Monday, October 3, 2011

Round Two!

Well, that post was long enough, I think!  I saw a recipe for english muffins the other day when I was thumbing through my mother-in-law's cookbooks.  They had gone to pick Isaac up from the airport and we had to drop a friend off close to where the Jacks live so we let ourselves in to wait for them to get home.  Since we were waiting, Julie asked me to make some biscuits to go with the stew we were having for dinner.  They turned out pretty good, so maybe I'll tell you how I make biscuits sometime too!  Anyway, I saw a recipe for english muffins and thought they looked like fun, though a little time consuming to make.  Since today is my day of relaxation, I decided to give it a go!  I already have some ideas of how to do this a little differently so I get more of what I was looking for. 

English Muffins
1/2 C Milk
1 T Sugar
1 1/2 t yeast
1/2 C Warm water
2 T Melted shortening
1/4 C Sourdough starter
2 1/2 C Bread flour
1/2 t Salt

In a saucepan, scald the milk, remove from heat and stir in the sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine water and yeast and let sit for several minutes until creamy.  Once the milk has cooled, pour into another bowl (I used my electric mixer) and use the same saucepan to melt the shortening.  Once your yeast has dissolved, add it to the milk/sugar, add the melted shortening, sourdough starter, and half the flour and mix until smooth.  Slowly add in the salt and rest of the flour until you get a soft (but not sticky and unmanageable dough).  I turned my mixer up to a higher speed and let it beat the dough for a few minutes.  If the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball which  sticks to itself instead of the bowl, you've got enough flour.  But keep your dough soft, it will make for better air pockets in your finished product!  Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled.  Once the dough has risen, place dough on a floured surface and roll out to 1/2 inch thick.  Use a cookie cutter, biscuit cutter, or rim of a glass to cut out the english muffins.  Place muffins on a sheet of wax paper sprinkled with corn meal.  I got 10 out of my batch of dough. Next time, I will roll them out a little thinner so they have more room to rise. 

Sprinkle the tops with more corn meal, cover and let rise at least 30 minutes or until they are tall and puffy.  You want lots of good air in your english muffins.  Here's the part that is a little annoying: cooking the english muffins.  Heat a skillet over low-medium heat until nice and warmed up.  Cook each muffin for about 10 minutes on each side.  Keep turning them to ensure they don't brown too quickly.  A few of mine got a bit dark.

The things I'm going to do a little differently next time (maybe you can try them too?) are:
  • add a little extra yeast. mine didn't get too big of air pockets. I wanted a lot more.
  • roll out the dough a little thinner so they have more room to expand. I let mine get pretty big and they were almost too tall because of how thick they were to begin with.
  • I might add more sourdough starter next time. I'd like more of that flavor.
Well, that's all. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I did!

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

It has been quite a while since I told you how to make your sourdough starter, and quite a while since I promised my recipe!  Basically, I'm a slacker, and I'm more busy than I realize sometimes.  I could give you excuses, but you don't care and you don't want to read them.  Instead, I'll give you an update on my life as a southerner:

Fall has landed in the SEK (southeast Kansas, for those of you not from here).  We finally have a break from the 100+ degree, smothering heat we dealt with for most of the summer. Everyone who lives here assures me this is the worst summer they've had in however-many years and I hope they're right. It was awful most days.  When I lived in Colorado, even on the hot days you could still get out for a walk or just sit in the sunshine.  Here, I felt like my skin would melt off if I stood in the sun for more than the quick walk from the door of my house to the door of my car.  Our last electric bill, the one at the beginning of the fall weather, was almost $200 less than the ones during the heat of the summer.  Thank God for 70 or even 80 degrees.  Everyone here is visibly excited by this change in seasons.  Driving around town after work and school get out, most people are walking their dogs, riding bikes, or just sitting on their porches breathing a sigh of relief. 

I am there with them.  We have had our windows and doors open most days, letting the house air and letting the scents and sounds of fall come rushing in.  We have sat on our awesome porch.  And this weekend, we went camping.  Sam's brother came home on leave from the Army for two weeks, and on his last weekend here, we went camping with his family and another family.  The other two couples each had a baby and a toddler and we had our two dogs.  It was so nice to get away from work and routine and relax in a chair by the fire.  I got to play cards, play with kids, hold sleeping babies, hold laughing babies, eat food cooked over an open fire, cook food over an open fire, and just rest for two and a half days.  The two problems I usually have with camping are: I always am cold when I sleep and the ground is too hard.  This time, I was sandwiched between Sam and our two dogs in a two person tent, so I didn't really get very cold.  The ground was still hard, so I didn't sleep well at all the first night, but the second night I was so tired it barely mattered that the ground was hard.  I was pretty sore from all the sleeping, sitting, and standing on hard surfaces that I was really excited to get home and sleep in our bed and sit on a couch, but I loved the weekend.

It was good to get to spend time with Sam's brother again.  We hadn't seen him since Liza was born in the spring.  It was also nice to spend time with the Shepards.  I haven't found many people I feel totally comfortable with  since moving here, but the Shepards are the type of people I can relax with. It is lovely and filling to spend time with friends when you have been somewhat deprived on friendship.  That sounds over-dramatic, but you'll just have to take my word for it.

Normally, my Mondays are spent sleeping and laying on the couch trying to recover from the week before the next one starts (my work week starts on Tuesday).  Today, having rested since Thursday, I am baking, taking are of Ralph (he has an ear infection again...apparently he enjoyed playing in the lake a little too much), and writing again!  Due to my long absence from the blog world, I am posting two recipes today.  I'm finally giving you my sourdough recipe, and I'm also giving you an english muffin recipe I just tried today.  So, i'll post the second one in the next blog post so this one doesn't take ten years to read. 


2 C Flour
1 1/4 C Water
1 t Yeast
1 t Salt
3/4 C Sourdough Starter
1/4-1/2 C Flour for kneading

Mix together flour and Water until smooth and let rest for about 15 minutes.
Flour and water mixed together and resting
 Add in yeast, salt, and sourdough starter until mixed together, then beat on a high speed for 5 minutes.  The dough should be really  smooth and soft.  Let this rest for 30 minutes or so, then dump onto a floured surface, stabilize the dough with one hand while rolling the dough under with the other hand.  Spin the dough in a circle, turning the dough under with each turn until the dough is a slightly flattened ball and the dough feels somewhat tight.  Place the ball on a floured surface, sprinkle flour on the top and let rest for another 30 minutes.  
Ball of sourdough after first knead
After the dough has rested, place the ball top down on a very floured surface and flatten slightly.  Fold the top half down until the top edge is now in the center of the circle and press down until the dough completely joins together.  Turn the dough around (the folded edge is now closest to you and then unfolded side is farthest from you) and do the same thing again, bringing the top edge to the center (where the other was joined together, not the center of the folded half) and pressing down again.  Now, you'll take the top half and fold it over the bottom half and press the sides together until they completely join together.  That is difficult to explain and my phone was being a punk so I didn't really get good pictures of the shaping process.  So, I made a very badly drawn diagram of how to do this.  Sorry if it just confuses you more.

Bad diagram of sourdough shaping

Now you'll just place your loaf onto either a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, or a cookie sheet sprinkled  (pretty well covered) with corn meal.  Both of these will keep the bread from sticking very well.  Here's the hard part about sourdough, depending on the humidity and heat where you are, the final rise could take 30 minutes or it could take several hours.  I made some this summer where it over proofed between the time that I kneaded it and came back after eating a sandwich.  I've also made some where it took several hours.  Just wait until the loaf has doubled in size before you bake it, however long that takes.  You can bake it at about 375 or so for about 30 minutes or until you can tell it is done.  If you want a crispier crust, try baking it at a higher temp and spraying the crust with water a few times throughout the bake to keep it from browning too much before the inside is done.  So, I'll end with some tips that might help you:

  • You want a soft dough, but not so soft it can't hold itself up.  If your bread is too flat, try adding more flour next time.   The amount of flour you add will depend on elevation and humidity, so if my recipe doesn't work quite well the first time, just adjust next time.
  • After the first rise, it is best to not play with the dough or knead it much at all. I suggest just shaping the loaf.  One of the great things about sourdough is how big of air pockets you can get. If you work the dough after the first rise, your air pockets won't be as big and you'll end up with dense bread.
  • Make sure you let your bread rise long enough.  Be patient. It can take quite a while!
I hope you enjoy this bread. It is definitely one of my favorites!