Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Summer Part III, Sunflowers & Chuchee’s English Muffin Bread

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer at my house. Thanks to Hurricane Irene, I finally got my wish and the kids went back to school today instead of last week. I was very happy to have them home, it was like a bonus vacation for all of us.

This August, when we went to Montauk, NY for our "real" vacation, I drove by LKL Farmstand in East Hampton, NY several times before I worked up the courage to pull over and ask if I could take some pictures of their sunflower field. I didn't expect to be allowed in the field and up and down the rows - and they generously allowed both. If you've never walked in a field of sunflowers late in the day in late summer, and I hadn't before, please put it at the top of your list of things to do. There was a lovely hum of bees and a feeling of total peace. Everything seemed just as it should be. Here are a few of the pictures I took that day.

In the picture on the right, you can see the bees on a sunflower.

Made of cloth or recycled materials, I love the American flag. This one is from LKL Farmstand.

Some LKL Farmstand peaches in jars. I'm going to make my grandma's Peaches 'n' Cream Pie, which calls for preserved peaches, with LKL Vanilla Peaches this winter.

Since I started Sweet & Simple, I've been baking more than ever, but in a commercial kitchen. I do miss the quiet time in my own kitchen. So yesterday was Labor Day and, even though it was hot and humid out, I wanted to relax at home in the afternoon and bake something. I thought English Muffin Bread would be great for back-to-school breakfast this morning - and it was! I had mine with butter and apricot preserves.

No surprise, some of my best recipes are from my favorite people – my friends and family. This English Muffin Bread is super easy to make and delicious to eat. My friend and former neighbor, Chuchee, an amazing baker and cook, made this for us many times. With her permission, I'm sharing her recipe. Chuchee’s English Muffin Bread is best toasted with lots of butter and jam. Or, try cream cheese, peanut butter or Nutella. All are popular at my house! You will find some of Chuchee’s other recipes here.

Since I tend to use a mixer or Cuisinart for most recipes – including pie dough and challah bread – I enjoy making this by hand in a Pyrex bowl with a wooden spoon. And the 45 minutes of wait time is a great excuse for yet another cup of coffee.

Chuchee's English Muffin Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Lightly grease 2 8-1/2 x 4” loaf pans and sprinkle with cornmeal.

3 cups plus 2-1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
cornmeal (for pans)

Combine with a whisk, 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.

Heat milk and water in a small saucepan until very warm. Add milk to flour mixture. Beat well. Stir in 2-1/2 – 3 cups more flour to make a stiff batter. Spoon batter into pans. Loosely cover and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. While the bread is rising, preheat oven to 400ยบ. Bake 25 minutes. Remove immediately and cool on wire rack.

Goodbye, Summer. Thank you for sweet memories and happy days. See you next year!