English Muffins

I took the plunge and made English muffins at home, for me they fall into the same group as crumpets. More delicious than store bought when they are made at home and after taking that first buttery bite you wish that you had more time so that you never had to buy them from the shop again.

I love to make things at home the way they used to be made before we had large companies to make everything for us. The thing is, normally homemade is so much better and we’ve been duped over the years into thinking that store bought is the superior product. This could not be further from the truth.

They are a little more involved than most breads to cook since they are cooked in a pan initially and then followed by oven baking. But the whole process was very simple and the results worth the effort required. Making these again I think I would make a double quantity and perhaps freeze half of them.

I read somewhere online that English muffins were invented by an American, but on further reading I find this not to be the case at all. They were made from the leftover bread scraps and mashed potato in the ”big houses” in England and were originally only for the staff of the house. Something this delicious cannot stay secret for long though and of course they became commonplace for people of all walks of life, often being sold on the street from trays hung around the bakers neck. There is even an old traditional rhyme about the Muffin Man:

"Oh do you know the muffin man, the muffin man, the muffin man?"

"Oh do you know the muffin man, who lives on Drury lane oh!”

English Muffins are usually served split and toasted and a perfect base for savoury or sweet toppings. We had ours as a part of Eggs Benedict, but I am just as happy to eat these lavished with homemade jam in the mornings. While this recipe is from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, I first saw it on The Brown Eyed Baker.

Traditional English Muffins

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • tablespoon (.25 ounce) granulated sugar
  • teaspoon (.19 ounce) salt
  • 1 teaspoons (.14 ounce) instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) shortening or unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (6 to 8 ounces) milk or buttermilk, at room temperature
  • Cornmeal for dusting

Makes 6 Muffins

  1. Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).

    • Stir in (or mix in on low speed with the paddle attachment) the shortening and cup milk until the ingredients form a ball.
    • If there is still loose flour in the bowl, dribble in some of the remaining cup milk. The dough should be soft and pliable, not stiff.
  2. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed with the dough hook).

    • Knead the dough for about 10 minutes (or mix for about 8 minutes), sprinkling in more flour if needed to make a tacky, but not sticky, dough. It should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees F.
    • Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  3. Ferment at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.

  4. Wipe the counter with a damp cloth and transfer the dough to the counter.

    • Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces of 3 ounces each.
    • Shape the pieces into boules (or round rolls)
    • Line a sheet pan with baking parchment, mist the parchment lightly with spray oil, and dust with cornmeal. Transfer the balls of dough to the sheet pan, spacing them about 3 inches apart.
    • Mist them lightly with spray oil, sprinkle them loosely with cornmeal, and cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a towel.
  5. Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces nearly double in size and swell both up and out.

  6. Heat a skillet or flat griddle to medium (350F if you have a thermometer setting). Also, preheat the oven to 350F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

  7. Brush the pan or griddle with vegetable oil or mist with spray oil.

    • Uncover the muffin rounds and gently transfer them to the pan, sliding a metal spatula under them and lifting them to the pan.
    • Fill the pan so that the pieces are at least 1 inch apart, not touching. Cover the pieces still on the sheet pan with the plastic wrap or a towel to prevent them from developing a skin. The dough that is being cooked will flatten in the pan and spread slightly, then the pieces will puff somewhat.
    • Cook them for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the bottom of the dough cannot cook any longer without burning. The bottoms should be a rich golden brown; they will brown quickly but will not burn for awhile, so resist the temptation to turn them prematurely or they will fall when you flip them over.
    • Carefully flip the pieces over with the metal spatula and cook on the other side for 5 to 8 minutes in the same manner. Both sides will now be flat.
    • When the dough seems as if it cannot endure any further cooking without burning, transfer the pieces to a sheet pan and place the pan in the oven (dont wait for the still uncooked pieces, or the ones just out of the pan will cool down and will not respond to the oven stage).
    • Bake for 5 to 8 minutes on the middle shelf in the oven to ensure that the center is baked. Meanwhile, return to the uncooked pieces and cook them, then bake them, as you did the first round.
  8. Transfer the baked muffins to a cooling rack and cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving.

(From The Bread Bakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart)

I do want to let you know that although my frequency of posts has slowed I am very definately still here.

I have issues you see, issues with winter arriving. I have no lighting available to me other than daylight, and that is getting very scarce these days. By the time I arrive home at the end of the day the light is
already waning. Wintry sky with clouds and rain pattering on the roof are not ideal for photos, but perfect for staying in and warming up my toes by the fire.