February: One of the worst months of the year
February 14th: One of the greatest days of the year
Valentine's Day may just be one of my very favorite holidays. I know, I know, insert gagging sounds [here]. I'm not a fan of the chintzy cards or the Russell Stover candies, but I do like how there is one whole day specifically set apart for all things friendly, kindly, and lovely.
Back in the States, I liked the Valentine's Day buzz that was so endemic in my last elementary school. I liked the Frank Sinatra music playing in the cafeteria. I liked the red and pink color schemes in the hallway. I liked how my kids instinctively personalized their valentine mailboxes (usually doing so in such a way that I could tell whose was whose without having to read the names). I liked the surprises. I liked wearing silly and ridiculous Friendship Fairy costumes to work. I liked the gluey, glittery, homemade cards. I liked how my class actually made a real effort to be extra kind to one another. I also liked the treats the kids brought me: cinnammon rolls, truffles, chocolate covered strawberries... Good stuff.
This giving of delicious goodies is a very nice part of Valentine's Day. It appeals to me so strongly because I like both the giving part and the delicious part. I also like what comes before the giving part . . . the getting to make the delicious goodies part. And that, my friends, is really what this post is about: making delicious Valentine's Day goodies.
Now to all those folks out there who might think chocolate is the only food worth consuming on February 14th, I'd like to propose an equally delectable alternative: homemade English muffins.
Yep. I think they're justplaindelicious in their own simple way. If equating English muffin with delicious Valentine's Day goodie is too much of a mind bender, it's probably because you, like millions of other Americans, have been scarred by those hideous pock marked things in the far section of the bread aisle. I'd like to challenge those stale opinions. Homemade English muffins are so very different. Homemade English muffins are good. They're so good in fact, that I've been making them on Valentine's Day (almost) every year since I was a college freshman at Western. In addition to tasting gorgeous (especially when they're toasted and topped with butter and jam) they're pretty easy to make. Unlike most of their relatives in the baked good family, English muffins are cooked on the stove -- not baked in the oven. They also need to rise (but only once). From start to finish, it takes about 90 minutes. (How many you're making and how many pans you've got up and running can definitely extend the time.) Regardless, they're good eatin'. They also make for sweet giftin'--a very nice way to share the love.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Valentine's Day English Muffins
This recipe originally appeared in Family Fun magazine. It makes 1 1/2 dozen. They'll keep for several days stored in a plastic bag, or for several weeks in the freezer.
- Ingredients (I've adapted it a tiny bit to make it vegan.)
- 1 cup soy milk (or regular milk)
- 3 tablespoons earth balance in small lumps (or butter cut into pieces)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup warm water (110º F/45º C)
- 1 package (1/4-ounce) active dry yeast
- 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour (You can also use 1/2 whole wheat flour and the rest white flour.)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Combine the soy milk, earth balance, and honey in a medium-size saucepan. Warm the mixture over medium-low heat until the earth balance starts to melt, then whisk it briefly. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the liquid to cool until lukewarm.
- While the soy milk cools, pour the water into a medium-size mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir the liquid gently with a fork. Set the bowl aside for 5 to 10 minutes, until all of the yeast has dissolved.
- Line two baking sheets with waxed paper and sprinkle on a generous amount of cornmeal. (This is where you'll set the muffins to rise.)
- Pour the cooled soy milk into the dissolved yeast and gently stir the mixture until well blended. Add 3 cups of flour and the salt to the liquid and beat the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth (about 100 strokes). Beat in enough of the remaining flour, about 1/3 cup at a time, so that the dough is firm enough to knead and no longer sticky.
- Scrape the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Flour your hands as well, and knead the dough for 3 to 4 minutes. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes.
- Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and pushing the pin from the center out, until the dough is a half inch thick.
- Cut the dough into circles with a 3 1/2-inch biscuit cutter. Gather and reroll the scraps and cut out more circles (you should end up with 18 but I always eat the dough and end up with less). Now shape each circle into a heart: use a knife or scissors to cut a third of the way into the circle, round the cut side into the top of the heart, and then pinch the opposite side into a point for the tip. (This is my 2nd favorite part.)
- Transfer the muffins to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them well apart. Sprinkle cornmeal on the tops. Cover the muffins with a dry, lightweight towel and let them rise until they are almost doubled in height--about 35 to 45 minutes.
- When the muffins have risen, heat a large, heavy, ungreased skillet over medium heat. (If you have two skillets, you may want to prepare both so you can cook more muffins at once.) Or you can use an electric griddle heated to 300º. Carefully lift the muffins from the waxed paper and place them in the heated pan or griddle, spacing them an inch or so apart. You should be able to fit 4 or 5 muffins in each pan.
- Cook the muffins (this is my favorite part) for about 10 minutes on each side, using a spatula to flip them. You may have to adjust the heat if the muffins are browning too quickly or slowly. Transfer each batch of cooked muffins to a wire rack to cool. Before toasting, split them in two with a fork. (Splitting also ups the fun factor.)