Homemade English Muffins: Rising to the Challenge

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

I have always had a lingering fear of working with yeast. I can’t recall a specific failure that could have caused this reaction, it’s more of a preemptive thing. And so I rarely bother to attempt any baking that calls for kneading or letting things rise. But last weekend, I had a serious craving for English muffins and a few spare hours to kill so I convinced myself to face my phobia.

I got words of encouragement via Facebook from my blogging buddy Liz who told me once I tasted homemade English muffins, I would never go back to buying them again. And so with my lofty dreams and high hopes defeating my fear of disaster, I gave it a shot. I found a few recipes I wanted to try but settled on this one from Brown-Eyed Baker, which is taken from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The only adaption I made was switching out some whole wheat flour for part of the regular flour.

It was an easy task from start to finish, but it was a long process — mainly because you have to let the dough rise twice which took about three hours in total. But it was the perfect project for a lazy Saturday evening, as I spent the “rising” time watching Twin Peaks on Netflix. I don’t know how I’ve missed seeing the cult hit until now, but I’m happily making up for lost time — it’s seriously addictive and super bizarre.

Actually speaking of Twin Peaks, I have an embarrassing confession for you: I have seen drinks called “The Laura Palmer” on bar menus for years and always assumed it had something to do with Arnold Palmer (as in, his wife perhaps?). Yeah. So that was eye-opening.

Anyways, on to the muffins!

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Gratuitous Food Pics: Portland’s Plate & Pitchfork

Grilled Octopus Salad w. White Beans, Calabrian Chilies and Sugar Snap Peas

It’s cold, windy and rainy days like this one that make me long for summer. A big part of summer for me is cooking outside as much as possible, often with my husband who is a chef in Portland. If we’re not grilling in our own backyard, we’re cooking alfresco for special events sourced through the restaurant.

This past summer, we did an extravagant pig roast for Archery Summit Vineyards and an urban garden dinner for The Portland Fruit Tree Project. Last summer one of my favorite events was a collaboration dinner with the chef of Lardo (Portland’s latest media darling who is now a good friend) for an event called Plate & Pitchfork.

Plate & Pitchfork brings chefs together with local farmers, so each chef gets paired up with a farm, uses their produce and puts out a multi-coursed family style dinner at the farm. It’s pretty awesome.

Here’s some scenes from our dinner which was held at Sun Gold Farm in Forest Grove. We served about 120 people, using one gas burner and two huge grills.

Octopus a’grillin

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Gratuitous Food Pic: Brunch at Beast

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Braised Lamb, Padron Peppers, Romanesco Broccoli and a Poached Egg.
Brought to you by my favorite Portland brunch spot, Beast. Sept. 2012

While Beast might be one of those places that (as a Portlander) you are almost sick of hearing about before you ever eat there, it really does live up to its reputation for awesome food. Also they have this sign in their window:

I don’t know why there are quotation marks but as an avid lover of all things foie, I still appreciate the sentiment!

Gratuitous Food Pic: Foie Gras at Hokusei

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Seared Foie Gras, Shrimp & Scallops on Eggplant…with a touch of gold leaf for extra luxuriousness. It was amazing! Hokusei, Portland, OR 2012.

One Loaf to Rule Them All: Cheese-Studded Kobe Meatloaf

No Need for Ketchup Glaze Here

Usually I am a pretty healthy eater. I eat a lot of raw veggies, dine frequently on farro and try to avoid fried foods (unless I’ve been drinking *ahem*). So when I pulled a pack of ground Kobe beef from my freezer a while ago, I had already made my peace with eating some seriously fatty meaty goodness. And when you’ve come that far, it’s best to just don a pair of sweatpants and embrace it.

So I did exactly that.

While the beef thawed, I rooted around in my massive recipe binder for something new to try. It seemed sinful to waste Kobe beef on something like burritos or spaghetti, though I have no doubts it would have been delicious in either. Then I found the perfect recipe — one I had been dying to make for quite some time and had just been waiting for the heat of summer to dissipate. Which, let me tell you, has certainly happened here in rainy Portland. If there was ever a time for some “hibernation food,” it’s now.

So I set to work on making this masterpiece: Meatloaf with Creamy Onion Gravy from the Nov. 2011 issue of Food & Wine. And oh, sweet Jesus, am I glad I did. I thought I made good meatloaf before — I always make it with sautéed onions, carrots and celery and I often use grated Parmesan cheese in it for extra goodness.

But this meatloaf…it was divine. It was magical. I used the entire three pounds of meat and I think it was gone in a two days. I don’t know what happened. Oh wait — I know. It looked like this:

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Tales from the Garden: Sunchoke Harvest

I have never been successful in growing things that I can actually eat. My rather large strawberry patch produced one puny berry this year and in consecutive years, my husband and I killed three rosemary bushes. But my luck has changed!

This spring, a friend gave me a sunchoke plant. I was apprehensive but optimistic.
I love sunchokes and was very excited at the prospect of being able to grow my own. The best thing about these plants is that they are regenerative. Just leave some in the dirt and the next spring, another plant will grow.

At any rate — my plant took off and grew like crazy, towering over our 8-foot tall fence. I was so proud!

Once the sunflower-like flowers died, it was time to pull the plant up and see what it produced. Here’s what I found nestled in the ground:

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