Friday, August 31, 2012

Backyard Chicken Eggs

My girls' egg, v XL white egg
I have backyard chickens, 6 of them. Alouette, Edna, Martini, Peck, Sunny and Chicken.  Husband named "Chicken".  They all have huge personalities and are all very loving.  They enjoy being held and stroked and follow me around the yard like the pied piper.  I love my chickens

They are Buff Orpington chickens   They are 21 weeks old today and today, I got my first 2 eggs! There was an egg in the nesting box when we let them out of the coop this morning and then I was standing there, talking to my mother on the phone about how I'd listened to Alouette "sing" for an hour or more in the nesting box, heard a "knock" against the plywood and opened the door to see Alouette and a fresh, warm, wet egg!!!

I ran the egg inside, rinsed it and promptly lightly fried it in a little butter. I slid it onto a slice of homemade bread with a little butter on it. I ate it. It was heaven. I cannot believe how beautiful it was, firm albumen, 1/2 inch high, tight, almost neon yolk. It was the best egg I have ever eaten.

In a perfect world, the theory is that we'll get one egg per day per chicken. That's 6 per day. I can do that.


I heated a little butter in a non stick pan to medium high.  I cracked the egg and slid it into the pan.  I immediately rotated the pan, like a crepe, and it folded itself over.  No need to flip :)

I put it on a slice of homemade, buttered, bread.  Split the bright yellow yolk so it ran into the bread and ate it hungrily. 

I may never eat anything else again. 


Saturday, August 25, 2012

English Muffin, (revisited, reworked)

 English muffins.  I love them.  I love them toasted and put under anything at all.  There are few things so wonderful as a nook or cranny completely filled with little puddles of butter.  Really.

I made hollandaise sauce last night for my steamed broccoli so naturally I woke up thinking I needed something to go under the sauce this morning. Enter the English muffin. Well, I had planned on adding some bacon and a poached egg of course but, as you'll see, neither of those materialized and I was left with English muffins, nooks, crannies, melted butter and really is there anything else you need when you're up at the crack of dawn thinking about bringing a new puppy into the zoo?  I thought not.

I could have gotten dressed, gotten into my car, driven the 20 minutes to the grocery store, wandered down the aisled to find a hermetically sealed cellophane tube of English muffins, made who knows where or when. I could have then stood in line, paid, walked back to my car and then driven the 20 minutes home to have a toasted English muffin. I think we both agree that wasn't going to happen. Much preferably I chose the second option, throw some ingredients in the kitchen aide, stay in my jammies, enjoy the second cup of coffee on the back porch watching dogs play and birds do bird things just out of reach of said dogs.

You need some basic ingredients that I guarantee you have in your house, an hour or so of time and an electric griddle. Get comfy, we're heading to nook and cranny yumminess.

Look around your kitchen and realize the list of ingredients isn't daunting at all.  Make a coffee then gather these items;

1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
4 T melted shortening
3 cups of a/p flour
1 tsp salt
some cornmeal for dusting

Proof the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water in the kitchen aid bowl. Combine the milk and honey, warm gently to body temperature in the microwave.  See, it's not just a butter melter, frozen pea cooker and popcorn popper!

Add the milk to the water when it's cooled down to slightly warmer than body temperature. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, the salt and the shortening*  *I scoop 4 Tablespoons shortening into a bowl and microwave to melt it then measure the melted shortening, one Tablespoon at a time, into the bowl while the machine is running. Add the remaining flour, if needed, to form a soft dough that clears the side of the bowl.

Mix with the dough hook (or in a bowl by hand works just as beautifully) until it's a smooth dough that barely sticks to your hand. You want a very soft dough here. Try to resist adding too much flour when you gently knead it.  Knead it a couple of times until it's smooth and like a baby bum! (no, really, this dough is that soft and warm and squishy!) I simply put it back into the kitchen aid bowl with a tea towel over it for about an hour.  I either put it in the oven with the light on or in my garage (which is perpetually warm). This dough needs to double in size. This is after about 50 minutes, it's grown substantially in the kitchenaid bowl!
Sprinkle cornmeal on your work surface and gently tip the dough onto it. Press it out with your fingers, gently, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the dough with a 3 inch biscuit cutter or a tuna can or a glass or whatever you want. Flour before you cut each time and the only trick here is not to twist when you're cutting them out, just press straight down!  I have also formed the dough into a 9 inch square and run a pizza cutter through to make 9 square English muffins, weird but it's fast and there's no waste!  you can round the sides if you're a purist.

If you use a cutter, re-flatten the scraps to make another cutting pass and then just form the last bits into a funky, cooks treat, muffin that you'll sample, all in the name of science of course. OH and cook treats don't have any calories so worry not! 

I made mine quite small, 2 inches, but I like the crunchy edge bits when they are toasted so making them small means I have to eat 2-3 of them at a time and thus having more crunchy edge bits. Feel free to make them a more normal size, you should get 9 'normal' English muffins. *OH and yes, you can double the recipe.

Turn the muffins over so the second side is coated in corn meal and throw a tea towel over them to rest for a bit, I left mine about 20 minutes.

Heat an electric griddle to 350 and lay the muffins on it, dry!. Cook for 8-9 minutes per side. I threw them on a sheet pan and finished them in a 350 degree oven about 10 minutes to be sure they were cooked all the way through.
In about 8-9 minutes, they're ready to flip for another 9 minutes or so.
Pop them into the oven to finish cooking through
Leave them a few minutes if you can possibly stand it before you open them WITH A FORK pressed in the sides and toast them.
Slather thickly with cold butter and homemade jam.
They are crazy delicious, light, airy, toasty, crunchy, soft, chewy and quite frankly will turn you off the hermetically sealed cellophane tube of mystery muffins forever. You're welcome! OH and yes, these are going to be in my regular weekly baking rotation.

Here's just some beauty shots, no dough shots, I didn't think to grab pics till they were cut out, ooops.
As I said, they're light and airy and full of nooks and crannies just waiting to be toasted and filled with whatever decadent topping you desire!
Toasted beauties!
Oh, sorry, couldn't help it! you'd have done the same :) luckily there's MORE and this one screamed out for raspberry jam!! Mmmmmm
They are, like so many other things, far superior to the store bought alternative.  Take a bit of time one weekend morning, make these.  You'll be delighted!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Classic Cake; 1234 Cake

We all know I'm an old school cook at heart.  I love classic recipes, recipes people have been making in their kitchens for years notwithstanding technology or fancy tools.  I love the stuff they made with love.  I would rather have a small piece of something rich with butter and cream and full fat milk than a big bowlful of something made with genetically altered, fat free and made with sugar substitute.  I guess I just like real food.  

A friend posted pictures of the cake she made on her page and I could not believe my eyes.  I had to have it, immediately.  I copied the recipe for this classic, 'almost a pound cake but somehow richer and more delicious and sort of lighter too in a buttery sort of way' cake, I had to make it.  I had to make it immediately. 

I, as we all know, am incapable of following a recipe, even one handed down since who knows when.  I apologize in advance for my version.  I didn't make the ACTUAL recipe I was given but I was close. 

The most shocking thing about this is that Connor (my 13 yr old son) LOVES this cake.  That wouldn't be newsworthy if he liked ANY cake.  He is not a sweets guy, doesn't like birthday cake or icing.  He doesn't think flavors belong on the outsides of cakes in any fashion, no glaze, no dusting, no nothing.  He loves this cake, did I mention that? 

I made the cake yesterday, in an angel food pan, promptly delivered half to a girlfriend who was luckily celebrating a birthday and left the other half on the counter, assuming it would die a slow, stale death.  NOT SO! 

Connor ate slivers all day long and then, wait for it, asked me to make another one today.  OH HECK YES! 

So, without further ado, here it is, how *I* make the old school classic, 1 2 3 4 Cake. 

CLASSIC 1 2 3 4 CAKE (my version)


1 cup butter (2 sticks) room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs (although mine are extra large)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice

Here is my beautiful new angel food pan.  I got it at Sur La Table at the Domain in Austin.  Great price and super nice people.  Anyway, in the bowl of a kitchenaid mixer (don't all my recipes start like this??) cream butter and sugar.
When it's all creamed and lovely, add 4 eggs, one at a time until it's well combined.
Give it a moment to mix up after the last egg then *purists avert your eyes* dump all 3 cups of all purpose flour, the baking powder and salt on top.  You can mix it around if you want but I just dump it all in at once.  Mix it slowly to combine.
As soon as it's JUST combined *don't over mix this* (and looks like cookie dough) add the milk in a slow steady stream. Oh look how cake dough-y it looks!!  
Transfer the thick, light, airy batter into a lightly buttered pan.  I use angel food but you can use a bundt pan of course. 
Bake at 350 for an hour.
I remove it from the pan rather quickly once it's out of the oven because the angel food pan has the removable side and bottom.  I would just leave it in a bundt pan.  Brush the top of the warm cake lightly with melted butter (not much, just a little) and then sprinkle sugar on top.  It adds a lovely little rich crunch to the top.  I may make a light lemon glaze for half the cake, I don't want to change it up after we finally found a cake Connor likes!  

Here's the requisite beauty shots!  This cake is rich and light at the same time, it's a classic and it's clear to see why. 

Go make this cake.  Everyone will love it.
Go make something old school.  There are classic recipes for a reason, even if I can't actually follow them :) and really, I only changed it up a little bit.