Monday, May 17, 2010

SF Food Wars: Benedict’s Red Coat Mini Muffins

or How to Get Over Your Love of Hollandaise.

My feet hurt. And I am so tired. And I never want to see hollandaise sauce again. Despite these little setbacks (and no win), the brunch battle was a lot of fun. We were so busy we only got to try a few of the other dishes, but let me inform you that INNA jam makes some awesome jams you should purchase; I am waiting impatiently for Wild Yeast's bacon brioche recipe to show up on her blog; and rabbit bacon is quite tasty.

I was constantly moving and assembling with the help of my co-chef, The Divine Miss M, also known as The Employed Architect. Therefore, I have tons of pictures from before the actual battle, and only a few from during. I'm kind of annoyed that we have only one picture of the muffins fully assembled, but hopefully the photographers got some good ones to link to. Anyway, I present to you our twist on Eggs Benedict: Benedict's Red Coat Mini Muffins. The dish consists of sourdough & chive mini english muffins topped with roasted heirloom tomato, candied bacon, hollandaise sauce, and then garnished with sour cream, capers, lemon zest and a sprig of fresh chive. We will start our tale with a successful attempt and a trip to the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market in downtown San Francisco.

Prologue: Gathering Suppies & The Farmers' Market

After driving 5 1/2 hours to San Francisco Friday morning, M and I hit the market for 5 dozen eggs, butter, sour cream, capers and chives. Then we got to working. I've resisted a sourdough starter of my own solely because I take issue with having to closely watch and feed bacteria for a week or two, but M does not. She took on the task a few weeks back with great success (and has given me some to take home!). Nice and bubbly post-feed, I whipped up a test batch of King Arthur's Sourdough English Muffins with plans to make another batch or two the next day. In the fridge for an overnight rise, we settled in to stare at the TV.

When I woke up in the morning, the dough was weird. And by weird I mean it had risen nicely, except that the top was one massive bubble. I prodded it with my finger and decided it needed to be popped. A pinch and deflation later, the dough looked a bit more normal. It wasn't a crust, as it was covered, but there was the risen dough, a layer of air, and then a thin layer of dough stretched atop it. I had never dealt with sourdough before so I e-mailed King Arthur's bakers' hotline and begged for a quick answer. It was nothing to worry about, although I wish I had been awake enough to think of taking a photo.

And then we went to the farmers' market. I actually prefer the Civic Center market on Wednesdays. I think the food is more affordable and diverse, and there's a lot less prepared food items. This market was okay, but the Ferry Building is the kind of place San Francisco yuppies go to appear all cool and foodie-licious, so prices are high and strollers get in the way. A lot of restauranteurs actually hit the Civic Center market just as it's opening for this reason. Go there instead if you live in town. Regardless, we picked up 7 pounds of delicious heirloom tomatoes. Behold their beauty.

Preparing For Battle

Saturday afternoon, we baked. And by baked, I mean rolled dough, cut out circles, and carefully pan-cooked them. First, I brought the dough to room temperature and split in half for easy handling.

I know what you're thinking. Just be glad my dough doesn't have a tramp stamp.

Then, I added chopped chives. With one half, I decided to try and knead in the chives. It didn't distribute them properly and I really didn't want to work the dough too hard. So what did I do? I rolled out the second half to about 1/2 inch thick with our trusty Pernod bottle, sprinkled it with chives, rolled once, and then kneaded for about 2 minutes. Much better distribution.

I then rolled the dough out to 1/4" thick, and M cut out 96 2" round muffins. She's apparently much better at wielding a cookie cutter than I am, so she took it upon herself to shoo me away from that job. But seriously, 96? We only needed to prepare 70 samples, but there would be approximately 200 people there. At two halves per muffin, we decided that if this batch came out well, we'd leave it be.

Puffin' up. They kind of reminded me of those Pillsbury muffins you buy in rolls.

Cooking these things sucked. Earlier in the week M had tried a different recipe. She learned that it's best to cook English muffins on low heat for a longer period than suggested. Why? Let's just say that there was some burning involved. We took this to heart and had three pans going at a time on her much hated electric cooktop. I longed for my gas stove (and she did, too).

These English muffins were amazing. They smelled and tasted great. I will most certainly make them in a larger size.

The Dawn of War

Up early, M and I separated way too many eggs.

We had about 30 more to go at this point.

Then I "forked" open 96 freaking tiny muffins for toasting. Forked, forked, forked. And I was in awe of their nooks and crannies.

And then, I sliced 7 pounds of tomatoes. Delicious tomatoes that I could not eat even though they are my favorite food ever. Luckily, M's roommate was standing there zesting lemons to keep me from eating them all.

M was mixing up large quantities of hollandaise sauce on the stove while this was happening. And then I used a very large George Foreman grill to cook the tomatoes and the bacon (which was cooked in brown sugar). You get no pictures because time became a problem. Trust me--you really don't want to see the mess we made, just like we didn't want to see it when we came back.

The War Is Upon Us

Lucky us! We had to conquer the Battle of Bay to Breakers to get out of of the 'hood this morning when we were already running late. Even luckier, we got there and I realized we forgot our tomatoes and bacon on the counter! Luckily, another roommate stepped in and sped them over to us. We got the goods with five minutes to spare and started to to assemble as many as we could. We didn't stop assembling for about an hour and a half and we made a mess in the process. Lessons learned? Although using a crockpot and whisk to keep hollandaise sauce warm and smooth is a great idea, a crockpot full of hot water accompanied by a squeeze bottle outfitted with a marble is a much better idea. Squeeze bottles full of sour cream are also brilliant. Oh, and bacon grease all of your hands? Not cool. I swear my ancestors were rolling around in their graves.

Mid-assembly with tomato & bacon; Full assembly, and a little bit messy. We had tongs.

The cupcake liners were unwieldy, so we assembled on the tray. Yeah, sauce got everywhere.

The end. You can see our sign's frame, the tea seat on the Union Jack, M's red cape I was going to wear turned into a tablecloth (oops, forgot one!), and M dipping the last muffin into hollandaise.

Epilogue: The Aftermath

For those of you interested in the English Muffins, I strongly recommend the King Arthur recipe. If you do choose to make the muffins, a few words of advice. First, measure out by weight (if you can) all of your flour into a big bowl. Add the first two cups as directed. The rest of the flour? Slowly add 1/2 cup by 1/2 cup until you get the desired consistency. I used closer to 5 cups, but I'm sure it depends on how wet your starter is. Use the extra--and only the extra--for kneading and flouring your surface. I didn't feel the need to add any extra flour other than for my kneading surface. Secondly, definitely do a medium-low heat and watch your muffins closely. Remember that they're usually toasted, so if they're slightly undercooked they will be okay.

Miss M used Julia Child's recipe for hollandaise as found in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She suggests not using the blender method, but instead using a hand held mixer to whisk as it cooks. And always keep a cold bowl of water nearby in case the sauce curdles--you can beat it back into submission. A little white pepper and lemon zest also go a long way. Moreover, adding cornstarch helps prevent curdling. Julia's book also has some great tips for the sauce that should really be followed.

Even though chaos was abound, we had a great time. People seemed to really enjoy our dish with some coming back for seconds (and in one case, thirds). At the very least we didn't embarrass ourselves too much.


kattyskitchen said...

Sounds like you had a great time regardless. Who knew there was a recipe for sourdough English muffins? And candied bacon, too! They say bacon is meat candy, you know. Yum!

Shree said...

what better use of a pernod bottle? love the addition of chives! the tomatoes look stunning!

Anonymous said...

i guess you won't be needing a rolling pin any time soon. a bottle is now a multi-tasker!


Lawyer Loves Lunch said...

This looks like a blast! Tiring, but a blast, nonetheless. I heart King Arthur flour but am too wimpy to try sourdough :)

Biren said...

Sounds like you both had fun though it was a lot of work.

The Cilantropist said...

This is incredible, and I have to say that I must be a masochist because I really enjoy (in a love-hate sort of way) these types of long drawn out cooking adventures. Impressive, and even though you didn't come home with the win, you should be proud. :)

Kathy Gori said...

Oh god, I'm so down with those muffins. that looks wonderful.

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S. said...

Thanks everyone! Tons of fun, but now that I just drove back to LA I want to crawl into my bed and stay there for a few days

@Lawyer Loves Lunch -- seriously, I'm wimpy too. It takes a few weeks of lots of love and care to get your starter right.

rain said...

Hi, i love your blog, really boost my appetite to eat.. :)
I interested to your eggs Benedict: Benedict's Red Coat Mini Muffins because it looks like bakpia cookies from java, indonesia.
please visit if you want. :)
Thank you.

islandeat said...

Hi, BB. I love the idea of the sour dough English muffins - getting started with the starter has been in the back of my mind for a while now. Thanks, Dan

Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron said...

What a cool experience! You did it girl!!

Jennifer said...
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