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How to Make Easy English Muffins, Nooks and Crannies Guaranteed

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We call them English muffins today, but once upon a time, they were the only muffins, the very ones sold by a certain Muffin Man on Drury Lane—do you know him? When the nursery rhyme was first published in 1820, it went without saying that such muffins were thin disks of yeast-raised dough cooked on a griddle, rather than baked.

As near as I can tell, the “English” part only came along as a retronym to distinguish traditional recipes from those made with newfangled baking powder in the mid-1800s.

Up until then, muffins didn’t hold to any particular nationality at all; in fact, the British seemed to prefer crumpets—a spongier treat meant to be eaten whole rather than split and toasted (as muffins were invariably served). One London cookbook, published in 1833, filed its recipe for griddled, yeast-raised muffins under the subheading “American.” Go figure.

That recipe, and others like it, included lots of milk, so much that some 19th-century instructions described a batter “altogether too soft to knead,” making yeast-raised muffins the original no-knead dough—sorry, Jim Lahey! Those wet and sloppy batters were left to proof for the better part of an afternoon, then shaped (often with DIY molds made from fist-sized indentations pressed into trays of flour or cornmeal) and set to rise overnight.

In the morning, the puffy muffins were griddled on a hot iron in the hearth, probably greased with lard, because, real talk: That’s how 19th-century bakers rolled. For starters, lard had a high smoke point that made it ideal for hearth cookery, but more importantly, it was cheap. Butter would have been saved to serve on top.

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A fine sheen of lard, bacon grease, or even suet would have given yeasted muffins a slightly savory edge, a delicious counterpoint to honey and jam, or a friendly echo of toppings like sausage or fried eggs. Griddling also gave old-school English muffins a more crispity, crunchity crust, particularly compared to modern recipes that favor baking. And, let me assure you, that’s a strictly modern phenomenon: English muffins evolved at the hearth.

That’s why my recipe doesn’t involve an oven. In fact, true to 19th-century form, it doesn’t require a mixer, a rolling pin, or even cookie cutters, much less fancy (or MacGyvered) muffin rings. As long as you’ve got an electric or cast iron griddle, you’re pretty much good to go.

Here’s how it works. Whisk together some bread flour, whole wheat flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl, then stir in some cold milk, honey, and an egg white. When everything’s well combined, go take a nap, or catch up on Outlander or DS9, or something.

When you come back four to six hours later (honestly, about as much napping and/or Ronald D. Moore as I can go for right about now), you’ll have an amazingly light and spongy dough. It’s elastic thanks to the gluten-forming proteins in bread flour, flavorful from whole wheat and milk, lightly sweet but complex with honey, rich in lean egg-white protein for structure, and free from the starch-dissolving enzymes inherent to yolks (which, in this context, can make for a flabby dough).

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Whatever you do, don’t punch down that dough! Preserve those proto-nooks and -crannies with a gentle hand. Grab a spoon and dollop out 12 roughly equal portions onto a cornmeal-lined baking sheet; those golden grains keep the messy dough from sticking or oozing out into a puddle…as they would on a greased baking sheet. Because cornmeal is relatively large and coarse, the wet batter won’t soak it up like flour, which would only make the muffins tough.

You can portion out the dough with a scale if you favor compulsive precision (I mean, hey, that’s my job), but since English muffins are cooked individually rather than baked en masse, they’re wonderfully forgiving of variations in size or shape. In the end, they’ll all wind up in a toaster—the great equalizer.

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With a little more cornmeal to prevent sticking on top, the muffins are covered in plastic and tossed in the fridge overnight (or nights, if you prefer). So head off to bed and sleep soundly in the knowledge that you’ll feast on homemade English muffins in the morn.

My usual routine is to heat the griddle and fry up some bacon, then slip the puffy dough into the glistening fat. This despite the fact that I’m allergic to pork. I am nothing if not a literal glutton for punishment, and the allure of a savory, olde-timey English muffin is simply too strong. I wash my coffee down with a handful of Benadryl and call it an even exchange.

Truth be told, if I could break free from the enchantment of forbidden fruit to approach the subject with an objective eye, I’d be forced to admit that English muffins are damned fine griddled with butter. The butter browns nicely along the way, creating a rich and toasty crust that’s well suited to any breakfast—sweet, savory, or plain.

Regardless of whether you grab a griddle or a cast iron skillet, bacon or butter, the trick is to cook the muffins over medium-low heat (about 325°F) until their crusts are golden brown and their middles opaque, about eight minutes per side.

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Direct heat gives English muffins a sort of “oven” spring, as all the entrapped gases suddenly warm and expand within the soft but elastic dough. Sharp eyes can even discern bubbles enlarging beneath the surface, caverns and tunnels waiting to be torn asunder. Nooks and crannies galore!

At this stage, the cornmeal coating also functions as a buffer, insulating the dough from the searing heat of the iron. If you look closely, you can spot where sparsely coated patches browned against the griddle, and where well-dusted areas escaped unscathed. It’s darn tasty, too, because the cornmeal softens overnight, then toasts up against the heat of the griddle until it’s tender-crisp. But! If you’re not down with all that added crunch, you can just brush it off when you’re done.

Once the muffins have cooked through (about 210°F on a digital thermometer, if you want an anachronistic but accurate testing method), set them on a wire rack until they’re cool enough to handle. Purists are strangely obsessed with insisting that English muffins should be split only with a fork, but I’m ready to go to battle with that dogma: English muffins are best split by hand.

We’re all in agreement that a knife is the wrong way to go, razing the craggy nooks and crannies into a level field of potholes, but a fork is only necessary when the muffins are too hot or too tough to pull apart readily on their own. If they’re too hot, then respect their fragile crumb and wait a damn minute. If they’re too tough, welp, you’re not using my recipe, so I can’t help you.

My English muffins are chewy, to be sure, but thanks to that bit of whole wheat flour, they’re also tender enough to pull apart with a gentle tug. To keep the halves even, I like to work my way around the edges bit by bit, then open each muffin like a book: a delicious tome filled with nooks and crannies.

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Because the muffins are griddled rather than baked, their insides stay super soft and moist, which gives them a fantastic shelf life—the better part of a week. If you can pace yourself, anyway. With something this perfectly chewy and crisp and amazing, it won’t be long until friends and family catch wind of what’s going on, and you’ll finally understand why everyone knew the Muffin Man and exactly where he lived.

Source: http://www.seriouseats.com/

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What is the healthiest type of cookware?

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Despite all the innovations in modern cookware, including non-stick surfaces and anodized aluminum, we believe that your healthiest cookware choices are those that use classic materials such as stainless steel and cast iron. What you want to look for when evaluating the healthfulness of cookware is whether the material that it is made from carries much toxic risk and how likely the cookware materials are to leach into the food during cooking.

Using these two criteria, we’ll explore why stainless steel and cast iron are your best choices. But first, let’s review why aluminum, copper, and non-stick cookware are types we choose not to use.

Cookware to avoid

Aluminum cookware

Cookware made from materials that carry with them substantial risk of toxicity, even if research shows relatively little leaching of their toxic substances, should automatically not be considered to be among your best options. We would put aluminum cookware into this category. In the past five years, we’ve seen over 100 studies about aluminum and disease. This metal has consistently been placed in the top 200 health-jeopardizing toxins by the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

We realize that many improvements have been made in aluminum pots and pans with the advent of anodized aluminum (in which a thicker aluminum oxide layer is created on the surface of the pan). Yet, we still recommend avoidance of aluminum cookware due to the potential toxicity of aluminum itself. (This focus on the health aspects of aluminum cookware does not even take into account environmental problems related to the mining and dressing of aluminum.)

Non-stick cookware

Pots and pans with non-stick coatings are another type of cookware we would put into this category of toxic materials risk. The non-stick coating industry started out with Teflon in 1946 but has since grown to include many other coatings including Silverstone, Tefal, Anolon, Circulon, Caphalon and others. Products like Calphalon actually combine aluminum with non-stick materials by subjecting anodized aluminum to a polymer infusion process. We do not like to use cookware with non-stick surfaces.

Copper cookware

Pots and pans made from 100% copper fall into a slightly different category. Even though it is also a metal on the ATSDR priority toxin list just like aluminum, copper is an essential mineral that is currently deficient in many U.S. diets. Its essential nutrient status makes it different from aluminum, and some people include it as a desirable cookware material for this reason.

We take a somewhat conservative approach here since we don’t like the idea of cooking directly on a copper surface due to potential (however slight) risk of copper toxicity. Adults need approximately 900 micrograms of copper per day, according to the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) established by the National Academy of Sciences. The Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) for copper is about 10 times that amount, at 10,000 micrograms (the same as 10 milligrams). While you’re very unlikely to get that amount of copper migration from your cookware into your food (even under highly acidic conditions that increase leaching), we prefer to avoid all possible risk.

Recommended cookware

Stainless steel

With stainless steel, you get a cooking surface that can include some less risky materials than aluminum or non-stick coatings (such as the essential minerals iron, chromium, and manganese). It is is also more stable and less prone to leaching. While some research has expressed concern about leaching of chromium from stainless steel, this mineral is both essential and currently deficient in the diets of many U.S. adults. Based on the research, we believe the health risk here is less than the risk posed by leaching of another essential mineral, copper, from the surface in a 100% copper pan.

Stainless steel pans often have an inner core of aluminum or copper (and some have a copper-clad bottom). The reason this is done is because these two metals are very efficient heat conductors. Since the aluminum or copper is sandwiched between layers of steel and neither come in contact with the food, we think that these types of stainless steel cookware are fine to use.

What some cite as a concern for stainless steel is the leaching of nickel, a potentially toxic metal fairly high up on the ATSDR list of priority toxins. Yet, because the alloy (combination of metals used) in stainless steel cookware is more stable than other cookware materials you are less likely to have any leaching, of any metal, including nickel. An exception would be stainless steel pots and pans that have been damaged by harsh scouring with an abrasive material like steel wool. Provided that you take good care of your stainless steel cookware and keep the cooking surfaces intact, we believe you are making an excellent choice in cookware with this material.

Cast iron

Cast iron is also a cookware material we really like. When properly seasoned, the surface itself is great for cooking, and when material does leach from cast iron, it’s an essential mineral (iron) that many of us can easily incorporate into a healthy day of mineral intake. For some individuals, cast iron cookware can actually make a very important contribution to health. An exception would be individuals who may be at risk of iron overload. If you already have plenty of iron in your diet, in your bloodstream, and attached to storage proteins in your cells, you do not want to be adding leached iron from cast iron cookware. You may want to visit an iron disorders website like www.irondisorders.org or www.ironoverload.org to learn more about potential risk factors in this area.

The bottom line

Our favorite all-around cookware pieces are those made from stainless steel or cast iron. More than likely, the stainless steel cookware will have a core made from aluminum or copper since these metals are efficient conductors of heat. While we don’t recommend cookware that features aluminum or copper as the cooking surface, stainless steel cookware with cores (or even bottoms) made from these materials are acceptable. That’s because if you take care of your pots and pans and don’t excessively scrub them, the copper or aluminum will not come in contact with your food.

Cast iron is another type of cookware we recommend. Even if some of the iron leaches from the cookware into your food, in most cases this is acceptable since many people can easily incorporate iron into a healthy day of mineral intake.

We like to avoid pans with non-stick coatings as well as those made from anodized aluminum.

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A Chefs View On The Pros and Cons Of Stainless Steel Cookware

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Stainless steel is often considered the best of the best when it comes to cookware. Used in households all over the world and by professional chefs, as well, there are quite a few reasons why stainless steel cookware is a good choice. There are a few cons, as well, but these are generally overshadowed by the advantages.

The advantages of stainless steel cookware include:

* Durability. Stainless steel tends to be very tough. This type of cookware does not chip, rust or even stain, at least easily. Stainless is also dent and scratch resistant. It is practically impossible to destroy. This makes it very easy to clean, generally. This cookware is generally dishwasher safe, can handle going into the refrigerator and more.

* Flavor preservation. This type of cookware tends to not leach off any of its metallic properties into food. This means the cookware itself doe not impact flavor quality. Also, since it tends to not have a protective, non-stick coating, there is no risk of this material coming off in food.

* Heat transfer ability. When higher quality stainless steel cookware is brought into play, an aluminum or copper base is used to improve heat transfer. This ensures an even cooking of foods. When the cookware is well made, the cooking properties can be nearly impossible to beat or match.

* Appearance. Stainless steel is pretty and it’s easy to maintain that look. The mirrored finish needs only a gentle rubbing or wiping to bring back into pristine condition.

* Recyclable. Stainless steel is completely recyclable. If a pan does manage to get destroyed, it can be salvaged by another means. This makes stainless favored by those who are concerned about waste.

The disadvantages of stainless include:

* Poor heat transfer. Unless a bonded aluminum or copper base is used, the heat conductivity is very poor. This means cheaper stainless might not be superior to other products out there.

* Pricing. The better stainless steel is, the more expensive it tends to be. On the upside, a very good set of stainless cookware can last a life time. Many people consider this to be a one-time purchase that’s worth the investment.

* Scrubbing. Although stainless is generally pretty easy to clean, stuck on foods can make coated pans look a little more attractive. However, the little elbow grease is deemed worthwhile by many for the overall durability of these pots and pans.

When stainless steel cookware is chosen, there are some cleaning tips that can come into play. In general, stainless should be washed after use to avoid any potential, no matter how small, for staining. Basic sink or dishwasher cleaning will work. To make sure the finish stays beautiful, use a regular metal cleaner on the outside of the pan. Stuck on food will generally come off with a little elbow grease. Soap and steel wool generally do the trick.

Stainless steel cookware is a great all around purchase. It’s favored by home cooks and professional chefs all over the world for its durability, beauty and food taste preserving qualities. Although the best cookware might be more expensive than other options, many feel the expense is well worth it.

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Which Mixing Bowl is better? Glass vs Stainless Steel

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You may often wonder, which bowl is best? Glass or stainless steel?

The short answer is that both are great but work in slightly different ways. This post gives you a helpful rundown and we’ve even included a bowl capacity list for some of your favourite ingredients.

GLASS BOWLS

Often preferred by home cooks.

Benefits of a Glass Bowl

  • Easy-to-read ingredient quantities on the marked bowl – has standard and metric measurements moulded into the side.
  • A silicone lid can be placed on the bowl when proving dough. It also helps keep the bowl clean when the stand mixer is not in use (lid only available when bowl is purchased as a separate accessory. Platinum Stand Mixer glass bowl does not include lid.)
  • Made of tempered glass.
  • Dishwasher, freezer and microwave-safe.
  • Moulded pouring spout makes pouring batters easy, minimising spills and drips.
  • Glass retains an even temperature (creaming of butter and sugar in winter is easier).
  • You can see the mixture / batter / dough from all angles.
  • Easy-hold handle.

Tips for Use

  • Remove the thread ring before using the bowl in the microwave.
  • To avoid product damage, do not use the glass bowl in areas of high heat such as an oven or stove top.

 

STAINLESS STEEL BOWLS

Preferred and commonly used by all professional cooks

Benefits of a Steel Bowl

  • Remains cool during beating, keeps mixtures cool, good when used in warm climates as it helps prevent splitting and curdling.
  • Assists in optimum volume with egg whites for meringues and mousses, etc.
  • Lightweight and durable.
  • Won’t crack or chip.
  • Bowl can be warmed over a flame – this is common practice in commercial kitchens.
  • Buffing and polishing is easy with a soft cloth and hot water.

Tips for Use

  • Winter temperatures will chill the bowl, making creaming initially difficult for the home cook, but this is a huge plus for hot weather.
  • Egg whites beaten in a stainless steel bowl are quicker to beat into a fluffier looking, firmer meringue (approx 5 minutes). Using a glass bowl takes approximately 8 minutes. Both bowls produce good quality meringue, however.

CAPACITY GUIDE (6.9L Stand Mixer)

Minimum mixing capacity:
1 egg white

Maximum recommended capacity (total mix weights):

Pizza dough 3kg
Bread dough 2.2kg
Pasta dough 2.2kg
Cake batter 4kg
Cookie dough 3kg
Pastry (shortcrust) 3.2kg
Choux pastry 2.6kg
Mashed potatoes 3.5kg
Egg whites 19 (700ml)
Cream 1.8L

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How to Bake a Cake: Basics

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Cake baking is not difficult, but it requires some organization and forethought. While the steps for making a cake vary considerably depending on the type, you’ll want to do the following before attempting any recipe:

 

1. Read Through the Recipe

This sounds obvious, but cakes in particular have certain requirements, such as the temperature of ingredients, that cannot be altered. You don’t want to realize too late that the butter you just mixed with sugar was supposed to be softened.

 

2. Assemble Ingredients and Ensure Their Correct Temperature

Get all of your ingredients and equipment out on the counter before you begin and make sure they’re at the proper temperature. This is especially important for butter and eggs: Soft butter makes for a smooth batter and a lofty cake, and room-temperature eggs keep the batter’s temperature consistent.

To soften butter, leave it out for several hours; it should offer no resistance when you press on it. Or, you can hurry the process using a microwave: Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes, arrange them in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate, then microwave on high for 3 seconds at a time, testing in between, until the butter is softened but not melted.

 

3. Preheat the Oven

Before preparing the batter, your oven should be at the correct temperature. A batter will not react properly to heat if it sits at room temperature for 10 minutes waiting for the oven to heat. Nor will it rise properly if the oven continues to warm up after the pan has been placed in it. Avoid burning your cake by setting a rack in the middle of the oven for cake layers or in the lower third for a tube cake so that the top of the pan is not too close to the top of the oven.

 

4. Prepare Your Equipment

To ensure that your finished cake has the right shape, it’s important to make sure that it will come out of the pan in one piece. The most common way to do this is to coat the pan with butter, but the specifics may vary depending on the type of cake. For cake layers in general, you coat the inside of the pan with very soft but not melted butter using a brush. Follow that with a disk of parchment paper cut to the size of the inside of the pan. For a butter cake baked in aBundt pan, coat with soft butter, and then coat the buttered surface with fine, dry bread crumbs, tapping the inverted pan to dislodge any excess. Follow with a quick coat of vegetable cooking spray for a guarantee that the cake won’t stick. Line a rectangular or square pan with foil by molding the foil first on the back of the pan, then pressing it into the pan. Butter the foil. This makes it easy to lift a cake that you don’t want to invert, such as a crumb cake, right out of the pan.

Cake Baking Techniques Video: Preparing Cake Pans
In this video, you’ll see one method of preparing cake pans to avoid sticking.

 

5. Prepare the Batter

Instructions will vary depending on the type of cake: For butter cakes, the ingredients will typically be combined using the creaming method; for sponge cakes the eggs will generally be beaten, then folded in. For the proper texture, be sure to follow the instructions closely, and then pour the batter into the pan or pans and bake.

See our videos on preparing various kinds of cake batter:

 

Cake Baking Techniques Video: Creaming Butter and Sugar
Learn how to cream together butter and sugar to form the proper texture for butter cakes.
Cake Baking Techniques Video: Whipping Egg Whites
Learn how to beat egg whites to incorporate the air that will leaven a sponge cake.
Cake Baking Techniques Video: Folding
Learn how to fold in beaten eggs to avoid deflating a sponge cake batter.

 

6. Test for Doneness

To test a cake, plunge a thin knife or cake tester into the center (or halfway between the side and the tube if using a tube pan). When a cake is finished, you will find a few crumbs sticking to the knife or tester when you withdraw it. If the cake is not ready yet, there will be wet batter on the knife or tester.

 

7. Cool the Cake

Most cakes are cooled on a metal rack for even air circulation. A recipe will indicate whether the cake should be cooled in the pan or unmolded immediately. Follow instructions carefully—leaving certain types of cakes in the pan for too long may cause them to stick. Angel food cakes and chiffon cakes need to cool suspended upside down in their tube pans or they will deflate and look squashed and unappealing when you cut them. Invert the pan over several inverted ramekins so that the edges of the pan are supported by them. It is best to figure out the system for doing this before you begin baking the cake by testing the empty pan over the ramekins to make sure your system will be stable.

 

8. Unmold the Cake

When you are ready, gently run a sharp, thin knife between the edge of the pan and the cake. Then invert a rack or platter (as indicated in the recipe) over the top of the pan. Turn the pan over and lift it off the cake. You may be asked to finish cooling the cake upside down or instructed to turn it right side up again. Be sure to follow instructions, as each type of cake cools best in a different way.

 

9. “Finish” the Cake

As described in the section on fillings, frostings, and glazes, options for finishing a cake are numerous. Some varieties, such as pound cakes and crumb cakes, are finished already when they come out of the oven and don’t need any embellishment at all. For others, a simple dusting of powdered sugar or quick brush with a glaze may be all that’s required. And some cakes, such as European-style layer cakes, can be filled with multiple fillings, frosted with a different frosting or glaze, and then adorned with elaborate decorations, such as piped buttercream or marzipan crafted into roses and leaves.

See our videos on ways to finish a butter layer cake:

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Basic French Crepes for Chic Breakfasts

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Most weekday mornings are a harried affair of gulping down a glass of milk or yoghurt or pouring it over some store bought Muesli. On the rare occasions that the husband has been kind enough to chop up some fruit, I toss that in as well. I thought I genuinely didn’t know how my zen mornings turned into a race against time, until my sister pointed out that no one really got up and checked Facebook and Instagram… for an hour!

After some soul searching (that involved looking at a watch), I had to reluctantly admit that I was addicted to reading every post and news article and take every random test that popped up on FB. If that wasn’t a time sucker, I also HAD to check my Insta feed, lest I miss some fabulous new dessert that some utterly talented homebaker had cooked up out of thin air. If I was even half as zealous as moving my butt to yoga class every morning, I wouldn’t have to mourn that age was taking a toll on my less than perfect mid-section.

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You are going to be disappointed to know, that I didn’t have any major epiphanies and change my wastrel ways. All I have done is entered a to-do item in the spiffy ‘Wunderlist’ that reminds me to ‘Spend less time on FB and Insta’. Wow…like seriously wow! But rants aside, I have moved the mindless browsing to late at night and though it eats into nap time, it at least spares my breakfast.

Here’s a recipe for Basic Crepes that should be in everyones repertoire. The above post has NOTHING to do with crepes, but I assumed if we are talking about breakfast, we might as well talk about my lack of time to eat a proper one! This one can be whipped up easily enough on harried mornings, but I suggest you save it for the weekend so that you can savor it with a sprinkling of sugar and lemon juice. Or with ‘Orange Marmalade’ or ‘Nutella and Bananas’ or ‘Strawberries and Cream’ or ‘Chocolate Sauce’ or … whatever the hell you like.

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Crepes recipeCrepes Nutrition