0 Easy English Muffins

The first time I made English muffins, they were part of a bread baking challenge from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, a cookbook by Peter Reinhart that a group of folks were baking every bread recipe and posting the results.

The results were not what I expected - a thick English muffin that lacked the characteristic 'holes, nooks, and crannies' that capture pools of butter, jams and jellies.

My second attempt with Alton Brown's recipe was much better - a thinner muffin that definitely had the nooks and crannies that I craved for a traditional English muffin.

The muffins were simple and easy to make - the only thing is you need to start the night before, much like the No Knead Artisan Bread recipe. I like the fact that no special equipment or mixers are needed for this quick bread.

Milk, oil, honey are mixed together ~ flour, salt and yeast are whisked and the wet ingredients are mixed into a loose, sticky batter. The sides are scraped down and the bowl is covered with plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight - or up to 4 days.

The next day, the dough is taken out of the fridge 2 hours before cooking to wake up the yeast and take the chill off the dough.

Right before baking the English muffins, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda is added to warm water and gently folded into the wet batter. Letting this mixture sit for 10-15 min while heating up the griddle will further activate the dough and help create the bubbles that you want in your muffins.

Prepare a griddle or cast iron pan by heating it on medium high heat or to 300°F.
Spray oil to the insides of your crumpet/muffin rings or use large, wide mouth canning rings and dust the pan and insides of the rings with cornmeal. You will need at least 8 rings for this recipe. You can use egg rings, flan rings or even tin foil, folded into strips and fashioned into rings.

Spray the inside of a 1/3 cup measure or large ice cream scoop and fill the rings 2/3rds full.

Cook for 12 minutes ~ watch how nice and puffy these become!

Sprinkle the tops with additional cornmeal ...

Use a pair of tongs or a flat pancake spatula to flip the English muffin. Cook the other side for 12 minutes, till the dough is springy to the touch and golden brown.

Cool the English muffins in their rings for 2 minutes, then use a thin knife to pop them out of their rings.

Turn the muffins on their edge to cool on a wire cooling rack ~ this will help prevent sinking and shrinking. Cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Use a fork to poke the muffin all around the edge to open the muffin ~ this will help accentuate the nooks and crannies inside.

These English muffins are the perfect size to make Muffin Egg Sandwiches - Canadian bacon, cheese, scrambled eggs.... it was a winner for a breakfast dinner!

Take a look at these toasted English muffins ~ full of nooks a crannies .... just begging for lots of butter and your favorite jam or jelly.

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English Muffins
from Alton Brown, Food Network

2 teaspoons honey
1 Tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1 1/2 cups milk
2 2/3 cup bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons yeast

1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 Tablespoons warm water
cornmeal for dusting
Spray oil for the rings
8 rings are needed: wide mouth canning rings, muffin, egg, crumpet or flan rings will work.

Day before:
Mix milk, oil and honey. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast.
Mix in the milk mixture to form a sticky dough.
Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight, up to 4 days.

Next day:
2 hours before cooking, take the dough out of the fridge to warm up.
When ready to bake, heat your griddle or cast iron pan to 300° or over medium-high heat.
Right before baking, mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in the warm water.
Gently fold the baking soda mixture into the bread batter. Let the batter sit for 10-15 minutes.

Spray the inside of rings with spray oil. Dust the rings with cornmeal. Sprinkle cornmeal onto the griddle. Place the prepared rings onto the griddle.

Spray the inside of a 1/3 measure cup or large ice cream scoop with oil. Fill it with the batter and pour into the prepared rings - 2/3rds full.

Cook for 12 minutes, till golden brown. Sprinkle the tops with additional cornmeal, and turn the muffins over with tongs or flat spatula. Cook for an additional 12 minutes. If the muffins are turning brown before the 12 minutes, the heat is too hot and the insides may be doughy. Turn the heat down if this is happening.

Place cooked muffins on a cooling rack, on their sides, for 30 minutes.

Fork split, toast and enjoy!


0 Creamy No Strain Chocolate Yogurt - Yoplait Whips Copycat Yogurt

A light chocolate, mousse-like texture yogurt that is so simple to make. It only takes a few minutes of hands on time, but I love how my Instant Pot pressure cooker does all the work! You get to control the ingredients, tang, texture, and the sweetness of your yogurt. I don't like very tart yogurt - that mouth puckerin' feel is just not fun for me.

I've been making plain Greek yogurt, straining it very thick and flavoring it with any of the following to make a chocolate yogurt: chocolate syrup, chocolate drink mix powder, or chocolate whey protein powder (my hubby's favorite). Lately, folks have been asking, "Why not make it with chocolate milk?"

You can make yogurt with chocolate milk, but there are some things to consider. The added sugars in the milk compete with the other natural sugars (lactose) and slooooow down the culturing process. I wanted to be able to culture with LESS time for a mild flavor yogurt.

Chocolate milk often has additives, emusilfiers, stabilizers (carageenan) to keep the chocolate from separating from the milk and thickening agents. Any and all of these ingredients can interfere with the culturing process, often resulting in lumpy, separated, or grainy yogurt. 

I used this recipe as a basis for my yogurt, using a different syrup, adding milk powder and using only 2 T. yogurt as my starter, incubating for 5 hours, chilled for 4 hours, strained over night with coffee filters. The result?

A thin, very, very TART tasting yogurt that was NOT approved in my house. No amount of sugar could have been added to take out the tang! I got 1 cup of whey that I promptly tossed out.

Back to the drawing board. 

This time, I hesitantly used 1/4 cup Fage yogurt, chocolate syrup, semi sweet chocolate chips, instant milk powder, gelatin, incubated 5 hours with NO straining, and it was MUCH better! The yogurt was silky smooth, the whipped yogurt had a mousse like texture, and powdered sugar helped balance the tang factor. 

1.  Prep your Pot liner - Bring out your 1/4 cup of yogurt to get to room temp. 
Put ice cubes in your clean Instant Pot liner. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, swish and empty the cubes/water. Do not dry with a towel. This will help your milk get to temp and keep your milk from scorching/cooking/sticking to the bottom of your pot. This is a tip that I use for my Instant Pot Egg Nog, which keeps the egg mixture from sticking. 

Harold McGee, an author of the chemistry of food and cooking, has this to say:

            “When you rinse the pot with water, you pre-coat the metal surface with water molecules, and that coat seems to protect the surface from direct contact with the milk proteins when you pour the milk in. When you turn on the heat, the protein molecules take longer to contact the hot metal and bond to it. So less protein sticks to the pan bottom and scorches.” - Yogurt Making Tips from Readers, NYTimes

I emptied the pot to show you how very little milk is at the bottom of the pot. No worries about cooked on milk being scraped into the yogurt, affecting the texture! Also, it cleans very easily, as the milk is not stuck to the pot.

2. Prep your instant milk and heat your milk.
Remove 1/2 cup of milk from the 4 cups of milk and set it aside. This is for your gelatin.

Take out 1 cup of milk. Add 1/3 cup instant milk powder and blend till smooth. Whisk in the powdered milk mixture into the remaining 3 1/2 cups of milk. 

Pour  the milk mixture into your Instant Pot liner.

Press Yogurt, then quickly push Adjust. Display will say BOIL. 

You can use your IP lid, seal, vent closed, or any lid from your pots and pans. You can even use a glass pie plate lid. I used this silicone lid, which worked very well during the boil, incubation, and chilling in the fridge.

3. While your milk is heating, bloom the gelatin.
Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of unflavored gelatin (I used Knox) in 1/2 cup of COLD milk. Wait a couple of minutes. This will soften the gelatin, or help it 'bloom.'

4. At the end of the BOIL cycle, your IP will beep. Take the temp of your milk. It should easily read 180°F or higher. 

If your milk is not 180°F, no worries! Go ahead with the rest of the recipe...

Thermapen Digital Thermometer

Don't forget to remove any skin that may have formed on the top of your milk.

Why does this happen? It is a result of the heat and milk proteins and is normal. Remove it, so your yogurt will be creamy and smooth.

Use some of the hot milk to melt your chocolate chips, or grated chocolate. Wait a min or two, then whisk smooth. I used semi-sweet chips, but you can use milk chocolate, if you want.

6. Pour the chocolate syrup, chocolate milk mixture, and gelatin mixture into the hot milk. Whisk smooth. 
You can use any chocolate syrup that you want. I chose to use Hershey's Simply 5 for the ingredients: Cane sugar, organic invert cane syrup, water, cocoa, natural vanilla flavor. 

7.  Cool the milk over an ice water bath, or sink with cool water, whisking,  till it reaches 100° - 110°F range.  You can let the milk sit out on it's own to cool at room temperature. 

8. Add some cooled milk to your room temp starter. Whisk smooth, then whisk tempered starter into the pot of cooled milk.

9. Cover, Push Yogurt, then quickly push the Adjust button a few times till your display shows NORMAL and 8:00. (you do not want the 'less' setting)

Since I don't want a TART yogurt, I will be checking it at the 4 - 5 hour marks. 

Here's what it looked like at 4 hours. Since there are no stabilizers in my milk, the chocolate has separated from the milk. It looks a little loose, so I will check it in another hour. 

It's looking much better at hour 5!

10. Take the pot of yogurt, cover and chill completely, at least 6 hours in the fridge or overnight.
This will help the gelatin in the yogurt set. Even the whey will set, from the help of gelatin. So, there is no need to strain your yogurt!

I decided to take out half the yogurt ....

...and whip it using my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and whisk attachment. You will want to gradually start it, and then put it on the highest setting for 10 minutes, until the yogurt has approximately doubled in volume.

While your yogurt is whipping, you may want to add some powdered sugar. Push your powdered sugar through a sieve to take out any lumps and make it easier to dissolve.

Whipping your yogurt and then setting it in the fridge to chill will 'set' your yogurt into a Yoplait Whips style yogurt! Your yogurt will look thin and bubbly, but will set into a light and airy treat.

The result? A creamy mild chocolate yogurt with a mild tang and an airy whipped yogurt with a fantastic mouthfeel! 

Think of the possibilities for add ins: powdered peanut butter, raspberry puree/jam, chocolate chips, toasted coconut, instant coffee powder, mint, or even add cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne for a Mexican chocolate flavor!


print recipe

Creamy No Strain Yogurt -or- Yoplait Whips Copycat
Try a new spin on making yogurt by using unflavored gelatin, which helps make a creamy, no strain yogurt, and when whipped, adds air for a mousse-like texture.
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup instant milk powder
  • 1 Tablespoon unflavored gelatin (I used Knoxx)
  • 1 Tablespoon milk chocolate chips, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chocolate syrup or sauce
  • 1/4 cups plain yogurt with live/active bacteria at room temperature
  • -or- 5 gram packet of freeze dried yogurt starter
  • 1/4 cup - 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1. Take out the 1/2 cup of milk from the 4 cups of milk. Set aside. This is for your gelatin.2. Mix the instant milk powder into the remaining 3 1/2 cups of milk. Pour this into the Instant Pot insert.3. Cover your Instant Pot, push Yogurt for the BOIL setting.4. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon gelatin over the 1/2 cup reserved milk. Let is sit for a couple of minutes to soften, or "bloom.".5. At the end of the boil cycle, test the temp of the milk. It should be 180°F or higher. Remove the milk skin on top, if any.6. Ladle some hot milk onto the grated chocolate chips. Let sit for a minute. Stir till smooth ad whisk the chocolate mixture back into the hot milk.7. Stir the chocolate syrup into the hot milk. Stir the softened gelatin and whisk it into the hot milk. 8. Cool the milk mixture to 100°-110°F at room temp or over an ice water bath, whisking before tkaing the temp. It will only take 2-3 minutes to cool over the cold water. 9. Take a cupful of cooled milk and pour it over your yogurt starter. Whisk till smooth; whisk tempered starter back into the cooled milk. 10. Cover the Instant Pot, push Yogurt for the NORMAL setting. You should see 8:00 and "normal" on your display. (For the Ultra model, Medium is the setting for incubating yogurt). You can push the (+/-) buttons to increase/decrease the incubation time.11. Check your yogurt at the end of the 4-5 hour marks. If it looks "set," cancel the yogurt cycle and put the pot of yogurt, covered, into the fridge, for at least 6 hours or overnight. 12. Once chilled stir the yogurt, put into storage containers to re-chill in the fridge.
For a "whipped" yogurt, whisk your yogurt with a stand mixer equipped with a whisk attachment for at least 10 minutes, or until your yogurt has almost doubled in volume.
Add sifted powder sugar as it is whipping. Once whipped, the yogurt will look thn and bubbly. Pour into serving containers, cover, place in the fridge for another 2-4 hours to re-set the gelatin.

Yogurt will keep in the fridge for at least 2 weeks.
Prep time: 15Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 cups


0 Keep It or Toss It? Food Safety

It's past the date on the package.

It looks fine.

Smells fine.

Do I dare taste it?

Is it still good to eat?

image from treehugger.com

Not necessarily.

Each year, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick by eating contaminated foods or drinks. Typically called "food poisoning, it is a common, yet preventable problem. That's roughly 48 million people every year. 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. (CDC)  Food safety is paramount, especially if you are pregnant, elderly, young, or have a compromised immune system, you will want to pay careful attention to food safety.

What are the symptoms?

There are many different symptoms, and different people react differently when exposed to the same toxins. Since it is in the food and goes through the digestive tract, symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

What are the causes?

Contamination of food can happen at any point: growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping, or preparing. Cross contamination, the transfer of harmful organisms from one surface to another, is often the cause. Causes can be bacterial, viral, or parasitic. Some examples are undercooked meat or seafood, unpasteurized milk, improperly canned foods, foods not kept warm enough (145°) or cold enough (40°) or chilled too slowly, or raw egg yolks.

image from USDA.gov

Danger Zone of foods: Temps between 41°-140°F. This is the zone that bacteria thrives. Foods needing refrigeration should be kept at 40° or lower. Foods needing to stay hot need to be above 140°.

image from elitecareemergency.com

How can it be prevented?
Wash hands and surfaces often.
- Germs can survive in many places in your kitchen, including hands, utensils, appliances, and cutting boards. Clean with hot, soapy water. As an added precaution, you can use a solution of 1 Tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach (unscented) with 1 quart of water to sanitize washed surfaces and utensils. 
Keep sponges and dish towels clean
- Bacteria live and grow in damp conditions. If you have a smelly dish cloth or towel, toss it into the washing machine, using the hot water cycle. For daily sponge use, it's important to disinfect them using the microwave or dishwasher with a hot drying cycle. Paper towels are great for cleaning up spills to reduce cross contamination. 
Keep raw meats separate from other foods
- Raw meat, seafood and eggs can spread germs to ready-to-eat foods unless you keep them separate. In the fridge, keep raw meat in a separate container, away from fresh foods. Do not wash raw meat, as it can actually spread the bacteria into the sink and countertop.
Cook foods to the right temperature.
- It can be difficult to tell if a food is "done" just by looking at it. Invest in a digital thermometer to ensure that food is cooked and finished at a safe internal temperature. Cooked meats will rise in temperature while resting, so check it after cooking and after 5 minutes. 
Chill or refrigerate food promptly.
- Make sure your refrigerator is set for 40°F. Put foods covered, in the fridge, as soon as possible. Bacteria can thrive in foods sitting out at room temperature within 2 hours. In the summer time, that can be in 1 hour. 

Thaw meats in the refrigerator or microwave.
- Even though your food is frozen, bacteria grow rapidly at room temp. Marinade your meats in the fridge. 
Wash fruits and vegetables, even if you are going to peel them.
- Cut away damaged or bruised areas. Rinse under running water. Don't use soap, detergent, or bleach. Scrub firm produce (melons, cucumbers, etc) with a clean produce brush. Dry with a paper towel or clean cloth towel. Pre-washed produce is safe to eat without washing. Eggs are washed before sale. 
image from latimes.com

Dates on Foods

Tip: Write the date of purchase on the food, even on canned goods.
Expiration Date: refers to the last date a food should be eaten or consumed.                    
Sell by Date: tells the store how long to keep the food out on the shelf. Buy before this date. Fresher products are in the back of the shelf, so grab those instead. The date is more for freshness, taste and consistency, not for spoiling.
                                 Milk is fine for up to a week past this date.
                                 Eggs 3-5 weeks past the date, when refrigerated
                                 Poultry/Seafood - cook or freeze within 1-2 days
                                 Beef/Pork - cook or freeze within 3-5 days
Best by Date: more for quality, not safety. Sour cream is sour, but has a better taste when freshly sour.
                                  Canned foods - keep in a cool, dry place.
                                                Acidic foods like tomato sauce, 18 months+
                                                Low acid foods like beans, 5 years+
                                                Bulging cans? It's a sign of bacterial growth, so TOSS it!
Guaranteed Fresh: usually for bakery items. They are edible, but may be stale or not taste as fresh. Tip: Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temp for 1-2 days. You can freeze baked items for longer storage, up to 3 months. Slice the bread prior to freezing, so you can take out a couple of slices at a time. 
Use By Date: last date recommended for eating while at peak quality. Date is determined by the manufacturer of the product.
Homemade Yogurt

 How Long Are Foods OK to Eat?

It really depends on the food and how it is stored. StillTasty is a great resource to knowing how long food can be kept. For example, type in the word, "YOGURT" and you will get these choices:

Yogurt, Commercially Frozen - Unopened
Yogurt, Commercially Frozen - Opened
Yogurt, Commercially Packaged, sold & refrigerated
Select the 3rd option for refrigerated yogurt, and this is what you will see:

Okay, so the food has been sitting out or in the danger zone for more than 2 hours - or I forgot to refrigerate it. Can I just re-heat it and it will be ok?
- According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), reheating your food might kill the bacteria that were likely produced when it sat out for 2 hours or longer. But the problem doesn't stop there. 
Some types of bacteria also produce heat-resistant spores or toxins that can cause food poisoning and they are often not destroyed by normal cooking or reheating. Bottom line, you should not eat the food or try to reheat it. You may or may not get sick, but you will give yourself a very good chance at contracting a serious food borne illness.  

The best advice I ever got was from my mom. "If in doubt, throw it out."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Mayo Clinic Food Poisoning


0 Cool Kitchen Tool: OXO Dish Brush

I love OXO products ~ they are well designed and last a long time. I have had this OXO Good Grips Dish Brush set for a little over 5 years and I use it every - single - day. I have pushed that little black button so many times that it developed a little crack and needed a replacement.

Using the OXO dish brush is very simple. Open the end cap and fill it with your favorite dish detergent.

Put the cap back on, lightly push the rubber button, and a pre-measured squirt of dish soap comes out.

The nylon bristles do a great job of scrubbing and is safe to use on non stick cookware.

There's even a little scraper at the tip of the brush for baked on foods.

The brush holder has a non-skid base, catches any drips, keeping the brush dry - There is a little open slit near the bottom of the holder - Tip the holder and the excess soapy water runs out into the sink. It is important to do this every so often... if you forget, the soapy water will start to smell. Ask me how I know...

There are so many things that need hand washing - this Kitchen Aid Flex Edge beater needs to be hand washed. Cookie sheets, Silpat Baking mats, and other large items that don't fit well in my dishwasher are easy to clean with the OXO dish brush. I use it for any kitchen utensil that has a wooden handle, such as steak knives.

Every few days, I will take the brush off and let the dishwasher give it a good cleaning. The replacement brushes come in a two-pack and are handy to have while one is being washed.

If you are single, or living with roommates at school, washing a dish or two is so much easier than letting them pile in the sink or wait for a full load in the dishwasher. I love having this dish brush handy to wash my Kitchen Aid bowl in between mixing sugar cookies and making frosting.

Does this OXO Dish Brush meet my Cool Tool Requirements?
Comfortable to use? Yes - fits well in my hand and is easy to use.
Easy to store? Yes - it has a permanent home on the counter near my sink.
Easy to clean? Yes - throw the brush into the dishwasher at least once per week.
Serve more than one purpose? No - but it does its only job very well!
Good quality for the price; durable? Yes! I got this for about $10 and it lasted me 5 years of daily use!
Use often? Yep! Every single day!

I know you will love having this OXO Dish Brush as a daily cleaning companion. OXO products are well designed and will serve you well.

I was not compensated to write this post - I simply love OXO products and use them in my kitchen. All opinions expressed in this post are mine, but you can find out how great this Cool Kitchen Tool is for yourself.  :-)
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