Friday brought about my first attempt at English muffins using Reinhart's recipe from Artisan Bread Everyday. The recipe seems really easy, and at its core it is very easy. Making up the batter like dough the day before baking makes it even easier. The biggest difficulty I had with the recipe was an equipment issue. I was using our cast iron griddle, and it is not quite seasoned enough to do breads. I needed to use a ton of oil to keep the muffins from sticking down.
Once I got the griddle cleaned up a bit from the first few that stuck down, I also realized that you need to let the muffins just tell you when they are ready to be flipped. I know this sounds kind of funny and odd, but they really will tell you when they need to be flipped. I found that if they were sticking to the griddle, they were not cooked enough to flip. By being patient and waiting for them to easily slide onto the spatula, I had a perfectly browned side ready to flip. I do, however, need to practice my flipping technique. It requires a steady hand as you are flipping over a rather tall pancake like dough. The dough is still rather liquid when you flip them, so a couple of the muffins slid over resulting in a lopsided muffin.
In the end I was really pleased with this first attempt at a somewhat hard to make bread. The methods of making the batter were easy; the techniques are the only hard part about it, and with time and practice, I am sure I will get them down as well. The other important thing that the book tells you to do is cool the muffins on their sides. It is a necessary thing as the ones that did not get enough cooling time on their side did collapse down quite a bit and become more dense than the others.
The only other disadvantage of making these at home was the colossal mess made by all the cornmeal that seemed to multiply itself across the counters and cooking surface of the stove. It took me quite a while to find all the granules of the meal and dispose of them. We split the first ones open for a tuna melt dinner on Saturday after returning from the Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sonoma county. They were good, and while not as craggy as a commercially produced English muffin, I thought they tasted great. It was a good dinner to go with apple sorting. We bought a 40 pound box of apples again this year and will be working on processing them into jelly, sauce, dried rings, pectin, and syrup this week. Look for those postings in the coming days.
I did get to canning up those O'Henry peaches that I bought at the Friday Farmer's Market. They were rather unripe, so they should hold for a long time in the syrup. The other thing I got to relearn this year, is that the O'Henry variety of peaches does not peel in the hot water bath like other varieties. I am not quite sure why this is the case, but the 10 pounds of peaches had to be peeled by hand. Luckily we had received a great peeler for Christmas that is designed for peeling peaches and tomatoes. It worked like a dream, and while I felt irritated that I could not just slip the skins, it was much better than peeling with a paring knife.
I worked hard to try to get them done quickly, and as usual I underestimated the time it takes for me to can a bunch of produce. I did get them done from start to finish out of the water bath in two and a half hours. I guess that is not too bad. I ended up with eight pints of sliced peaches for this winter and enough left over that I made a mini peach pie in our 7" pie plate. Despite my cramming into the jar as many slices as could reasonably fit, the fruit is still floating. I guess I need to get better at packing my jars. I know that some of the floating is due to the peaches shrinking up after they are processed and the air inside of the peach flesh collapses and cooks out, but it is still a bit disappointing. Someday, with practice, I will get perfectly suspended peaches. The pie, on the other hand, was wonderful. Dan said it was the best peach pie I have made to date.
Today will be filled with apple processing after I complete my jog. I am hoping to get a bunch of sauce on the stove and then turn my attention to the dried apples. This year nothing will be going to waste, as I am going to make an attempt at homemade apple pectin for next year's cherry jam. I hope the pectin works in that jam so that I don't have to cook and cook the cherries until there is nothing left. I kind of ended up with a cherry spreadable candy this year rather than jam. My attempts at jaming a low pectin fruit without added pectin turned out just as I had predicted. Hey, it never hurts to experiment a bit though. Well I am off for that jog and lots of hours peeling apples.