Southern Californians are a funny lot. No matter how cold it gets, and for the past two weeks it has been very cold, Southern Californians will wear shorts and flip-flops no matter what. I noticed this strange phenomenon yesterday as I was shopping at an outdoor mall. Me, bundled in a winter coat and scarf, and everyone else lollygagging about in their Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirts and sundresses. I really admire their spirit, and for some folks it really is an endless summer. And why not. Maybe it’s the thin, east-coast blood that runs through my veins, but I was headed home to have a big bowl of chili and these homemade corn muffins. I was embracing the brisk winter weather with some down-home comfort food.
Anyway, son #1 had given me the Bouchon Bakery cookbook for a gift and I was anxious to try out some of the recipes. What I like most about the book is that it’s recipes are written in both cups and grams. As a gal whose obsession is baking, naturally I prefer gram measurements. Why, because baking is a science and grams are a precise measurement. When you weigh your ingredients your chances of a successful end product are almost guaranteed. Even if you’re just an occasional baker, I highly recommend you get yourself a digital food scale. You know I would never steer you wrong.
Thomas Keller explains in the book that the reason for allowing your batter to sit overnight is for the purpose of hydrating the flour. When the mixture absorbs the liquid ingredients, the result is a very moist corn muffin.
From Thomas Keller Bouchon Bakery
- 1 1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons (201 grams) all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (51 grams) cornmeal
- 2 1/2 teaspoons (12 grams) baking powder
- 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons (135 grams) sugar
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 2/3 cup (168 grams) whole milk
- 2 large eggs (90 grams)
- 1/4 cup + 2 1/2 tablespoons (90 grams) canola oil
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (72 grams) frozen corn kernels
* If you do not have a scale to weigh out the eggs, take your 2 large eggs and lightly beat them in a bowl and then remove about 1 teaspoon and that will be about 90 grams.
- Place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sift in the cornmeal and baking powder. Add the sugar and salt and mix on the lowest setting for about 15 seconds to combine. Add the milk and eggs and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, just until combined. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the oil, then increase the speed to medium-low and mix for about 30 seconds to combine.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate all the dry ingredients that may be stuck to the bottom. Fold in the corn. For best results, transfer the batter to a covered container and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with liners. Lightly spray the liners with nonstick spray. Spoon the batter into the cups about 3/4 full.
- Place the pan in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F, and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until muffins are lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When done, place the pan on a cooling rack and cool muffins completely.
Makes 12 standard size muffins
The first thing I did when I got off the plane on my most recent trip to Philadelphia, was high-tail it to the soft pretzel vendor right there in the airport. My husband Neil and I hadn’t eaten on the cross-country flight, and the two of us had been contemplating biting into a soft, chewy Philly pretzel. We were not disappointed.
It’s funny how different cities are known for certain foods. New Orleans is known for muffulettas, Chicago made famous the deep-dish pizza, and New York is credited with inventing the egg cream. And Philadelphia, well Philadelphia is not just known for its cheesesteaks and hoagies, but also for the soft pretzel. (Nothing low-calorie comes out of Philly.) It’s tradition in Philadelphia to eat your pretzel with mustard, so that’s how I do it.
When I returned to Los Angeles, I was still having pretzel cravings. So, I decided to pull out one of my favorite recipes and make the family a batch of homemade pretzels. They were not disappointed.
From Cooking Light , October 2005
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees F)
- 3 cups plus 1/4 cup all purpose flour – divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- cooking spray
- 6 cups water
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- cornmeal for sprinkling
- 1 large egg
- kosher salt
I remember when I was a kid, my brothers and I used to love to stay up on Friday nights and watch our favorite 60′s television shows. What really made the evening special was when my mother would make us Jiffy Pop, that popcorn contraption that looked like a frying pan. For those of you who may not be familiar with this modern culinary marvel of the 60′s, Jiffy Pop had a foil top, and as the popcorn popped its cover would explode into a giant silver dome. Back in the day it was actually very cool. It’s interesting, but prior to the 60′s people cooked their own food. Even on modest budgets, families tended to use only fresh ingredients, and dishes were made from scratch.
But, as the sixties rolled in, mom’s home cooking was put on the back burner. Food was frozen, packaged, processed, and chock full of preservatives. My brother’s and I would plead, “please Mom, don’t make us homemade food, we just want tv dinners, they taste so good”! What did we know.
Anyway, my days of eating Jiffy Pop and microwave popcorn are over. These days I still like to eat popcorn in front of the television, but I buy the organic kind and pop it myself. This recipe adds a little kick to the popcorn and takes no time at all to prepare.
Paprika & Parmesan Popcorn
From Ellie Krieger
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
Mix the parmesan, paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
Heat the canola oil and 3 popcorn kernels in a medium pot with a tight fitting lid, over medium-high heat. When the kernels of corn start to pop, reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining kernels. Cover and cook, shaking the pot occasionally, until the popping stops, about 2 minutes.
Put the popcorn in a large bowl and sprinkle the parmesan mixture over it and toss very well.
I married a New Yorker and for 26 years I’ve been listening to his claims that one can only get good pizza in New York City. And I will say, there is some truth to that statement. I personally vote for the pizza at Mack & Manco on the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey. Whenever I go back to the Jersey shore, I make it a point to make a pit stop there and indulge my need for cheese and dough. Nothing is quite as nostalgic as salt air and fresh, hot, tomatoey pizza. So, in my mind pizza dough was something mere mortals like myself could never recreate. Would I be brazen enough to attempt such a feat. I think so. I’ve done everything else with dough, why not pizza. I’m here to tell you that pizza is now a permanent feature in my repertoire.
I’ve had the pizza at several of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants, and I love it. Especially the dough. So, when I decided to try my hand at making homemade pizza I went to one of his recipes. It’s really very easy to make, if you make it with love. There’s somewhat of a time commitment with the two risings, but you can bake some off now, and wrap the rest up to bake off the next day. The truth is, I like my homemade pizza so much, I never order delivery pizza anymore.
My kids like their pizza with marinara sauce on it, but I like to brush my dough with a mixture of olive oil, minced garlic and red pepper flakes because it let’s the other ingredients you place on it shine through. This particular pizza uses pancetta (an Italian bacon, and what’s not good with bacon on it), Fontina, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, and sliced Shitake and Baby Bella mushrooms. It’s really a very tasty combination.
My suggestion to anyone deciding to make their own pizza at home is to purchase a pizza stone if you don’t already have one. It makes an absolute difference in the final product. The pizza stone makes the crust incredibly crispy and there is your key to a successful pizza. You can pick one up at Target starting at about $15.00 or any cooking supply store. In the recipe below I say you can use a cookie sheet with parchment, but if you have a pizza stone then that’s what you should use.
From Wolfgang Puck, “Pizza, Pasta & More”
Makes 4 small pizzas
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup warm water 105 to 115 degrees F
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in 1/4 cup warm water.
In a food processor, combine the flour and salt. Add the oil, the yeast mixture, and the remaining 3/4 cup of warm water and process until the mixture forms a ball. The dough can also be made in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low-speed until the mixture comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand 2 or 3 minutes longer. The dough should be smooth and firm. Cover the dough with a clean, damp towel and let it rise in a cool spot for about 2 hours.
Divide the dough into 4 balls. Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball. Repeat 4 or 5 times. Then on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest 1 hour. At this point, the balls of dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
I make 4 small pizzas, but you can make 2 larger ones if your oven will accommodate the larger size.
For 1 Pancetta, Mushroom, Cheese Pizza
1/4 olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup grated Fontina cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Baby Bella (crimini) and Shitake mushrooms thinly sliced
4-5 slices (very thin) of pancetta
In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, red pepper flakes and minced garlic together and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
I roll out my dough into a rectangle, or you can do a circular shape. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush the surface of the dough with the oil mixture leaving a 1/2″ border. Sprinkle the cheeses over the dough, the mushrooms, then lay the pancetta slices on top.
Bake the pizzas until the crust is a nice golden brown and all the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.