p3: English Muffins

#17, English Muffins

865284The house has just about run out of English muffins, and the parents are finally back from their recent trip, thus calling for the perfect time to try making these griddle delights, and the true source material for ‘The Muffin Man’ song. These little guys evolved from, well quite frankly ARE, Crumpets, getting their ‘english’ moniker as they were introduced to other countries. We may not think much of them all that often, but it’s got quite the interesting cooking method behind it, as we notice from their unique form and structure. This comes through the fact that, after being shaped into balls and proofed, the dough is actually cooked in a griddle or skillet on each side, sort of like a really thick, bready pancake; sometimes this happens inside of an empty can or other ringed mold, to make a perfectly circular straight-sided form. Though there is something to be aware of with this; first, you’re not just cooking it ‘until golden,’ basically one is letting it sit and sear and brown as long as possible without actually burning, cooking as much of the dough as possible and, as such, letting the rest of the weight spread and flatten it out. Secondly, one still IS putting it in the oven after this, just not for that long.

20150830_111738Now, since I had absolutely no milk or buttermilk, as the recipe calls for, I had to find a substitute. Luckily for me, I recently came across a particular substitute-technique for buttermilk that I have been wanting to try out! It basically just involves taking yogurt and thinning it out with either milk or water, until it gets to that milky or buttermilky consistency. Can apparently do the same thing with sour cream, but I seriously needed to empty that damn yogurt container… and it doesn’t cost nearly as much as the same amount of sour cream would.

Recipe
2¼ cups/10oz Bread Flour
½ Tb/0.25oz Sugar
¾ tsp/0.19oz Salt
1¼ tsp/0.14oz Yeast
1 Tb/0.5oz Butter, room temp
¾-1 cup Milk, Buttermilk, or ‘Yogurt Water’ substitute (using at least 30% yogurt)
Cornmeal

Directions

  1. Stir Flour, Sugar, Salt, and Yeast together in bowl of stand mixer, pop in lump of Butter20150830_112550
  2. With paddle attachment, start mixing on low, slowly pouring in ¾ cup of your Milk or other liquid, adding in as much extra and mixing until everything forms a ball and there’s no more loose flour20150830_112930~2
  3. Sprinkle flour on counter, transfer dough and knead for about ten minutes, sprinkling in more flour if sticky, until dough passes the windowpane test; should be ‘smooth’ and tacky20150830_114637
  4. Move to oiled bowl, rolling around, and cover with plastic wrap to bulk ferment 60-90 minutes, until doubled in size20150830_131230
  5. Cut dough into 6 equal (or in my case, equal-ish, hehe) pieces, should be 3oz each, and shape into small boules, following the same directions Here and finishing by squeezing the bottom between thumb and forefinger to make a tight, taught surface20150830_131649
  6. Mist a sheet of parchment paper with spray oil and dust cornmeal; place the shaped bread on to the paper, mist tops with oil and dust with further cornmeal if desired20150830_131958
  7. Loosely cover with towel, let proof 60-90 minutes, until nearly doubled in size
  8. Heat Griddle, or skillet if needed, to 350F/Medium heat, and oven to the same temp20150830_145231
  9. Lightly brush/mist griddle surface with oil and transfer the proofed dough onto it, spacing about an inch apart minimum. If you can’t fit it all, re-cover remaining pieces with towel20150830_150752
  10. Cook around 10-13 minutes, until the bottom seems to be close to burning, flip over and griddle the other side to the same state20150830_153547
  11. Immediately transfer to sheet pan and move into oven, cooking once again for about the same amount of time, until the center is baked. If doing in batches, do NOT wait until the rest of your bread is griddled, do that on the side while the freshly-griddled muffins are baking to completion
  12. Transfer to cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, or slice immediately and butter for a delicious untoasted hot version.20150830_153707
  13. Toast and top as desired else-wise

What Have I Learned This Time?

Griddle the muffins bottom-side down first; I figured top-side down would be better considering the rounded aspect, and that was stupid… it would have flattened anyway, and it only suited to undo the folds on the bottom, a result I did not want…

Cornmeal on BOTH sides of the muffin, darnit…

If you have a recipe that says 5-8 minutes each side, and the same in the oven, at 350F like my book did… don’t trust it. It took me at least double that time for each one; though perhaps if I had more cornmeal it would have been ‘at risk of burning’ even sooner, at least for the griddle part.

Need a much bigger recipe if I want a good stock of English muffins next time.

Any Thoughts?

20150831_090836It’s hard to say which way I liked it better, hot out of the oven or toasted before buttering… it’s a very big toss-up here. In particular, must say that it still keeps that uniquely subtle ‘tangy’ English muffin quality’ now whether that’s from the yeast+how it’s cooked or it’s a side effect of buttermilk, or in my case the yogurt, who knows. But overall the final texture and flavor results were fantastic; thick and soft and chewy, so much better than most of the ones we get in store. Will definitely be finding an occasion to make these again in the future.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

The dough, yes; the cooking itself, not so much.

p1: Cheese Souffle

Part Two of my Soufflé adventures, this one taken place for a morning B-day Brunch.

The Dish

It’s sometimes said that, in truth, the very first soufflés were a variation of an omelet. There is in fact a recipe of “Omelette Soufflé,” involving a VERY well beaten mixture of eggs and milk which is cooked mostly in the oven. Some accounts have it that after this followed an even more intensive recipe whereby the yolks and whites were separated, the latter being whipped to a voluminous nature, and folded back in to make what has to be the simplest and most basic soufflé ever. Cooked in a heavy skillet pan of course.

Whether there’s truth to this or not, I find the recipe idea fascinating; the term “soufflé” itself translating purely as “to blow/puff up.” As a descriptor, there are probably many kinds of recipes it could have applied to before being known as what it is today; heck, I doubt that original omelet really rose that much (not the one that was separated, that woulda been huge, I’ve seen videos…) and yet there it is. Was there an evolution to it, a slowly winding path of eggs and pastry finally culminating in Careme’s use of newly ventilated ovens? Or was it just a random stumbling and popping up of various clumsy dishes until one finally made something epic?

Whatever the case, soufflé has been discovered and is here to stay, in all its wonderful forms. And though our initial thoughts always land on the rich chocolate or velvety vanilla dessert, there is always that other intriguingly delicious side of the coin, the “savory soufflé.” Basing the main flavors out of things like Ham, Fish, Seafood, Spinach, and so many others, the discovery of this whole aspect of soufflé cookery truly shows the immense versatility of the dish.enhanced-buzz-6383-1389654115-2

And the absolute King of all these is the Cheese Souffle. I have no clue exactly when or who first made it, probably Careme he’s made everything, but the results have spoken for itself. That amongst all the savory soufflés that can be made, it is one focusing purely on regional Gruyere that has implemented itself as THE Classic and Traditional savory version of this dish that Represents the rest.

Which is all I really have to say on the matter, let’s start getting into this food!

A Word On…

Soufflé: I’ve already talked a lot about soufflé construction in my Dessert article, and I’m too lazy to write it again, so read some more stuff there.

Cheese: Though I could definitely see a not-too-untasty version of this with Cheddar, the true king of this French classic has and always shall be Gruyere. It melts very well, super flavorful, and goes good with eggs.

SAMSUNGWhen trying to stay classic, one thus has to ensure they get FRENCH gruyere, as most of what we see regularly is from Switzerland. Swiss style makes an almost perfect substitute of course, and I do not fault the use of it for any reason, but for my purposes the French is best. And for those also trying to follow suit, that means you want to look for “Comte” Gruyere, one of the main two regions to actually make the cheese (I forgot the other one, but I couldn’t find it myself anyway so let’s just focus on comte). You may, as I did, find a couple kinds, regular and “doux,” a double aged version. Just stick with the younger, simpler one, which thus melts easier and carries a little more straightforward flavors.

Cheese Integration: A very interesting thing I found. After expecting practically every recipe to call for melting the cheese into the Bechamel (a white, milk-based gravy which most savory soufflé bases are made from), it was a shock to see quite a few did something different. Instead of adding it to the hot sauce, the shredded gruyere was folded into the cooled down mixture at the same time as the whipped egg whites. This actually seems to be somewhat more of the classic method, especially since Julia Child did it as well, so I thought I would try my hand at it. If you want to too, I would just suggest that you make sure the cheese is shred FINE; don’t want big pieces around when also handling the delicate egg whites.

“Encrusting” Cheese: Something quite peculiar I’ve found in most recipes for this is that, instead of dusting the heavily buttered pan in flour (or sugar like what’s done with dessert soufflés), other cooks sprinkle the sides with Parmesan. It was an odd substitute for flour, but I guess if it works then it boosts the whole cheesy aspect even more, even Julia Child did it. So I thought I’d look into it a bit more…SAMSUNG

Two Problems. First, though I am of course willing to honor and try this technique, there is no way in HELL I’m using PARMESAN for a FRENCH meal. I don’t care if it’s used even in classic recipes, it is not a French cheese, so no go. Thus I set myself to find the hardest French cheese I could in search of a reasonable substitute, and even had a pretty good idea in mind…

Only to find out that some a-holes decided to ban the shipment Mimolette, which would have been THE perfect cheese. It has the EXACT same texture as parmesan, and now of all times I need it for something. But of course, they just happen to decide that the termites are too much or something or other… so I ended up with the OTHER comte, comte doux, which I guess ironically is the firmest French cheese we can now get in our market. Funny how that worked out.

Second issue. I tried it. The damn thing screwed up my soufflé. Weeelll, not really screwed up… but as you’ll see in pictures later, my little baked baby never got the chance to rise up the sides of the pan and above the lip (the center did, burst right out, but not the actual sides) like it was supposed to. And I buttered EVERYTHING damn good. It was the cheese and I know it; I love the crust it gave it, but it held my soufflé hostage from itself. The bastard.

It’s an easy fix though. Next time, I’ll just rub the cheese (which reminds me, best way to grate this is on the rougher side of the box grater; you know the section that looks like a bunch of little metal tents?) on the bottom and lower half of the pan, that way the top is completely unrestrained. Cuz I still like the flavor and texture it gave, but it needs a lot of controlling.

Wrapping: With my dessert,SAMSUNG I wrapped the whole thing with parchment paper, but for this one I decided to try using aluminum foil instead, a technique that Julia Child and others tend to feature. I’d like to give results on which one I prefer, but as I just mentioned my soufflé was never able to raise high enough where I could tell. Either way, both are options, and the foil is MUCH easier to actually wrap around the dish.

Cooking Time/Temp: Instead of the iSAMSUNGdea to start at 425F and immediately turn down to 375F, most recipes for this call for an even 400F. Which makes sense, as it took a noticeable amount of time to actually cook… in fact, much longer than the recipes called for. A lot will say around 25-35 minutes, but even at 30 mine was painfully undercooked, as I found out after trying to serve it.

Unless you’re using a different kind of dish, or the batter turns out differently somehow, then it’ll take more like 45 minutes to cook all the way through. Really need to make sure it doesn’t move at all when shaking it.

Maybe if I tried the melted cheese method it would have worked?

Cheese Soufflé
4 Tb Butter
3 Tb Flour
1 ½ cup Milk
Tsp Fresh Grated Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
4 Egg Yolks
5 Egg Whites
1 Tb Water
½ tsp Cream of Tartar
6 oz Comte Gruyere, finely grated
½ – 1oz Comte Doux Gruyere, roughly grated

Directions

  1. Turn oven to 400F.
  2. Melt Butter in a saucepan set over Medium heat.SAMSUNG
  3. Whisk in Flour to a paste-like Roux, cooking over heat for about a minute.SAMSUNG
  4. Once the roux has lightened slightly (Blanc stage, right before it starts darkening again), carefully add the warm or room-temperature Milk, whisking in to fully incorporate the two.SAMSUNG
  5. Heat the sauce, watching and stirring often so it doesn’t burn or curdle, until it thickens enough to coat a spoon (Nappé).SAMSUNG
  6. Season with Nutmeg, Salt, and Pepper before slowly pouring the hot mixture into the Egg Yolks to temper.SAMSUNG
  7. Let this rest and cool slightly on the side while you start whipping your Whites, combining them with Water and Tartar in a bowl.SAMSUNG
  8. Whip on High with a stand or hand mixer until reaching firm, stiff peaks.SAMSUNG
  9. Take this and alternatively fold 1/3 of it at a time into the still-warm Bechamel along with the finely grated Comte.SAMSUNG
  10. Quickly prepare a large, straight-sided casserole or soufflé dish if you haven’t already. Heavily and thoroughly butter the bottom, sides, and rim before sprinkling and coating the bottom and lower ½-1/3 of the sides with grated Comte Doux. Enwrap the container with a long, folded piece of aluminum foil so it sticks straight up from the rim.
  11. Fill the dish with as much of the batter as you can get in, trying to get to the very top.SAMSUNG
  12. Move to oven and bake 35-45 minutes, minimum, until it has risen noticeably, developed a dark brown complexion, and set all the way through.SAMSUNG
  13. Spoon onto a plate to enjoy as-is, or served with a Poached Egg, Hollandaise, and Cheese Wedge for a delicious breakfast.SAMSUNG

The Verdict

A lot different than I thought it’d be, but ohhhhh so good. I’m not sure if I actually got it to what it’s supposed to be (in fact I think there may have been a chance of slight overcooking), but boy did I not care.

It was like that perfect expression of airy, fluffy eggbake, or omelet, or scrambled egg texture, but different; it wasn’t heavy, but it wasn’t light either, just a warm juicy mouthfull. One which, soon as you bite into it, you get that flavor and feeling of CHEESE, heavenly heavenly gruyere cheese, that practically melts into your mouth, but you know nothing is actually melting. It’s like ideal form of a cheese omelet. Overall that’s just the best way I could describe it in my mind’s eye; I suggest you make it for yourself to fully experience.

SAMSUNGOh, a really fun surprise too; after taking it out of the oven (-cough- for a second time), my immediate worries were that there had been some burning; I mean you can see the picture. Actually that was one of my favorite parts of the whole thing. The older gruyere on the outside had fully melted and caramelized into a rich, heavy, sorta crusty strip of cheesy goodness reminiscent of the “burnt” bits of grilled cheese, or the last bits of congealed stuff at the bottom of a fondue pot (which any Frenchman will tell you is THE best part). Not only was it just plain awesome, it added a nice dimension next to the richly singular juicy-soft insides.

Something tells me my sister may be demanding I make this again soon…

Primary Pairing – Loire Whites

Whether it’s a sharply acidic Sancerre, lightly sweet and Riesling-esque Vouvray (or many of the other Chenin Blanc wines of the whole region), or the mildly yeasty and subtle body of a Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine, the whites in this northern area of France are all amazing to pair with food, and each shine qualities to match this interestingly light to medium bodied, fluffy cheese-centered dish. Don’t get me started on what their famous Cremants and some of the lighter dessert wines of the region could do for this… or a Savennieres! Oh, such an oddly unique, vibrantly strong character that Chenin Blanc region wine has; almost like the oxidation qualities in the previously discussed Jura.SAMSUNG

What you choose all depends on what you’re craving to drink with the souffle. The sauvignon blanc-based whites of the Central Valley/Eastern Touraine will cut right through everything; many of the Chenin Blanc based Vouvrays and Anjou-Saumur wines provide a fullness to lift up those rich flavors; and the Muscadet-based wines actually MATCH the salty qualities, not to mention the body. Cremants and Desserts (Coteaux du Layon, special Vouvrays, etc) are great for special occasions.

SAMSUNGMy Bottle: 2012 Chateau de la Roulerie, Coteaux du Layon

A little fat in the mouth, just a bare amount of sweetness, and a solid acidity from this all Chenin Blanc wine make for a svelt, yummy pairing alongside the hot, cheesy dish. Normally I might not have a Layon as my first choice, the particular region in the Anjou area known for its almost total devotion to refreshing Dessert wines. This basic Table Wine version, however, holds those sickly qualities back with simple, not-so-ripe grapes, while still maintaining just a bit of the area’s characteristic sweetness to counterbalance the salty cheese.

The body matches, the acid is enough to stand up to the fatty egg and cheese, and it just has that perfectly simple table wine nature that just makes you want to gulp it down with the area foods, much like I did that morning.

Secondary Pairing – Fine or VS Calvados (apple brandy)calv

Who doesn’t love Apples and Cheese? Cider would be great too, but I do enough of that, why not get into some good hard liquor every once in a while? The region that makes it is close by, it still has a bit of that fruity sweetness (though hard to find through the alcohol, I know), not to mention those barrel-aged and distilled(heated) flavors of baking and caramelization that match with the crispy dark soufflé cooked cheese on the outside. Who cares if I’m drinking in the morning, I think it would go really well with the big, fatty breakfast version I made as well, as the high alcohol would be able to just cut through all that butter, yolk, cheese, etc.

Which is one of the things I learned in class about the stronger alcoholic beverages; they pair with foods a lot better than some may think they do, so don’t be too afraid about using them. Many brandies and whiskies have a bit of tannin to them; maybe some sweetness; they often carry a strength in certain flavors that one just can’t find anywhere else (just look at liqueurs); and the high alcohol can actually be used to contrast and cut high fats, acids, sweetness, etc. Even if one has a light bodied dish, so long as at least one component is noticeably strong, we can consider Hard Alcohol as a potential, proper drinking partner. Just have to find the right one, and for here I would just love a younger Calvados.