or your fingers) to blend the butter into the flour mixture till you get the coarse crumbs.
  4. Carefully toss the blueberries into the mixture. I like to use a silicone spatula for this because it's gentle and you don't want to mash your blueberries - just mix them and coat them in the flour.
  5. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Stir it together until the dough forms (this will take very little time..seconds!). Make sure not to overwork the dough - there will be little bits at the bottom that you can press into the dough in just a minute.
  6. Prepare an un-greased baking sheet. I like to use parchment paper or a Silpat.
  7. Transfer the dough to a very well floured work surface and using your hands push out the dough to ¾-1 inch thickness. It is now that you can gently incorporate the flour-y pieces and crumbs back into the top and knead them in with your fingers. Scones are very forgiving.
  8. Once the dough is at the right thickness grab whatever shape you're using to cut out the individual scones. I like to use a drinking glass and dip the rim in flour first. You can also cut out your scones with a knife.
  9. Place them on the baking sheets a little bit apart from each other and bake 18-20 min at 400 or until the tops have a nice brown color.
  10. Let them cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before diving in face-first.