How Clutter Control Lead To ENGLISH MUFFINS

Homemade English Muffins topped with strawberry jam

Homemade English Muffins topped with strawberry jam

Whether it’s because spring-cleaning is in the air, or the fact that I’m being suffocated by the abundance of  unused possessions in my home, I’m on a Purge, with a capital ‘P’. To prevent me from getting sidetracked or feeling overwhelmed, I assign myself a manageable task-of-the-week. This is Week 12 and, I’m proud to say, I’ve remained on point! As my house is being cleansed, thrift shops have been the benefactors of car loads of my discards. Win-win!

Recently I tackled my kitchen desk. One of the drawers contained a lifetime of recipes clipped optimistically from newspapers and magazines, only to be tossed on the pile and forgotten. (You’ve got that pile, too – I know you do!)

Not only did ridding myself of about two thirds of this paper potpourri gain me an organized drawer, but it also reminded me of recipes I’d forgotten. One was my mom’s Curried Cheese And Olive Spread served on English Muffins, and the another was for……English Muffins. Who am I to thwart fate? When she beckons, I come – or, in this case, cook.

Yeast holds no fear for me, so I decided to start with the English Muffins and make the Curried Cheese And Olive Spread for next week’s blog. While I won’t go so far as to say my English Muffins were better than store-bought, they were delicious.

You may be asking why I bother to make something from scratch when I can simply buy the taste equivalent in the market. Well, there are 2 main reasons why I make things from scratch: 1) I like to know what’s in my food – I don’t want preservatives, or bugs, or ingredients that are unpronounceable; and 2) to save money. What it boils down to is I’m a bit paranoid, and I’m cheap.

While English Muffins are extremely easy to make, they take about 3 hours start to finish. This is because of the rising periods – 2 hours for the first, and 1/2 hour for the second. The actual hands-on time is very minimal.

ENGLISH MUFFINS – makes 6 standard size, or 12 minis

  • 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup water
  • about 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 T salted butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • cornmeal for sprinkling (about 3 T)

Heat water to approximately 100º Fahrenheit. Mix in yeast and let proof several minutes.

Put 1 cup flour, the butter, sugar, and salt into the workbowl of your food processor.  When yeast is foamy, turn on the machine and slowly pour in the yeast water. Add in remaining flour one tablespoon at a time – just until the dough starts to form a ball. You probably won’t use all of the flour. Continue to run machine another 30 seconds to knead the dough. If you don’t have a food processor you’ll have to do this by hand. Then start haunting the thrift shops for used machines.

Pour dough onto a floured board. Pick up dough from the floured bottom and fold dough onto itself so the sticky part is encased. Press into a greased bowl, then pick up dough and replace in bowl upside down. Both sides are now greased. Cover and let rise for 2 hours. (This is longer than most breads – you want the air pockets.)

Empty dough onto the floured board and cut into 6 equal pieces (or 12, if making minis). Stretch each piece into a 3″ circle for standard, or 1½” for mini. They’ll be about 3/8″ thick (don’t worry – they’ll rise).

Generously sprinkle cornmeal onto a large skillet or griddle. One by one, press each dough circle into the cornmeal, then flip them and press again. Arrange them in the skillet so they’re not touching. Cover with a tea towel and let rise 30 minutes.

Remove the tea towel and turn on flame to medium. Once the skillet is heated, turn down flame to medium/low. Cook about 5 minutes, until bottom is browned. Flip them and cook another 5 minutes, until browned. The the best way to be sure they’re done is to insert a thermometer through the side of one of the muffins into the center. They’re done at 200º Fahrenheit.

Remove to a wire rack to cool so they don’t get soggy.

The accepted way of splitting English Muffins is to poke a fork all the way around (see photo), then pull apart.

Insert a fork around the side to cut open English Muffins.

Insert a fork around the side to open English Muffins.

Store in a sealed container.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GREEK STUFFED PORTOBELLOS – They’re Greek To Me!

greek portobello

GREEK STUFFED PORTOBELLO

Two things that make my pupils dilate when choosing a recipe are it’s: 1) fast to prepare, and 2) can be made ahead of time. Bonus points if the cooking time is short.

Greek Stuffed Portobellos are all that – and delicious, too! I know I’m on a winner when even my picky-eater youngest son will eat them. They’re great for sneaking things into your child’s diet that they may not normally eat – like spinach. (We moms sometimes have to be sneaky – they’ll thank us later!)

Something you may not realize is portobello mushrooms are just common button mushrooms all grown up. So now I only buy the more expensive portobellos when I’m stuffing them and save my money on recipes that call for sliced or chunks of portobellos by using the smaller common mushrooms – they’ll do fine.

GREEK STUFFED PORTOBELLOS – makes 4

  • 4 portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 cups spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup scallions
  • 3/4 cup Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, halved
  • 5 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes. Add in spinach, scallions, tomatoes, oregano, dill, and salt. Continue to cook until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice, olives, and feta.

Remove and discard stem from mushrooms, and thoroughly wash. Rub with olive oil and place on broiler pan open side up. Divide the spinach mixture between the mushrooms.

Broil 4″ from heating element for about 15 minutes – until browned.

Serve with rice.

 

 

 

CHEESE STUFFED DINNER ROLLS – Melty Good!

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The dinner roll: a classic. Always a must with company, and mandatory when my kids were little (sometimes that’s all they’d eat!). While there are different types and shapes of dinner rolls, my children’s favorite were the soft yeast rolls I made in a round cake pan.

I don’t know why it took me so long to think of this (probably due to the numbing effect from years of diaper changes, chauffeuring, and stepping on Legos), but it finally occurred to me to stuff a cube of cheese into each dough ball.

The rolls were a hit! And, really, what’s not to like: melty cheese in the middle of a soft yeast roll.

Astute readers may have noticed me bandying about the ‘yeast’ word. Yes, these rolls use yeast which means kneading and rising.

If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know there’s nothing to using yeast. You’ll also know that I believe a food processor is an essential part of a kitchen. Not only will it save you steps, it will save you money because you’ll start making things from scratch that you would have bought ready-made – like yeast rolls.

Of course, you can make these Cheese Stuffed Dinner Rolls without a food processor.  You’ll just have to knead them by hand. But know that that’s 10 minutes you could have spent catching up on Facebook….or dusting.

You can use any kind of cheese you fancy for Cheese Stuffed Dinner Rolls, but I recommend a cheese that stretches when heated such as jack or mozzarella. There’s something irresistible about stretching cheese as you break open a piping hot dinner roll.

CHEESE STUFFED DINNER ROLLS – makes 12 rolls

  • ½ cup milk (I use nonfat)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2¼ tsp dry yeast (or 1 packet)
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour, more or less
  • 2 T sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 T butter, softened
  • 12  5/8″ cubes of cheese, just eyeball it – you don’t have to measure

Combine the milk and water, then heat to about 100º Fahrenheit. Sprinkle on yeast and stir. Let proof for about 5 minutes.

Into the food processor put the sugar, salt, butter, and 2 cups of the flour. Pulse the machine a few times, then run about 10 seconds to blend.

When yeast is proofed, run the processor and slowly trickle the liquid through the pour-spout into the flour. The goal is for the dough to just form a ball. Add more flour one tablespoon at a time, if needed, until this happens. (I usually use about 2¼ cups of flour.) When the dough gathers into a ball, continue to run the machine another 30 seconds to knead the dough. (Use this time to think about those poor souls without food processors getting sticky dough all over their hands and flour on their clothes.)

Pour dough onto a floured board and cut into 12 equal pieces. Wrap each piece of dough around a cube of cheese, pinching the dough to seal. When all the cheese is wrapped, place dough balls evenly in a greased 8″ round or square cake pan. Cover and allow dough to rise, filling the pan – about 30 minutes. (See photo.)

yeast rolls rising

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

If you like, brush tops with milk – not necessary, but gives them a pleasing golden color. Bake 20-25 minutes, until done. Serve hot for best gooey cheese results.