Posts Tagged ‘blueberries’

Blueberry Muffins

First up in the 88th episode of Good Eats are blueberry muffins. Blueberry muffins were something we ate a lot growing up. My mom would make a batch of blueberry muffins, giving them to us for breakfast before school. She would take day-old muffins, split them in half, butter them, and place them under the broiler until the butter had melted and the muffin edges were slightly crispy. Gosh, they were good. I really should make blueberry muffins more often.

Alton’s recipe begins with preheating the oven to 380 degrees. While the oven preheats, combine 1 C plain yogurt, 1/2 C vegetable oil, 1 C sugar, and 1 egg in a bowl, whisking to combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together 12 1/2 ounces cake flour, a pinch of Kosher salt, 2 t baking powder, and 1 t baking soda.

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Wet and dry muffin mixtures.

For his muffins, Alton recommends using fresh blueberries when possible, but if you must use frozen berries, do not thaw them before adding them to your batter. Either way, toss 1 1/2 C blueberries with 1 T of your dry ingredient mixture; this will serve to keep the berries from sinking to the bottom of your muffins.

Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients, mixing with a spatula for a long count of 10.

Add your berries, reserving 1/2 C for later. Mix the berries into the batter, but only for a count of three, as you do not want to over-mix the batter.

Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray and use a #20 ice cream scoop to dispense batter into each cup; a #20 scoop is equal to 0.2 C, so I used a ladle that was about this size.

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Sprayed muffin cups filled with batter.

Remember those reserved berries? Sprinkle them onto the tops of the muffins, lightly pressing them into the batter.

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Reserved berries sprinkled over muffins.

Place your muffins in your preheated oven, but increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Alton explained in the episode that increasing the oven temperature when you place the muffins in the oven gives a guaranteed burst of heat, which will help to ensure a good rise. Bake the muffins for 12 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake them for an additional 8-13 minutes. The muffins are done when they are golden brown and they pass the toothpick test.

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Muffins, straight out of the oven.

Flip your muffins onto a tea towel, letting them cool upside down.

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Muffins, inverted onto a tea towel to cool.

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Blueberry muffins, split, buttered, and broiled.

I had to test one of the muffins while it was still warm, splitting and buttering it. These blueberry muffins are outstanding. Not only are they littered with blueberries, but their flavor and texture is spot-on too. The yogurt in the muffin batter gives the muffins a faint tartness, so they are not overly sweet, and they are tender on the inside while being slightly crispy and golden on the outside. Good stuff. This blueberry muffin recipe is hard to beat.

English Muffins

It was probably about 15 years ago when I first saw this episode of Good Eats. I remember being super intrigued by Alton’s English muffin recipe, deciding to try it for myself. At the time, I was at my parents’ house, and all I can remember is that my English muffins were ugly… really ugly. They tasted fine, but they were hideous, and I never tried them again – until now.

To make English muffins, dissolve 1/8 t sugar in 1/3 C warm water. Sprinkle on 1 package of yeast, and set the bowl aside for about five minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the wet ingredients:  1 C very hot water, 1 T shortening, 1 T sugar, 1/2 t salt, and 1/2 C milk powder.

Add the yeast mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring to combine.

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Yeast added to wet ingredients.

Place 2 C of sifted flour in a bowl, making a well in the center, and pour in the wet ingredients.

Stir the dough with a wooden spoon until it comes together. Set the dough aside for 30 minutes.

Alton used an electric griddle to cook his English muffins. We do not have an electric griddle per se, but we do have a Panini press that has smooth plates. You want your cooking surface to heat to 300 degrees (an infrared thermometer is helpful for checking this, especially if you don’t have a griddle).

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Griddle, preheated to 300 degrees.

Now, you will need some metal rings to serve as molds for your English muffins, and Alton used four tuna cans from which he had removed the tops and bottoms. I, however, discovered that tuna cans no longer seem to have removable bottoms; unfortunately, I did not come to this realization until I had purchased and opened four cans of tuna. Oops! I wound up purchasing a set of four rings on Amazon, which were not expensive. Once your cooking surface has sufficiently preheated, place your rings on the griddle, spraying them lightly with non-stick spray.

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Rings placed on preheated grill and sprayed with non-stick spray.

Using a #20 scoop, place two scoops of dough into each ring. I used a ladle that was approximately 1/4 C in size.

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English muffin batter added to rings.

Place a sheet pan on top of the rings and let the muffins cook for five minutes.

Using tongs, flip the rings, place the sheet pan on top again, and let the muffins cook on their second sides for five more minutes.

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Flipped muffins after five minutes.

Transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool.

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Finished English muffins, cooling on wire rack.

I was pretty happy with how my English muffins turned out, as they at least looked like English muffins this time around. They had the “nooks and crannies” in them that really make an English muffin an English muffin, along with a slightly yeasty flavor.

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English muffin, toasted and buttered.

They toasted up nicely, and were a perfect breakfast with a pat of butter. Next time around, I will have to plan ahead and use the muffins to make eggs Benedict. Alton’s recipe shows that English muffins are surprisingly easy to make, and they’re pretty tasty too.IMG_4683

My brother and I ate pancakes often when we were kids, and they were always prepared by Mom. While we occasionally would have Bisquick pancakes, usually our pancakes were made with one of Mom’s two sourdough starters. The one starter gave pancakes that were thin and airy, while the other sourdough pancakes were thick, slightly crispy on the outside, and soft in the center; the thick ones were always my favorite, and I have that very starter in my refrigerator right now. I don’t know exactly how old that sourdough starter is, but I believe it is at least 30. Mom almost always made a blueberry sauce to go with our pancakes, and I vividly remember fights over every spoonful, and especially the very last spoonful. Mom, in her apron, often had to mediate, deciding which one of us would get that final bit of sauce, and promising that the other of us would get it next time. Dad, in his shirt and tie, would hide behind his newspaper shield, ignoring the commotion to the best of his ability, while eating his own share of the blueberry goodness. Ah, the beauty of the family pancake breakfast.

“Instant” Pancake Mix

Seeing as we are starting a four-day mini vacation today, what better way to begin the day than with homemade pancakes? Last evening I watched the 34th episode of Good Eats, and quickly mixed up a batch of Alton Brown’s instant pancake mix.

Pancake mix ingredients:  flour, baking soda, baking powder, Kosher salt, and sugar.

Pancake mix ingredients:  flour, baking soda, baking powder, Kosher salt, and sugar.

To make his mix, into a lidded container scoop 6 C of all-purpose flour; the moderate protein content of AP flour is ideal, as low-protein flours (like cake flour) result in pancakes that are too soft and light, while high-protein flours (such as bread flour) yield pancakes that are too dense and tough. Prior to scooping your flour, give it a good shake to aerate grains, as this will result in a more accurate measurement.

Spoon 6 C of flour into a lidded container.

Spoon 6 C of flour into a lidded container.

To the flour, add 1.5 t of baking soda, 1 T of baking powder, 1 T of Kosher salt, and 2 T of sugar.

Add 1.5 t baking soda.

Add 1.5 t baking soda.

Add 1 T baking powder.

Add 1 T baking powder.

Plus a tablespoon of Kosher salt.

Plus a tablespoon of Kosher salt.

And 2 T sugar.

And 2 T sugar.

Shake the mix well and use within three months.

Before shaking.

Before shaking.

After shaking to combine.

After shaking to combine.

Note:  This recipe can easily be scaled up or down – just use the following formula:  1/4 t baking soda per cup of flour, 1/2 t baking powder per cup of flour, 1/2 t Kosher salt per cup of flour, and 1 t sugar per cup of flour.

When ready to make your pancakes, for every 2 C of pancake mix, you will need 4 T of melted butter, 2 C of buttermilk, and 2 eggs, separated. Oh, and fruit, if you want to have fruit in your pancakes. Alton used blueberries in the episode.

Pancake ingredients:  2 C pancake mix, 2 C buttermilk, 4 T melted butter, blueberries, and 2 eggs, separated.

Pancake ingredients: 2 C pancake mix, 2 C buttermilk, 4 T melted butter, blueberries, and 2 eggs, separated.

To give you an idea of how much mix to use, for us this morning, 2 C of pancake mix gave us 9 pancakes, made using a 3 oz. ladle. Measure your dry pancake mix into a large bowl.

2 C of pancake mix in a large bowl.

2 C of pancake mix in a large bowl.

For the liquid ingredients, buttermilk and butter go together like oil and water, so, for proper mixing, add the egg whites to the buttermilk and mix with a fork; since egg whites are mostly water, they will mix easily with the buttermilk.

Adding egg whites to buttermilk.

Adding egg whites to buttermilk.

Buttermilk/egg white mixture.

Buttermilk/egg white mixture.

Separately, add the egg yolks to the melted butter; the yolks will mix well with the butter because their lipoproteins like both fat and water.

Adding egg yolks to melted butter.

Adding egg yolks to melted butter.

Egg yolk/butter mixture.

Egg yolk/butter mixture.

Finally, combine the egg white/buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk/butter mixture, and whisk.

Combining liquid ingredients.

Combining liquid ingredients.

Once combined, heat a griddle or skillet to 350 degrees. If you plan to serve pancakes to numerous people at once, you will also want to put a towel-lined baking sheet in your oven and heat it to 200 degrees. We do not have a griddle, so I used a large, heavy-duty nonstick skillet. I was given an infrared thermometer for Christmas, so I used that to determine when my skillet had reached 350 degrees.

Large skillet preheating.

Large skillet preheating.

Pan just about ready.

Pan just about ready.

If you do not have an electric griddle or an infrared thermometer, you can tell that your skillet is ready when water droplets dance on the surface. When your cooking surface is heated, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix just until combined. You do not want to over-mix your batter, and do not worry about lumps, as they will cook out.

Adding wet ingredients to dry ingredients once the pan is hot.

Adding wet ingredients to dry ingredients once the pan is hot.

Mix just until barely combined.

Mix just until barely combined.

Lube your hot pan by rubbing it with a stick of butter, and then wipe it with some paper towels until no fat is visible on the pan.

Hot pan lubed with butter.

Hot pan lubed with butter.

Using a 3 oz. ladle, gently spoon pancakes onto the pan.

3 ounce ladle.

3 ounce ladle.

Batter in the pan.

Batter in the pan.

If you want to add fruit to your pancakes, sprinkle it onto the pancakes now.

Fruit sprinkled on.

Fruit sprinkled on.

Cook the pancakes until bubbles set around the edges and the undersides are golden brown. Flip the pancakes and cook the second sides until they, too, are golden brown, which should take about half as long as for the first sides.

Flipped pancakes.

Flipped pancakes.

You can hold the pancakes in your warm oven for 20-30 minutes, or serve them immediately with butter and real maple syrup. I opted to eat mine with just butter.

Blueberry pancakes with butter.

Blueberry pancakes with butter.

Alton's blueberry pancakes.

Alton’s blueberry pancakes.

If you have leftover pancakes, Alton says you can cool them completely on a cake rack, wrap them individually in paper towels, and freeze them in a plastic bag; they can be reheated in a toaster or microwave. We had five extra pancakes, and they are in the freezer as I type. We thought these pancakes were really good, and they cooked up very nicely. They were thick, fluffy, golden brown, and slightly crispy on the outside. The tang from the buttermilk was evident, and paired well with the sweetness of the blueberries. Chopped bananas would also be good in these pancakes. Perhaps I will be making these pancakes when our family comes to visit next week. We may not have any chocolate chip cookies left (see my previous post here) but we do have pancake mix! If you are looking for a good, fast pancake recipe that is superior to commercial mixes, Alton’s pancakes are great.