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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Muffins, of the English variety

One of the most interesting things about living in the UK is the use of language. In some cases, Americans and Brits use completely different words to mean the same thing, as in courgette and zucchini or aubergine and eggplant. That’s fairly easy to deal with, you just start learning the different names for things. So in my head I can do the translation. Easy peasy. Then you have words that are the same, but are pronounced differently. Like buoy or controversy or herb. Where the difficulty arises are those words which are the same, but have different meanings. For example pavement. Pavement in the US is what you put on the road, the asphalt. Pavement in the UK is what people in the US would refer to as the sidewalk. Someone tells you to walk on the pavement, and you think they’re trying to get you run over.

Enter muffins. In the US, we have two types of muffins: Muffins (those deliciously cupcake-like treats, but aren’t really cupcakes) and English Muffins (those bread-like round substances used often for Eggs Benedict). In the UK, they are both just called Muffins. They have both types, but it gets a bit confusing. Would you like a muffin? (MAYBE, what are you offering exactly). The younger people I’ve met seem to call them English Muffins, and thing of Muffins as what an American would, but some of the older ones still call English Muffins just plain old Muffins. It gets even more confusing when I attempt to explain the non-English Muffin as an American Muffin. Hijinks ensue.

Anyway, one of my friends, Ashley, who I met working at a coffee shop in college and who ran away to join the circus, has attended culinary school and has started her own web cooking show called Foodgasm. On this show she makes delicious looking treats for those with special dietary restrictions, from pescetarian to gluten-free to vegan and vegetarian. She once shared a link for an English Muffin recipe, and I decided that I should try it. Tom is always ordering muffins with breakfast everywhere we go, so I thought it would be a fun treat for him one morning at home. It was especially easy to do as I already bought a lot of yeast for my pizza making extravaganza, and a little yeast seems to go a long way.

As you may have seen, the recipe is incredibly simple. The first time I made them, I didn’t have the corn meal so I omitted that step. Since then, I’ve been dusting the pan with semolina flour instead. The cornmeal thing must be an American add-on because you don’t find it on any of the store-bought muffins in the UK. (Well at least the ones I’ve tried.) I’ve also switched to using bread flour instead of all purpose flour.

Interestingly, as I searched through more recipes for English Muffins, I noticed that this recipe is actually more similar to a crumpet recipe. The only difference is holes don’t seem to form on top of these, or I just don’t let them cook long enough for the holes to form, who knows? Crumpets though are another one of those amazing English inventions that have so many holes in them that you can probably put more butter in the crumpet than actual crumpet. One of our favorite brunch places in London actually sell “Crumpets with too much butter”, and the butter is oozing out of them onto the plate. Delicious. So are these English Muffins. They’re probably not as dense as ones you’re used to (if you are used to them at all), but they are tasty, delicious, and incredibly easy to make (as long as you remember you need to make the batter about two hours before you make the muffins). I do about 1/3 of a cup of batter for each muffin, but I’ve made them bigger. I also don’t have any sort of crumpet/muffin rings, so I go for free form style.

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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Bread

 

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Knish me quick.

A few weeks ago darkcargo’s blog stated that it was National Knish Week. Interestingly, the week before smitten kitchen published her post about making knish. Due to this congruence of blog posts, I decided it was in my best interest to try my hand at this wonderful sounding dish.

Knish is originally an Eastern European food brought to the U.S. by Jewish immigrants. It consists of potato (yum) and caramelized onions (also yum) wrapped inside of pastry (everything is better with pastry). Clearly this is my kind of food, so I tried out the recipe on the smitten kitchen site. Basically it’s just boiled and mashed potatoes with the onions wrapped in the pastry. I decided to add a bit of mature English cheddar to the mix (although I think I could have used more) and bacon. I know that bacon is probably the worst decision to add to a traditionally Jewish dish, but for me, bacon is the perfect additive to a dish with potato and onion. So I did it. I went against tradition and religion and put some fried pancetta in with the mixture. I made up the pastry and the filling, rolled up the knish and put them in the oven. They turned out amazing looking. Perfectly golden brown.

Was it delicious? Yes. It probably needed more salt and more cheese. Like a lot more cheese. A knish reminds me of a dry cheese and onion pasty. Maybe a bit of fresh or dried thyme (or some other herb) would pep it up a bit too (either in the mix or the pastry). I decided to serve my knish with some out of season chestnut and mushroom soup. Living in the UK, you can get chestnuts year round in the freezer, and I’ve started to become very attached to the delicious roasted nuts. I’ve even been known to throw them in with my roast veg for a Sunday roast. (Just don’t over roast, they get really crunchy).

Basically the soup was just shitake and chestnut mushrooms that I sauted in a bit of butter and olive oil with sauted . I added some brandy after a bit, and let it boil off. I added in some roasted chestnuts and roasted shallots to the mix. I topped it up with about a liter of vegetable stock. I added a bouquet garni to the mix and a spoonful of truffle honey, and I let it simmer for about half an hour or so. Then I removed the bouquet and put it all in the blender. At this point I should have strained it through a sieve to get rid of the chunks, but I was being lazy. The soup was mostly smooth though, with only a few chunks left behind. I put it back in the pot and added a bit of cream to smooth it out and thin it out, and I was done. I served it with a knish, and it was done. (I’d put a real recipe down, but I usually cook by feel, unless I’m baking then I’m a bit more precise.)

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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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