Friday, April 27, 2012

Cinnamon-Raisin English Muffins, Made Easy

During my work week, I'm such a creature of habit. It begins with my alarm going off at 5:10am, stretching out and delaying (until the last possible minute) hopping into the shower so I can try and wake up. For at least two years, I make a cup of dark roast bold coffee in my Keurig, and toast a Cinnamon-Raisin English Muffin, lightly buttered with honey and enjoy it on my way to work-- listening to my daily podcast. 

I stock up on English Muffins, when they are on sale and freeze them.   Then, the unthinkable happened. One Monday morning, I sleepily reached for a muffin. Empty. Nothing.  I checked the freezer, and the familiar plastic bag wasn't there.  Nooooooo! The drive to work, just wasn't the same for me, as I sipped my coffee and made a mental note to stock up, after work.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention, so during my break, I decided to do a little research on how to make my own English Muffins. I found a recipe on "Baking Bites".  That evening, I measured out the water, sugar and yeast.

Then, I unpacked the English Muffin Tins I had purchased some time ago-- with the intention of learning  how to make English Muffins.  NOTE: You don't have to own muffin tins. I've heard that people make them out of foil-- or the dough is supposed to be thick enough that you can do this "free form".

This is a plastic bucket with a lid, that I use a lot for making bread.  A glass bowl and plastic wrap works just as well.  To the sugar and yeast, I add warm water (at about 110F) and stir it; set it aside for 5-10 minutes until it becomes bubbly and alive.

Turn on the oven to WARM for 2-3 minutes and then turn it off.  This is my way of speeding up the proofing process.

See this cool little tool?  It's a Danish Dough Whisk, and this has become a handy little tool. It makes mixing bread dough a breeze.

It's been less than ten minutes, and I've measured out flour, raisins, cinnamon and I'm warming up some 1% milk to about 110F.  The yeast is nice and foamy...

I've dumped in the flour and cinnamon, and now I add the warm milk...

 ...and mix the dough together until smooth.

This is effortless, I tell ya!  The dough is wet, almost like a very thick pancake batter.

Add the raisins, and give the batter a good stir.

Cover the dough and let it rise.  I placed mine in my warm and snug oven.

45 minutes later, we have English Muffin Batter!

The English Muffins are actually cooked, rather than baked. I used my cast iron griddle, that I very lightly sprayed with baking non-stick spray.  I set the heat at medium-high.  If you don't have a griddle you can certainly use a skillet.

I also sprayed the muffin tins with non-stick spray.  So, this is very much liking making thick pancakes.  I've made this recipe, twice, and found that 1/2 cup of dough worked out best.  These do puff up a bit...

You will actually notice a bit of bubbles, which is a sign that it's time to flip the muffins over-- this took about 2-3 minutes.  It all depends on your stove and skillet/griddle.

A couple of tricks that I learned, is that I used a small spatula to spread the batter evenly (if you're using tins).  Otherwise, you can certainly make these "free-form" and use a spatula to shape them.  If you're using muffin tins, they get hot (and I am speaking from personal experience), so having a towel to grab them helps.  Just like making pancakes, I slipped a spatula underneath the muffin, said a prayer and....

The first once was a little messy, and borderline burned.  That's why I suggest starting at a medium heat until you get to know your griddle.

I finally got the hang of it.  Total cooking time was about five minutes per muffin.

The tins slip off pretty easily, so I could check if they were properly cooked.

I do recommend that you test one of the thicker ones.  I didn't do that the first time, and I ended up with a couple of raw muffins. Not good.

See?  It's not ready yet.  You want a toothpick to come out clean.  I let these cook for another minute, and they were done.

From start to finish, I had homemade Cinnamon-Raisin English Muffins in one hour! How fun!

I had to wait about 10-15 minutes for these to cool. 

The moment of truth, as I split one open with a fork.

I know one thing, for certain. I will never run out of Cinnamon-Raisin Muffins again!

I packed up the muffins for the next morning...

I toasted a muffin, and made my cup of coffee...

...and added honey to it. All was right with the world, again.

TASTING NOTES:  Delicious!  It has just the right balance of cinnamon.  It's so easy, that you don't even need to use a stand mixer.  These are just as good-- if not a wee bit better-- than the commercial ones that I pay up to $4.00 a package for.   The biggest difference, though, is that these need to be frozen, if you don't eat them in a matter of a day or two. Otherwise, they will begin to mold (also spoken from experience, after the first batch).  You see, there are no preservatives.

I'm so glad that I finally learned how to make English Muffins. They're less scarey and complicated than I thought.  Next, I'll work on a Whole Wheat version.  I hope that you give this a try, yourself.  Breakfast is an important way to start the day, and these would be a great way to do it.

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of Internet Explorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here. If you still can't figure out how to view the printable recipe card, please email me at and I am happy to help.


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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Osso Buco (The Seduction Dinner)

Okay, Ladies. Listen up.  My mother was right.  The best way to a man's heart is definitely through his stomach.   I speak from experience.   We all need to have, at least,  that one dish that we have perfected. The one dish that we prepare, while waiting  hoping for "the one" who is about to arrive for a the "Grand Seduction" dinner.  Secretly, we hope that he'll be so impressed, that he'll propose- because he's been looking for a woman who can cook as good his mother. It's been many years since I've had to play that role, but I still enjoy seducing my husband's taste buds with something I know that he loves.

Fortunately, my husband is very easy to please.  His favorites are  some of my simplest recipes, like meatloaf, Sloppy Joe's and Roast Chicken.    But, whenever we go out to a "nice" restaurant, and Craig sees "Osso Buco" on the menu-- I already know that's what he's going to order.

I do enjoy going out to restaurants-- especially since we live so close to Carmel, California.  If you've ever been there, then you know that an Osso Buco dinner, with appetizer, wine and tip can be very pricey.    In recent years, though, I've grown more fond of making a nice dinner for my Sweetheart, and enjoying a quiet dinner at home.

So, while doing my weekly shopping at Whole Foods, a special on oxtails inspired me to make one of my husband's favorite dishes at home.  By the way, you can easily substitute short ribs or veal shanks for this recipe. They would be just as delicious.

Searing and braising is one of my favorite cooking methods.   The prep work might take up to an hour, but in the end-- I can just sit down and relax while my Dutch Oven turns an inexpensive cut of meat into something that is tender, and has a beautiful sauce.

Flour is seasoned with salt and pepper.  The golden rule for beautifully browned and seared meats is this-- pat the meat bone dry.  Pun intended.

The meat is beautifully seared, and there's lots of brown caramelization on the bottom of the Dutch Oven. We're off to a great start.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Risotto Milanese

According to our local weather service, we are expecting warm temperatures this weekend.  So, I thought it best that I hurry up and post this Risotto dish that I made a few weeks ago-- and I have to tell you, that it was creamy, and delicious. Best of all, it wasn't that difficult to make. I promise.

I've bought Risotto mixes and frozen versions, and they just aren't good.  There is nothing like a serving of freshly made Risotto.   I forget to make it, and I need to change that.  You always start with chicken broth (or homemade stock).  This particular version uses saffron, to give the risotto a beautiful yellow color.  Saffron is very expensive, but I buy a small jar at my local Trader Joe's.  You can always "cheat" and use Tumeric.  It's not quite the same, but a tiny pinch will give a pretty yellow color, too.

Your mis en place (aka "set up")-- your chicken stock, heating up, a pot with olive oil, white wine (I use sauvignon blanc), chopped onion and rice, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.   The kind of rice is important.  Carnaroli is my #1 choice, but it can be a little tricky to find. Otherwise Arborio rice works well.  (This is not the time to use regular rice, as it's not starchy enough.)

I've heard it said that making risotto is laborious and involves stirring and stirring.  I beg to differ!  Yes, I have to pay attention, but I am able to multi-task with other things nearby, as long as I pay attention.   We begin by coating a large saucepan generously with olive oil over medium heat. Next, we add the onions and salt and sweat them until translucent, about 5 minutes

Bring the pan to a medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, letting the rice slightly stick to the bottom of the pan and scraping it off. It should also sound crackly.

 Add the wine to the pan until it covers the surface of the rice. Season with salt and cook over a medium-high heat, stirring continuously until the wine has absorbed into the rice.
Add the saffron chicken stock to the pan until it covers the rice. Cook over a medium-high heat, stirring continuously until the stock has absorbed into the rice.

 Repeat this process two more times with the hot saffron chicken stock. When the third addition of the stock has absorbed and the rice is very creamy, bite a couple grains of rice to be sure it is cooked perfectly. If it is still a little crunchy, add a little more stock and cook the rice for another couple of minutes. When the rice is cooked perfectly, remove it from the heat.

Now, for the finishing touches-- 

Toss in the butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano and “whip the heck out of it.” The rice should be creamy but still flow and hold its own shape.

This is a beautiful Risotto recipe, and I got it from Food Network's Anne Burrell, who happens to be one of my favorite celebrity chefs.   I made this Risotto to be served with this:

Osso Bucco (Beef Shank Cut), which is traditional served with Risotto Milanese.   If I do say so myself, this dinner was one of my crowning glories.  My son still talks about it.  I will share that recipe, next.

Are you ready to make Risotto?  You won't be sorry. 

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of InternetExplorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here.

If you still can't figure out how to view the printable recipe card, please email me at and I am happy to help

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Cranberry White Chocolate Almond Cookies for the Secret Recipe Club

These cookies hit a homerun with my favorite flavor notes-- almond, white chocolate, cranberries. Yes!

...and then I realized, that as much as I love baking cookies, I haven't made any in a long time.  So another savory recipe will have to wait, while I switch over to baking something sweet.  My husband always appreciates having some cookies to toss in his lunch box, and my son is known to eat a few at a time.  So, when I spied the Cranberry White Chocolate Almond Cookies, and realized that I had all of the ingredients on hand, this was my SRC choice for the month.

Cranberries and white chocolate does sound like a winter Christmas cookie combination. But, I use dried cranberries year-round.  (I stock up on them to make my homemade Cranberry-Almond granola.)  I love white chocolate.  Combine that with any kind of almond flavor, and I'm sold. 

The batter is similar to a traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe, except that this one uses all brown sugar. 

I debated between using pecans vs. almonds, but decided to use some toasted almonds-- and I ramped up the almond flavor by adding some almond extract and some vanilla extract.

While the oven preheated to 350F, I chilled the dough; then scooped the cookie dough onto parchment paper.

Eleven minutes later, they were baked to golden.

This recipe made 3 1/2 dozen.  For my own sake, so that I don't become a cookie monster, they are boxed up and ready to go to my husband's office.  I'm sure they'll be appreciate by his co-workers.

TASTING NOTES:  Cranberry and white chocolate are a great pairing.  If you like a soft cookie, that has a perfect balance of butter flavor, brown sugar, tart cranberries and just the right amount of white chocolate-- this cookie is for you.  I'd make these again, but I have to admit-- I'm a much bigger fan of cookies that are crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle.  I'm not saying these aren't good cookies, because they are.  I'm just going to tweak the recipe a little bit, next time, with a combo of butter and shortening, to get that "crispy-chewy" combo that I love so much.   

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.

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