Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Extra days off are delicious!

I was cussing folks that had Labor Day off when I was laboring, but it sure didn't suck to have an extra day off today! Of course, I didn't accomplish all of the stuff on my to-do list, but I did manage to squeeze in a couple of culinary projects into my lazy afternoon. One was a soup that I saw on Pinterest (of course). I actually combined two very similar recipes, added my own twists, and then converted it to be made in the crock pot, as is my way. This is the DELICIOUS, hearty, flavorful, comforting soup that I ended up with:

Crock Pot Hungarian Mushroom Soup
(Source: Pinterest)

4 tablespoons butter
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1 tablespoon paprika (I used one teaspoon smoked + two teaspoons sweet)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 teaspoon vegetable soup base, optional
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons flour
up to one teaspoon salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
few shakes of hot sauce, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup sour cream

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the carrots and onions in the butter for five minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for five more minutes. Stir in the dill, paprika, and soy sauce. Add veggies to the crock pot then pour in broth and stir in the soup base. Cook on high for an hour and a half or low for three hours.

In a small bowl, whisk the milk and flour together. Pour this into the soup and stir well to blend. Cover and cook on low for another hour and a half on high or three hours on low.

Finally, stir in the salt, black pepper, lemon juice, hot sauce, chopped parsley and sour cream. Mix everything together and allow to heat through, 15-30 minutes on low--do NOT boil. Serve immediately.

The other thing I experimented with in the kitchen today was making crumpets. I LOVE crumpets--so tender and slightly chewy with all those little holes for soaking up butter! The problem is, there is only one store in my small town where you can find them, and they are four dollars for a four-pack! So it was my goal to learn to make them at home. (YES, you can make them at home--they don't just pop out of hedgerows fully-formed and only in England.) This was a decent first attempt...

English Crumpets
(Source: adapted from Epicurious)

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 3/4 cups warm water
1 cup warm milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon of sugar or honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons warm water

Combine yeast, sugar and one cup of warm water into a mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place for about ten minutes. During this time the liquid should develop a foamy head, showing that the yeast is active. (You can skip this step if you use instant yeast like I did, and just mix everything together all at once--except the baking soda and last bit of water.) Sift flour and salt into another bowl, and mix well. Make a well in the center of the flour; add the yeasty water and the rest of the warm water and the milk. Using a wooden spoon, mix to a thick batter. Cover with plastic wrap, and stand in a warm place until well risen and bubbly. This will take about an hour. The batter doesn't rise dramatically, but it does expand somewhat, and the mixture takes on gases, which are necessary in the cooking process.

Combine the baking soda and the extra water, and add this mix to the dough. MIX WELL. Then leave this mixture to stand, covered, in a warm place for another15 minutes. Preheat a heavy based fry pan to a low heat such that oils will not burn or smoke. Spray oils also allow you to coat the crumpet rings as you are ready to cook. (I sprayed the skillet with regular cooking spray and the rings with flour-added cooking spray. Worked great!) Place enough mixture into the center of each ring to come almost to the top of the ring. (The dough does rise during cooking, and this should be allowed for in the filling of the ring.) Cook for 4-8 minutes over medium heat, until bubbles appear over the entire surface, and the dough appears dry. (I cooked them on a lower heat for 12 minutes so that they didn't burn and so they got done all the way through.)  Remove the ring, turn the crumpet over and cook an additional 30 to 60 seconds to brown the top. Remove from the pan and cool on a cake rack. If you find that the bottom is too dark, you are cooking too quickly. Slow it down, relax, and try again. The worst thing that can happen is that you have to make another batch.

*For some reason, I could only find two of my egg/English muffin rings, so I also used some wide-mouth canning jar lids. The crumpets didn't look quite as perfect, but the canning rings worked fine...and the crumpets tasted just as good, especially with some melty Plugra on top! Also, crumpets freeze beautifully, then you can just pop them in the toaster at breakfast or tea time. YAY!

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