lovely bits’o’crumpet

March 17, 2013 Comments Off on lovely bits’o’crumpet


After a few rounds we’ve pretty much got the waffle thing down to a science.  We needed a new breakfast challenge.

English muffins?  Whaddya got?  A poached egg on an English muffin is about as good a post-run breakfast as you can get, and having made one round of rolled and cut muffins a couple of weeks ago, I was ready to try a more authentic method.  The rolled ones were fine, but they were dense and they lacked the really loose crumb (OK, that’s ‘nooks and crannies’ if you’re not a baking nerd) that you really want in these.

Peter Reinhart has a full-bore recipe in Artisan Bread Every Day, but it comes with a warning–these are difficult, he says, so don’t expect too much on the first try.  Real English muffins (or, as they’re known in England, crumpets) get made with a super-loose dough that gets griddled, not baked.  The dough is almost a batter, so they need rings to keep them from becoming pancakes.  In addition to getting the timing and temperature right–on a griddle–you need to get the portioning right.  Too much and the dough rises up out of the rings, meaning they splat when you flip them, and the center never gets baked.  Too little and the dough firms up before it spreads to fill the whole ring, and you’re left with amoeba-shaped muffins instead of perfect circles.

Still, the upside is tremendous.  A bit of cornmeal, a buttered griddle, and you get a big crunch on the outside.  Time things right, and the inside is just cooked, so you get a soft crumb and plenty of butter-holding power.  The dough itself is full of oil, eggs, and milk, so it’s a rich, pillowy bread between those crusts.  And, if you run out of milk and happen to, um, use some cream instead?  Breakfast nirvana.

Those are, admittedly, two of the better outcomes.  It took a few tries to get the portions right–especially since I haven’t yet invested in a set of genuine crumpet rings and have been making do with egg rings instead, which are a bit small.  But they make a good size of muffin, not quite big enough to soak up a poached egg but right-sized for O and C to each have a pair for breakfast.  I kept the finished ones in a 200° oven to make sure they baked through, sort of a backstop.

Good fun, these.  And delicious with butter or an egg.  We’ve burned through a whole batch of these over the weekend, and while I suspect the waffles will still win out.  But these make a nice change of pace, and they apparently freeze up nicely.  So alongside the gallon bags of frozen waffles, these will be worth keeping at the ready, too.



And the real beauty of crumpets is that they get made on the stovetop.  So the oven’s free to bake up another pain au levain.  Which is also disappearing quickly.  Spring break in these parts, so there’s a good market for homemade carbs.


morning sunshine on a plate

June 30, 2011 Comments Off on morning sunshine on a plate

Math quiz:  (Leftover biscuit + surplus eggs + plenty of fresh basil in the kitchen garden) / six-mile tempo run = um, yes.


March 5, 2011 § 2 Comments

Or, in local parlance, Viking pancakes.  Delicious fried balls of doughy goodness, filled with whatever happens to be in the fridge at the moment.  We went with Nutella and some nice organic apricot jam.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that O had Viking pancakes at a sleepover, and Mom responded with “Aebleskiver!  We know what those are!  And we have a pan!”  Any breakfast food that comes with its own high-tech equipment is something that I’m totally down with, so after asking around and doing some research, I figured this was something we had to try.  Mom offered us the pan as part of my inheritance (it will go so nicely with the Wegner chair, not that I’m overly keen, but you know…a Danish theme and all…) and she brought it out with her this weekend.  Apparently it cause a bit of a row at security, but she also had some Aebleskiver mix and was able to get it past the somewhat overly keen TSA folks.

So we made them this morning.  There’s the newly enshrined pan–very nice aluminum, heavy and with carefully milled hollows for the cakes themselves.  The mix is less important than the technique, apparently.  You dunk a tablespoon of batter into each hollow, then a quarter teaspoon of whatever yummy stuff you’ve got, and then another tablespoon of batter on top.  When the bottom gets toasty, you take a couple of skewers and flip them over.  The new batter runs down to the bottom, the filling (hopefully) stays in the middle, and the top gets to rest a bit.

We got most of them turned over successfully, after realizing the hard way that a full half-gallon or so of Pam Baking Spray was the missing secret ingredient.  And they were awesome with a little powdered sugar on top.  Crispy outside, doughy inside, and then of course the secret filling inside.  Would it be jam?  Nutella?  Who knew!

They’re a little work, but worth it.  I can totally see this filling in for Muffin Saturdays occasionally.  And the best part?  There are actual Aebleskiver tools–little wood implements that are custom carved for turning these things.  I’m not sure our lack of Aebleskiver turners is holding me back yet, but I think I may need some soon.

vegan french toast

February 27, 2011 Comments Off on vegan french toast

Holy crow, that actually worked.  In the quest to maintain our weekend breakfast routine and not drive my vegan brother out of the house, we tried to figure out how to do french toast this morning without eggs, butter, or milk.  We had a bit of a baguette surplus, and with the homemade stuff you really have to nom it within two or three days or it turns stale quickly.  Which, of course, makes the three week shelf life of a store bought loaf seem even creepier.

Anyway, I was pretty encouraged by our cookie experiment Friday night, which used ground flaxseeds mixed with water as a replacement for egg.  We’ve also been using soy milk, which the girl actually likes straight and seemed sweet enough to qualify, and the vegan butter substitute had served fine for frying stuff.  So my brother and I put one and one and one together and got…um…three.

And it worked, remarkably well.  We chucked in a ton of vanilla, since I figured the missing egginess would need to be replaced by something, and we threw in some leftover whole wheat pastry flour to promote browning.  The batter looked a little different, and they browned a little less intensely than with the egg batter, but as you can see they still looked passable–that’s half the battle, according to Coulter–and they tasted great.  Lighter, certainly, and maybe not quite as crisp, but still recognizably french toast.  O ate five slices, C ate four, which is some kind of record, so at least they served as adequate Maple Syrup Delivery Devices (MSDD’s).

So I guess we can claim this as an actual recipe.  I should point out that it’s based on the Cook’s Illustrated recipe we’ve used in the past.  It’s not cure for the common cold, but I think we can be justifiably proud.  Vegan french toast, brothers and sisters.  Vegan french toast.

Vegan French Toast

2 tablespoons flaxseeds, ground

6 tablespooons water

2 cups Soy milk

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Vegan butter (Earth Balance or similar)

10 slices of french bread, preferably a day or two old

Mix flaxseed and water until it’s an eggy paste.  Whisk in Soy milk, vanilla, and dry ingredients.  Soak bread in mixture for 30-40 seconds, flipping halfway through.  Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in skillet and heat oven to 150°F.  Place 3-4 slices of soaked bread in heated pan and fry until sides are golden brown, 3-4 minutes, flipping each slice halfway through.  Place finished slices in warm oven and repeat.  Serve with maple syrup and blueberries

moby’s vegan blueberry pancakes

February 26, 2011 Comments Off on moby’s vegan blueberry pancakes

My brother flew in from Seattle last night to spend a weekend with us and to get some quality niece and nephew time.  Coulter is great, and it’s amazingly cool to have him here.  Among other things he’s a serious runner, so we did five this morning at the rec center.  He took it pretty easy on me.

The one tricky thing about Coulter is that he’s vegan.  And not the “oh, if there’s a little butter in it that’s not a big deal” kind of vegan.  He’s serious.  He spent two years on the road working for PETA.  So this meant some thinking about what we’d cook.  Dinner is easy–stir fry tonight and risotto tomorrow.  But breakfast?  Quick, think of a good vegan breakfast.  No eggs, no milk.  Yikes.

Fortunately, Epicurious came to the rescue.  Pancakes.  And not just any pancakes, but Moby’s Vegan Blueberry Pancakes.  By happy coincidence, some of my brother’s PETA time was spent on the road with Moby, manning a booth at his shows, so this seemed like destiny.  According to Epicurious, this is really his pancake recipe.  It’s based on spelt flour, which is gluten-free.  There’s also oat and wheat bran, just to prolong your time in the bulk section of the natural food store.

I have to say, I was skeptical–the ingredient list made it sound as though these would taste like grass–but they were really good.  Sort of like buckwheat pancakes, but a bit lighter.  The kids plowed through them, though they admitted they preferred the lightweight buttermilk pancakes I’ve been making.  I kind of do, too, but I think with a little vanilla and sugar these would be even better.  Lord knows we’ve got plenty of oat bran (the recipe calls for a tablespoon, I accidentally unloaded about two cups), so they’ll reappear in some form or another.

One of K’s relatives lives in rural Michigan, by chance across the road from the parents of Metallica’s drummer.  They shared their recipe for baked beans once, and we’ve always referred to them as “Metallica Baked Beans,” often to confused looks.  So now we can add Moby’s Vegan Blueberry Pancakes to our very limited but distinguished list of celebrity recipes.


February 17, 2011 Comments Off on pancakes

Hey, look at that–four pancakes in the griddle pan, all of them just about but not quite touching.  This must be the seventh or eighth batch of pancakes I’ve made, and I think I’ve finally got this right.

Big couple of days.  The elementary school carnival is tomorrow night, and C is in the chorus that’s putting on a special performance.  So they’ve loaded in a couple of extra practices, meaning more days when both kids have to get up at 6:30.  This is not easy on the boy, who is used to lolling around in bed until 7:15.  So I have had to make certain promises.

And today’s promise was that they would be greeted with sunshine, singing robins, and pancakes with strawberries.  That seemed to work, or at least cut the whining a little.  I bought some new, pure maple syrup, which the boy didn’t complain about, even though he misses the chemical concoction of Mrs. Butterworth’s.  But my New England connections just won’t let that stuff in the house, at least not while I’m buying.

The best part about this recipe is that it makes seven and a half pancakes.  The kids eat five (or most of five), there are two to put in the fridge for snack one day, and Dad gets the runt for tasting purposes, which you see there to the left.  All I’m allowed today, since I nommed a pretty fair amount of the sherbet last night.  Off for a run in the new shoes, I think I’ll burn this baby off in about 3/4 of a mile.

circular eggs

February 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

When I lived in New York, it was big news that the polar bear in the Central Park Zoo, Gus, was suffering from chronic depression.  He lolled around all day, not very polar-bear like, and they finally called in an animal psychiatrist.  Apparently those exist, even for polar bears.  The psychiatrist told the zoo to occasionally spice up Gus’ routine, by putting peanut  butter on his bouncy ball, for example.  Apparently, this half-assed attempt at polar bear therapy worked a treat, and soon Gus was stomping around his pen, oblivious to his confinement and happy to get the occasional smear of peanut butter in return.

I have discovered that the same treatment works with 12-year olds.  Once or twice a week, I bound into the girl’s room at 6:30, announce that it’s time to get up, and instead of just flicking on the light and leaving her to her own devices, I suggest a breakfast treat.  Pancakes have always worked.  This morning?  I suggested fried eggs.  And was met with the usual sullen “meh.”

“But we’ll put them in the new egg rings,” I said, “the ones you picked out in Minne!”

She gave me a modest shrug, which frankly is no small beer given her usual morning self.

And they worked pretty well.  Except that O pointed out maybe I should PAM them first.  It was a little sticky getting the finished eggs out.  And as they’re cooking, and I’m wondering how to flip them so she can have over easy, she points out that the little cork handles are on rivets, and they rotate up for easy flippage.  Total parental dumb-assedness.  But now we know.

So yeah.  Circular eggs.  They are better than spready eggs.  O ate them up with some baguette toast and practically skipped out the door.  (OK, not really.  But she did give me a hug on her way).

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