Thursday, July 26, 2012

Homemade English Muffins

1 T. dry active yeast dissolved in 1/2 C. tepid water
2 T. instant mashed potatoes softened in 1/2 C. boiling water
1 C. cold milk/milk substitute, plus driblets of water, if needed
2 1/2 C. flour baking flour 3-quart mixing bowl

*To be added after first rise:
1 1/2 t. salt dissolved in 3 T. tepid water

2 to 3 T. butter/margarine/oil, (softened if using butter or margarine)

Into the instant potatoes, beat the cold milk/milk substitute and stir it along with the dissolved yeast into the flour.
Beat vigorously for a minute or so with a wooden spoon to make a smooth, loose thick batter, heavier than the usual pancake batter, but not at all like conventional bread dough. (Beat in driblets of water if batter is stiff rather than loose)

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise, preferably at room temperature until batter has risen and large bubbles appear in the surface (usually about 1 1/2 hours, depending upon the temperature of the room).

Stir the batter down, then beat in the salt and water, beating vigorously for a minute. Cover and let rise until bubbles again appear in the surface-- about 1 hour (or overnight!) at room temperature.

Brush insides of English muffin rings (or tuna cans about 3" in diameter with tops and bottoms removed) generously with butter/oil.

Butter/oil surface of griddle or frying pan lightly and set over moderate heat. When drops of water placed on the pan surface begin to dance, the heat is about right.

Spoon or scoop batter into the ring--batter should be about 3/8" thick. Cook the muffins slowly on one side until bubbles pierce through the top surface and until almost the entire top changes from a wet ivory white to a dryish gray colour; this will take 6 to 8 minutes or more, depending on the heat (regulate heat so that the bottoms of the muffins do not colour more than a medium or pale brown).

Turn the muffin rings over on the griddle and lift the ring away from the muffin. Continue cooking the second side until lightly browned and dry (probably less than 1 minute).

Cool the muffins on a rack. Once cool, split in half horizontally with a table fork.

Toast under your broiler as these fresh ones are moister than the ones from the supermarket or bakery.

The batter can be mixed up the evening before use and the muffins can then be baked in the morning.
K (D) or (P)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Homemade Ricotta Cheese! Fresh, Easy and Fun!

    1 quart whole milk (950ml)
    1/2 cup heavy cream (120ml)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


Line a large sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and place the sieve over a large bowl.  Set this aside for later.

Slowly heat milk, cream, and salt in a 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring often to prevent scorching. 
If you have a milk thermometer - the temperature should reach 190F/88C. 

Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly but gently, until the mixture curdles. 
This should take about 2 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain 1 hour for a firmer cheese.  For a softer ricotta, check it after about 1/2 an hour. 

After discarding the liquid that has drained into the bowl, pack the ricotta in a well covered container. 
 Ensure it stays covered as it will pick up a slight taste of onion or any other strong-flavoured foods that may be in your refrigerator.

Fresh ricotta should keep for about 2 days.

Yield:  Approximately 1 cup of ricotta cheese.  This recipe can be doubled.

K (D)

I like to make small toasts from leftover french bread or challah - brush each piece with garlic infused olive oil and toast in the oven until fairly dry.   Allow guests to spread them with choices of fresh ricotta, basil pesto and a few sun-dried tomatoes.  Easy and delicious appetiser!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Matbucha - Morrocan Bell Pepper and Tomato Dip


    2 lbs tomatoes **
    1 lb red bell pepper
    3 garlic cloves, quartered
    3 dried chillies (optional)  A jalapeño or two will also work!
    1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika
    1/3 cup olive oil
    1 teaspoon salt

Place bell peppers on a cookie sheet and roast in the oven at 350°F until the skins have browned.

Cut out cores of tomatoes. Submerge tomatoes in boiling hot water for 2 minutes.  The skins will easily peel off.

Cut peeled tomatoes in chunks.

Peel the skin from the bell peppers and remove the seeds and stem.  Cut into chunks.

Add all ingredients to a heavy bottomed pan and pour oil over top. Bring contents to a boil, then turn down to a medium-low heat.  (On my stove, I need to use a lower heat)

Cook in a heavy-bottomed pan, covered for 2 hours.  Give it a stir now and then to make sure it is not burning.

Remove cover and finish cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Stir often to keep it from sticking or scorching.

Refrigerate and serve cold.  Makes about 1 pint (2-cups)

** If you cannot find affordable, good-quality tomatoes, substitute a few cans of whole or chopped canned tomatoes.