The division tapped to provide recipes this month was unable to pull them together over the holidays, so Barbara Pierce delved into her large file of recipes to come up with some that remind her of her recent trip to the United Kingdom.
In reality English muffins are an American creation. They are similar to the hot buttered muffins that people toast for tea in novels like Dorothy Sayers’s The Nine Tailors.
1/2 cup milk, scalded and cooled slightly
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 envelope or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 cups bread flour
Method: For best results you should acquire eight English muffin rings. You can make your own by removing the tops and bottoms of tuna fish cans, leaving just the side of each can to form a ring. These are a bit smaller than commercial English muffin rings, so prepare nine tuna cans to be sure. You will be able to use them again for the Sally Lunn recipe below.
Cool the scalded milk a little and in a large bowl combine it with a cup of water, the sugar, and the salt. Dissolve the yeast in two tablespoons of water and add this to the rest of the liquid. Stir in two cups of flour and mix well. Cover the bowl and set in a warm place (about eighty-five degrees) until the sponge rises and falls back. Be sure to use a bowl large enough to contain the risen sponge so that you don’t find some of it spread across your stove or counter. Cut the butter into small pieces and stir into the sponge. Then add the remaining two cups of flour. You can stir this in with a wooden spoon or beat it with an electric mixer. You do not knead this dough. It is more a heavy batter or very sticky dough.
Grease the insides of the muffin rings and the surface of a large cookie sheet. Arrange the rings on the cookie sheet with as much space as possible between them. Divide the dough evenly among the rings. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Remove the towel. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven till golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove muffins from rings to cool on a rack, or burn your fingers slicing and buttering them fresh from the oven. These are also delicious split and toasted. Try them with jam and clotted cream if you can find it in the store.
This recipe is not as good as the Sally Lunn we ate in Bath, but it is one I have had and used for many years.
1 1/4 cups milk
1 stick butter
1/3 cup sugar or honey
1 envelope or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/4 cups bread flour
Method: Melt butter and add milk. When the liquid is about 110 degrees, add honey, salt, and yeast. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Beat the eggs with a fork in a glass and add them to this liquid. In a large bowl beat the flour into the liquid with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer. The dough will be quite sticky. Do not try to knead it. Cover it with a damp towel and set it in a warm place for about an hour. Stir it down and spoon it into either a generously buttered and floured ten-inch tube pan or nine buttered and floured muffin rings on a cookie sheet. (See the recipe for English muffins for a description of the rings.) Cover dough with a damp towel and place Sally Lunn in a warm place to double in bulk. Bake at 425 till loaf or loaves sound hollow when tapped and are browned—about forty minutes for one loaf, twenty minutes for individual Sally Lunns. Remove from pan or rings and cool on a rack. Serve warm with butter and jam. Or slice the individual loaves in half horizontally and serve with melted garlic butter as they do in the restaurant by this name in Bath.
English tea often includes shortbread or other sweet biscuits along with tea sandwiches, muffins, or scones. Here is an easy, never-fail recipe for shortbread.
2 sticks butter at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups flour
Method: Cream butter and brown sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour. If dough seems hard to handle, chill it for a half hour in the fridge. Roll out by halves on a lightly floured board till dough is between an eighth and a fourth of an inch thick. Butter a cookie sheet. Either cut the dough into triangles and transfer by turner to the cookie sheet or use a decorative cookie cutter to make the shortbreads and transfer them to the sheet. Roll scraps together so that you don’t waste any. Repeat with other half of dough. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for about twenty-five minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. These cookies will be quite crisp. Store in an airtight container.
Chicken Liver Pâté
English tea often includes savory sandwiches made with smoked salmon, cucumber, egg salad, or pâté of various kinds. Try this one on thinly sliced, crustless brown bread or crackers.
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 sticks butter
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) chicken livers
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
2 tablespoons brandy
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Sauté onion and garlic in half stick butter until soft. Add chicken livers and simmer about seven minutes, till livers are done but still pink. Purée contents of pan in a food processor or blender or use a stick blender to do the job in the frying pan. Blend in remaining butter, mace, brandy, and thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn into dish and chill till ready to use.
Though it is now sometimes possible to find lemon curd in American supermarkets, most Americans have never experienced this delightfully tart and sweet treat. The English spread it on scones, but it is also delicious over fresh fruit or as a filling for cream puffs or cakes.
3/4 cup sugar or half Splenda
1 tablespoon lemon rind, grated
2 large eggs
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Method: Combine the first three ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Cook until sugar dissolves and mixture is light in color (about three minutes). Stir in lemon juice and butter; cook for five minutes or until mixture thinly coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cool. Cover and chill; the mixture will thicken as it cools. Yield: 1 1/3 cups. Note: lemon curd can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. You can easily double the recipe and freeze half of it in a heavy-duty ziplock plastic bag. Thaw in the refrigerator and use within one week of thawing.
Finally here is my recipe for Yorkshire pudding, which is served with roast beef. Timing is important with this dish because it falls fairly soon after it comes out of the oven, so it must finish cooking just before serving time.
2 eggs, beaten
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
Beef drippings or melted shortening
Method: About a half hour before baking, beat the eggs and add the garlic, salt, and melted butter. Add the milk and then the flour. Beat till the batter is smooth. Allow it to rest until ready to pour into the pan or muffin cups. Heat enough rendered beef fat or drippings from the roast beef to cover the bottom of an eight- or nine-inch baking pan or twelve muffin cups. Heat the pan at 425 degrees till fat is sputtering. Quickly pour the batter into the pan or divide it among the muffin cups. Return the pan to the oven and bake for fifteen minutes. Then drop the oven temperature to 350 for another fifteen minutes or until the pudding is browned and very puffy. It must be somewhat firm to the touch. The muffins will take somewhat less time to bake. They can then be popped into a bread basket for serving beside the roast with gravy. The pan of Yorkshire pudding must be cut into squares for serving.