“Dough! Are you making dough? I can have some dough?”
The clank of the mixer bowl snapping onto mixer sends The Little running to the kitchen from anywhere inside our fence line. She has always had super Spidey hearing. When she was a newborn, the sound of milk pouring over my cereal downstairs in the kitchen would be enough to wake her from a nap upstairs. Every single time.
Unless we’re talking about cracking eggs or making pizza/bread dough, she’s not overly interested in helping in the kitchen. And this is what it usually looks like when I ask “Do you want to help Mommy measure the flour/cut cookies/do anything else besides eat raw bread dough or crack a couple of eggs?”
Lately, she’d rather paint or draw. Or wear a princess fairy dress.
It’s like we’re barely related some days
But the promise of a pinch or two of bread dough can cut a tantrum short and get my scattered toy mess of a living room picked up in no time. So we’re making a lot of bread lately.
English muffins are one of those bread things that are plenty easy enough to drop into your cart at the store but are so much more delicious when made at home, you just need to find a couple of hours on a weekend to let the dough rise and then some hands-on shaping and cooking time.
Just be warned – after eating Eggs Benedict or a breakfast sandwich on homemade English muffins, the store-bought variety will never even come close to living up to them. Even when drowned in all that magical Hollandaise sauce.
Need help deciding what to do with all those English muffins? We clearly vote for Eggs Benedict:
English muffins couldn't be easier to make and taste so much better than their store-bought counterpart.
1 3/4 cups lukewarm milk
2 1/4 tsp (1 pkg) yeast
3 Tbsp butter, softened
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 large egg
4 1/2 cups flour
Oil for bowl and hands
Cornmeal for pans
Place milk in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and sprinkle yeast over top.
Let sit for 10 minutes and then add the butter, salt, sugar, egg, and flour.
Mix on low until the flour is incorporated and then switch to medium and beat for 5 minutes - dough will be very soft and sticky.
Scrape dough out into an oiled bowl and cover, letting rise for ~2 hours.
Keeping your hands well oiled to prevent the dough from sticking, pinch golf ball sized pieces of dough off (2 oz, if you have a kitchen scale), form a ball, and place on a griddle pan that is generously dusted with cornmeal.
Lightly press down on the balls once on the pan (I could fit 8-10 on my griddle and then I put the remainder on a baking sheet to cook in two batches).
Let rest for 20 minutes.
Turn burner or grill to medium low and cook until golden brown, ~12 minutes on each side. (If they brown too quickly, reduce the heat.)
Carefully transfer the second batch to the griddle so as not to deflate them and cook until done.
Let cool completely on a rack before splitting open with a fork.
Muffins will keep fresh on the counter a few days and freeze well.
I am super particular about food (everything) when I’m sick. I want a bowl of tomato soup. I want a small stack of crackers to crush and sprinkle over top. And I want to be left alone. That last one hasn’t happened in the last 2 years and 361 days but a girl can dream. (side note: I’m 4 days away from owning a real live 3 year old!)
The soup, it must be the canned and condensed stuff. The crackers, they must be the buttery rectangles made by crafty little elves that live in a tree. And the bowl, it must be one of the souvenir bowls with a handle that we bought years ago when we took our first ski trip together.
If I’m spending my weekend on the couch with a bendy straw in a bottle of cherry NyQuil, there isn’t really anything negotiable on that list. I want to be waited on, I want to moan and groan (because what fun is misery if you can’t spread it around a little), and I want sleep the day away.
But if we’re talking about one of those precious two days a week when I have the entire house all to myself? The protocol is different. I find I have a little (a lot) more motivation those days. Enough motivation to tackle, say, a simple flatbread recipe.
Since my taste buds were still slightly numbed from the cold, I decided to top those flatbreads with an “everything” mixture for more flavor – it’s not just for bagels or burger buns! Fresh from the oven, the breads are crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.
The downside. Like a baguette, there’s nothing in the bread (oil, eggs, etc) to help it keep for more than a day. So if you’re going to make the breads, make them and then plan to eat them that day if you can (the sheer addictiveness of fresh bread from the oven will make this possible) and reheat them in the microwave for maximum enjoyability.
Crispy Persian flatbreads topped with a flavorful "everything" topping.
For the dough:
1 cup warm water
1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast (1/2 envelope)
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as necessary
1 tsp salt
Oil for greasing bowl and baking sheet
For the flour paste:
1/2 tsp olive or vegetable oil
1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup water
Cornmeal, for baking sheet
For the Everything topping:
2 tsp dried minced garlic
2 tsp dried minced onion
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp poppy seeds
2 tsp sesame seeds (I have a black & white mixture)
Add the water to the bowl of your mixer and sprinkle yeast over top, letting proof for 5-10 minutes.
Add the flour and salt, and knead for 6 minutes until the dough is smooth and only slightly sticky.
If the dough doesn't mostly form into a ball after ~2 minutes, add an extra 2-4 Tbsp of flour.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise until doubled, about an hour.
Lightly grease a baking sheet and divide the dough into 4 pieces. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 and place a baking sheet or pizza stone into the oven.
In a small sauce pan over medium heat, heat the oil and whisk in the flour, sugar, and water until mostly smooth.
Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, and then remove from heat to cool.
In a small bowl, stir together the ingredients for the everything topping.
Generously sprinkle cornmeal onto a sheet of parchment or a pizza peel (or something else to help you transfer the dough onto the heated pan in the oven).
Gently stretch a piece of dough into an oval on the peel, lifting the dough and adding additional cornmeal to prevent it from sticking (this is important).
Spread flour paste over the top of the dough and use your fingers to press lines or dimples into the dough.
Sprinkle with a generous spoonful of everything topping and transfer the dough to the oven.
Repeat for the remaining dough (I formed and baked two at a time), baking each for ~15 minutes, until golden brown.
Best enjoyed as fresh as possible.
Extra flour paste can be discarded, extra everything topping can be stored in a zip-top bag.
A few years ago, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to start making most of our own bread. With a little bit of scheduling and some room in the freezer, I could bake up sandwich bread, burger buns, english muffins, and bagels without having to buy very much.
Aside from burger buns, my favorite bread-thing to make is bagels. Partly because 1 batch will allow us to share a bagel for breakfast for nearly 2 weeks. And partly because the bagels from the nearby bakery place that we used to adore have really gone downhill over the last couple of years. Shelling out $12 for a disappointing breakfast for 2 isn’t the ideal start to a weekend.
This batch, we flavored the dough with some vanilla and added chopped semisweet chocolate. The dough isn’t overly sweet so you feel like you’re eating dessert for breakfast but there is chocolate. So you’re still kinda eating dessert for breakfast.
Chocolate Chunk Bagels
An overnight rest yields chewy, flavorful bagels studded with your favorite chocolate.
For the sponge:
1 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups warm water (divided)
1 tsp active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
For the dough
1/2 tsp dry active yeast
2 1/2 - 3 cups flour
2 3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks
1 Tbsp baking soda
Cornmeal for dusting pan
To make the sponge, dissolve sugar into 1/2 cup warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast over top and let proof for 5 minutes.
Add the remaining water and flour and mix on low with the paddle until sponge is smooth and the consistency of pancake batter.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit until doubled, approximately 2 hours. (The sponge will be foamy and bubbly and will collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop).
To make the dough, fit the mixer with the dough hook. Add the additional yeast to the sponge and mix on low until combined.
Add 2 cups flour, all of the salt, sugar, vanilla, and chocolate, mixing on low until the ingredients form a ball, adding additional flour 1/4 cup at a time to stiffen the dough.
Knead the dough for 6 minutes. It will be firm but still pliable and smooth and should clean the sides of the mixer bowl. The kneaded dough should feels satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
Form the bagels: Divide the dough into 4 oz pieces and shape into rolls. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and let sit for 20 minutes.
Line two baking sheets with parchment. Shape the bagels by pushing a hole through the center of each roll and working the dough around your thumb, stretching out the hole to ~2.5 inches in diameter.
Place bagels 2 inches apart on the pan. Cover with a damp towel and let sit for 20 minutes.
Fill a small bowl with room-temp water. Drop one bagel into the water. If the bagel floats within 10 seconds, remove the bagel, pat it dry, return it to the pan, and place the pans in the refrigerator overnight covered loosely with plastic wrap. If the bagel does not float, pat it dry, return it to the pan, and test again in 10-20 minutes.
Baking the bagels: Preheat the oven to 500 with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda. Boil the bagels in batches 1-2 minutes on each side (for chewy bagels, go 2 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula.
Sprinkle the same parchment-lined baking sheets with cornmeal. Transfer the pans to the oven. Bake for 5 minutes and then swap the pans in the oven. Lower the oven setting to 450 and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.
To freeze: I slice the completely cooled bagels almost all the way through, enough that they flip open all the way but still are just barely attached so tops and bottoms stay together. A square of wax paper in the middle keeps them from freezing shut. I layer them in a gallon freezer bag and put in the freezer. To reheat, I place the frozen bagel halves in the oven when I turn on the broiler to toast. They thaw, heat, and toast perfectly