Friday, November 1, 2013

English Muffins & Blueberry Jam


I've always said there's nothing quite like homemade. I take pride in making things like bread, pasta, dumplings, fruit preserves, and even cheese and yogurt from scratch in my home. I don't have the time to always make the extra effort (I do purchase mozzarella and ricotta cheeses at the store more often than not), but when I have the chance to, I jump on it.


I'm always looking for new experiments. I had been thinking about making English muffins for a while and did quite a bit of research including looking at the famous Model Bakery recipe and the unique version at Sarabeth's Bakery. In the end I really wanted to make a traditional English muffin, but make it outstanding. I ordered some English muffin rings (I know you can use tuna cans, but apparently tuna cans these days are smaller than they used to be), and picked a recipe.


I was inspired by the English muffin pizzas in Richard Blais's Try This At Home. I had no intention of actually making pizzas (although I love them and would plan to utilize this recipe for pizzas in the future), but I used his basic recipe for the English muffins nonetheless.


I never realized how easy it is to make English muffins! After finally trying my hand at it, and seeing the awesome results, I can see myself making English muffins in the future instead of purchasing them. For one thing, the dough is made the night before and then finished up the next morning, which means you can easily make these fresh for breakfast without having to get up early.


They do take a while to cook, and you need to cook them in batches unless you've invested in a lot of rings. The muffins cook for a total of about 25 minutes per batch and need to cool for a few minutes before removing the rings and starting over. The waiting game while they cook and cool is the only really challenge in making these.


Also, I found that with my first batch I unintentionally overfilled the rings. The recipe states to fill them 2/3 full, and mine were perhaps more like 3/4 full. The dough puffed up and oozed over the top of the rings. I had to scoop off some of the extra dough when I flipped them over (and it squeezed out the sides), but the muffins still turned out great in the end. On my second batch, I filled the rings less and the result was perfect. I ended up with 8 English muffins, but only because some of my dough went to waste when I overfilled the first batch. This recipe would typically yield nine.


I have to say, the flavor and texture of these English muffins are so much better and so much more complex than anything you can buy in a store. Having the dough slowly proof overnight allows the yeast to really develop wonderful character in the dough.


The toasted English muffins are so incredibly crisp that once again a store-bought version could never hold a candle to them. The amount of crunch even after only lightly toasting them is phenomenal. It's not dry at all, just incredibly crisp with a chewy interior. I was really blown away. I knew that homemade English muffins would be superior, but I was more impressed than expected!


I served these homemade English muffins with homemade blueberry jam I made late this summer with fresh blueberries I picked at a nearby farm (I realize blueberry season is now over, but this jam recipe is worth hanging onto!). This homemade jam is as impressive as the English muffins themselves. It is thick and perfectly spreadable with a beautifully intense sweet blueberry flavor. I can't even say which one I prefer more, the muffins or the jam. They are truly a match made in Heaven!


English Muffins
Makes 9
(Adapted from Try This at Home)

2 2/3 cups unbleached bread flour (I actually didn't read this properly and just used all-purpose, but they still turned out great!)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups milk, heated until lukewarm
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
About 1/4 cup fine cornmeal

To make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk the flour and salt together until combined. In a large liquid measuring cup or a small bowl, combine the milk and yeast and let it sit for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to dissolve. Stir in the olive oil and honey until combined. While whisking, slowing pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, whisking until the liquid is absorbed and spongy dough forms. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature.

In a small bowl, stir the baking soda and warm water together until the baking soda dissolves. With a large rubber spatula, gently fold the soda mixture into the dough until just combined.

To the cook the muffins: Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Grease four 4-inch (mine are 3 3/4-inch) English muffin ring molds with vegetable oil and dust the interiors with cornmeal, shaking out the excess. Place the molds in the pan and fill each one two-thirds full with dough (be careful not to overfill the rings or the dough will ooze over the top as it rises). Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon cornmeal over the top of each muffin, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the bottoms are golden brown, about 12 minutes.

With a large spatula, flip the muffins in their molds, and cook for an additional 12 minutes. Using the spatula, transfer the muffins, still in the molds, to a rack; set the pan aside. Cool for 3 minutes, then remove the molds. Stand the muffins up on their sides to keep them from collapsing under their own weight, and let cool completely on the rack.

Meanwhile heat the pan again over medium heat. Regrease the muffin molds and dust again with cornmeal. Repeat the cooking process with the remaining dough until all of the dough is used up.

Store completely cooled muffins in an airtight bag at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze them for up to 1 month.

Blueberry Jam
Makes 5 cups*
(From Put 'Em Up Fruit!)

2 quarts blueberries (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup water
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice

Combine the berries and water in a large nonreactive pot and slowly bring to a boil, stirring and crushing the berries to release their juice. Add the sugar and lemon juice, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and continue to cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring frequently, until the jam reaches the gel stage.**

Remove from the heat. Allow the jam to rest for 5 minutes, giving it an occasional gentle stir to release trapped air; it will thicken slightly. Skim off any foam.

To preserve: Refrigerate: Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Can: Ladle jam into clean, hot 4-ounce or half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace between the top of the jam and lid. Run a bubble tool along the inside of the glass to release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands until they are just fingertip-tight. Process the jars by submerging them in boiling water to cover by 2 inches for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and let the jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check the seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

*I actually ended up with 4 half-pint jars instead of the 5 the recipe says it makes. Either way, it doesn't hurt to prepare 5 jars for canning and then simply fill as many as you can!

**There are several tests to determine whether you have reached the gel stage. 1) Temperature: Jams gel at 220 degrees F. This should be a black-and-white test, but it's not. At the very least it's a helpful sign when you're getting close to the zone and can then verify with either of the next two tests. 2) Sheeting: Stir your almost-done jam with a wooden spoon. Lift the spoon sideways from the pot. In a too-thin jam, the drops with stream off the bottom edge of the spoon. As you get closer to the gel stage, the hot jam with drip. When you are right on the money, the drops will join, forming a sheet, before falling into the pot. 3) Wrinkle Test: Put a clean plate in the freezer to chill while you're preparing the recipe. When you think your jam might be ready, dribble a few drops of hot jam onto the plate's cold surface, give it a minute to cool, and then push on the little spot of jam with your finger, like you're trying to wipe it off. If the smudge of jam wrinkles when you start to push against it, the jam is ready. If it is thick but does not wrinkle, you need to cook it a bit more.

I'm submitting this post to Yeastspotting!

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