Bake like Mrs. Patmore with these 'Downton Abbey'-inspired English muffins, pineapple walnut cookies
The "Downton Abbey" movie did better than expected at the box office this fall, and it has inspired a resurgence of interest in British food. (Or maybe it's the latest season of "The Great British Baking Show," which is rolling out on Netflix one week at a time.)
Either way, Americans are baking like Brits. Austinite Deb Miller Bates emailed me last week to request the recipe for a pineapple walnut cookie that the Alamo Drafthouse is serving at some of its "Downton Abbey" screenings, and there's also "The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook" (Weldon Owen, $35) to consult.
With dozens of photos from the TV show and plenty of historical anecdotes, Annie Gray's cookbook will delight "Downton" fans, especially with holiday entertaining around the corner. I picked these English muffins, which you can make year-round and freeze to reheat anytime you want a taste of those epic meals that the fictional Crawley family enjoyed during the course of the six-season series.
Muffins were a classless food, and even made their appearance in a classic English nursery rhyme, “The Muffin Man,” first recorded in 1820. Muffin sellers were familiar figures on urban streets, and bakers worked through the night to prepare hot muffins for people to buy as they walked to work. They were usually served simply split in half and spread with lots of salted butter, but they also made their way into later recipes for eggs Benedict and eggs Florentine. This recipe comes from a circa 1911 edition of Domestic Cookery and Household Management, which mentions neither the author nor the first edition from 1806. The original recipe included the suggestion that if the muffins aren’t all eaten immediately and go stale, they “may be made to taste new, by dipping in cold water, and toasting, or heating in an oven.” Modern cooks can wrap the muffins airtight and freeze.
— Annie Gray
3 3/4 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for the bowl
1 egg, lightly whisked
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
Put the flour into a large bowl. Heat the milk in a small saucepan to about 100 degrees and melt the butter in it. Pour the warm milk into the flour, add the egg and yeast, and mix with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Mix in the salt, then turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 15 to 20 minutes. Alternatively, in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, knead the dough on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
Lightly butter a large bowl and transfer the dough to it. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel, set it in a warm spot, and let the dough rise until almost doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
Divide the dough into about 14 pieces, each weighing about 2 ounces. Roll and shape each portion into a smooth 2-inch ball. As the balls are formed, put them on a well-floured work surface. With your hand, flatten each ball into a 2 1/2-inch round about 1/2-inch thick. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. The rounds will rise only slightly.
Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron griddle or lightly greased large frying pan over medium heat and gently place the muffins on it without crowding. (You may need to cook them in batches.)
When the bottoms are dry, after a few minutes, gently turn the muffins over with a spatula. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, turning regularly, until the muffins are nicely puffed, lightly browned on both sides, and cooked through, about 20 minutes. When done, the center of a muffin should register about 200 degrees on a thermometer.
Turn them onto a rack to cool only briefly, for they are best served hot. Use your fingers or a fork to split each muffin in half. Makes 14 muffins.
— From "The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook" by Annie Gray (Weldon Owen, $35)
Pineapple Walnut Cookies
Dried fruit has been part of British baking for as long as fruitcake has, which is to say a very long time. Pineapples, however, didn't come into the mix until about the 1700s, when greenhouses were used to grow these tropical fruits that are native to South America. When developing a menu for the new "Downton Abbey" movie, Alamo Drafthouse chef Brad Sorenson put together this pineapple walnut cookie, which reader Deb Miller Bates loved so much she emailed me to request the recipe. Sorenson was happy to share it. These cookies taste a little like scones and a lot less dense than fruitcake, so hold onto this recipe for your holiday baking.
— Addie Broyles
3/4 cup dried pineapple pieces
1/2 cup pineapple juice
3/4 cup chopped walnut pieces
1/2 pound butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cups white sugar
1 whole egg
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Combine the dried pineapple and pineapple juice in a small pan. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring often. You want to infuse the dried pineapple with the juice to make them more pineapple-y. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Toast the walnuts at 350 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes, or until well toasted. Allow to cool to room temperature.
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars and beat together until fully creamed. The combination should be light and fluffy and about doubled in volume. Scrape the bowl often for best results. Add the egg and mix on low speed until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl.
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix. Add to the creamed butter and egg. Mix until just combined, scraping the bowl. Add the walnuts and pineapple to the mixing bowl and stir until just combined.
Portion the cookies to desired size, about 2 ounces each. Allow to chill for at least 1 hour. Bake these cookies at 325 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating once, until fully baked.
— Adapted from a recipe by Brad Sorenson, Alamo Drafthouse