English Muffins

muffins

I love English muffins. I love them slathered with salty butter and honey or stuffed with bacon, eggs, and cheese. The tangy, chewy dough and browned ends make me jump for joy.

muffins-mixer

I had never even thought to make my own until I went on a  baking frenzy recently and saw a recipe for them online. Who knew that these tasty little muffins were so easy to make?

muffins-rising

 

WARNING: Once you make these at home, you’ll have a pretty hard time eating the store-bought ones. They will pale in comparison to yours, I promise.

English muffins

yield: 6
2 1/4 cups flour (I used all-purpose but I bet you could switch in bread flour or whole wheat)
1/2 tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup water, (105-110°F)
1 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
1/2 to 3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
cornmeal, for dusting
Put the water in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let it stand for 5 minutes—the yeast should look foamy and thicker. If not, throw it out and start over with new yeast.
Once yeast has proofed, stir in the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and 1/2 cup milk and stir the ingredients until it forms a ball. If the dough is too dry and you see loose flour, slowly add more milk. The dough should be soft and pliable.
Transfer the dough to a counter or workspace and knead for 10 minutes. If you need more flour along the way, go ahead and sprinkle a bit in. Just make sure not too add too much! The dough at this point should be a little tacky but definitely not sticky.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl (I used the same one I mixed in) and turn to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled (about 60-90 minutes but it depends on how warm your kitchen is!).
Transfer the dough to the counter and divide into 6 pieces. Shape them into round rolls. Oil a baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Transfer the balls of dough to the sheet pan. lightly oil the tops and sprinkle with more cornmeal. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise again, at room temperature, for another 60-90 minutes or until doubled in size.
muffins-cooking
Heat your skillet/griddle to medium (also, preheat your oven to 350°F in case you need to finish the muffins in the oven—see below). Lightly oil the pan and carefully transfer the muffins to the pan using a spatula. Cook for about 10 minutes or until you can’t cook the dough any longer without burning. Flip and cook for another 10 minutes.
If they feel like they could use more time, pop them in the oven on a baking sheet.
Let cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before devouring.
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Re-seasoning cast iron

breakfast

Frittata, dressed greens and toasted homemade Italian bread.

My mom bought me my first cast iron skillet as a Christmas gift a few years ago. The skillet is 12″, pre-seasoned and I still love it with all of my heart. I use the thing constantly—for searing steaks, frying eggs, making pizza, and even roasting chicken. The first thing I set out to make in the skillet was a frittata. I imagined the crispy edges and browned bottom of the omelet and began to tear through my refrigerator picking up veggies, cheeses, and meats along the way. 

Well, I guess I could have made a frittata in my 12″ but then I began to think of more than a half dozen of eggs staring me down and it quickly lost its appeal. So, I set out on a quest to find something in the 6-8″ range, searching department store sales and restaurant supply stores. There were plenty to choose from but I quickly found the perfect one at a thrift store outside of Philly. 

I had seen cast iron skillets in thrift stores before but they were usually heavily spotted with rust or cracked so I often passed right by them. This one was a 6″ and had a few of the tell-tale signs of extended use but looked pretty good overall. The pan was sporting a $3 price tag so I decided to take the risk and see if I could bring that baby back to life. 

As it turns out, re-seasoning a cast iron is not difficult. As long as the pan is not cracked and rusting right through, you should be able to clean it up. First, use steel wool or a scouring pad and scrape all the blackened bits and rusty spots from the bottom of the pan with some hot water and a mild soap. Next, dry your pan and turn your oven up to as high as it will go. Let it heat up for 10 minutes or so while you grease up the pan. For this step you can use oil, bacon fat, lard, or even Crisco. I used olive oil because I had it on hand but the choice is yours. Put your pan inside of the pre-heated oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Carefully take the pan out and allow to cool down. Depending on the condition of your pan, you may need to re-grease and bake again to get that nice, non-stick finish. It also helps to cook some fatty foods in it to help with the seasoning (bacon, anyone?). 

Once your pan is in tip-top shape, all you have to do is maintain the season. I wash my pan with warm water and scrub with a bit of course sea salt for when it’s particularly crusty. After every use you should be oiling up your pan and heating it on the stove just until smoke begins to appear. Turn off the heat, maybe give it a quick wipe, and always remember to let it cool before storing. 

castiron

Believe me, that first frittata will be worth the wait and the work.

Frittata:

The best thing about a frittata is you can put absolutely anything in it. Really! Use your imagination and don’t forget to leave some ideas in the comments section. 

6″ cast iron skillet

1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. diced shallot
1 chicken sausage (I used sweet Italian), chopped small
4 eggs
1 oz. goat cheese, softened
1 cup chopped mixed greens
salt and pepper to taste. 
 
Preheat oven to 375 with a rack in the top third of the oven. 
 
In a small bowl, beat eggs. Add goat cheese and whisk together—it’s okay if there are still a few clumps because they will melt up when you bake the frittata.
 
In your newly seasoned cast iron skillet, saute shallot and chicken sausage in butter over medium heat. Add greens.
 
When the greens have just started to wilt, add egg and cheese mixture and continue to cook over medium heat until the sides and bottom begin to set—about 5 minutes or so. You can run a silicone spatula around the edges to check its progress. When the frittata is mostly set (the top will still look a little runny), transfer your pan into the preheated oven and allow to cook until puffy and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can broil it although I often forget things in the broiler and have set off the smoke detector one too many times. :-/
 
Allow to cool for a few minutes then run that spatula around the edges, loosening the omelet from the pan. Transfer to a cutting board, slice and serve!