English muffins, I owe you an apology. In my previous experiences, I found you lacking — dry, tasteless, chewy. However, I was wrong to blame you, the poor, innocent muffin, for these failings. Instead, I should have placed blame where it belongs: the pre-packaged tasteless pucks that call themselves English muffins. They have sullied your reputation and do not deserve the name.
I have seen the error of my ways and will never cast such aspersions again.
Whew! I feel better. Were you similarly mislead? Without great expectations, I made English muffins the other day, mostly on a whim. My breads had fallen into a rut (sandwich bread each week with some kind of round flat rolled item in between) and English muffins seemed like one of those random things that no one makes at home that always appeal to my sense of whatever it is that makes me bake weird things. There was a recipe in my beloved copy of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and all the other things I should have been doing didn’t sound as fun.
…or as surprisingly tasty. Perhaps my English muffins turned out extra fluffy because I totally over-proofed them, or maybe they are just meant to be tall and tender compared to the store-bought kind. Either way, they’re good! My only disappointment was that I forgot that I’m still out of corn meal which gives that nice dusty finish to the flattened parts. Flour worked fine, it just wasn’t quite the same.
The recipe makes 6 muffins or one 1-pound loaf of bread. My muffins ended up over 3 inches in diameter (again, over-proofed-but-tasty), but I might split it into 7 or 8 pieces next time to see if that’s a better size.
The process is fairly standard. Mix flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and shortening or butter together. Add room-temperature milk until the dough forms a ball. Knead, form into a ball, coat with oil, and let rise for 60-90 minutes.
When the dough has doubled in size, divide the dough into equal pieces (I used my scale which was very helpful) and form into small balls. Place the dough balls on a piece of parchment paper that has been sprayed lightly with oil and dusted with cornmeal. Cover and let proof for 6o-90 minutes.
… or use flour and let them proof until you’ve finished making dinner. Whoops.
Heat a skillet or griddle to 350F (I used a cast iron skillet which I heated over medium-low heat on my crazy-hot electric stove) and preheat the oven to 350F as well. Brush or lightly spray the skillet with oil.
Using a spatula to assist, transfer the dough to the pan. Because my muffins were so puffy, I could only fit two in my skillet. Make sure the pieces of dough are at least one inch apart.
The dough will flatten on one side. Cook without moving the dough for 5-8 minutes. The cornmeal/flour may start to brown first, but resist the urge to flip too early. Flip the muffins over and cook 5-8 minutes on the second side. Then transfer the muffins to a sheet pan and immediately bake at 350F for 5-8 minutes more. I had to do three batches for my 6 muffins, so just bake them in batches while the next batch is in the pan.
Once out of the oven, transfer muffins to a wire rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving. For a more authentic “craggy” look, split them with a fork instead of a knife.
Serve toasted with butter and jam, or as the base for eggs Benedict or a nice tuna melt.
Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice
Makes 6 muffins
2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1/2 tablespoon (0.25 ounce) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon (0.19 ounce) salt
1 1/4 teaspoons (.14 ounce) instant yeast
1 tablespoon (0.5 ounce) shortening or unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (6 ounces) milk or buttermilk, room temperature
cornmeal for dusting
1.) Combine flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in shortening on low speed, then add milk until the dough forms a ball. If there is any flour left in the bottom of the bowl, dribble in more milk until it is all combined.
2.) Transfer the dough to a lightly-floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Or, switch the mixer to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for about 8 minutes. The dough should be tacky but not sticky, so add flour as needed to achieve this. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to it, rolling to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 60-90 minutes until dough has doubled in size.
3.) When dough has doubled, transfer to a clean surface and divide the dough into six equal 3-ounce pieces. Shape each piece into a boule by pulling the edges under and pinching them together to form a round ball. Place the dough balls 3 inches apart on a piece of parchment paper that has been lightly misted with spray oil and dusted with cornmeal. Lightly spray the tops with oil, dust with cornmeal, and cover with plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature for 60-90 minutes until pieces have doubled in size.
4.) Heat a skillet or griddle to 350F and lightly brush or spray with oil. Preheat oven to 350F with the rack in the middle.
5.) Gently transfer the muffins to the pan using a spatula to assist. Space the muffins at least one inch apart, not touching. Keep the other pieces of dough covered until they are placed in the pan. Cook muffins 5-8 minutes, then flip and cook another 5-8 minutes. Muffins will brown before they are done. After cooking the second side, transfer muffins to a sheet pan and bake in the oven at 350F for another 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer the next batch of muffins to the pan.
6.) After 5-8 minutes in the oven to finish baking the centers, transfer the muffins to a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving.
Submitted to YeastSpotting