baseball in osaka + homemade english muffins

October has had a very auspicious, if not terribly fiscally responsible, beginning. The first day of the month opened with beautiful, 25˚ weather (yay for finally getting used to the metric system!) and a visit to Koshien Stadium near Kobe. Along with nearly fifty other Nara and Kyoto JETs, we stuck out in big Gaijin fashion with our hooting, cheering, and English blabbering. But the crowds embraced us, and when the time came for the famous Hanshin Tiger’s Balloon Rally, we all inflated our odd-shaped zeppelins and let them spin and fuzzle upward in a soaring, incredible multitude. 

Twelve stops and two train rides later, I emerged from the bustling subway thoroughfare and by dusk I was walking the neon-streets of Osaka with five other foodie friends. Before it was even 9pm, I had eaten a helping of piping-hot takoyaki (octopus-filled dumplings drizzled in a special brown sauce, mayonaise, sprinkled with seaweed and salty bonito fish flakes–don’t judge until you try one!), downed a milk-flavored bubble tea from a hole-in-the-wall stand, tried an Osaka cabbage-yaki speciality, had my first Shochu on the rocks, and finished off the evening with a healthy serving of ice cream. And that was only the food! I probably shouldn’t get in to the cosplay store or maid cafe we went to…

After such an eventful Saturday, I was determined to spend Sunday in a more economical and relaxed fashion. However, these plans were dashed when I opened my fridge to find nothing but scallions and a knob of ginger. I was bracingly tight-pursed at the supermarket, but even while resisting a bag of fresh persimmons and desisting from more cream for coffee, I was still short with only 3500 yen. I could have just made a run to the bank, I know, but I’m too stingy to pay the atm fees for withdrawing money on the weekend. So in an attempt to be frugal and have an excuse to bake, I decided to forgo the expensive imported pack of English muffins and make my own! I found a blessedly easy recipe to follow, and the only hurdle I came up against was whether to bake or pan-fry the muffins. In the end, I did both, but I like the look and taste of the ones I cooked in the pan better. Just be sure to roll the dough in cornmeal beforehand–otherwise, if you sprinkle the cornmeal in the pan while its heating, it will burn and turn into a crispy, smoky mess.

Homemade English Muffins

3 Cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 TB yeast
1 Cup warm water
2 TB oil, plus more for the bowl
cornmeal
In a medium bowl, whisk flour and salt, set aside. In a large bowl, combine water and yeast; let stand for 2 minutes. Whisk in oil and add flour mixture, stir to fully incorporate. Knead for five minutes or so on a well-floured surface, until dough is soft and pliable. Add a little oil to the bowl and place the dough in it, turning to coat. Cover with a dish towel and set aside for an hour to rise.
When dough has doubled in size, dump it onto a well-floured surface and knead a few times. Divide dough into six pieces, and roll each into a ball. Cover with cornmeal, and let rest for another 20 minutes or so. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and cook the muffins one or two at a time, depending on the size of your pan, for about 5-7 minutes on both sides. Cook each side long enough that it is just well-done enough but not burned. Remove from pan and set on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm with butter or jam, or make it into a more hearty meal with eggs and sauteed spinach!
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