Today has been a good day for cooking and baking on the woodstove. I started late this morning with a banana-coconut cake, while also boiling up a fresh batch of chicken stock (thanks to the wonderful roast chicken we enjoyed from The Piggy Market yesterday). The cake required 45 minutes at about 350 and I managed to just get that before the temperature started to drop and more wood was required.
Once the cake was in the woodstove and the stock was on the boil on the hob, I turned my attention to something I’ve been dying to do again for the longest time – English muffins. I last made these about a year or more ago, and just haven’t got back to them again. I’d really like to plan to make them twice a month, as it’s easy to do a reasonably sized batch and freeze a bunch for future breakfasts and lunches. Homemade English muffins just have so much to recommend them.
A cookbook that I’ve been using with a lot more frequency now that I’m cooking and baking more on the Ironheart is the very first cookbook I ever bought: Fresh from the Country – The Natural Foods Cookbook by Susan Restino. I bought it near Golden Lake, Ontario when staying at a friend’s cottage one summer many moons ago. The author, a homesteader, was preparing many of her (very simple, very fresh) recipes on a woodstove and in fact has penned a cookbook specifically for woodstove cooks. It’s funny how I’ve come full circle with this cookbook, whose relevance really would not have struck me as a teenager.
Restino’s method for English muffins uses the stove-top, but unlike other recipes that I’ve used, the muffins remain in the skillet for a good 8 to 10 minutes on either side (I’m finding about 8 minutes per side on a good fire that’s burned down fairly low is working on the Ironheart today) as they bake. Here is the full recipe.
English Muffins – based closely on a recipe from Fresh from the Country
1 tbsp dried baker’s yeast
1 cup instant skim milk powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 cups whole spelt flour
1-2 cups unbleached white flour
Break the eggs into a 2-cup measure; fill the rest of the measure with warm water. Pour into a heavy ceramic bowl and add the yeast. Beat well and let stand 10 minutes. Then add milk powder, sugar, salt, oil and spelt flour. Beat well. Cover and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour or so. Work in unbleached white flour by half cups until dough is too stiff to stir. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness and cut rounds (3-4 inches across; I used an empty clean can). Sprinkle a heavy skillet with cornmeal and place muffin rounds fairly tightly. Allow muffins to rise until doubled, approx. 30 minutes. Cover pan, place over low to mid heat on hob or stove top (up to 15 minutes per side depending on heat intensity; 8 minutes per side worked on the Ironheart). Makes approx 2 dozen muffins.
The resulting muffins have been a hit here and a good portion were eating straight out of the skillet; normally we’d toast them too. I have a nice number left over for freezing and am so glad that I made a larger batch (many recipes only yield a dozen or fewer).
Finally, I have a teaser for you.
Last week I experimented with making gingerbread (that is, traditional gingerbread cake, not the cookies) in different ways in the Ironheart. I’ve nearly got a perfect method and recipe for plain gingerbread, but have had even more fun crossing gingerbread with fruitcake elements. That recipe is nearly there and I plan to post both here shortly. There aren’t a lot of recipes available for the Ironheart, so I’m planning to test and post my own.