12/14/2010

Loose Canons .... er... Eggs Benedict

 If you can eat breakfast at the venerable Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki, overlooking the sea, with crisp white linens on the table, flowers, and charming wait staff at your beck and call, that is the absolute best way to have Eggs Benedict.  However, we can't always get over there, and must do it ourselves. Sigh... Especially when it is the Month's challenge for Daring Cooks.  I have made this before, awhile back, so the process wasn't totally unfamiliar, but still always a bit of a trial, the poaching part anyway.  Yes, I have finally joined up.  So I can be more daring. 

For December, Jenn and Jill have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg.  They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato and Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

I chose to do the (not so) simple Eggs Benedict recipe.  Then, wanting to challenge myself more, made up a batch of sourdough English Muffins, and did it all again.  Just to see the difference.  As far as poaching goes, I've been eating eggs every day trying to get it right, having decided that the egg poacher wasn't strictly poaching, since the eggs do not touch water.    Now I remember why it was I had to have that egg poacher. Poaching is not a challenge, just poaching EGGS.


Eggs Benedict

Serves 4 (I cut this recipe in half for the two of us and it was perfect)

Ingredients

4 eggs (size is your choice)
4 English muffins* (the other half is for jam if you'd like, or another egg)
4 slices of Canadian bacon/back bacon (or plain bacon if you prefer) prosciutto is also good
Chives, for garnish
Splash of vinegar (for poaching)

For the Hollandaise (makes 1.5 cups):
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. (5 ml) water
¼ tsp. (1 ¼ ml/1½ g) sugar
12 Tbl. (170 g/6 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces º
½ tsp. (2 ½ ml/3 g) kosher salt
2 tsp. (10 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
* for gluten free, use gluten free English muffins or bread of your choice
º for dairy free, use a dairy free margarine

Directions:

1. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer.
2. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and set aside.

3. Whisk egg yolks and 1 tsp. (5 ml) water in a mixing bowl large enough to sit on the saucepan without touching the water (or in top portion of a double boiler). Whisk for 1–2 minutes, until egg yolks lighten. Add the sugar and whisk 30 seconds more.

4. Place bowl on saucepan over simmering water and whisk steadily 3–5 minutes (it only took about 3 for me) until the yolks thicken to coat the back of a spoon.
5. Remove from heat (but let the water continue to simmer) and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Move the bowl to the pan again as needed to melt the butter, making sure to whisk constantly.

6. Once all the butter is incorporated, remove from heat and whisk in the salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper (if using).

7. Keep the hollandaise warm, while you poach your eggs, in a thermos, carafe, or bowl that you’ve preheated with warm water.

8. If the water simmering in your pan has gotten too low, add enough so that you have 2–3 inches of water and bring back to a simmer.
I wasn't sure how kosher this was, using a poacher, so  for my second batch, see below.

9. Add salt and a splash of vinegar (any kind will do). I added about a tablespoon of vinegar to my small saucepan (about 3 cups of water/720 ml of water), but you may need more if you’re using a larger pan with more water.

10. Crack eggs directly into the very gently simmering water (or crack first into a bowl and gently drop into the water), making sure they’re separated. Cook for 3 minutes for a viscous but still runny yolk.  To the left you see my attempt (one of them) directly into the water.  BTW - egg was very fresh, from one of my daughter's hens across the road.  Yes, vinegar was used, and water at simmer.  Not a pretty sight here, folks. So I say, back to the poacher.


11. While waiting for the eggs, quickly fry the Canadian/back bacon (I cut mine in pieces to make eating a little easier) and toast your English muffin.

12. Top each half of English muffin with a piece(s) of bacon. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, draining well, (or scoop delicately from your egg poacher) and place on top of the bacon. Top with hollandaise and chopped chives.

These Sourdough Muffins, are courtesy of  Clotilde at Chocolate and Zucchini.  I had been waiting for a good excuse to make them, using my starter. Anyway, I'd much rather talk about my muffins.  They were more of a success story.

Sourdough English Muffins
Adapted by Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini.
from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

- 250 grams (8.8 ounces) bread flour - I used about half white and half whole wheat spelt
- 70 grams (2.5 ounces) ripe natural starter (fed 6 to 8 hours before; the idea is to use it when it's almost at its peak)*
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/2 tablespoon agave syrup (substitute 1/2 tablespoon honey or sugar)
- 15 grams (1 tablespoon) butter, softened
- 150 ml (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) milk, plus a little more if necessary (you can also use buttermilk)
- cornmeal, for sprinkling

Makes 6 English muffins; the recipe can be doubled.

1. Make the dough

Place the ingredients from flour to milk in a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir until the dough comes together into a ball. If it seems too dry for all the flour to get incorporated, add just a little more milk until it does. Knead by hand on a floured surface for 10 minutes, or with the dough hook of your stand mixer for 8 minutes. The resulting dough should be smooth and pleasantly tacky.

2. First rise (bulk fermentation)

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 4 hours. (After the first rise, you may place the dough in the fridge for a few hours or overnight; let rest at room temperature for an hour before you continue as described below.)

3. Divide the dough

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface or an unfloured silicon baking mat; the dough will naturally deflate a little as you do so, but don't punch it. Using a bench/bowl scraper or a simple knife, divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Each should weigh about 85 grams (3 ounces). Shape them into rolls as demonstrated in this video.

4. Second rise (proofing)

If you've been using a silicon mat, this is where you will leave the muffins to rise again: space the balls of dough out on the mat, sprinkling cornmeal under each of them (be generous, or you'll have trouble lifting the balls of dough later; you can always pour the unused cornmeal back into the container when you're all done). If you don't have a silicon mat, do the same thing on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Sprinkle the tops of the balls of dough with more cornmeal (the dough should be tacky enough for the cornmeal to adhere, but if it isn't, spray or brush lightly with olive oil first) and cover loosely with the kitchen towel. Let rest at room temperature for about 2 hours, until puffy and nicely expanded. Try not to let them overproof: the trick is to cook them while still on the rise.

5. Cook the muffins in the skillet

Heat a lightly greased skillet or griddle on medium heat; if your griddle has a thermostat, set it to 175°C (350°F). If not, it is best to err on the side of too little than too much heat.

Also, preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and have ready a baking sheet. (After cooking on the stove top to create the flat top and bottom, the muffins will go into the oven to finish baking to ensure they're cooked right down to the center.)

Use a thin spatula to lift the muffins carefully, one by one, transferring them to the skillet without deflating. The muffins need a little elbow room as they cook, so work in batches if necessary, keeping the uncooked muffins covered. (I cooked two batches of three.)

Cook for 5 to 7 minutes on the first side, until the bottom is lightly browned (peek carefully underneath to check how they're doing), rotating the pan every few minutes if it has hot spots. The muffins should rise and expand a tiny bit more; it's lovely to watch. Flip the muffins carefully using the spatula, working gently to avoid deflating them, and cook 5 to 7 minutes on the other side, until lightly browned. Avoid overbrowning the muffins: you're going to toast them before eating, and they will brown a little further in the toaster.

6. Finish the muffins in the oven

Transfer the cooked muffins to the prepared baking sheet, and place in the oven to bake for 6 minutes; they shouldn't brown any further. Transfer to a rack to cool.  To toast the muffins, first prick around the sides with the tines of a fork and use the fork to split them.

* To make this without starter, up the flour to 280 g (10 oz), the instant yeast to 4 g (1 1/4 tsp), and the milk to 170 ml (3/4 cup). The rising times for the bulk fermentation and the proofing will be shorter (approximately by half).



Eggs Benedict makes for a really fabulous breakfast.  I don't care that Julia Child said back on her show, years ago, that they were rather tiresome and over done.  Maybe in her neck of the woods.  They remain one of my top two favorites (the other being fruit crepes), delicious and so decadent. 

The muffins were perfectly done, and the Hollandaise was awesome.  As for the poaching, I wasted a lot of egg whites, floating around in pots of water. They did get poached, but were not beautiful.  I have poached duck in duck fat, fish in broth, and pears in wine.  All I can say is I'm glad I have that little metal egg poacher for future Benedicts, as eggs are not ducks, just a mess in water, (well come to think of it, ducks are pretty messy in water as well, the live ones anyway) loose canons, if you ask me.  My humble opinion.  You can go here to see what all the other Daring Cook bloggers did with this challenge.

3 comments:

Mexico in my kitchen said...

I had never make eggs benedict, but it surprises me that every time we go out for breakfast my teenager son always order them. Maybe it is time for my to cook them at home.

I had been reading your blog and love the posting of so many tropical fruits. My sister is moving to Hawaii but is having a hard time finding a rental. I am glad she will enjoy all the bounty the Islands have to offer.

Mely

Audax said...

Those muffins are perfection I cannot believe the crumb on them so sublime. And an egg poacher is not cheating if it works do it is my approach. Superb results on this challenge.

Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Emily Z said...

I LOVE eggs benedict. Although I have never made it myself. But when I do get it in a restaurant, I love to get it Florentine, with spinach. Mmmm. First Watch has pretty decent eggs benedict, it's not Hawaii, but hey, it works. ;)