Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dear Little Muffins

Originally uploaded by pwinn.
In Victorian and Edwardian London, the "muffin man", carrying his wares on a large tray skillfully balanced on his flat hat, was one of the most popular street vendors. He would announce his arrival around 4 pm with a large bass handbell. (From Beatrix Potter's Country Cooking).

The following recipe is served at Sheila's Cottage at Ambleside.

Dear Little Muffins

2 pkgs. active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water
3 1/2 cups unbleached plain white flour
1 rounded teaspoon salt

Blend the yeast, sugar and warm water together in a small bowl and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes, or until frothy. Sieve the flour and salt together into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast liquid and mix with a fork to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes by hand, or work with a dough hook or in a processor for a few minutes until the dough is smooth. Place in a oiled bowl, cover with plastic and set in a warm place to rise for 1 - 11/2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Knead for a second time, about 5 minutes. Roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch thick, cover it with a tea towel and leave to relax for a further 10 minutes. Cut into rounds with a 3 - inch plain cutter. Slightly grease cookie sheet and place muffins on it. Lightly cover with plastic and leave in a warm place for 30-40 minutes until the muffins have risen and doubled in volume.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Bake the muffins for about 10 minutes, turning over carefully after 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

To serve the traditional way, break them just a little around their "waists without opening them, then toast lightly on both sides. To eat, pull them apart without cutting and butter generoulsy, or spread with cream and jam. (Makes about 12)

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