Wednesday, July 16, 2008

English Muffins

English muffins. Now here is a recipe that is easy to make, and has many additional advantages.

To start with, these can be made ahead of time, and stored in the fridge or freezer. Yes you can eat them freshly baked, but I almost prefer them a few hours or even days later, fresh from the toaster. Perhaps because that is the way I've always eaten store-bought English muffins. It does feel strange and slightly sacrilegious to take fresh bread and toast it. Much better to toast something that was made a few days earlier.

Another reason to make these at home is they are not easily available in continental Europe, and especially here in Switzerland, I wouldn't know where to find them.

Finally, you don't need an oven. Now most people have an oven, but they may not want to heat it up in the heart of summer. A few heavy frying pans or better a cast iron skillet and you can make this great bread at home.

I haven't done extensive research on recipes, and don't know if the following is the most authentic. But my family likes these, and if you've never made English muffins, this unfussy recipe might be a good way to start.

Some process photos
Click for a larger image

(I don't quite remember, but I believe in the following photos I made the dough a little less wet than specified by the recipe.)

Cutting the dough into 12 or so pieces

Pieces shaped into balls

Resting the dough balls for 20 minutes weighed down with a baking pan. My baking pans are quite heavy...

The rested balls after removing the top baking pan

Baking the English muffins in several pans. No matter how they were flattened, they tend to dome up, and I have to press down on them after turning them over to make them relatively flat. I wonder what this does to the structure of the bread and to its "nooks and crannies" (for those not in the know, English muffins are supposed to have lots of little holes in them for butter to pool in...). It does cause some minor cracking along the sides. Perhaps there's a better way.

Some have been turned over and squashed down

So these look pretty close to the real thing to me...

Hm, not sure I've achieved nooks and crannies here, but good enough

My notes on the recipe

- Maybe use less liquid: this dough is very, very wet. I have to research whether this level of hydration is essential to the flavor or texture of the muffin. I think once I made these with less water, resulting in a stiffer dough which was easier to handle, and the result seemed quite good. I believe the process photos above were from that batch.
- If you don't significantly reduce the liquid, make sure to flour your hands and work surfaces liberally for shaping
- Cut in 12 or even more pieces for smaller muffins (8 would make really large ones)
- Make sure your pan is not too hot! I've burnt a few. I start with 3-4 on my stove (on a scale going up to 10), and even reduce it down to 1-2 toward the end of my baking session. Keep checking!
- Don't oil your pan, or you'll have a really sticky mess to clean up between the muffins. After a minute or two the muffin crust forms and doesn't stick. This works in all my pans: non-stick, untreated fairly heavy pan, and a small cast-iron skillet.
- Use semolina, not corn meal to coat them. Less conspicuous crunch. But if you only have corn meal, no problem.
- I don't take the 20 minutes rest after shaping too literally: I shape 12 or 14 muffins, clean up a little, then start baking the first ones I shaped. (I'm not saying this is right, it's just what I do)
- Don't bother weighing down with another pan (they really stick, so you have to douse them with semolina), but squish them down when you flip them over.
- Flour your hands when you drop them into the pan. Again, they're sticky-wet.
- I recently used 50g whole wheat, which tasted good.
- I wonder about the recipe's suggestion that it's up to you whether you let the dough rise a few hours or overnight. I thought the amount of yeast you use should be inversely proportional to the rising time (short rise, lots of yeast, long rise, less yeast). Wouldn't you need a smaller amount of yeast if you leave the dough out overnight, especially in the summer? I use cold milk and room temperature water, but when I wake up I find a dough that is extremely bubbly, perhaps collapsed (if that's the term). And the resulting flavor might be a little too yeasty for me. I'll fiddle some with the recipe, and might try storing the dough in the fridge overnight. But the original recipe author is quite specific about leaving it out on a counter, so what do I know.

Recipe: English Muffins

Source: Winos and Foodies

I have made no changes to the recipe below. For my 2-cents' worth (or my grain of salt as we say in French), see my notes above.

2 teaspoons dried yeast granules
1/2 teaspoon sugar
250ml warm water
125ml warm milk
350g high grade flour
100g standard flour
1 teaspoon salt
rice flour or fine cornmeal

Put the yeast and sugar in a small bowl with half the warm water. Stir and set aside for a few minutes, then add the remaining water and the milk.
Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and use your hand to mix in the yeast, water and milk mixture. Knead the mixture which will be sticky, thoroughly in the bowl (or use the dough hook of an electric mixer).
Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise until more than doubled in bulk. Although this may take only a couple of hours, the dough can be allowed to rise overnight. Deflate the dough by pulling it away from the sides of the bowl. Lift it out of the bowl and divide into 8 pieces.
Drop each piece on to a tray liberally dusted with rice flour or fine cornmeal and roll them over until well coated.
Form each piece into a thick disc.
Place the disks on a baking tray and place another tray on top.
Leave to rest and rise 20 minutes, then remove top tray.
Place a cast iron griddle or large frying pan over low heat.
When only moderately hot place four of the muffins on it and cook for about ten minutes until light beige on the bottom.
Turn the muffins over and cook the second side for a similar length of time.
Wrap the cooked muffins in a dry tea towel while you cook the remaining four.
Pull apart and eat while still warm.
For toasting pull the muffins apart and toast on both sides.

Ah, I love to have a bag of these in my freezer!

I think this batch has some nooks and crannies, right?


linda said...

Never had English muffins before but I'm sure I would like them. Too bad I'm too lazy to work with yeast ;)
Good to know you don't need an oven. Not that we're experiencing real summer over here though.

btw I was just wondering why you didn't label this post with 'English'?

Astrid said...

Linda - Lazy? Er, based on what I see on your blog you're not lazy! If you do make these, I forgot to specify that you need to open them with a fork (stick it into the muffin's sides all around then tear the muffin apart), to get that rough surface texture.
I think the very fact it's called "English Muffin" makes it the American version. The English would probably just call it muffins. Just as the French do not call fries "French fries," but simply "frites" (they're Belgian anyway, right?).
So anyway, I have no idea what muffins taste like in the UK, having spent little time there. My reference is American "English" muffins. If that makes sense!

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

These are great, the nooks and crannies look very plentiful to me!

Sweet Bird said...

I'm an English muffin fiend and these look spot on! I've actually already bookmarked this page so I can try out the recipe.

sarah said...

these look amazing! EXACTLY like what i buy in the store! I want to try these.... thanks for this post!

~Madeline~ said...

I've been looking for a good english muffin recipe for quite a while and I think I've finally found it! I love that you don't have to bake them. NIce work!

bleeding espresso said...

Yes yes! I'm in Italy and just *savored* a bag of English muffins my mom brought me from the States; now that they're gone, I've been meaning to look around for a recipe to make them myself. Thanks :)

KALVA said...

Wow lovely muffins.. I dont knopw that you need not bake themm.. awesome dear

Erin said...

My mom and I were just talking about how she used to make homemade English muffins when I was growing up. Don't tell her, but your muffins came out much better ;)

Kristen said...

Fantastic!!! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

Tim said...

This is a brilliant entry. I've been feeling more comfortable with yeasted breads lately so I think I might be ready to try these. Add a poached egg and plenty of butter and I'm in heaven :)

Sharon said...

I saw this on Tastespotting and was immediately captured by the words "no oven needed." What a brilliant recipe. Yours look absolutely perfect & uniform!

Becky said...

i haven't had an english muffin in ages. when i was in elementary school, i'd slap on a couple slices of cheese on a thomas' muffin, nuke it til it got all gooey, and that'd be lunch. i was the culinary genius at 8 years old. how this brings back memories. i'll have to try this.

Astrid said...

Wow, who knew so many people love English muffins?! It's great to have all your comments.

Susan - Thanks! I see you make sourdough English muffins, I am impressed.

Sweet Bird - Thank you. I would love to hear back from you once you try them!

Sarah - Thanks! Let me know if you try the recipe.

Madeline - I think you'll see lots of recipes for these on different blogs, many of which might be a little more sophisticated (with starters or sponges etc.) I'm curious to try other recipes now.

Bleeding Espresso - We also always try to "import" English muffins, and always feel a pang when the bag is empty. But now we can have them whenever we like.

Kalva - Thanks!

Erin - Oh wow, better looking than your mother's? I promise I won't tell, but I'm flattered.

Kristen - You're welcome.

Tim - A poached egg? Now that's something I can't do for the life of me. Yeasted breads are less frightening to me! But I would indeed love a poached egg on one of these...

Sharon - Thanks! Please let me know if you try them.

Becky - Do you mean my kids might make lunch for themselves (and me?) when they turn 8? That would be nice.

Anonymous said...

These are absolutely gorgeous! I've been meaning to try this recipe for some time but keep forgetting, thanks for the reminder (and all the lovely photos to boot!).

Ari (Baking and Books)

crunchbot said...

these look delicious! i would love to eat one fresh and hot with butter and homemade jelly!

thanks for the recipe!

Pyrofish said...

When I saw "no oven needed" I immediately thought of a Mario show I saw recently where he made similar bread rounds using stones. I can't remember what they were called, nor do I remember what the interior ended up looking like. The point is, he used two stones for each "muffin". Both had been preheated in an oven. He place the dough on top of one stone, then placed a second stone on top of the dough. Left them on the counter and let the stones cook the dough. They came out looking like english muffins.

Here's the part that might help you, put something on top of the muffins, doesn't have to be heavy, just enough to keep them from puffing upward. Maybe a thinner wood cutting board that's been floured.

Just a thought.

Drew Kime said...

I've been planning to start making my own bread this fall, because I don't want to have the oven on when it's still hot out. Now it looks like I can start early.

Oh, and I'll be doing these with cinnamon and raisin. One batch plain for practice, then start to experiment.

Annie & Nate said...

Those look really great. I don't like to buy English muffins at the store because they just taste off. Who knows how long they've been sitting on the shelf?

My secret favorite junk food is a McD's Egg McMuffin. Now you've got this great recipe and I've got a cast iron pan that needs an excuse to be used. I've got to try this.

gkbloodsugar said...

I've spent many-a weekend with English muffins and eggs in various forms; yours look as good, if not better than any I've ever had!

Elra said...

Another great idea. I never made English Muffins before and never really tempted to make it. After reading your post, I really want to make it myself. Thanks for providing the notes, that will help me a lot!

Christine said...

I see the recipe calls for high grade flour and standard flour - do you know what the difference is? Perhaps here in the States standard flour is All Purpose Flour, but I'm wondering about the other - perhaps it's pastry flour? When you substituted whole wheat, which flour did you substitute it for? How much did you reduce the water that made it easier to handle?
Can't wait to try these, as all of the English Muffins in the stores here are filled with high fructose corn syrup, etc. I've been dying to make my own instead! These look remarkably good, and yours do have lots of nooks and crannies!

nicole said...

Those look way better then store bought english muffins. I'm sure they were great.

Astrid said...

Ari - Thanks! Yes, this recipe came out a while ago, and I'm glad if I've contributed to getting more people to try it.

Crunchbot - Yes, that does sound good. I had them with butter and honey or marmalade, both were great. But I want to try them with a poached egg, if ever I can learn to poach an egg...

Pyrofish - Thank you, that's a good tip, I'll try them with a wooden cutting board on top. Then maybe they'll spread outward instead of up, and I won't need to brutalize them to get them flat!

Drew - I only started making yeast breads recently, but it's kind of addictive! Let me know if you try these!

Annie - Yes, I too have fond memories of Egg McMuffins. Must try to recreate the experience!

GK Bloodsugar - Thanks!

Elra - I'm glad if the notes help.

Christine - Ah right, I didn't clarify: I have no idea what high grade flour is. I assume it's bread flour? Anyway, not something I can get over here. I used part "Halbweissmehl" and part "Weissmehl." The first is in theory half-white flour (therefore part whole-wheat flour?) but it looks very white. The second is something like all purpose flour. Not sure which part I substituted the whole wheat for. I made these several times with various combinations, I don't think it makes a huge difference. And I don't quite remember how much I reduced the water. I may actually have simply added flour to make the dough less sticky. That's the problem with taking pictures a long time ago and waiting to post. But the larger shots were taken just a few days ago, with very sticky dough.

Nicole - Thank you!

Kevin said...

Those English muffins look great!

Kai Carver said...

Wow, I've always missed English muffins here in Europe. And they bring back memories of Oma and Opa and their super toaster...

Are these hard to make? I can't quite tell from your detailed post. Maybe you could include a difficulty rating with each of your recipes.

They really look like the real thing. You are one step closer to realizing your mad plan of recreating all of reality from inside your kitchen! ;-)

Monika Dubska said...

waw these definatley look easy to make & tasty!

thanks for sharing :)

Hope to hear from you! Monika xo

Aran said...

astrid, these are some perfect english muffins! I must borrow this recipe and try them myself. Gorgeous!

christine. said...

These are wonderful! I eat an English muffin every day and woudl love to try to make my own.

question- when you state under your 'tips' that you used 50mg of whole wheat flour- did you add it to the two flours you used, or substituted it somewhere. Anyinsight would be greatly appreciated!

Barbara said...

i Astrid
They look perfect. To answer the query about the flours. When I lived in NZ there were two types of flour, high grade and all purpose. One was more suitable for bread making and the other could be used for bread or cakes. I can't remember which was which now. The dough is sometimes very sticky and I think this is caused by the flour. Some flour soaks up more water than others. I did read an explanation of this somewhere - that is was all about the amount of rain when the wheat was growing. I don't know why yours domed up. I've never had the problem. I'm glad you enjoyed the muffins. It's a favourite of ours.

Jude said...

Looks so good... I love the detailed process and progression in your posts!

Peabody said...

Ya know, I have never made my own...I guess because we can get them everywhere. But now I want to make them!

Shannon said...

I just came over to mention how much I loved your comment on Peabody's blog about solving the middle east crisis... and SCORE! I found a new food blog to read! Thanks for the laugh this afternoon... I feel like that most days myself :)

Astrid said...

Wow, I've never had this many comments on a post before. English muffins rule!

To all visitors, many thanks. It encourages me to continue posting when I get comments.

Answers to a few specific questions or remarks:

Kai - Yes they are easy, try them, make them now! And I love your reference to Le Dîner de Cons. I don't remember if I've mentioned to you (but I probably did, hence your comment!) I sometimes identify with the character who builds things out of match sticks. "So, you make your own English muffins, how very interesting!"

Christine - Sorry for the late response. The 50g (not mg!) whole wheat replaces the stronger of the two flours you use, supposing you use different flours. But definitely not in addition to the flour specified by the recipe. 50g flour is a little less than half a cup I think.

Barbara - Thank you for dropping by! I didn't know different flours could cause different levels of stickiness. As for the doming, I've thought about it and it may be because I shape balls of dough using the tucking in method described here. The surface tension must cause the doming. The thing is, it's this technique that helps me to make them round, otherwise I don't see how I can get them quite round, though maybe I could use a cookie cutter?

TD said...

I too make English muffins from a recipe I modified fromt The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and I found it too be quite wet the first time I made it. So much so that I thought it couldn't be right and added more flour. They turned out fine. English muffins, I've found, are quite forgiving. I often use American all purpose flour plus some oat flour (about a 2:1 ratio) and have great success. In fact, I just made some two days ago and was going to blog about them this week. For now, however, I think I'll just go have one for breakfast! :)

Davis Veg Society said...

actually, the rest time allows all of the bubbles that create the nooks and crannies to form. maybe next time, let them rest longer and see if it makes a difference.

Stacy said...

Mmmm, I love english muffins! I wish I was eating breakfast at your house! I am scared of yeast still, so I must get the hubby to make me some muffins!!! I bought a rather stale packet of English muffins from a department store in France, ironically...haha

Stacy said...

Astrid, we are planning to make these over the weekend - we have Weissmehl, Backmehl, and Dinkelmehl. The Backmehl is from Coop, under their Prix Garantie label. Any advice as to which flour to use, and in what combination? Thanks!

Gay said...

I printed out this recipe and I am going to try to make them. I have both kids home for 2 weeks later this month so they can be my guinea pigs. Now I have to get the calculator out to convert the measurements! Will let you know how they turn out....

Jen K said...

Astrid we are just back from the States and are already missing the english muffins we ate nearly every day! These look absolutely perfect! You continue to outdo yourself. I hope to taste some in the future :-) I'd be happy to offer you some "beach plum jelly" brought back from Delaware in exchange (our favorite spread for English muffins)

Reshmi said...

baking bread without an oven ! wow, this is fantastic...nice collection of recipes you have :) !

Fort Lauderdale catering said...

It is pretty hard to stay away from one's cravings, especially with junk food but if you have healthier alternatives available then there is no harm in trying them out.