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I am a fatalist, which means I believe in fate. There are too many things in this world that seem like coincidences but were totally intended by the universe. Case in point: on more than one occasion, I have decided to make something with the intent of searching for a recipe and before I can even open Google, up pops a recipe a blogging friend has posted on Facebook or Instagram! The very thing I had decided I would make! Coincidence? I think not, it’s fate!

That is my story of the English Muffins. I was walking back from getting a mani-pedi in our hood, thinking about the upcoming weekend visit with our dear friends from Wisconsin/Arizona (they have two homes) and I realized that I didn’t have a breakfast planned for one of the days and I remember wanting to try baking English Muffins, so on my walk home, I decided that I would bake English Muffins!

Upon my return, I sat down at my kitchen desk to catch up on Facebook and low and behold, dear Lorraine has reposted her recipe for…wait for it…English Muffins! That is fate! I was destined to bake English Muffins that afternoon.

Home Made English Muffins

Makes 6-8 English Muffins.

Please click here for the original recipe.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 200 mL (7 oz) milk
  • 5 g (1 tsp) sugar
  • 3 g (1 tsp) instant dry yeast
  • 20 g (1 oz) butter
  • 320 g (2  1/2 cups) AP unbleached flour
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) baking powder
  • 1 small egg
  • cornmeal for dusting

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk to 37° C (100° F), sprinkle in the sugar and yeast and mix well. Allow to proof for 10 minutes or until frothy.
  2. Melt the butter and set aside to cool a bit. Add the butter to the milky yeast (once proofed) stir in the egg and mix well and set aside.
  3. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together in the large bowl of your stand mixer, add the liquid all at once and beat/knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth and silky.
  4. Lightly cover with oil and set aside in a draft free spot for about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325° F (160° C).
  6. On a lightly floured board, turn out the dough and roll out to about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thickness. Cut 8-10 cm (3 1/4″ to 4″) rounds. Dust with cornmeal (brush off any excess) and cook over a low heat in a cast iron frying pan for about 3 minutes each side (do not oil). Finish baking in the preheated oven 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 199° F (93° C). Allow to cool slightly, and then separate each into two using a fork to maximize the nooks and crannies!

The top one is perfect!

Notes:

  • If you cannot get small eggs, then take 1 large egg and whisk it to incorporate both yolk and whites, weigh it and divide by 2. Use half in this recipe and save the other half for something else.
  • In hindsight, my English Muffins pictured puffed up way too tall, so I have modified the instruction to roll out to half of the original thickness. Plus you should get a few more that way.

Like Lorraine, I like a little English Muffin with my butter.

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In early September, our dear friends came for a visit and JT and I planned a full schedule of fun activities! We went hiking at a conservation area, saw King Lear in High Park (which turned out to be reimagined from a female perspective, Queen Lear), we traveled to Montreal for a few days with a stop in Kingston to visit the newly refurbished Kingston Penitentiary. The time went quickly and a much-needed fix with special friends. Our days were packed, so I made these Banana Bran Muffins for a breakfast on the morning we went hiking, as we were also having lunch at an adorable little cafe near the conservation area. Scroll down to see a few pics of Kingston Pen.

Banana Bran Muffins with Belgian Milk Chocolate Chunks

Original recipe from Company’s Coming, Muffins and More by Jean Paré.

Makes about 10-12 medium-sized muffins

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 128 g (1 cup) flour
  • 60 g (1 cup) all bran cereal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips or chunks (I used Belgian milk chocolate chunks)
  • 60 g (1/4 cup) coconut oil
  • 75 g (1/2 cup) coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 65 mL (1/4 cup) sour milk (milk with 1/4 tsp lemon juice)
  • 250 mL (3 medium or 1 cup) bananas, mashed

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Prepare muffin pans by spraying with non-stick spray.
  2. Combine flour, bran, baking powder and soda and salt in a bowl and mix.
  3. Cream coconut oil and sugar with 1 egg until well blended and add the other egg and beat well. Combine the soured milk and mashed bananas and mix well.
  4. Pour into the dry mixture and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups to about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool slightly and serve.

These muffins have excellent texture from the moistness of the bananas and the bran cereal.

Notes:

  • These muffins are not nearly as sweet using coconut sugar as using regular white sugar.

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I enjoy a slice of bread with my breakfast of hard boiled egg whites, a half of a smashed avocado, but I like to manage my carbs so often I go without the bread. Our local German bakery recently released a high protein/low carb bread so we bought some for the inconceivable price of $7.99 Canadian; it had about 8 thin slices! I didn’t mind the texture at first but then it really ragged on me, it was a dense, cardboard-like texture that was difficult to cut and chew. I started hating one of my favourite meals of the day! So I searched the net and found that there are several high protein/low carb bread options out there, starting with cloud bread (meh, it’s really just a fluffy egg white pancake) and then I found this recipe and I was intrigued.

Firstly, I had never baked with protein whey powder and the bread had so few ingredients, I really wanted to experiment. Of course, the first round, I stayed fairly true to the original recipe and it was fine but the second time I added herbs and sesame seeds and it was even better. This version has a bit more body to it with the addition of sunflower seeds and flax seeds.

What I like about this “bread” is that it slices like bread, toasts like bread and can be used for sandwiches but I like mine first thing in the morning, lightly toasted with 3 hard boiled egg whites and a tablespoon of salsa.

The bread has enough body to make a sandwich. But if you don’t like the taste of eggs, this bread is not for you.

High Protein “Bread”

Print High Protein Bread Recipe

For the Original Recipe, please click here.

Makes 1 loaf, about 10 slices.

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) protein whey powder (unflavoured)
  • 3 g (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 20 g (2 tbsp) sunflower seeds
  • 10 g (1 tbsp) flax seeds
  • 10 g (1 heaping tbsp) sesame seeds (I used black and white)
  • non-stick spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F).
  2. Prepare a 4″ x 8″ pan by lining it with parchment paper and spraying with non-stick spray.
  3. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until fluffy and stiff but not dry.
  4. Add the egg yolks, whey protein and salt, beat for about 30 seconds or until well combined.
  5. Fold in the sunflower and flax seeds.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the sesame seeds on top. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, remove from pan and cool completely on rack. Slice into 10 slices. Freeze in a piece of parchment and store in a ziplock Baggy until needed.

Notes:

  • This ‘bread’ reminds me of a Genoise cake, it has body but is light and fluffy.
  • The bread toasts very nicely.
  • JT feels it is a bit eggy tasting to have with poached eggs but I like it.
  • Add a handful of chopped herbs as a flavour option.
  • I freeze this ‘bread’ because storing it in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator makes it a little soggy.
  • It’s important to line the pan with parchment and spray the parchment with non-stick spray because in my experience the batter sticks otherwise.

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Recently, we had a dinner party and I served a grilled caesar salad as one of the courses. Of course, you MUST have REAL bacon so JT cooked the bacon up on the BBQ (none of that maple crap) and I asked him to save the drippings for the roast potatoes but by the time I got around to tossing the tators in the bacon drippings, I had second thoughts so I used only about a tablespoon and tossed the rest with olive oil. I had about a 65 mL (1/4 cup) bacon drippings sitting in the refrigerator, crying for something creative so I came up with this easy recipe. The drippings have such an amazing flavour, and the bits of bacon add just the right amount of crunch. I think I may have to cook up another batch of bacon just for the drippings so I can bake another batch of these tasty morsels.

Bacon and Parmesan Cheese Puffs

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 42 small puffs

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) water
  • 65 mL (1/4 cup) bacon drippings
  • 5 mL 1/2 tsp salt
  • 145 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 120 g (1 cup) grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 1/2 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled to small pieces

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200° C (400° F).
  2. Place water, bacon drippings and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Remove from heat and add flour, and stir until combined.
  4. Return to heat and stir cooking the flour mixture until it comes away from the sides of the pan and is a shiny ball.
  5. Place in a food processor with plastic blades and process for 15 seconds (give or take).
  6. Add eggs, one at a time and process for 40 seconds (err on the longer side of give or take).
  7. Add the cheese and process for another 5-10 seconds until smooth. Stir in the crumbled bacon.
  8. Dip a spoon or small ice cream scoop into 1 cup cold water with 5 mL (1 tsp) plain vegetable oil, place walnut-sized spoonfuls on a parchment lined cookie sheet about 3 cm (1 1/2 inches) apart.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
  10. Serve warm or room temperature.

Notes:

  • You may also prepare this recipe with a good quality handheld mixer or stand mixer but I would suggest an immersion blender with the whisk attachment is not strong enough for this pastry.
  • These delightful balls puff up about 12 minutes into baking and are ideal for stuffing with a piping funnel (I bought a really cheap one from a dollar store and it works very well). Stuff with goats cheese, or your own recipe.
  • Unstuffed, they freeze very well, just pop them into a zip lock bag. To use, you need not defrost them, simply put them into a preheated 150° C (300° F) oven for 10-12 minutes, until defrosted and heated through.

The bacon drippings give this treat great flavour and the bacon bits some nice texture.

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When I was down in Florida with my dear friend, Kimberley from University, I mentioned that I had recently baked some killer cinnamon buns and she sighed. She is gluten intolerant but will splurge every couple of years on a Cinnabon with dire results, she explained that it’s never really as good to warrant the pain afterward. That is the precise moment I decided to create a gluten-free cinnamon bun that she would be happy to eat AND digest! This is the result of several tests, I hope you love them as much as we did!

Gluten Free Cinnamon Sticky Rolls

Print GF Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Makes about 6 small cinnamon buns.

Ingredients:

  • 230 g (1 1/4 cup) gluten-free flour (I used this one)
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) coconut sugar
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) cinnamon
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) baking powder
  • pinch baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) cold butter
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Combine gluten-free flour, coconut sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well.
  2. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut in the cold butter to distribute evenly (may be done in a food processor).
  3. Sprinkle in the buttermilk and using a fork, bring the pastry together quickly to get a sticky ball of dough. On a lightly floured (with GF flour) board, knead a few times, but not enough to heat up the dough. Pat into a rectangle about 23 x 20 cm (9 inches x 8 inches).
  4. Preheat the oven to 400° F (200° C). See directions for the filling.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 30 g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
  • 40 g (2 tbsp) brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon

Directions for the filling:

  1. Combine the butter, sugar, cinnamon and mix well.
  2. Spread the filling over the rectangle to all four sides.
  3. Roll up the rectangle into a tight roll. Cut into 6 small rolls.
  4. Place cut sides down into a lightly greased oven proof pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool slightly and remove with a spatula to a cooling rack.
  5. Drizzle with a little icing sugar and water mix. Serve warm or at room temperature.

A more biscuit-like pastry, these strongly-flavoured cinnamon rolls heat up beautifully and satisfy a cinnamon roll craving.

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Last month, the Japanese Cherry Blossoms (Sakura trees) blossomed in Toronto. This was a big deal because last year, they failed to bloom as we had a hard frost after several weeks of very warm weather. In fact, the frost was so hard that we lost a few trees. These trees are special because they were a gift from the Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara in 1959 as a gift to the citizens of Toronto for their support of Japanese-Canadian refugees after the Second World War. You can read more about the history here. It’s such a popular time in High Park (a park that is only about a 10-minute walk from our house) that the streets become clogged with traffic and it is virtually impossible to drive into the park; well, not quite impossible, but it will take you more than 1 hour! And don’t even think about parking in the park because you won’t be able to find a spot. Last year, a friend parked illegally and had a lovely surprise of a $450 ticket on her car upon return!

If you want to see the blossoms in Toronto, you’ll need to be here in April and you can watch this website, which predicts when they will blossom! JT took these beautiful photos so I wouldn’t miss them when they peaked as I was in Florida with a girlfriend.

Before I left for Florida, we invited friends, who live downtown, to join us for a walk to the park and then dinner in the village, it’s really the only sensible thing to do, if you wish to see the blossoms (and get in my 10,000 steps!) We had some wine and cheese before we left for our walk and I decided to make a french baguette, a recipe I haven’t made in quite a few years. This is the first bread recipe I ever made when I was around 14, it’s really that easy. In those days, I kneaded by hand, but now I get the big guns out and let the stand mixer do the heavy lifting for 8-10 minutes. The recipe produces two or four amazing french baguettes. I baked two and froze the others for another time. The recipe is basically true to the original recipe I made except I updated the method of rolling into the uique baguette form and the baking method.

That’s Bonny & Clyde, the Mum & Dad Capybara’s that escaped last year. They had babies this spring!

Simple French Baguette

Original recipe from Five Roses, A guide to good cooking, 5th edition

This recipe make four 33 cm (13 inch) French sticks

Ingredients:

  • 300 mL (1 1/4 cup) boiling water
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) butter
  • 15 g (1 tbsp) sugar
  • 8 g (1 package, about 1 tbsp) bread machine yeast
  • 50 mL (1/4 cup) lukewarm water
  • pinch of sugar
  • 570 g (4 cups) All Purpose Unbleached Flour
  • 15 g (2 tsp) salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 egg white, beaten

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter and 15 grams of sugar in the boiling water and cool until lukewarm.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast over 50 mL water with a pinch of sugar and whisk to combine. Set aside to proof for a couple of minutes (I like to do this even with quick rising yeast to make sure it’s not dead).
  3. Combine the buttery water (when it has cooled to lukewarm) with the proofed yeast and stir to mix well.
  4. Combine the flour and salt in the large bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Pour the liquid yeast into the centre and turn the mixer on low speed until it forms a nice dough.
  5. Knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic (mine took about 8 minutes).
  6. Lightly coat with olive oil and set aside in a warm place, 1 to 2 hours or when double in size. Punch down and divide the dough into two equal portions.
  7. Divide the dough into two or four equal portions. With the base of your palm, press out the dough to a little rectangle, roughly size it 1:3 — it should not be huge at this point. then fold the long side up about 1/3 of the way and press into the dough with your knuckle or fingers to seal. Repeat with the other long side. Flatten the roll and press an indentation into the centre along the long side. Fold down to form a long baguette and seal with your fingers or knuckles. Roll out to elongate and taper the ends. This is the Julia Child method which may be seen here at roughly 6 minute 10 second mark.
  8. Preheat the oven to 450° F (230° C). Place the baguette seam side down on a baguette baking sheet and brush them with the egg white and then dock them using a sharp lame, you can see how this is done at roughly 9 minute 53 second mark of the same video. Place the baguette pan in a larger pan with a few chunks of ice off to the sides, cover tightly with foil paper.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 425° F (220° C) , remove the foil wrap and brush again with the egg white and then turn the pan 180 degrees and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the baguette is golden brown and the crust has stiffened up and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

The steaming process produces the great texture.

Notes:

  • There are as many baguette recipes as there are blogs, if you have one you like to use, I encourage you to try this rolling and baking method, I am sold and will make crusty bread this way from now on.
  • I used 5 normal sized ice cubes.
  • The crust is nice and crunchy and the crumb is chewy and wonderful.
  • If your larger pan doesn’t have tall enough sides, I would spray the foil with non-stick spray so that when the bread rises and touches the foil, it will not stick.
  • This is the baguette pan that I use.

The baguette has a crispy crust with a nice chewy crumb.

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When JT and I were first married, we lived in our first home in Stouffville, a bedroom community Northeast of Toronto. JT would drive 30 minutes to an hour to work and I would take the hour long GO Train (Government of Ontario commuter train) downtown. Fortunately, the downtown train station was connected to an intricate underground system called PATH, Toronto’s Downtown Pedestrian Walkway that I would take all the way to work in the Financial District. Of course, these underground paths were always lined with stores, tempting you to buy, buy, buy!! There may have been one or two instances when I may have picked up a new outfit on the way to work, and I would change into it at the fitness club after my workout!

There were also several food courts along the way, so if one became a little famished from the long journey to work, one might pick up a nibble or two along the way! That is when I became addicted to Bran Date Muffins. These overly processed, moist and sticky muffins were sold at a “healthy” eatery along my walk to work. I usually don’t go for the ready made treats but there was something so moreish about these muffins (texture and taste) that I bought one or two every week (that’s when I had a metabolism!). These days, I wouldn’t dare eat that type of muffin, knowing what I know about the ingredients they use to make them so moreish so that is why I decided to try to recreate my obsession using healthy ingredients. I also decided to make them mini so that I could have a small treat without committing to a regular-sized muffin.

They are not the same as the ones I had so many years ago, but they are quite tasty and not nearly as bad for you so I’m pretty happy with the outcome. The bran and nuts provide great texture, the apples and the dates give it some moistness. Next time, I think I will reduce the flour component and increase the apples and fruit juice.

JT was quite surprised that there is no processed sugar in these babies, just dates, apples and fruit juice to sweeten.

Apple, Bran and Date Mini-Muffins revamped

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 30 mini-muffins

Ingredients:

  • 250 mL (1 cup) fruit juice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 375 mL (1 1/2 cup) peeled and shredded apple
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped dates
  • 250 mL (1 cup) bran buds
  • 125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped pecans
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 30 mL (2 tsp) cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). Spray 24 mini-muffin pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine the whole egg and the egg white and beat until well mixed, add the milk and stir to combine.
  3. In a large bowl, add the bran buds, shredded apple and dates, stir until combined. Pour the egg mixture over the top, stirring it in. Allow to stand 5 minutes.
  4. Sift the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  5. Fold the flour mixture into the bran mixture until everything is combined. Stir in the chopped pecans.
  6. Divide batter into 30 mini-muffin cups evenly (24 first, then 6). Bake for 20-22 minutes or until cake tester comes clean.

Notes:

  • If you’d rather make regular-sized muffins, this recipe will produce 12.
  • The bran buds I use are rather hard so soaking is important, your bran cereal may be loser and not need as much time to break down. I like a little bran texture so I didn’t soak my bran very long.
  • I used fruit juice instead of milk so that I could eliminate the 1/4 cup sugar from the recipe. I used Mango because I had it on hand, use whatever you wish, apple juice would work equally as well.
  • You may use 3 whole eggs instead of 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites, someone over here used up the whole eggs and forgot to write it on the shopping list. I wonder who that was?
  • These were pretty moist, even without the use of oil. Next time, I will reduce the flour to 1 1/2 cups and increase the fruit juice and shredded apple by 1/4 cup each.

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