English Muffin Bread

English Muffin Bread

English muffins were a staple at my house growing up.  My mom often left a breakfast sandwich for me on the counter when I was growing up.  Meaning I’d come upstairs and there, on a toasted English muffin, would be a fried egg, slice of cheese, and either a slice of bacon or ham if it was a good day.  I would simply re-heat and off I went.  No need for the morning drive-thru line up for my egg Mcmuffin.

I thought everybody ate English muffins.  Then one day before they started showing up in the stores here in Mexico, when I was complaining about how much I missed them, a friend from Argentina asked what it was.  I was so excited to explain it to her, although it wasn’t easy.  What’s so special about it? I couldn’t really differentiate it.  And when she finally had one of her own, she said it wasn’t much different than any toast and didn’t see the big deal.

Maybe it was all in my head? Or maybe it’s just that memories are so tied up with food? Whatever the reason, I still loved them and so when I originally tried this bread recipe, I was sooooooooooooo veeeeeeeeeeeery pleased and so were my family.  It’s super easy and freezes well and is great alone, toasted with butter, or made into that breakie sandwich.

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Try it.  Double the recipe and you’ll have four loaves!  The first will disappear on sight so it’s probably a good idea.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/4 cups warm water
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons fast-rising yeast
  • 1 TAB salt
  • 1 1/2 TAB sugar
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS:

Add yeast to warm water and stir to combine.  Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.  Add water mixture to flour and combine well.  Spoon into two well-greased loaf pans.  Let bread rise in pans until dough reaches the top of the pans (probably about an hour but depends on the temperature of your room). Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown.  About five minutes before it’s ready, brush melted butter on top.  Remove from oven and let cool on cooling racks.  Let cool completely before cutting.

Makes 2 loaves.

Cheese & Beer Bread

Pre-children, my husband and I lived in New Brunswick for a year, most of 1999.  It was such a short blip of time that sometimes I almost forget that it happened.  My husband is originally from Nova Scotia.  He moved to Toronto in his late teens and lived with his sister and new husband before moving out on his own.  We met when I moved literally around the corner from him and began running in the same circles. But that’s a story for another time.

He became quite the city boy quickly, enjoying the variety of  food and entertainment that was now available to him.  But after we were married, he missed his friends and family and simpler way of life that the maritimes offered.  So off we went in January 1999 and drove with two of our friends (who didn’t know each other at the time but ended up getting married! how cool is that?!)  who helped us move to a little town outside of Saint John.

It was a very different life than I was used to.  I distinctly recall discussing with friends one evening whether we should go to a movie. I pointed out “we can’t leave now, it’s 4:30”, to which the question was put, “and why is that?”.  Well you see, in Toronto, if you’re not in the working world, to avoid the horrendous traffic, you don’t leave you house during the house of 6:00-9:30 a.m. or 3:30-7 p.m.  Leaving my house at that time and traveling any further than a five minute drive away was unheard of.  They laughed and laughed, pushed me into the car, and off we went to the movies.  We probably passed probably ten cars on the way into the city, rolled up to the movie theatre, and experienced no lineups.

Maybe I could get used to this.

This is when I also truly understood the expression ‘snowed in’. In Toronto, there are snow days, or days they ‘recommend’ you don’t drive, but in all reality, you can’t really stop city people from doing too much.  But that winter, while we were hanging out at our friends house, it began to snow. And snow. And snow.  It ended up snowing for two days, and since our friends lived off a main road, there was no hurry to clear the road.  We stayed overnight and waited the next day for the town snow plows to dig us out.  Remember everyone, this was back before the internet was a part of our daily lives, where it was on everyone’s phones, where you could spend hours on Pinterest laughing at kitten and cute babies laughing videos.  So what did we do?  Play games and eat.

During this blizzard, I was rummaging through a cookbook and came across this recipe.  I have no idea where it came from, but it seemed simple enough to me and once again, the kind of ingredients I usually have on hand (yes, we usually have beer in the fridge, don’t judge me).  I mean, bread from one bowl? no yeast? dump a bottle of beer and shredded cheese and voila?  My kind of recipe.  I proceeded to copy it out by hand, and later, typed it up to add to my photo album recipe books.  It’s not in great shape so I’m glad I have a new place to record it so it’s never lost.

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When I made it for the first time I was astonished how easy it was and even better, how dense and delicious.  It was the perfect chunk of bread to eat along with any soup or stew that you were enjoying to survive the blizzard.  It’s also great the next day toasted and buttered.  While the jalapeno is completely optional, and I can’t say that I went searching for jalapenos back then in a small town, now that we live here, I can’t make this bread without.  Plus, it adds that adorable touch of green.

And the smell as it comes out of the oven isn’t too shabby either.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tab sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1 1/2 cups beer (about 1 bottle)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tab fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped and seeded (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375.  Grease loaf pan with butter or spray.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, oregano, baking soda, salt, and basil.  Add the beer, cheese, and if desired, jalapeno pepper.  Stir until just combined, batter should be lumpy.  Spoon batter into prepared pan.  Bake in oven until 35-40 minutes or until golden. Cool in pan on wire rack for ten minutes.  Remove from pan, cool completely on rack.

Makes one loaf.

 

 

 

Banana Bread

When we were newly married and living in an apartment complex in Toronto, we had two couples that we were friends with, also newly married, also living in these apartments.  We enjoyed hanging out with each other after our jobs and our volunteer work, and not having to go far to do it.  Especially on those cold Toronto winter nights, when all we had to do to get home was walk up two flights of stairs.

Since we were all starting out, none of us had a lot of money, but still liked to get out of the city and rest, so we started camping together. The first time we went with one couple, two people I had been friends with for many years who were now married.  The four of us went to Algonquin, a beautiful park in northern Ontario. It was real camping; we took a canoe to our spot, set up our tent, and hung our food in the trees to keep the bears away.  Such a beautiful and peaceful place it was/is.  Then we asked another couple to join us, and we camped in Algonquin a few more times over the years before moving to the easier and closer ‘car camping’ of Killbear Provincial Park.  Ah the stories I could tell from there.  A place very near and dear to my heart.

We had our annual camping trip organized down to a tee.  Each couple had their cook night and breakfast and brought the ingredients for that, and the rest was free for all.  We all knew what items each other had and we camped together so often, it was rare we forgot something behind.

One of the wives was so prepared, she even made banana bread that she saved for the men as they set up camp.  As they were pitching the tents and trying to figure out where to hang the tarp, she pulled out her two loaves: one was with nuts, and the other with chocolate.  Secretly, I always hoped she pulled the nut one out first because the men could inhale it and I could eat the chocolate chip one all by myself.

This recipe is my favorite banana bread recipe ever.  Is it because it is tied to such fond memories and such great friendships? Maybe.  But I’ve been making it for many years and people seem to love it through and through.

We can’t buy buttermilk here in Mexico, but that’s an easy fix.  For each cup of buttermilk that you need,  use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice, plus enough milk to measure 1 cup. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes.  Also, the flour here is not great, (sorry Mexico, you know I love you but you can’t be great at everything).  Once I realized how I had left great quality flour behind in Canada, I regretted not appreciating it more then.  Fun fact, when people ask my mother what they can bring her down from home, she often asks for Robin Hood flour.  I am not sure a 25 lb bag of flour is exactly what they had mind though.  I don’t get imported flour, and sometimes I’m not in the mood to make extra dishes to wash, so instead of sifting it to get out the lumps, I just whisk all my dry ingredients together to get air through it.

Double the recipe, make four loaves, because the first will be inhaled, and you’ll need more for later.  They also freeze beautifully.

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Banana Bread

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed, ripe bananas (3 to 4 bananas)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips or chopped nuts (optional)

 

 

DIRECTIONS:

Head oven to 350. Grease bottoms of two loaf pans.

Mix sugar and butter in a large bowl.  Stir in eggs until well blended.  Add bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt just until moistened.  Stir in chocolate chips or nuts if using.  Pour into pans.

Bake loaves about 1 hour, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool ten minutes on wire rack  Loosen sides of loaves from pans, remove from pans, and let cool on wire rack.  Cool completely before slicing.