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?